Puget Sound Express launches new 149-seat whale-watching vessel

New whale-watching vessel Swiftsure. (Photo courtesy Puget Sound Express)

Whale-watching company Puget Sound Express has launched a new, custom-designed vessel – the M.V. Swiftsure – that will operate out of its Edmonds location.

Designed by Teknicraft and built by All American Marine, Inc. in Bellingham, the larger 77-foot Swiftsure was modeled after M.V. Saratoga, which was launched in spring 2018.

“Since the launch of Saratoga in 2018, we’ve been impressed that this design is an incredibly effective, and efficient whale-watch platform,” explained Puget Sound Express Operations Manager Christopher Hanke. “The combination of speed and efficiency with ample viewing space makes this a superior whale-watch vessel. We were pleased to be able to work again with All American Marine – their build quality and experience made them the natural partner to build a second vessel,” said Hanke.

According to a company press release, the 150-passenger, semi-displacement catamaran hull for this vessel was developed by Nic de Waal of Teknicraft Design in Auckland, New Zealand. The design integrates the signature Teknicraft symmetrical and asymmetrical combined hull shape, bow wave piercer, and an innovative, dynamic hydrofoil system. The hull design is complemented by Teknicraft’s signature integration of a wave piercer positioned between the catamaran sponsons to break up wave action and ensures reduced drag while enhancing passenger comfort. The vessel’s design offers all passengers a smooth ride and comfort as the hull provides a cushioned effect when encountering waves.

Swiftsure was designed from top to bottom for low fuel consumption at high speeds. The vessel utilizes four Hamilton Jet HJ364 water jets, complete with the Hamilton Jet control system. “We’ve done many years of research to develop a vessel design that’s particularly low-wake, due in large part to our unique hydrofoil system that doesn’t displace as much water and create waves as is the case with traditional hull design,” said designer Nic de Waal. The vessel’s water jet propulsion also makes the boat much quieter underwater than traditional, propeller-based designs.

With Swiftsure’s arrival in Edmonds, the Puget Sound Express’ 120-seat Saratoga vessel will operate out of the company’s Port Townsend location.

Now in its 37th year of operation, Puget Sound Express offers a range of whale- watching excursions from Port Townsend, Port Angeles and the Seattle metro area, connecting passengers with Bigg’s orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, and minke whales. More information is available at pugetsoundexpress.com.

  1. This is terrible news for the struggling Orcas! Many of Washington’s Orcas have low weight and there are some new calves being born this year. They cannot hunt when loud motors from boats are following them around. Please boycott whale watching to help these threatened marine mammals.

    1. Nathan, while I respect your opinion and intentions, this opinion is just not consistent with the reality of vessel noise on marine mammals. Just so you guys understand where I am coming from, I am a Marine Biology student at UW who has been privileged enough to spend time with and discuss this issue with renowned Southern Resident Killer Whale expert Deborah Giles, and also discussed these issues with the esteemed Center for Whale Research. Vessel noise negatively effects SRKWs because it interferes with their ability to find food. Vessel noise has become such a significant issue because of the lack of salmon abundance, if salmon was more abundant, the SRKWs would be able to overcome interference by vessel noise.

      First of all, whale watching companies are not allowed to seek out the endangered southern resident killer whales. If they are encountered, they are required to leave the are at once. Furthermore, all vessels are required to slow to below 7 knots within half a mile of Killer Whales, (Studies have shown the vast majority of vessel noise occurs above those speeds) and not to approach Killer Whales 300 yards from the sides, or 400 yards front and back. The only Killer Whales whale watching boats are seeking out are so called “Transient” mammal eating Killer Whales. These Killer whales are much less effected by vessel noise as their prey is much larger, and easier for them to find. Furthermore, not only are these whales not endangered, they are by every definition thriving. While the effect of vessel noise on Marine Mammals should not be dismissed, the fact is that less than 3% of all vessel noise impacts on SRKWs comes from whale watching boats. In fact, 60% comes from ferry traffic, with another 30% caused by commercial shipping. The final 10% is a combination of whale watching, fishing vessels, and personal boats. While I have witnessed irresponsible whale watching boats, I have witnessed far more personal boats operating negligently around the whales.

      1. Taking off my Clown nose here, I appreciate Mr. Icbal’s wise comments on this issue. He brings great focus on how the balance of nature impacts various populations of creatures. The transient whales are thriving partly because our human intervention of saving mammals has made their food of choice perhaps a little over plentiful. In the same vein human intervention by over fishing and destroying habitat have made the SRKW’s food source all but non-existent (large wild Chinook Salmon). The local whales are trying to survive on mostly planted hatchery fish which are generally much smaller and not all that plentiful. In times past when both Fall and Spring wild Chinook were plentiful around here, our little sport fishing fleet would pretty much leave the area when the resident whales showed up because the salmon immediately quit biting, running for their lives, and our boats felt tiny compared to the whales which looked really big close up.

  2. Thank you Nathan Wood, I also strongly agree……it is unconscionable for a company to knowingly profit from their
    very wrong doing; and those who take this trip may well be uninformed or they would NOT contribute to the
    demise of our Orca population, this is shameful and should be outlawed…

  3. The Saratoga was very loud and obnoxious to our ears and I cannot imagine what effect it has on the Orcas. I absolutely agree with the previous comments and also believe the Owners are putting profit above all else. Why can we not just leave these incredible creatures alone and allow them to continue to survive. These ‘tours’ are terrible! I admit that I have been on a couple of Whale Watches while on Maui but those boats are nowhere near as loud as these.

  4. Hello and thank you for your concern on behalf of our Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). In fact, because these salmon-eating orcas are endangered, we do not seek out SRKW for whale encounters. Sadly, the issue is becoming moot, as these orcas can no longer find salmon in our waters, and they spend the bulk of their time away from the area looking for food. The whales we DO see, however, are doing quite well. These include Biggs orcas (aka Transients), humpbacks, and grays. For all whales, we follow strict “Whale Wise” guidelines in terms of distance and length of time. We’ve been on the water for 37 years – these whales are like family to us, and we share your passion for them. Keven Elliff – Puget Sound Express.

  5. Scientists think whales are very intelligent, maybe even as smart as us, which wouldn’t take much in many cases. I think the answer is to get rid of those pesky boats and encourage the whales to go “people watching” for their entertainment. If we could some how convince them to cavort and mingle right in front of the fishing pier; problem solved. We would, of course, have to pay interesting people to hang out on the fishing pier at all times tp keep the whales interest in us up. Massive tattoos, nose rings, and people toting AR 15’s might lure them in for lots of breaching and head shaking activity. Where is Dr. Doolittle when we need him?

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