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Ferry Tacoma problems more extensive than previously thought

The ferry Tacoma is towed to dock after breaking down July 29, 2014 off Bainbridge Island. (Curt Gammell photo)

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - State officials say the ferry Tacoma has more extensive problems than they previously thought.

The ferry, which lost power July 29 on its way from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, is still being assessed at a maintenance facility.

The interim director of Washington State Ferries told The Kitsap Sun the problem with the Tacoma is believed to be a switchboard that controls the ship's propulsion.

He says it could take a few more weeks before they get a repair plan from the manufacturer.

The ferry system has been shuffling vessels around the Puget Sound and canceling or delaying runs since the Tacoma was taken out of commission.

The Tacoma broke down at the same time the 202-car Wenatchee was in a Canadian dry dock for repairs. The Wenatchee returned to service on Aug. 1.

Friday evening, drivers at several ferry docks experienced a one boat delay. Officials with Washington State Ferries admit they're running on the bare minimum of boats. The wait times Friday were no surprise to regular customers.

"They're always bad. They're always slow. There's never enough boats," Phyllis Orr said. "We love living on the island but the boats are not a fun thing." Orr waited for the ferry from Fauntleroy to Vashon Island for more than an hour. Recently, she rode the ferry Evergreen, which is a 60-year old ferry recently retired, then brought back to work after the Tacona's breakdown.

"It was in disarray to be real honest. We were like, ‘What? There are port-o-potties down here? There's chairs here on the deck? What the heck is going on?'" she said.

It may be another two weeks before officials have a plan to begin repairing the Tacoma, during which they hope no other ferries have any problems.

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