Speedy repair of Port Townsend ferry averts need for substitute
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The MV Kennewick, which was out of commission much of Friday due to a steering problem, resumes service with a 2:15 p.m. sailing. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — If repairs of the MV Kennewick had not been completed Friday, state ferries system officials were considering pulling in its sister boat, the MV Salish, to provide service between Port Townsend and Coupeville.

A problem with the Kennewick’s steering mechanism prompted the cancellation of all Friday morning sailings.

The 64-car ferry’s steering mechanism was fixed later in the day with a replacement part.

Marta Coursey, Washington State Ferries spokeswoman, said that during the service outage, personnel looked into moving the Salish onto the route, but that was unnecessary after the Kennewick was repaired.

The Salish will join the route between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island on May 12 — the beginning of two-boat service for the summer.

A steering alarm alerted ferry operators to a problem with the Kennewick on Thursday night, but they could not pinpoint the source of the problem, Coursey said.

Electricians and engine room personnel worked unsuccessfully for several hours to find the source of the problem, she said, finally determining that the steering alarm issue was related to one of the bow handles on the vessel — a problem that would have affected the ferry’s maneuverability.

A part ordered from the manufacturer arrived at 9 a.m. Friday, according to Port Townsend Terminal Supervisor Kevin Christie.

Repairs were made, and the Coast Guard cleared the vessel for operation at about 12:30 p.m. that day.

During the time the boat was disabled, passengers were told there was no certainty when sailing would resume or whether it would happen Friday at all.

They were offered alternate routes. Several drivers who were heading to Bellingham were advised to take the Kingston-Edmonds ferry and catch Interstate 5 going north.

Many of the travelers said they were disappointed or inconvenienced but accepted the situation, according to ferry booth personnel.

“We haven’t had any issues. People have plans, but no one has gone off their rocker,” one agent said.

“People are disappointed, but they figure out what they are going to do.”

Linda Digmun of Sedro-Woolley was visiting Port Townsend to see her family and was hoping to make the 11 a.m. sailing when she heard of the cancellation.

When told that the delay was due to mechanical problems, she said she was relieved that “it wasn’t terrorists.”

For more information, visit www.wsdot.com/ferries.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 06. 2013 6:12PM
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