Is it possible that the Costa Concordia was taken close in to the rocks to impress the girlfriend of the captain? Of course it is. Is it possible that a similar thing happened in the state of Washington on the sunny waters of Puget Sound on October 2, 1983? Well, absolutely. Here is the sordid tale of that infamous date.
The Washington State ferry Elwha first set sail in 1967 and was one of only two Super Ferries in the Washington ferry system. Super is capable of going out on the ocean and could sail into international and other nation’s waters. Her normal route is from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands. She also makes run to Sidney in British Columbia, Canada. She can handle 2,500 passengers and 144 vehicles. The only other Super ferry in the WSOT system is the Chelan
It was a beautiful fall day when she set sail on her fateful cruise. At the wheel was her captain, Billy Frittro. He had made the run many times and saw nothing ahead but blue skies and getting laid. That was where the trouble began. Beside him that day in the wheelhouse was the winsome Peggy Warrack. She owned a house on the shore of Grindstone Harbor. Suave Cap’n Billy said “How about pointing to where your house is and I’ll take us by for a look.” Exactly what he was looking at as he said this I am not sure of, but I would guess it was part of Ms. Warrack’s winsome anatomy and not out toward any navigational hazards. It wasn’t very long after that the the Ferry Elwha struck a submerged rock and ran aground. There is no official record of what this did to to the little romance Billy had in mind. There is official record that Captain Billy eventually resigned as the truth eventually emerged from murky depths. His boss Capt. Nick Tracy was later fired for trying to cover up the embarrassing mess.
All passengers and crew escaped death in this debacle. I wish that was the same with the Costa Concordia.
That was not the end of the story. Shortly after that the Island City Jazz Band released their one and only hit record “Elwha On The Rocks.” The band consisted of trumpter Tom Skoog, Don Anderson on trombone, Bill Bassen on clarinet, Skip McDaniel on banjo, Tom Bassen on piano, Vern Conrad on drums, and Gary Provonsha on tuba. George Burns, no not that George Burns, did the singing.
In 1989 the submerged rock was formally named Elwha Rock by the Washington State Board on Geographic Names. That was in response to efforts made by Seattle used book deal Greg Lange.
You’d think that Captain Charles Peterson would have learned from the event. Nope, he took the Elhwa fifteen miles off course in 1996 and scraped bottom but escaped grounding. He was summarily fired. I wonder if his wife was pleased that he tested positive for marijuana after that crash. Wouldn’t that be better than being distracted by another woman?
When I get time my next blog post will be the even more sordid tale of the Freighter Chavez and the ill fated captain Rolf Neslund.