Helena Star (Updated)

Helena Star at Seattle

Helena Star

The Ship:

  • IMO: 5120350
  • Length: 51.4 meters
  • Beam: 8.45 meters
  • Tonnage: 498 GT
  • Year of Build: 1947
  • Builder: Westerbroek Scheepswerf, Westerbroek, Netherlands
  • Name History: PACIFIC STAR (1977-? “Registered”), HELENA STAR I (1977), MONICA STAR I (1976-77), FRATERNITE (1950-76), VIOLETTE ERICA (1947-50)

The Story:

How does a Dutch coaster from the forties wind up on the other side of the world? Why was it renamed so many times during a short period in the seventies? What is it doing sitting amongst various forlorn vessels at a marina? And how long have there been shrubs growing on its deck?

Well, I may not be able to answer all of those questions, but I can try to tell her story.

She was originally built as one of dozens of coasters that plied the waters of northern Europe carrying a variety of goods. Though not particularly out of the ordinary, the Violette Erica wasn’t a a bad looking vessel, displaying the care that the Dutch put into designing their small freighters.

She continued in this trade for almost thirty years, changing her name to Fraternite along the way. Then, in 1976 she made a drastic change, heading for a new life homeported in Panama, and receiving another name change, this time to Monica Star I.

Here’s where her story gets a bit hazy. There isn’t too much detailing what happened to her after that point, except that she changed names twice over the next year, and in 1977 was seized by federal agents, apparently for smuggling marijuana.

Since that point, she has been resting in the Salmon Bay area of Seattle, no one willing to claim her, hence the foliage slowly taking over her decks.

Someday, perhaps, someone will come to her rescue. Or, she may just suffer her fate at the end of a scrapper’s torch. Whatever the outcome, until that happens, she is accompanied by friends, various other derilict vessels that haunt the same portion of Salmon Bay.

Credit: Kyle Stubbs via http://www.shipspotting.com


In March of 2011, the Helena Star was seen departing Salmon Bay under escort of Western Towing’s tug West Point. The report was, from the towing company, that she was headed for the Mason Marine Services dock on Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, not far from another relic rotting away, the old ferry Kalakala. Suspicions are that she was to be scrapped at Schnitzer Steel, a big-time scrap metal outfit on the Hylebos.

However, her end hasn’t come yet, and as this photo from December of 2011 shows, she is still moored their, wasting away alongside another longtime Salmon Bay denizen, the interred longliner Golden West (formerly Chiwoo).

Golden West & Helena Star at Tacoma

About Fairlane
Photographer, historian, nerd, engineer, thirty-something - Those are a few of the words that describe me. Though I have varied interests, one of my passions in maritime history, which I enjoy sharing. If you want to find out what I can tell, please follow my blog.

5 Responses to Helena Star (Updated)

  1. tugster says:

    first, congrats on starting your blog. second, i have some fotos of this vessel also if you’re interested. cheers.

  2. Fairlane says:

    Thanks, i’m looking forward to working on it. I would love to see the photos you got, and by chance, did you happen to get one of the tugboat moored inboard of the red fishing vessel, the Crest? i’d seen her in a previous picture I’d taken, but couldn’t discern an identity.

  3. Nick says:

    It sank Jan 25 2013 while tied down in Tacoma.

  4. Gordon Bingenheimer says:

    Does anyone know how to get the plans for this? Thanks.

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