A sign points the way to the Bainbridge Island ferry. (Bainbridge Island Review)

A sign points the way to the Bainbridge Island ferry. (Bainbridge Island Review)

Ferry departing Seattle strikes whale; Coast Guard searching

The whale breached in front of the M/V Wenatchee after it departed for Bainbridge Island.

The ferry M/V Wenatchee hit a whale while headed to Bainbridge Island from Seattle on Tuesday night.

The boat was about three minutes into the 8:15 p.m. westbound sailing from Seattle when a whale popped up right in front of the vessel.

“This is probably a first,” said Dana L. Warr, a Washington State Ferries spokesman.

“We have 160,000 or more sailings a year across east and west Puget Sound and there’s no recollection in the past several decades that a state ferry has ever struck a whale,” he said.

The crew of the Wenatchee did not see the whale before it was hit, but the marine mammal was sighted by passengers aboard the ferry.

The vessel was sailing into the sunset right before the whale breached about five feet in front of the bow, and the boat was going too fast to avoid a collision.

“The Wenatchee was heading into the sun. With the sunset right in the face; not much you can do at 17 to 18 mph. It literally came up right in front of the ferry about five to 10 feet out. There wasn’t anything that the captain could do,” Warr said.

While ferry crews have lookouts on board watching for marine traffic and water hazards, Warr said there had been no reports of whales in the area that day or during the time of the sailing.

“When it pops up, when it breaches at your bow, and you hadn’t seen a whale — it’s a very tough and tragic situation,” he said.

“I think that weighs on them too,” he said of the crew.

The Wenatchee did not appear to be damaged by the collision, and no one on board was injured. No witnesses immediately reported seeing the whale again after it was hit.

The ferry continued sailing on the route, and an inspection of the vessel is likely.

While reports have indicated it was a gray whale that was struck, Warr said WSF could not confirm the type of whale that was hit.

“Whether it’s a gray or humpback, we don’t know,” he said. “There was just an assumption by people that it was a gray whale. We’re are confirming it’s a whale, but not which kind.”

WSF reported the whale strike to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard, and various marine mammal agencies. The Coast Guard is searching for the whale, officials said.

This story originally appeared in the Bainbridge Island Review, a sibling paper to the Herald.

More in News & Comment

Chris Vance has his doubts about the Republican party and where it is going. COURTESY PHOTO
From chairman of WA Republicans to party pariah, Chris Vance explains why

‘Biggest shock of my adult life has been the Republican Party’s complete capitulation to Donald Trump.’

File photo
$30 car tab proposal returns to ballot in November

Tim Eyman-led initiative would restrict car tabs and transportation benefit districts in Washington.

File photo
King County alcohol production ordinance could be approved by year’s end

Update to county code has been more than a year in the making.

Netflix series kept Lynnwood rape survivor in mind, creator says

Susannah Grant was inspired by The Marshall Project and ProPublica reporting to make “Unbelievable.”

Sound Transit seeks input on name change for University Street Station

Vote online or certain dates at station mezzanine

More than 100 horses are being hoarded by a nonprofit in Puget Sound

Under guise of nonprofit caring for rescued horses, allegations of animal cruelty arose.

KCSO found all but one of the 108 allegations of excessive or unnecessary use of force were justified

The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight has released its annual 2018 report.

To spur investment, marijuana businesses want rules eased

Another group has proposed a low-interest loan program, to help women- and minority-owned startups.

They got the signatures for I-1000. They want to get paid.

Citizen Solutions wants $1.1 million it says it’s owed by backers of the affirmative action law.

Most Read