Cruise Ship Can’t Dock in Port Townsend; Passengers Shuttled

By Charlie Bermant, May 2, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

Passengers on a cruise ship that arrived in Port Townsend late Wednesday were required to take shuttles from the anchored ship to the shore Thursday after the ship was unable to dock at Union Wharf.

The 205-foot American Cruise Lines vessel American Spirit anchored in the southern part of Port Townsend Bay at about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

The 40 passengers on the ship were shuttled to the Boat Haven in vans rented from local senior centers Thursday.

“The dock wasn’t big enough, and that wasn’t a big deal,” said Jim Pivarnik, deputy director of the Port of Port Townsend.

“The passengers are used to riding the tenders because they do that in other ports, but I’d like to see them anchor a little closer where they don’t have to take a bus to downtown.”

Pivarnik said Coast Guard rules determine the location of the anchor and the shuttle route.

He hopes to strike a compromise with the Coast Guard in order to allow a closer anchor point before the next ship arrives in Port Townsend on May 15.

This week’s visit was the first of 13 visits planned by the American Spirit, which called at Port Angeles before traveling to Port Townsend on Wednesday night.

After the May 15 visit, others are set for May 22 and 29; Sept. 11, 18 and 25; and Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

They are part of eight-day Puget Sound cruises that begin and end in Seattle.

Pivarnik said American Spirit Capt. Don Johnson had taken measurements of the ship and the dock, and had determined the boat would theoretically land but could not do so on arrival.

“This is the first time the boat has come in here, so there was no way to tell,” Pivarnik said.

“The place where you can tie up on the dock didn’t match the cleats on the boat, and we didn’t know that in advance.”

Pivarnik said Johnson may attempt to dock the boat when there are no passengers to see if it can be done.

“Union Wharf is the largest dock we have, so if a boat can’t dock there, it can’t dock anywhere in Port Townsend,” said Pivarnik, who added that the cruise line most likely will anchor in the bay this season.

Pivarnik said the first group arrived in Port Townsend at about 8:30 a.m. and started walking downtown.

Two groups followed at about 10:30 a.m. and toured the Uptown area and the Northwest Maritime Center before they were scheduled to shop at downtown merchants, many of whom had posted welcome signs in their windows.

Junius Rochester of Seattle said he was the only passenger from the Pacific Northwest. The others were from the East Coast, California and other locations.

“A lot of these people haven’t been to the Northwest outside of a stopover at Sea-Tac [Seattle-Tacoma International Airport],” Rochester said.

Rochester said he was “looking for a good place to get a beer now that the Town Tavern has closed.”

The group was scheduled to tour Fort Worden State Park on Thursday afternoon before returning to the ship for dinner, where the Captains of Swing, a jazz trio of local musicians, were scheduled to perform.

The boat was due to leave Port Townsend Bay at 4 a.m. today and head for Poulsbo as the last stop before returning to Seattle.

The American Spirit had docked at City Pier in Port Angeles on Tuesday.

It is scheduled to arrive there Mondays on May 13, 20 and 27; Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28.

Johnson said the past week’s passengers seemed to enjoy themselves in Port Angeles and particularly enjoyed Wednesday’s trip to Victoria, as well as the guided bus tours to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

“This is our first trip [to Port Angeles]. You usually expect a few glitches, but it went very well,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who also is West Coast manager for American Cruise Lines, said the next cruise will have about 55 passengers, more than the first visit, but still less than the ship’s 100-person capacity.

“The numbers [of passengers] are increasing steadily over the next few trips,” Johnson said.

“And our fall trips we believe are going to sell out.”

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