Home Making Waves Making Waves – April 2024

Making Waves – April 2024

by Randy Woods
Kenmore Air
Photo by Mikaela Judd

[ flight plans ]

Kenmore Air to Fly from South Sound to San Juan Island Soon

Now that spring is in the air, it’s getting easier to take flight, thanks to an expanding partnership between Kenmore Air and the Puyallup Tribe. Beginning next month, Kenmore Air will offer two new daily flights from the Tacoma area to the boater-friendly playgrounds of San Juan Island.

Starting May 16, Kenmore is scheduling morning and afternoon round-trip seaplane flights from the Puyallup Tribal Air Terminal on Ruston Way to the Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor marinas. The planes used in the service will feature a stylized red-and-black salmon livery for the Puyallup Tribe and a logo for its Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.

While the new flights are open to all customers, Kenmore said the interests of Puget Sound boaters played a role in the airline’s decision to launch the route. “We reached out to a lot of local yacht clubs in the South Sound area,” said Scott Meis, vice president of marketing for Kenmore’s parent company, Seattle Hospitality Group. “There was quite a bit of excitement around having quick access to San Juan Island and being able to skip the long drive or ferry times.”

Since the carrier announced the new route in February, Kenmore has already received a handful of reservations for the new San Juan Island service, Meis said, but the airline “expects the pace to pick up” as the May 16 launch date gets closer and summer travel demand rises.

The two seaplane routes from the Tacoma to San Juan Island will take about 55 minutes, representing a huge advantage over the average four-hour drive and ferry trip time or the half-day sailing journey, not to mention the increased traffic tie-ups expected during the busy summer season. Flights to Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor will depart the Ruston Way terminal at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day and return at 11:45 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. One-way direct fares are currently listed at $269 per person.             

This will be the second year of operation of the Puyallup Air Terminal, located between the RAM Restaurant & Brewery and the former C.I. Shenanigans restaurant on Ruston Way. Since opening, the terminal has flown more than 100 flights, serving nearly 1,000 passengers.

Later this summer, the Puyallup Tribe plans to welcome a new Native-themed restaurant called Woven, which is being developed in partnership with Japanese-American celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi. The Emerald Queen Casino will also offer hotel stay packages and amenities to travelers this season, such as private luxury transportation to and from the air terminal.

In addition to the Tacoma-San Juan flights, Kenmore added on March 1 twice daily, 30-minute seaplane flights from Friday Harbor to the Victoria Inner Harbor Marina in British Columbia, plus 55-minute flights from Victoria International Airport to Seattle’s Boeing Field, using Kenmore Air Express wheeled-service aircraft.

Kenmore Air has a fleet of 25 aircraft and employs 52 pilots and more than 250 people during its peak summer season. The airline offers dozens of scheduled and charter seaplane and wheeled-aircraft flights per day to 12 locations in Seattle, Tacoma, the San Juans, and British Columbia, as well as various sightseeing flights around the Salish Sea.

For more details, or to book a flight, go to: kenmoreair.com.

Making Waves - Whale Image
Photo by Monike Wieland

[ protections in place ]

USCG Whale Alert System Unveiled to Protect Marine Life from Boat Strikes

The increasing marine traffic seen each year in Salish Sea waters has prompted a new U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) pilot project to protect the region’s endangered whale population via a monitoring and warning system to alert boaters of marine mammal presence near the surface.

Operated by the USGC’s Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service, the four-year program will use a new Whale Report Alert System (WRAS), which collects and reports whale sightings in a common database via an online app. The warning information is coordinated through the USCG’s cetacean desk, commonly referred to as the “whale desk.”

Lt. Commander Margaret Woodbridge, who manages the USCG’s whale desk, told KOMO in a local news interview that WRAS “will collect and disseminate near-real-time information on whale location to large commercial mariners in the large commercial traffic system.”

These whale sightings can be transmitted directly to the whale desk by radio or phone and will be used to create situational awareness bulletins to other ships in the area. “Knowing where whales are nearby allows ship operators to take mitigating action to avoid striking or disturbing whales in their vicinity,” Woodbridge said.

The USCG has worked for about a year, contacting various federal, state, tribal, and local organizations—including the Langley-based nonprofit whale advocacy group called Orca Network—to coordinate the reporting system before the it was launched on February 21. 

“We’re encouraging everyone to report sightings through either the Whale Report app or the Orca Network, both of which feature the same alert database,” Woodbridge said. “The more data we have coming into the system, the better we can inform ship operators where whales are around them.”

The WRAS data is also being shared with marine scientists studying whale behavior in the area, so the program has a secondary benefit in addition to increased safety, Woodbridge added. This research will provide more data about other impacts that boating has on cetacean behavior, including excessive noise from boat engines that can disrupt breeding habits or interfere with the orcas’ ability to use echolocation for hunting prey.

The critical need for the WRAS monitoring and warning system arose in 2019, after a humpback whale was accidently struck and killed by a passing ferry boat in Elliott Bay. This tragedy, and other whale strikes in Puget Sound waters, led to the inclusion of WRAS development funding withing the federal Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022, a $14.36 billion appropriations bill that was supported by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

While the federal WRAS system is designed mostly for larger commercial maritime traffic, such as military vessels, cargo ships, fishing boats, and ferries, the Seattle office of the USCG is also reminding all recreational boaters in the Salish Sea to be cognizant of existing rules about steering clear and reducing speeds around sightings of local whale pods, especially the critically endangered Southern Resident orca population, which has been reduced to a total of about 75 animals.

In 2023 alone, the USCG found that the Salish Sea waters between Canadian and U.S. ports in the Pacific Northwest handled nearly 300,000 commercial vessel crossings, excluding the thousands more sailing trips from recreational watercraft.

According to current laws regarding navigation near marine mammals, boaters in the U.S. must reduce their speed to no more than 7 knots when they come within a half-mile of any kind of whale and to maintain a distance of at least 400 yards ahead of or behind the estimated path of any sighted orca whale pods, or 100 yards from other marine mammals, including humpbacks, gray whales, porpoises, or dolphins. Boaters must also disengage engines if a cetacean comes within 300 yards of a vessel.

More information on the WRAS can be found by visiting orcanetwork.org, or by downloading The WhaleReport app, available free via the Apple or Google Play stores.

Boat Show
Photo Courtesy of NMTA

[ show time ]

Boats Afloat, Anacortes Shows Prepare to Launch the ’24 Season

The days may still be gray and misty, but we Northwesterners know that just means spring has sprung, and with it the season’s big boat shows have appeared on the horizon: Seattle’s Boats Afloat at the end of this month and the Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show in mid-May.

The Northwest Yacht Brokers Association’s Spring Boats Afloat will kick off on Thursday, April 25, and run through Sunday, the 28th, on South Lake Union. A few weeks later, the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Anacortes show will be held May 16-18 at the city’s Cap Sante Marina.

Boats Afloat, the largest floating boat show in the Pacific Northwest, is held twice a year at the still-growing Lake Union Piers development on South Lake Union, and features over 400,000 square feet of display space. The most recent Boats Afloat event, held last September, showcased more than 200 powerboats ranging from 15 to 100 feet in length, including sailboats, day boats, and long-range cruising yachts.

This month’s spring show will offer a diverse lineup of watercraft from more than 50 brokers and dealers from Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia, and Florida. Some major brands expected to appear include Bayliner, Beneteau, Catalina, Coastal Craft, DeFever, Grand Banks, Hampton, Hanse, Hunter, Horizon, Jeanneau, Maritimo, Marlow, Meridian, Navigator, Nordhavn, Ocean Alexander, Riviera, Sea Ray, Selene, Tayana, Tiara, and Westport.

In addition to the boat displays, Boats Afloat will feature a lineup of curated events, live music, food and beverage choices, boat-building events for kids, and other family-friendly activities. Children 12 and under get in free. More information on event times, admission, and parking can be found at: boatsafloatshow.com.

Farther north next month, the three-day Anacortes Yacht & Boat Show will overlap again with the five-day Trawlerfest lineup of educational seminars held within easy walking distance of the Cap Sante Marina. The combined event will feature new and brokerage boats, presented by dealers, brokers, and exhibitors from around the Northwest and Canada, as well as seminars from experts and rendezvous evening activities.

The show will kick off on May 16 with a ticketed evening cocktail cruise around the Anacortes area, boarding at Islands Adventure, Cape Sante Marina, A Dock. On Friday, May 17, a Twilight Cocktail Party will also be held at Seafarers Memorial Park. More than 100 exhibitors are expected to be showcasing their watercraft and other boat equipment during the event.

The main portion of the in-water show will be at Cap Sante Marina, but additional boat displays can also be seen on land at various Anacortes-area boatyards and dealer locations. A free shuttle, sponsored by BananaBelt Boats, will be operating between the marina and the participating boatyards throughout the event. Other shoreside displays for maritime services, accessories, and trailerable boats will also be viewable adjacent to the marina entrance.

The well-regarded Trawlerfest Show will consist of nearly 30 seminars and educational sessions, held at Seafarers Memorial Park. The sessions will address a wide variety of maritime industry subjects, including weather prediction, boat maintenance, electronics, communications, engine service, navigation, destination suggestions, and more.

More information on Boat Show and Trawlerfest admission, special events, and three- and five-day VIP packages can be found at: anacortesboatandyachtshow.com.

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