Bremerton-Seattle ferry out of commission due to damaged propeller blade

Sep 19, 2023, 12:48 PM

ferry propeller...

Sources say human error is likely to blame for a major electrical accident in the engine of the Washington state ferry M/V Walla Walla. (WSF photo)

(WSF photo)

Washington State Ferries (WSF) is moving a number of boats around now as one of its vehicles is now of commission for “up to four weeks” due to damage recently sustained.

WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said divers discovered a crack Friday on the 200-car-vessel M/V Walla Walla, which is usually on the Bremerton-Seattle route.

The crack was found when crew members felt an intense vibration aboard the boat, leading to an inspection.

“On Friday, on its way to Bremerton, (the Walla Walla) had a problem with vibration on board. We checked that out, but divers in the water and one of the propellers on one of the ends of the boats is basically missing a blade,” Sterling said to KIRO Newsradio. “So it either hit something underwater, maybe metal fatigue; we’re not sure yet. We’ve launched an investigation into just what would cause that.

“But the bigger boat, the bigger the problem,” Sterling added. “It has to go dry dock and that’s going to take some time. So, it’s going to be for out a couple of weeks, up to a month.” He also noted the entire propeller will need to be replaced.

‘The worst it’s ever been’: Vashon residents voice frustrations with troubled ferry route

Wait times at the Seattle-Bremerton ferry terminal were around three hours Friday as another ferry had to be pulled off the Seattle-Bainbridge Island run to take the Walla Walla’s place.

The M/V Salish was pulled off of the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route, which is now down to one boat as the Walla Walla gets repaired. Sterling said smaller boats have to take their places, reducing capacity and increasing wait times.

“Bremerton has been on a one-boat service for a long time now, really, since the dark days of the pandemic. And so we moved a boat from Seattle-Bainbridge to help out on Bremerton to keep that route open, and then a very small boat the Salish, which would normally be up in Port Townsend, over to the Bainbridge Island,” Sterling said to KIRO Newsradio. “It’s a much smaller boat, normally, what’s there, you’d have a boat that can carry a couple of hundred cars. Unfortunately, this boat only carries about 64 cars.”

Sterling said the propeller could be replaced pretty quickly on the Walla Walla, but there isn’t an open dry dock large enough to hold it.

“Well, it depends on drydock availability. And so that’s part of the reason that we don’t really have a timeline quite yet. So we don’t know where we can get it in,” Sterling said. “Sometimes you gotta wait for the (U.S.) Navy to get, you know, a boat out of the way. So you had to find drydock space to get it in there, and then it’s relatively quick work to change out the propeller.”

The problem is two of the five largest ferries are down for the count, as the M/V Wenatchee started the year-long process of electrifying the boat. The Wenatchee is expected to return to service in late summer 2024.

The Walla Walla experienced another major mechanical failure earlier in mid-April when contaminated fuel led to a power failure and caused the ferry to run aground.

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Bremerton-Seattle ferry out of commission due to damaged propeller blade