Fire destroys passenger vessel in Seattle

American Safari Cruises 12-passenger Safari Spirit was destroyed by fire at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal just two weeks before its Alaska season opener.

Company CEO Dan Blanchard and an engineer managed to escape the early morning blaze that consumed the 110’ vessel built in 1981 by Poole-Chaffee Yachts and renovated in 2004.

A cause has not been determined for the fire that was reported about 1 a.m. on April 27. The Seattle Fire Department said flames were shooting 30 feet from the vessel when it arrived. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million. A company spokesman said the boat was a total loss and was fully insured.

“I was asleep in a stateroom when I heard popping noises,” Blanchard said in a company statement. He woke up the engineer sleeping on board, and they both made it safely to the dock.

“There were no injuries. The fuel tanks were not affected and there have been no spills reported,” he said.

The yacht, which was undergoing general maintenance before the May 11 start of its summer season cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage, was booked for most departures, said spokesman Sarah Scoltock. Passengers were rebooked on other vessels this season or next.

The Safari Spirit was the smallest of four vessels under the American Safari brand owned by Blanchard’s Seattle company. Sister line InnerSea Discoveries operates three vessels.

Late last year, the 36-passenger Safari Explorer ran into problems in Hawaii, where it was blocked from docking in Molokai by protestors concerned about the impact of tourism. They suspended calls to the island while hammering out an agreement allowing the boat to resume visits.

Rough start aside, American Safari “had a very successful inaugural season sailing in the Hawaiian Islands,” Scoltock said. “We look forward to returning next fall.”

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