SEATTLE -- A man was taken into custody Sunday morning after the Victorica Clipper was found in the middle of Elliott Bay.
The boat was discovered 300 yards out from Pier 69 on the Seattle waterfront around 7 a.m. and it first appeared the clipper ship was adrift.
But police say when a tugboat went to retrieve the boat they discovered there was a man on board and contacted the Coast Guard and Seattle Police.
SPD’s SWAT, patrol and Arson Bomb Squad responded to Elliott Bay, along with Port of Seattle police and US Coast Guard boat and helicopter teams.
Police negotiators contacted the man on the ship and, eventually, a tactical team boarded the vessel and arrested the suspect.
The man told police he had planned to take the boat to West Seattle.
"In 28 years we've not had anything like this happen," said Darrell Bryan, president and chief executive officer of Clipper Vacations.
Bryan said there is a guard on duty at night and employees arive at 6 a.m. And with alarmed doors and security cameras he was surprised that someone was able to gain access to the vessel.
"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."
Bryan said they are investigating to try to figure out how the suspect was able to get the boat going.
"It's not a small vessel, and it's not easy to start up the vessel and so our vessel superintendent was on with the SWAT team when they went out because he wanted to ask him some questions," he said.
"The first deal was it might have been an employee disgruntled over the years. I was glad to see it wasn't. What it doesn't explain is how the heck the guy knew what to do," said Bryan. "I don't think his employment opportunities are going to be too great after he leaves here, but he apparently has some mechanical aptitude."
Sean Whitcomb of Seattle Police said Seattle Police always operate with an abundance of caution.
"We've got one of the best SWAT teams on the West Coast so when we have a call that's pretty unique like this, a major passenger boat that's somehow adrift in the water, we want to make sure that we bring in all the resources that we have available to us to ensure that the incident comes to a quick and peaceful resolution."
Police say the suspect will be booked into the King County Jail for yet-to-be-determined charges (piracy or grand theft vessel).
The 132-foot Victoria Clipper IV is one of three vessels in the fleet of privately-owned passenger ferries. Two high-speed catamarans are used for passenger ferry service between Seattle and Victoria, BC and one catamaran is used for Seattle/San Juan service and whale-watching excursions
Details about the vessel from www.clippervacations.com
- 132 feet long, 33.3 feet wide
- Holds 330 passengers and 5-10 attendants for service
- Waterjet propulsion system
- Speed up to 30 knots
- Upper stern outside deck
- Duty-free and gift shops on upper and lower decks
- Some tables on upper and lower decks
- All other seats with pull-down tray tables