Selene 47 Rescues a Classic Tug Boat

Sunken Olympia Historic Tug PARTHIA Raised, Returned to City

Story courtesy of South Sound Maritime Heritage Society

Parthia sank in Pleasant Harbor, in Hood Canal, and was re-floated by a group of volunteers from the South Sound Maritimand e Heritage Association.

When Parthia, one of Olympia’s longest working and oldest tugboats sank in Hood Canal in early August, 2017 several members of the nonprofit South Sound Maritime Heritage Association (SSMHA) swung into action to save the tug. More than three months later, on November 16, after hundreds of hours of planning and volunteer, donated and contracted work, and two days of marine towing, provided by Rick Panowicz using his Selene 47 "Jeanne Marie", the more than century-old Parthia was back in Washington’s Capital City at the Port of Olympia’s Swantown Boatworks.

A perennial participant, and winner of five Olympia Harbor Days tugboat races, the venerable tug had been sold to a new owner in 2016. After she sunk, he offered to donate the 45-foot long Parthia to anyone who would salvage her. Not wanting to lose an icon of the city’s working waterfront history, the SSMHA decided to take him up on his offer to acquire the tug. That decision began her 105 day-long salvage process, which involved hundreds of hours of volunteer, donated and paid work, that ended when the 111-year- old tug arrived by truck at the Port of Olympia’s boatyard.

Rick and Pam Panowicz's Selene 47, "Jean Marie", becomes a tug tow the re-floated historic Parthia to Port Townsend, where it was hauled out and trucked to Olympia.

After Parthia’s refloating, the initial plan was to have the owners of vintage tugs that had participated in past Harbor Days events use their retired workboats for the 100-mile long tow from Pleasant Harbor in Hood Canal to Olympia, but logistical and scheduling difficulties prevented it. However, after hearing about the problem Olympia businessman and former tugboat owner John Warjone came up with another solution.  

Together with his retired business owner friend Rick Panowicz, and Rick’s nephew, tug captain Rob (Chip) Panowicz, they proposed to use Rick’s 47-foot Selene trawler yacht "Jean Marie" to tow Parthia from the site of her sinking on Hood Canal north to Port Townsend for haul-out. Rick's nephew, Chip, a licensed, experienced tug master with Sause Brothers Ocean Towing of Coos Bay, Oregon, would be at the helm for the 36-mile- long tow.

According to Rick, the tow process was initiated on one of the worst weather days in Puget Sound. Sustained winds were in the 40-knot range with higher gusts. "The most difficult part of the tow was maneuvering the tug into a side-tie slip in Port Townsend with 40 knots of wind. Our thrusters got quite a work out! I was glad we had new thruster batteries and my nephew Chip at the helm", said Rick. "Our Selene handled the towing and maneuvering beautifully and we were able to tow Parthia the 35 miles to Port Townsend at around 6.5 knots running around 2000 RPM."

Rick Panowicz (second from the right) along with other volunteers in the Parthia rescue project. Parthia was loaded on a truck to return to her home port in Olympia.

Associated Boat Transport of Marysville, Washington, donated the 100-mile- long highway haul of the tug from Port Townsend to Olympia.   In all, in November rain, high wind and sea conditions on Hood Canal, the well- planned boat tow and subsequent truck haul were completed successfully on Nov. 16. The whole operation took a total of ten hours during a two day period.  

The tug is currently on the hard at Swantown Marina and a crew of volunteer shipwrights are working on the restoration. When completed, she'll be part of a shoreside maritime history exhibit and public attraction on Olympia's waterfront.

Congratulations and kudos to Rick and his nephew for stepping in to be part of this worthwhile project!

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