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May-12-2011 21:05printcommentsVideo

Breaching Whale Strikes Sailboat Near Astoria

Nobody was injured, the vessel had been participating in the Oregon International Offshore Race to Victoria, B.C.

L'Orca rests at Astoria's West End Basin pier after having its rigging and mast demolished by a breaching whale near Astoria.
L'Orca rests at Astoria's West End Basin pier after having its rigging and mast demolished by a breaching whale near Astoria. Photo by Petty Officer First Class Shawn Eggert

(ASTORIA, Ore.) - A sailboat was struck by a breaching whale near the coast of Astoria, Thursday.

File image of a Humpback Whale - zmescience.com

The vessel and its crew were taking part in a race to Victoria, B.C., when the whale surfaced.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received a report from the 38-foot sailing vessel L'Orca at 9:30 a.m. after the whale breached the surface of the water and crushed the rigging and mast of the boat when it fell back into the water.

Ryan Barnes of Portland, Ore. was aboard his father's 38-foot sailboat when the whale breached and struck the L'Orca, near Astoria.

"We started out at 9:00 this morning. I had our spinnaker up, wind was blowing about 18-24 knots."

He says it was smooth sailing, and then suddenly everything changed.

"Our boat was moving at about nine knots over the water, and all of a sudden, about a few inches, maybe a foot off the starboard side, a whale came breaching out of the water."

A quick Google search of the term 'whale breaching' turns up plenty of results. In fact, some of these harrowing incidents where whales come flying out of the water and crashing down onto marine vessels, have been recorded on videotape.

Barnes says it looked like a Humpback whale. He estimated it to be about thirty feet in length.

"It hit the mast about halfway or three quarters of the way up, and then it proceeded to fall forward and on the starboard side of the boat, and the mast came down as well as the fore stay and all the rigging and our tow rail and lifelines on the starboard side of the boat.were demolished as well."

Crew of the L'Orca display pieces of whale flesh and a barnacle left aboard their boat
after it was struck by a breaching whale near Astoria, Ore., May 12, 2011.

The Coast Guard dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Station Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washgton. They reached the scene and escorted the vessel and its crew to Astoria's West End Basin Pier.

Barnes says to their good fortune, nobody aboard the vessel was injured as a result of the whale strike, but the vessel suffered some cosmetic damage along with the broken mast and rigging.

"The crew was all in the cockpit at the time," he explained. "After the situation everybody worked very quickly to take care of the rigging and make sure we didn't have any hazards in the water."

He says several vessels from the race stuck around to make sure the L'Orca and her crew were OK. The L'Orca and its crew were taking part in the Oregon International Offshore Race to Victoria, B.C., when the whale breach occurred. The sailing vessel was subsequently escorted to Astoria's West End Basin pier after having its rigging and mast demolished by the whale breaching.

Crewmembers later displayed pieces of whale flesh and a barnacle left aboard their boat after it was struck.

"It's proof of what happened," Barnes added with a humorous note.

Coast Guard video by Petty Officer Shawn Eggert, edited by Tim King for Salem-News.com

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Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Daniel Johnson May 15, 2011 12:07 pm (Pacific time)

My concern, and I'm serious: I hope the whale was okay. After all, it's where he (she) lives.


Captain Gigi May 15, 2011 12:02 pm (Pacific time)

My headline: Whale didn't like the name, L'Orca? Da breach de-masted da boat

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