PORT ANGELES — With the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain looming in the background, local dignitaries gathered Saturday to dedicate the new mooring floats at City Pier.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony doubled as a kickoff to the inaugural Port Angeles Maritime Festival, a two-day celebration of the city’s maritime past, present and future with events at multiple locations along the waterfront.
“Today is a special day,” Port Angeles Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat said before dedicating the floats, which allowed the tall ships to return to City Pier.
Five mooring floats were removed from City Pier in 2012 because they were decayed beyond repair. Over the years, several attempts to replace the floats were delayed because of permitting issues, city officials said.
“They’re finally in,” Delikat said.
Hundreds of visitors packed the pier to tour the tall ships, a Coast Guard screening vessel and other watercraft.
Early in the event, Mayor Sissi Bruch and City Council member Jim Moran delivered proclamations to two Coast Guard Units with Port Angeles ties.
Lt. Cdr. Jennifer Runion and other members of the cutter Active crew were honored for seizing $95 million worth of illegal narcotics and arresting 11 suspected drug smugglers on a recent patrol off the coast of Central America.
The 210-foot cutter Active is based at the Coast Guard Air Section/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.
“We left in early April and just got back a few days ago,” Runion told the crowd.
“Even though we’re gone for a half the year, it’s wonderful to come back to a place as beautiful as this.”
Cdr. Thomas Evans and other members of the Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor were recognized for safeguarding Navy ballistic missile submarines while surfaced and transiting U.S. waters.
“My unit is based at the submarine base in Silverdale, but we do call Port Angeles our home away from home,” Evans said.
“We’ve been doing so for about 12 years now on a temporary basis with our crews sleeping in shipping containers over at the Air Station. That’s changed within the last month.”
New facilities on Ediz Hook will provide a forward operating location for the Maritime Force Protection Unit.
Navy piers near the Air Station will allow the Coast Guard to dock two 87-foot patrol boats, three 64-foot special purpose craft and two 250-foot blocking vessels in Port Angeles, Evans said.
“I just wanted to let you know that Port Angeles plays a small but very, very important role in our nation’s strategic deterrence program,” Evans said.
“It’s something that you all should be very proud of.”
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Port Angeles native, provided a letter of commendation to the Coast Guard units, which Bruch read at the ceremony.
Kilmer’s letter became part of the Congressional record Friday.
“Mr. Speaker, this weekend our grateful community will recognize the Active’s crew and Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor at the 2018 Port Angeles Maritime Festival,” said Kilmer, who represents the 6th Congressional District which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
“They deserve every bit of recognition,” he said. “The men and woman serving our region in the Coast Guard work selflessly around the clock to protect our fishermen, the environment and our region’s security.”
Meanwhile, the Port Townsend sea shanty band Nelson’s Blood, Lower Elwha Klallam singers and U.S. Navy Band Northwest serenaded festival attendees from the City Pier pavilion stage.
Food, art and face-painting booths welcomed a steady stream of customers on and around the pier.
Children gravitated towards the Kraken, a giant inflatable slide disguised as a squid crushing a wooden pirate ship.
The 200th anniversary of the Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the MV Coho ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, was being celebrated in a display at the ferry terminal.
Other maritime-themed exhibits were at The Landing Mall, Feiro Marine Life Center and Port Angeles Visitor Center.
The Port Angeles Maritime Festival will resume at 11 a.m. today.
Today’s events will be centred at the east end of the Port Angeles Boat Haven.
Click on www.portangelesmaritimefestival.org for the schedule.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected]