Seattle ferry back in service after joy ride

The Victoria Clipper IV is back in service and a gap in a fence has been closed after a convicted sex offender allegedly took the $8 million vessel for a ride in Seattle in December.

 Samuel K. McDonough, 33, a self-proclaimed pirate who identified himself to authorities as “Zero,” was being held at press time on $200,000 bail on charges of burglary, theft and malicious mischief. He has pleaded not guilty.  

He told police that he took the 132′, 330-passenger Seattle-to-Victoria, B.C., ferry as a birthday present and planned to flee to Canada. His celebration lasted about six hours before he was arrested by a SWAT team as the boat was being held by the Foss Maritime tug Andrew Foss.

 All in all, “We were very fortunate,” said Darrell Bryan, president and CEO, Clipper Vacations, who was already at work before 6 a.m.  on Dec. 1 when he looked out at the dock and saw the ferry’s bow facing south. The boat was not supposed to be operating that morning. 

“All captains were accounted for, so we knew it wasn’t our person on board,” he said. “So I swallowed hard and called the Coast Guard.” He also called Foss, and “they didn’t get there any too soon because it was headed toward the rocks.” 

McDonough’s actions “were not only a public spectacle, but were spectacularly reckless and deadly perilous,” the King County prosecutor said.

McDonough, whose only prior maritime experience was on a Sea-Doo, got the boat started with keys left in the ignition but then killed the engines and was adrift in “the middle of the ferry transit and shipping lanes of one of the West Coast’s busiest seaports,” according to official documents.  

 He told police he jumped over a gap atop a seven-foot fence to get to the boat. “We put up barbed wire the next morning,” Bryan said. They also now have a lockbox for keys, similar to what real estate agents use. “You’ve got to go to the engine rooms to start up the boat, and the engine rooms are locked.” In addition, the company requested a review and audit by a classification society.

The boat had minimal damage. McDonough had released some but not all of the lines, and as he pulled away he snapped the rest and ripped out a cleat, the police report said. 

The police report noted McDonough “illegally accessed a secured TWIC area.”

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