Two-boat summer service pushed back again on Port Townsend-Coupeville route

Posted 12/31/69

It’s going to be a longer wait for the arrival of the second boat on the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route.

Washington State Ferries has pushed the addition of a second vessel on the run …

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Two-boat summer service pushed back again on Port Townsend-Coupeville route

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It’s going to be a longer wait for the arrival of the second boat on the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route.

Washington State Ferries has pushed the addition of a second vessel on the run between Jefferson County and Whidbey Island back for a second time.

A second vessel has historically been added to the Port Townsend-Coupeville route for the “peak season” of summer travel. This year, two-boat service was expected to start May 9, but WSF announced in April the arrival of the second ferry would wait until June 6.

Now, two-boat service won’t start before June 27, according to WSF.

John B. Vezina, Government Relations Director for Washington State Ferries, shared the decision with the system’s ferry advisory committee members via email Monday evening.

Vezina, in the email, said a lack of crewing had prompted the earlier postponement of two-boat service. He added a second vessel wouldn’t be added to the route until late June “due to these vessel constraints.”

Also torpedoed: plans to put a second boat on the route for the Memorial Day weekend.

In his email, Vezina said WSF was “still facing vessel crewing challenges due to COVID quarantines and vaccination-related time off for vessel employees.”

Adding to the mix was the loss of the ferry M/V Wenatchee following a fire aboard the vessel during sea trials in April. The Wenatchee has a capacity of 202 vehicles.

Vezina noted WSF currently has a 21-vessel fleet due to the 10-year pause in ferry construction that ended in 2010.

“While we build new vessels we must make service decisions by balancing short-term needs with long-term maintenance allowing us to keep aging vessels in operation,” Vezina told ferry advisory committee members.

This year’s “peak” schedule requires 18 ferries, one fewer than usual due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the Canadian border. Four vessels are in for repairs, not including the Wenatchee; the M/V Yakima, the M/V Chelan, the M/V Kaleetan, and the M/V Issaquah.

That leaves the ferry system with just 16 boats available until late June.

The limited number of vessels is also prompting changes on other routes.

On the Fauntleroy/Southworth/Vashon “Triangle” run, three-boat service won’t restart until June 7, at least. When the Issaquah is pulled from the route for its required drydock inspection and maintenance period, WSF plans to move the Sealth to serve the “Triangle.”

The Sealth will be replaced on the Bremerton-Seattle route by the Salish, a reduction in vessel-carrying capacity that will last until June 27.

WSF will also move a smaller ferry to the San Juan Islands through June 27, and the Bainbridge Island-Seattle route will also see reduced capacity through July 25.

One smaller ferry will be used for the Clinton-Mukilteo route, as well for most of the summer. 

Vezina said the changes were needed to avoid more severe impacts later.

“We understand the impacts of these service reductions at a time when, despite COVID-related travel advisories, our ridership is increasing,” he said in Monday’s email. 

“We also understand the temptation of delaying vital maintenance and repair work to meet a previously announced schedule, but with only 21 vessels, limited dry dock space, and an aging fleet, putting off this work will only lead to more severe impacts later,” he added.  “We appreciate our passengers’ patience while we work to restore vessels to safe service.”

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