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SEATTLE — A man wearing a white bandanna was arrested on an adrift Victoria passenger ferry boat in the middle of Seattle's Elliott Bay on Sunday morning after he allegedly took it from its berth.
Seattle Police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the man did not have permission to be aboard the Victoria Clipper IV, one of Clipper Navigation Inc.'s fleet of passenger ferries that operate between Seattle and Victoria.
The man, who was unidentified, said he “wanted to go to West Seattle,” Whitcomb said.
He was being questioned Sunday afternoon, then was booked into the King County jail.
The 132-foot ferry, which is capable of traveling at 30 knots during its journey from Seattle through Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the British Columbia capital, was not scheduled for service Sunday.
Regular MV Coho ferry service between Port Angeles and Victoria was unaffected.
The Clipper IV was reported drifting about 300 yards from Pier 69 at daybreak, about 7 a.m.
Darrell E. Bryan, Clipper Navigation CEO, told reporters that he was in his office about 5 a.m. Sunday because of rising winds and high waves caused by a forecast storm
Shortly afterward, he noticed the Clipper IV drifting about 100 feet from the dock.
Since it was due for repair and not scheduled to go to Victoria on Sunday, he called all the captains to see if any of them had taken the boat out.
When none of the skippers was aboard, Bryan concluded that the Victoria Clipper IV had been stolen.
Bryan said there are security guards, alarmed doors and security cameras on Clipper Navigation properties, so he was surprised that someone was able to gain access to Clipper IV.
“It was bizarre,” he said.
“A number of people thought it was a joke when I first initiated some calls — and no joke, just a bad experience.”
The thief was able to start the ferry because he apparently had some knowledge of boats, Bryan said.
“It's not a small vessel, and it's not easy to start up, so our vessel superintendent was with the SWAT team when they went out because they wanted to ask him some questions,” he said.
The Clipper is steered with a joy stick, and according to the vessel superintendent, John Jacoby, the thief tried to use it like it was “an XBox,” causing the ferry to go in circles.
The waterjet propulsion system eventually was turned off, leaving the 330-passenger vessel floating in Elliott Bay.
Seattle city police — including a SWAT team and an arson bomb squad — plus Port of Seattle police and the Coast Guard sent boats to surround the vessel.
After about a two-hour standoff, SWAT officers boarded the Clipper at 10:20 a.m. and reportedly found the man locked in the pilot's cabin.
Following about 20 minutes of negotiation, he came out and was arrested.
The Clipper, which suffered minor damage, was restarted and returned to its Pier 69 berth about 12:30 p.m. after the bomb squad inspected it.
Police escorted the man onto the pier in handcuffs.
The suspect — wearing a white bandana, an orange life vest and dressed in black — was held for investigation of charges that could include piracy and grand theft of a vessel, police said.
They also said he appeared homeless and had signs of mental issues.
Officers described the ordeal as a “pretty strange event.”
And for Bryan, the Clipper Navigation CEO: “In 28 years we've not had anything like this happen.”