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Normal service returning to ‘fragile’ ferry system

Help is on the way for ferry riders dealing with just one boat on the Edmonds to Kingston route.

The 202-car Wenatchee was repaired and back in service by midday Friday. For two days, the Edmonds-Kingston run was reduced to one boat.

Ferry riders are used to delays and cancellations but this week has been rough sailing, even by those standards.

This week, the MV Tacoma went dead in the water off Bainbridge Tuesday afternoon. With the Wenatchee in dry-dock for repairs and two other vessels getting scheduled maintenance, that meant four boats were out of service at the same time.

“We have a very fragile system,” said interim Washington State Ferries chief, Captain George Capacci. “When one boat is out of the system, it’s very challenging. When four vessels are out of service, it’s extremely challenging.”

For some reason, a command to shift some vessels around on Tuesday and get another ferry on the Seattle-Bainbridge run never happened. Interim ferries chief Capacci apologized for that failure.

“If the communication goes out and it doesn’t get acknowledged and returned back, then you don’t know that the message has been received, so we’re trying to work on that to make sure that the communications are received.”

Because of the communication lapse, riders were left at the docks for hours. Problems continued all week as boats were shifted around.

The Wenatchee left dry-dock in Vancouver, B.C. Thursday and placed back into service at Edmonds-Kingston on Friday. The ferry system will then restore service from Anacortes to Sydney, B.C. on Saturday, meaning the nation’s largest ferry system, with 450 sailings a day, will finally be back to normal.

Captain Capacci defended the system that he calls reliable, but fragile.

“When something like this happens, it is an anomaly but it is extremely unfortunate and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

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