Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route to be reduced to one vessel for a week

Hyak decommissioned, four other boats in shop

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route will be reduced from two boats to one for at least a week starting June 24 as the state responds to the decommissioning of one of its vessels.

Washington State Ferries will retire the Hyak on June 30, leaving the transportation system with 22 vessels statewide.

The Salish will be moved to the San Juan Islands, leaving the Kennewick as the only Port Townsend/Coupeville vessel. The Kennewick will continue its regular schedule, but all Salish sailings will be suspended, said Ian Sterling, a public information officer for the ferry system.

The state needs 19 boats to operate its summer sailing season, and four will be undergoing maintenance in the coming weeks, Sterling said.

That requires the state to shuffle boats throughout the Puget Sound to cover all its routes, he said.

The week-long reduction is a “best-case scenario,” Sterling said. Service will be restored to the Port Townsend/Coupeville run when the boats come out of the shop, he added.

“Unfortunately, Port Townsend has been through this before,” said Sterling, a Port Townsend High School graduate. “People have rallied and still come to Port Townsend.”

John Vezina, the government relations director for the state ferry system, wrote an email to legislators on Wednesday and explained the decision was based on both ridership and revenue.

“The Port Townsend/Coupeville route has both the lowest estimated ridership and the lowest net revenue loss during this time of year,” Vezina wrote.

“And while the San Juan Islands are incredibly busy in the summer, they have already had a capacity reduction this spring. With four boats out of service, we don’t have another vessel available for the inter-island route.”

The Kitsap, a 39-year-old vessel, needs an overhaul of a ship service generator, Vezina told legislators. The 60-year-old Tillikum needs an overhaul of both main diesel engines, which are 16,000 hours past their target interval of 30,000 hours, Vezina said.

The overhauls previously had been scheduled but deferred by the state, Vezina said.

The Cathlamet and Sealth also are being repaired.

Vezina said the ferry system has reduced the scope from deferred preservation work on the Cathlamet in an attempt to move it out of the shipyard by July 3.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at bmclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

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