The sailboat Fram sits in a boat storage area on Friday at Port Angeles Boat Haven. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The sailboat Fram sits in a boat storage area on Friday at Port Angeles Boat Haven. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

ON THE WATERFRONT: Coast Guard boat out for renovation

PLATYPUS MARINE IN Port Angeles has Swordfish stowed in the Commander building. She is an 87-foot Coast Guard patrol boat which is homeported in Port Angeles.

She will be out of service until about mid May, during which time Platypus’ skilled personnel will perform maintenance on the props and shafts as well as sandblast, prime and paint the vessel.

The vessel’s various systems will undergo a rigorous inspection protocol to identify any potential problems which will be resolved.

The 87-foot patrol boats were designed and built for a 25-year service life.

Every four years, all 87-foot patrol boats in the Coast Guard’s fleet are taken out of service to deal with similar maintenance items to ensure that the vessel’s lifespan remains as anticipated.

On February 12, Fram, a 50-foot ferro-cement sailboat, sank at its mooring in the Port of Port Angeles Boat Haven.

On March 15, the vessel was re-floated, hauled out of the water and now sits on the hard at the Port Angeles boat yard.

I was told that a petcock malfunctioned on the sailboat, allowing water into the vessel. I was also told that the owner, Timothy O’Brien, is going to rebuild the boat, put her back in the water and has plans to live aboard it.

With some frequency, I am asked why with all the technology that is stuffed onto the bridge of a ship, why pilots are still used by vessels transiting Puget Sound.

Pilots must be present to analyze, interpret and make constant risk assessments as to the appropriateness and accuracy of electronic positioning information. This is in addition to their traditional roles of providing significant local knowledge and ship-handling skills in understanding the benefits and limitations of radar navigation systems.

Ship captains are not experts in the local knowledge needed to consistently bring their vessels safely to and from their berth.

Today, the role of the ship captain is considered to be that of a manager of the asset — the ship. The management of the ship requires masters to be in overall charge of the ship, including roles as manager of the crew, cargo, deep-sea navigation, and communications with shore-side management and agents.

Captains hire specialists to perform the work of navigation in pilotage waters because they do not have the ship-handling skills and local knowledge needed to bring their ships safely to and from the berth. The advent of advanced electronic navigation systems, while helpful in vessel positioning and collision avoidance assessments, does not diminish the need for these specialized skills and knowledge. And like all electronic navigation systems, very specific training is required so that pilots understand the benefits and the limitations of the equipment.

The maritime states of the United States, just like all harbors of the world where ships in international trade call, want pilots to be employed to protect the environment, personnel, vessels and port infrastructure in addition to serving the needs of efficient commerce.

The Puget Sound Pilots were created in 1935 when the State of Washington required compulsory pilotage services for all foreign vessels traveling in Puget Sound and adjacent waterways. The earliest record of pilot services in Puget Sound dates back to 1840.

In January of 1868, Washington Territory passed its first law regulating pilotage in Puget Sound, 21 years before it became a state.

For more information on piloting, please see and click on the Pilotage in the U.S. tab.


David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain’s mate who enjoys boats and strolling the area’s waterfronts and boat yards.

Items and questions involving boating, marina and industrial activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome. News announcements about boating groups, including yacht clubs and squadrons, are welcome as well.

Email [email protected] or phone him at 360-808-3202.

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