Editor’s note: The three-boat schedule will end a day earlier than originally expected.
Submitted by Washington State Ferries
Through Saturday, Nov. 3, Washinton State Ferries will run a three-boat schedule in the islands, which can be viewed at www.wsdot.wa.gov/
WSF has been without a service relief vessel since spring, when the Elwha, scheduled for the San Juan Islands this summer, was removed from service for emergency steel replacement. This led to a service disruption to its Sidney route at the end of the summer when the Hyak had to be removed for emergency repairs. Now, there will be two weeks with seven boats out of service, four for emergency repairs (including the Hyak and Elwha, assigned to the San Juan Islands) and three vessels for Coast Guard-required shipyard work. The San Juan Islands routes have been adjusted, starting Oct. 22.
This means Sidney service for those two weeks is canceled as staff focus on domestic service. It will also mean canceling reservations for that fortnight with passengers sailing on a first-come, first-served basis, as the current reservation system can’t be amended with a new schedule. The Olympic Class Samish (144 cars) and Issaquah Class Chelan (124 cars) will be assigned to the Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Orcas/Lopez/Shaw runs, with the Evergreen State Class Tillikum (87 cars) on the interisland route.
A WSF representative said that they understand the impact this service disruption will have on passengers and have looked at every scenario to avoid it. Downsizing a route is the very last option, but it is not possible to maintain the current schedule with seven boats out of service. The schedule leaves the interisland schedule intact and gives each island six sailings a day. Passenger alerts will be sent out and more media coverage is to come.
At every public meeting about WSF’s long-range plan, passengers say that their No. 1 priority is stabilizing the fleet. The plan will call for new vessels and increased maintenance time.