By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — Security has been increased for this week's fourth visit of the American Spirit in response to vandalism in which two mooring lines to the cruise ship were cut last week.
According to ship's Capt. Don Johnson, two people approached the American Spirit at about 1:30 a.m. last Thursday.
They attempted to come on board but were turned away.
A few minutes later, crew members discovered that two of three mooring lines were severed. The lines were reattached, and police were called.
Police Department spokesman Officer Luke Bogues said that on the night following the initial incident, the crew reported that three additional mooring lines were cut, adding up to a total damage estimate of more than $1,000.
Police declined to provide any further descriptions of the man and woman involved in the first incident.
“This is an ongoing active investigation,” Police Chief Conner Daily said. “We are actively pursuing suspect leads and have several different suspects we are looking at, and we are trying to eliminate them,”
Of the suspects, Daily said, “The descriptions we have can fit many people in the community.”
The American Cruise Lines ship, which holds up to 100 passengers paying $3,750-$4,985 each depending on the accommodations, is making 13 weekly Puget Sound cruises this season, with stops in Port Angeles and Port Townsend as well as Anacortes, Friday Harbor and Poulsbo.
American Spirit visits Port Angeles on Tuesdays and Wednesday, then sails to Port Townsend for Wednesday evenings and Thursdays.
Weather delays have postponed arrivals two of the previous four weeks, including last Thursday when the vandalism incident occurred at Port Townsend's Union Wharf.
Daily said his department is working with the Port of Port Townsend and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on the investigation — and the FBI has been contacted about the case, though Daily said he did not know to what extent the federal authorities would be involved.
Port of Port Townsend Director Larry Crockett said extra lighting will be in place when the ship arrives at around 10 tonight.
“Part of the problem is that the lights [on Union Wharf] haven't been maintained,” Crockett said.
“We are working with the electrician so it is a little brighter when they come in.”
The next scheduled visits in Port Townsend after today and May 29 are Sept. 11, 18 and 25; and Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.
Port Angeles dockings at City Pier are scheduled on the days preceding the Port Townsend visits.
Brian Smith, deputy Port Angeles police chief, said Tuesday that Port Angeles police have not scheduled any extra patrols of City Pier during American Spirit's Tuesday visits.
However, the officer assigned to the downtown area has been made aware of the visits and the extra people the ship brings, he said.
Additionally, Smith said several security cameras operated by the Police Department are constantly trained on City Pier and environs.
In Port Townsend, Crockett said the incident was unfortunate — and a “hell of a welcome for the cruise ships.”
Bogues said he hopes the incident doesn't discourage other excursions.
“Our business owners want to see this kind of tourism in town, and residents should appreciate the influx of commercial tax dollars,” Bogues said in an email.
“Cruise ship tourism won't continue if Port Townsend gets a bad reputation. We're hoping someone out there has information leading to the arrest of these individuals.”
Bogues said anyone with information is asked to phone Detective Jason Greenspane at 360-385-5732.
“The Port Townsend waterfront docks and Port of Port Townsend area are unique compared to other communities because they're extremely open allowing public access,” Bogues wrote.
“It's the wish of the government entities controlling these places to keep public access available, but events like this demonstrate why so many other communities have taken security precautions to keep the public away from marine commerce.
“We don't want to see that happen here, so it is very much upon the community to report suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz contributed to this report.