San Juan Islands ferry service resumes Tuesday after grounding

Aug 23, 2023, 9:17 AM | Updated: 9:23 am

ferry aground san juan...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

The interisland San Juan ferry started running again Tuesday afternoon after a vessel ran aground Sunday night.

State Ferry spokesperson Ian Sterling said that the crash happened shortly after the boat left Orcas Island for Friday Harbor when the boat ran aground in Wasp Passage and punched a small hole in the hull.

More on ferries in Washington: Cancellations, delays causing frustration among island residents

“No one was hurt or anything like that, just the small hole above the water line that we’ve already patched up,” Sterling said.

Sterling said that divers also discovered damage to a propeller.

The Washington State Ferries (WSF) boat Chelan ran aground Sunday night, closing the Orcas Island terminal, putting the ship out of service, and interrupting interisland service.

WSF, part of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), said the incident occurred around 9:35 p.m. when the ferry left Orcas Island for Friday Harbor.

According to KIRO 7 News, ferry officials called it a “soft grounding.”

There were only four passengers on board. They were given life preservers as a precaution while crew members checked the boat for possible damage.

In a statement on its Travel Alert Bulletin page Monday afternoon, WSF revealed an inspection of the Chelan revealed the vessel “sustained hull damage likely caused by shoreline impact.” It added “the boat will require towing to free up the terminal’s lone tie-up slip and create space for the incoming boat.”

Later, WSF reported on X, formerly known as Twitter, the organization is awaiting “final Coast Guard approval to tow Chelan out of Friday Harbor” Tuesday morning.

“At the same time, we’re working on crewing a replacement vessel to move north so we can resume (San Juan Islands) Interisland service by the end of the day (Tuesday),” the agency added.

The Coast Guard will work with WSF to figure out what led to the accident.

WSF has previously said the fleet of ferries is aging and is in desperate need of repairs. In April, the Walla Walla lost power and ran aground in Rich Passage near Bainbridge Island.

The vessel ran aground in Rich Passage on April 15. The ferry, which was carrying almost 600 people, including 15 crew members, was heading to Seattle from Bremerton when it ran aground. The ferry was stranded for about nine hours before passengers were off-loaded by barge. Initial indications were that the vessel suffered a generator failure, but an official investigation will determine the cause.

The ferry Cathlamet crashed into a cluster of pilings known as a dolphin near Fauntleroy in Seattle in July 2022. WSF concluded that a captain’s “loss of situational awareness,” and not any mechanical failures, caused the vessel to veer off course and crash near the Fauntleroy dock.

Contributing: Bill, Kaczaraba, Micki Gamez

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San Juan Islands ferry service resumes Tuesday after grounding