Nina Otaki refloated!

NinaO on Beach

Washington State Park officials breathed a sigh of relief last Tuesday when Salish Rescue volunteers were able to successfully winch the 80-foot schooner Nina Otaki off the beach at Fort Worden, where the vessel had been hard aground since Sunday, Sept 17.  The schooner, built from iron-reinforced concrete, weighs 63 tons.  The boat had dragged anchor and been blown ashore on the State Park beach just south of the Point Wilson lighthouse during one of the highest tides of the month.

Several bystanders in visiting pleasure boats had previously attempted to tow the grounded vessel off the beach late Sunday afternoon, at one point pulling hard enough to wrench loose a deck cleat on the towing boat and snap 3/4-inch lines.  No commercial towing operators in the area had anything close to the estimated 18,000-lbs of pulling capacity needed to drag the boat free.  Department of Natural Resources, local fire and law enforcement and the Coast Guard were all concerned about the situation, but no one had the specialized equipment needed to pull a boat that large.  It looked as though Nina Otaki might remain stuck on the Fort Worden State Park beach for some time.

Salish Rescue instructor Erik Wennstrom originally thought his team of volunteers and trainees had little chance of actually freeing the huge boat, but thought that rigging kedge anchors and attempting to winch the boat free might serve as a useful salvage-rigging training exercise for the Salish crew.  Salish Rescue is a volunteer search and rescue non-profit operating in Port Townsend since 2004, training year-round to provide safety cover for events and small-boat rescue work.

The Salish salvage crew – a combination of adult volunteers, and students from the Salish Rescue Explorer Post – began work early Monday, using shovels to dig Nina Otaki’s keel partially free.  This allowed tidal action to help “scour” more sand away and create a path forward for the boat.  On Tuesday, a series of coordinated pulls, winching the boat against multiple anchors set at an angle to the beach, helped Nina slowly creep forward with just over 18,000 pounds of strain spread across four different anchor systems. The final pull was timed for just prior to Tuesday afternoon’s high tide; falling tides throughout the rest of the month meant it was this tide, or not at all.

Slowly, the boat nosed slightly seaward, and abruptly, two of the anchor lines lost tension; Nina was back afloat.  At roughly 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon, Nina Otaki drove away from the beach under her own power, accompanied by cheers and applause from the many officials and bystanders on the beach.

UPDATE:  Lots of great local press coverage on this:

“Afloat Again” Port Townsend Leader 9/27

“Schooner gets helping hand” Peninsula Daily News 9/26


Fall training schedule

Things are shaping up for fall training.  With school back in session, the Jefferson Community School group will be having class Wednesday afternoons throughout the fall term.  Saturday trainings are at 10 am or by appointment.

Tempest is on station in Point Hudson.  Beginning October 1, Hammerhead will be moored on the fuel dock in Boat Haven, just in time for rough weather.

Red Duck is still out of commission with motor bracket issues.  We’re actively looking for alternative motor solutions for both Red Duck and the Zodiac 420s – ideally 40-60HP 4-strokes engines.

Saturday Training Times Added

By popular demand, and to accommodate people who Wednesday daytimes won’t work for, we’ll be adding regular training sessions on Saturdays at 10 a.m., beginning this week.

Several members of Sea Scouts have begun training regularly with Salish; a big shout out to Elijah for helping the two teams coordinate efforts and cross-train.


Kalling the Kinetic Navy

The Great Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Skulpture Race is happening this weekend, and we’re once again headed out to help prevent the “float test” from becoming a “sinks and flips over” test.  Don’t laugh, it’s happened.

This is usually a fun time and offers a great way for the public to see what we do in action.   Meet at the boats at 1100 on Saturday October 1. Silly hats are fine, but don’t bring anything that will clog bilge pumps if little bits of it fall off.

UPDATE: Winds cancelled the water course and float test yesterday.  The sculptures will be trying again on Sunday at noon.



Tubes are ordered for RedDuck

Replacement tubes have been ordered from Zodiac for RedDuck.  The tubes need to be made in the Zodiac factory in France, so it’s unlikely we’ll have them in hand in time for Wooden Boat Festival.  We’ll be fundraising throughout the summer to pay for them – stay tuned for a link to donate.

RedDuck has served the program well; her current tubes date back to 2004, and there are only so many times you can patch the patches.  When the new tubes arrive, she’ll become an “organ donor” with shiny red hypalon from her (un-sunbleached) inner tube surfaces, ready to patch some of the other boats as needed.