Two-boat service expected to resume Monday on Port Townsend-Coupeville

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route is expected to return to two-boat service Monday, a day after the first of the state’s four Super class ferries, the Hyak, is decommissioned.

“Monday is the plan,” said Ian Sterling, public information officer for the ferry system, in an email Thursday. “Thank goodness in time for the holiday rush.”

The 52-year-old Hyak will be retired late Sunday after its 9:05 p.m. sailing from Seattle to Bremerton.

It then will go to Washington State Ferries’ Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility on Bainbridge Island where crews will remove all usable equipment and prepare the ferry for sale through the state surplus process.

The Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route was cut to one ferry on Sunday as the state ferries system prepared for the decommissioning of the Hyak, which leaves it with 22 vessels statewide.

The state needs 19 boats to operate its summer sailing season, and four are undergoing maintenance in the coming weeks, according to Sterling, and so ferries had to be juggled to cover all routes.

The Salish is now in the San Juan Islands, leaving the Kennewick as the only ferry on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route.

The Kennewick continued its regular schedule, but all Salish sailings were suspended, Sterling said.

John Vezina, the government relations director for the state ferry system, had told state legislators in an email earlier this month that the decision was based on 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.”

Boat overhauls

The Kitsap, a 39-year-old vessel, needed an overhaul of a ship service generator, Vezina told legislators.

The 60-year-old Tillikum needed an overhaul of both main diesel engines.

The overhauls previously had been scheduled but deferred by the state, he 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 Wednesday.

The state ferries system has said that it lacked sufficient funding in the 2019-21 state transportation budget to operate the vintage Hyak, which entered state service on the Seattle-Bremerton route in July 1967.

Throughout the past half-century, Hyak has sailed on almost every state ferries route but primarily served the Seattle-Bremerton route in recent years.

“With 12 more boats due for retirement in the next 20 years, there is an increased risk of service disruptions due to routine maintenance requirements and unexpected repairs that become more common with old vessels,” the state ferries system said in a press release.

The state ferries system 2019 Alternate Service Plan can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-alternate ferriesplan.

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