Story last updated at 2:04 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2002

Warships stop off in Bay
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
The Japanese destroyer Kashima and two other training ships loomed off Homer on Sunday.  
Homer residents awoke Sunday morning to an unusual and perhaps unnerving sight <> three warships belonging to the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces sat at anchor behind the Spit.

A destroyer and two other large training vessels were laying over in Kachemak Bay before sailing on to Anchorage on Monday. Anchorage was the first official stop on a training cruise that will take the group to 10 ports in six countries in North and Central America.

The ships entered Kachemak Bay an hour after sunset Saturday night, creating a curious stir along the beaches as their running lights appeared off Seldovia Point.

Over at the harbormaster's office, there was confusion when the U.S. Coast Guard's Homer detachment called to ask for information. When harbor officer Matt Clarke headed out the Spit to work on Sunday morning, he was startled to see warships parked in the bay.

Clarke grew up in Seattle and frequently saw U.S. Navy ships in Puget Sound. At first glance, he said he was pretty sure they were not American vessels, which he said are a lighter shade of gray.

"I was definitely surprised to see them sitting out there," Clarke said.

In the harbormaster's office, Clarke said harbor officer John Bacher briefed him <> three Japanese warships came into Kachemak Bay late Saturday night and nobody seemed to know what they were doing.

With a pair of binoculars, the Japanese naval flag was clearly visible flying from the afterdecks of the ships.

Phone calls from curious area residents began coming in around noon, Clarke said.

Out on the bay, small boaters circled cautiously around the bigger vessels.

Clarke said that about the time the ships sailed into Kachemak Bay, harbor officer Larry Rutherford "received a call from the Coast Guard wondering if we had any information about them."

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Chris Woodley, chief of port operations for western Alaska, and based in Anchorage, said Monday that the Coast Guard had actually known about the impending visit of Japanese ships to the Cook Inlet area for a month. He said he didn't know why there was confusion over their arrival

in Homer.