Ferry Fire Will Cause Puget Sound Summer Travel Delays

SEATTLE (AP) — Puget Sound ferry travelers can expect summer delays because last month’s fire aboard the ferry Wenatchee has forced the state to use smaller vessels than normal on several routes.

The Seattle Times reports the Washington State Ferries is operating 18 vessels instead of the usual summer fleet of 19 boats.

Besides a reduced number of ferries, state officials say crew shortages and quarantines related to COVID-19 further limit capacity, just as peak travel season begins. Lower-capacity schedules take effect Thursday night.

The jumbo ferry Wenatchee remains docked at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island following the April 22 fire.

That blaze occurred in the diesel engines during a test cruise, following an engine rebuild. It’s being investigated by Washington State Ferries, the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board.

The Wenatchee, one of the state’s three largest ferries, might be idle four to six months though managers don’t have a time or cost estimate yet.

With that boat docked, the state loses capacity for 202 cars and 1,791 passengers. (The current Coast Guard license, which presumes 15 crew members trained in evacuations, doesn’t allow the boat’s full capacity of 2,500 persons.)

For now, the Seattle-Bainbridge route will operate with the 202-car Tacoma, paired with the smaller 188-car Walla Walla or 144-vehicle Kaleetan. The Seattle-Bremerton route will include the slower 64-vehicle Salish, and lose one early-afternoon round trip, until at least June 27.