Category Archives: Bremerton ferry

When I say Bremerton and you mark Bainbridge

This boat is bound for Bremerton, even if your receipt says otherwise.
This boat is bound for Bremerton, even if your receipt says otherwise.

You’ve heard this one before. On my way back from Seattle a few weeks ago, the attendant that sold me my ferry ticket to board the Bremerton boat marked me down as heading to Bainbridge.

I politely protested. He said it didn’t matter. I insisted that, as a reporter, I had been told repeatedly by ferry officials that it did matter. He called his boss. His boss told him it didn’t matter.

My actual receipt.

I left with my receipt and plenty of questions for ferries officials. Once again, a Bremerton rider had been counted as heading to Bainbridge, as I’d heard many times before. Only this time, I witnessed it with my own eyes.

I consulted Ian Sterling, a ferries spokesman, about my receipt. Had something changed, in light of the more careful counts crews are doing to ensure they’re following Coast Guard capacity requirements?

No, Sterling said. The attendants should be marking them down correctly. And his supervisor should’ve voided the sale and started the process again. Sterling said the staff would be getting a “written reminder” to ensure accuracy.

“This is something that comes up from time to time,” Sterling said.

Why it’s important: The ferry system uses those ridership statistics for planning its route capacity. So it is a big deal, and if you find yourself in a similar situation, please let me know.

In my own case, the attendant vowed to count the next two motorists as going to Bremerton regardless, as a consolation prize.

I’m puzzled about why this keeps happening. I can only chalk it up to a disconnect between those managing the ferries and the people selling the tickets. It only applies when you drive your vehicle on the vessel in Seattle; walk-on passengers buy a specific ticket.

But has it affected the statistics? Hard to say.

The Bainbridge route indeed has higher ridership. Bainbridge’s carried 6.3 million riders in 2015; Bremerton’s carried 2.7 million. But of those, 25 percent drove on the ferry in Bremerton, compared with 30 percent on Bainbridge in 2015. This might just be Bremerton’s typically-high walk-on passenger counts but if attendants continue to count Bremerton’s vehicles as Bainbridge’s, it stands to reason it will have an effect.   

But for some Bremerton ferry riders, getting the wrong receipt is a symptom of a bigger issue: That their route is treated differently. Bainbridge has vessels built in the 1990s; Bremerton’s are late-60s era models. Bainbridge has more sailings. One commuter I talked to even feels the terminal in Seattle is nicer on the Bainbridge side. And last week, when the Kaleetan ferry experienced steering issues, passengers to Bremerton were ultimately taken to Bainbridge, where a bus waited to take them home. Generally, when a Bainbridge vessel goes out of service, it is quickly replaced, setting off a domino effect that impacts the Bremerton run.

Even the credit card system at Colman Dock doesn’t acknowledge Bremerton. Regardless of the destination the attendant marks you down for, your credit card statement will say “WSFERRIES-BAINBRIDGE,” as the line item no matter what.

Here comes Chimacum.

I asked Sterling if he hears such complaints about favoritism.

We hear from most routes from time to time that they believe other routes get more attention,” he told me.

The San Juans routes, for instance, feel Seattle “get more than they do,” he said.

“I can tell you that WSF is focused on the system as a whole,” Sterling said. “Bremerton is one of our core central sound routes.”

He closed with one final point: Guess who’s getting a brand new $123 million ferry next spring?


But when it comes to receipts, it appears the only way to ensure your trip counts to its proper destination is to keep a close eye on it and contact the ferry system if you’re Bainbridged* by mistake. I’ll be happy to help, too.

*Not a real word.

An infuriating night for Bremerton’s ferry commuters

A Washington State trooper had to hold back passengers upset they could not get home from Seattle Tuesday night.

Commuters to Bremerton at the ferry terminal in Seattle faced a infuriating evening Tuesday night. The Kaleetan ferry broke down due to steering issues the same afternoon, triggering the Coast Guard-mandated 600 passenger cap on vessels capable of holding double that.

With the 5:35 p.m. sailing canceled, the numbers waiting stacked up. The Hyak’s 6:45 p.m. could only go with 600, and troopers with the Washington State Patrol had to hold people back.

“It was mayhem,” said Dr. Robert Bullock, a commuter to Seattle, who added some people were screaming.

“We are second class citizens in Bremerton,” added Art Conrad, another commuter.

It took most commuters many hours to make it home, on a night it usually takes about one.

Because the vessels on the Bremerton run don’t have enough life rafts, the Coast Guard has capped runs when only one boat is present at 600. On Tuesday, that left lines of passengers waiting in Seattle to catch what looks like a ferry with ample space. And this is certainly not the first time this has happened.

The state ferries and Kitsap Transit worked out an emergency deal Tuesday that allowed commuters to take the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry — and their larger capacities — to Winslow. From there, a Kitsap Transit bus would haul them the 45 minutes to Bremerton. But commuters told me they also had to transfer buses in Silverdale, making the trek even longer.

A lunch date for Emily and her baby, Cecilia turned into a late ferry and bus ride home to Bremerton. Photo by Susan Digby.
A lunch date for Emily Berta and her baby, Cecilia, turned into a late ferry and bus ride home to Bremerton. Photo by Susan Digby.

Elissa Torgeson, another commuter, said she rushed to wait in the area past the turnstiles so she could guarantee herself a spot on the soonest boat to Bremerton. And then, ferry officials announced they could take the Bainbridge and board a bus.

She said some ferry employees did not empathize with the situation and did not keep commuters waiting informed of what was going on.

Buses were “standing room only,” at the Bainbridge terminal, according to local resident Susan Digby.

Ian Sterling, a spokesman for the state ferry system, said the Kaleetan would not likely be fixed Tuesday night. It’s unclear what will happen Wednesday morning at this point.

“We sympathize with those commuters who have endured a long night,” he said. “That’s the reality of an aging fleet.”

Sterling added that the addition to the Bremerton run of a new ferry, the Chimacum, in 2017, will allow 1,500 people to board the boat at all sailings, due to its safety enhancements.

But it was a long night Tuesday. And with a game at Safeco Field and only one vessel working the route, it became a Wednesday morning for some.

Here’s what the ferry system sent out at 8:30 p.m.

Due to mechanical issues, the Kaleetan is temporarily out of service. This cancels the 9:05pm sailing from Bremerton. There will be three sailings departing Seattle: 9:05pm, the 10:30pm will depart late and the sailing at 12:50am will also depart late. The next sailing from Bremerton will depart with a late 11:40pm. Until two boat service is restored on the Seattle/Bremerton route the Hyak will only board a maximum of 600 total passengers, this includes vehicles. The vessel is unable to board additional passengers for safety reasons. We apologize for any inconvenience. Updates will be provided as conditions change.

Below is a video showing the chaos (OK fine, chaos isn’t quite accurate) people  in the terminal as the night began.

UPDATE: Repairs were made to the Kaleetan and it was set to sail again on the 6:20 am ferry to Seattle.

Seriously, Bremerton’s getting the nice ferry

I had time to ask Gov. Jay Inslee only one question at the christening of Bremerton’s new ferry today. But I knew what it was going to be.

It’s no secret Bremerton has often been left with the oldest and creakiest vessels in the fleet, especially when ferries break down. Meanwhile, Bainbridge Island, where Inslee happens to call home, generally maintains the largest and nicest of boats through it all. Ferries officials make a logical argument that Bainbridge’s ferry ridership is roughly three times that of Bremerton’s, though Bremerton’s is growing.

In my brief time with Inslee, as you can watch above, I asked him how he’ll feel about Bremerton getting the newest boat and freshest paint job. The governor didn’t miss a beat.

“I think I’m gonna come to Bremerton just so I can ride the Chimacum,” he said. “This is a beautiful boat.”

He added that he has a piece of the Kalakala on his desk, and that the iconic vessel once served Bremerton as its ferry.

I will add this: there’s no promise that the ferry system will always run the Chimacum to Bremerton — these are boats after all. Yet there’s good reason to think she’ll stick around for awhile. For one, the vessel will be adorned with works of Bremerton art and history.

Here’s some more background about the ferry:

When the Chimacum became “whole.”

Why the 1,500 passenger vessel is being named after Chimacum.

When the vessel’s keel was laid.

See you in 2017, Chimacum. Here’s some more photos from the day.

img_1393 img_1422 img_1429 img_1424 img_1434 img_1420 img_1423 fullsizerender


Beat blast: 5 things you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

What city’s now a two-carrier town? You guessed it: Bremerton. Lots of stories to catch you up on this week in the above video, including:

This historic vessel’s $1.2 million overhaul — if someone will foot the bill
A bookstore that will stay in Bremerton longer than its pop-up phase
The garbage company’s coming crackdown on delinquent payers
A brand new ferry that will be ready to go in 2018

And of course, the news of the Nimitz.

Feedback? Yes please.


The Washington State auto ferry Kaleetan passes the USS John C. Stennis on Friday. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
The Washington State auto ferry Kaleetan passes the USS John C. Stennis on Friday. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Beat Blast: 5 things you’ve gotta know in Bremerton this week

Did Monday’s weather feel especially dark and dreary to you? That’s because it actually was.

In this week’s Bremerton Beat Blast video, you’ll learn:

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 3.14.40 PM1. What new letterpress company just opened in downtown Bremerton?

2. What construction project will gum up the Seattle ferry terminal for years to come? (And we’re not talking about the 99 tunnel, either.)

3. Who’s the new director at Bremerton Foodline?

4. What Bremerton health care company’s name is fading out for good?

5. And — as promised — just how dark was Monday?

Thanks for watching. Please send questions or comments to


Bremerton Beat Blast: 5 things to know happening in Bremerton this week

Stories featured this week:

1. This Bremerton theater is under contract with a local developer
2. Detectives investigate a murder in East Bremerton
3. The 2-year election battle shaping up
4. Is the ferry terminal’s door broken again?
5. Which Bremerton landmark has a birthday today?

Please let me know what you think! Suggestions welcomed at

Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

INSIDE THE SEAWOLF: 9 reasons she’s the Navy’s ‘most capable’ submarine

USS bremerton
Larry Steagall photo.

The USS Seawolf is the fastest, quietest, deepest-diving and most capable submarine the U.S. Navy has ever built. And she happens to call Bremerton her home

On Monday, the Kitsap Sun got a rare treat, going aboard the Seawolf for a tour right before the boat headed for dry dock. So what makes the Seawolf so special? Here’s nine things that differentiate her from the pack.

The Seawolf on Monday. The algae around it is because the vessel has largely been unloaded and is floating higher. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

1. The Seawolf emerged at the tail end of the Cold War

There are only three vessels in the Seawolf class — The USS Jimmy Carter, USS Connecticut and the boat itself — because, frankly, they were too expensive with the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the final chapter of the Cold War, the three vessels were designed to outpace the Soviets, particularly in the “acoustics” realm, or how quiet they could be. 

Along with the Soviet Union’s collapse was the derailing of a U.S. plan to build 28 Seawolf-class boats. Today, the three “most capable” submarines are based in Puget Sound waters, with the Seawolf and Connecticut in Bremerton and the Jimmy Carter at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  

The torpedo bay, emptied as it prepares for dry dock.
The torpedo bay, emptied as it prepares for dry dock.

2. The boat’s armed to the teeth 

Stocked with twice as many torpedo tubes as the preceding Los Angeles-class submarines, the Seawolf can carry around 50 torpedoes, fired from eight different tubes. 

“It was built to hunt Russian submarines, and destroy Russian submarines,” Seawolf Sonar Technician Jacob Stilling told us. 


3. The Seawolf is speedy — but just how fast is classified 

Officially, the leaders of the Seawolf can say the boat can reach a speed greater than 20 knots. How fast the vessel is actually capable of going remains classified. 

150730-N-ZZ999-003 ARCTIC OCEAN (July 30, 2015) The fast attack submarine USS Seawolf (SSN 21) surfaces through Arctic ice at the North Pole. Seawolf conducted routine Arctic operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
U.S. Navy photo

4. The Seawolf has a hardened sail 

You might think that the submarine’s sail — that protruding stack toward its bow — would only be used for communications and reconnaissance. But the Seawolf, like some other submarines, can use it for something else: penetrating the ice in the coldest places on Earth. 

During the most recent deployment, the vessel sailed its way through the Bering Straight and underneath the ice-covered environs at the top of the Earth. While there, its sensors found a section of ice just five feet deep in a land where its breadth can reach 100 feet. 

The sail pierced through the ice and most of the crew even got a chance to go “ashore,” taking photos and filling condiment bottles with North Pole ice water. 

“It wasn’t that cold,” said boat commander Jeff Bierly. “It was like a cold day in Connecticut.” 

While the Seawolf isn’t the first to do this — the Nautilus did it way back in 1958 — it’s still an important skill set in an area of the world where the powers-that-be are becoming increasingly territorial.


5. Her backup’s called Beth

Plus, if the vessel’s nuclear reactor ever goes out under that ice, the Seawolf must find a way to surface so it can power on its backup diesel generator — something that the Navy’s fleet of submarines still carry in case of emergency. The one aboard the Seawolf is called “Beth.” 

It can not only dive the deepest, but it can last down there a long time

While not unique to the Seawolf, the boat’s personnel take seriously its life system that keep it inhabitable for its 154-compliment crew. The carbon dioxide we all breath out is “scrubbed” and expelled from the boat. New oxygen is made by taking water (H2O) and separating chemically its two hydrogen molecules from the oxygen — and viola. The crew must also ensure carbon monoxide (CO) does not build up on board, and does so by chemically adding an additional oxygen molecule to it (CO2) which turns it into carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is then scrubbed off the ship with the rest.

USS Seawolf culinary specialist Marcus McConnell makes meat loaf for dinner. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf culinary specialist Marcus McConnell makes meat loaf for dinner. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

6. The vessel can last only as long as its stock of food

The submarine’s most precious commodity? Its nuclear reactor can run for eons and we’ve already learned how they keep breathing down there. The thing that runs out first is the boat’s supply of food.

At the start of deployment, areas of the ship are stacked deep with canned goods, making it possible to go up to 120 days.  

When you consider that the crew — most of which is aged between 18 and 25 — eats around 850 pounds of food every day, that amount adds up fast on board a 350-foot-long sub. 

This past deployment’s favorite meal was probably Asian food, namely sweet and sour chicken, according to Kip Farrell, the boat’s leading culinary specialist. (Farrell, I might note, is from Silverdale.) 

USS Seawolf sailor Garrett Guglielmetti at the bottom of a narrow passage with steep stars on the boat. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf sailor Garrett Guglielmetti at the bottom of a narrow passage with steep stars on the boat. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

7. All that equipment and food makes for tight quarters

Submarines aren’t known for being roomy to begin with, but that’s especially true for the Seawolf. Crew members routinely “hot bunk” to save space, meaning one submariner will take a bunk when he comes off shift for someone who just finished sleeping in it. It works out to about three people sleeping in a space of two bunks as shifts are divided. 

“Space is a high commodity onboard a submarine,” said Chief of the Boat Nicholas Wallace. “It’s like a giant Tetris puzzle in here.” 

They make it work. At times, submariners bunk with the torpedoes. The vessel’s wardroom, where officers dine and meet, doubles as a medical facility when a submariner needs treatment of some kind.

The boat's sanitation systems.
The boat’s sanitation systems.

8. Yes, sometimes it smells

With all that equipment, food and people, the Seawolf has never been able to install a sanitary pump aboard like some other subs have. That means that even when “blackwater” — the effluence on board — is expelled via pressure, some lingering smell can waft through the submarine. 

It’s really not that big of a deal, the crew said.

“You just get used to it,” Bierly said.  

BREMERTON, Wash. (Aug. 21, 2015) Sailors assigned to the fast-attack submarine USS Seawolf (SSN 21) return home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, following a six-month deployment. Seawolf is the first of the Navy’s three Seawolf-class submarines, designed to be faster and quieter than its Los Angeles-class counterpart. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray/Released)
The fast-attack submarine USS Seawolf returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton Aug. 21, following a six-month deployment. U.S. Navy photo

9. Time for an upgrade 

The Seawolf on Tuesday headed for dry dock, the start of a two-year overhaul. New sonar and combat control systems will be added, Bierly said, making the vessel all the more advanced when she goes back to sea in 2018.

“We’re gonna get the latest and greatest,” Bierly said. “And we’re pretty excited about that.” 

USS Seawolf Commander Jeff Bierley in the chief petty officer's quarters on the Seawolf. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf Commander Jeff Bierley in the chief petty officer’s quarters on the Seawolf. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

What’s with the big wide turn, Bremerton ferry?


Many of you have pointed out the Bremerton ferry has been sailing slightly strangely lately. The vessels running to Seattle are slowing down more than their usual wake-restricted amounts through Rich Passage, and they’re hugging the coastline toward Illahee as they come and go from Sinclair Inlet.

So what gives?

My sources in the ferry system say that the Coast Guard has asked the ferries slow down and steer clear of the Port of Waterman dock along the shores of South Kitsap, until at least mid-October. The dock, once used as a port of call for the Mosquito Fleet of foot ferries, is being replaced, and the Coast Guard has issued a “no wake” zone around it for ferries, according to ferry spokeswoman Broch Bender.

She estimates the delay is adding between two and seven minutes or so to each sailing.

The pier has been a part of the Port of Waterman since 1923. Kitsap Sun Reporter Chris Henry wrote that it’s been “a gathering place for fishermen and crabbers,” for years, and is now a popular place to jig for squid.

Replacement for the aging dock is being funded by a state grant.

Why is Bremerton ferry ridership swelling?

manette and ferry

For the past few years, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the ridership numbers for the Bremerton-Seattle ferry run. And the latest numbers out of the state ferry system, I must say, are intriguing.

UPDATE, 1.14.16: What we know: ridership grew about 14 percent between 2013 and 2015, with close to 2.7 million riding in the latest year, according to state ferries’ statistics.

To quantify that, it means 366,425 more people rode the Bremerton route in 2015 than did in 2013.

Bremerton’s outpacing the overall growth of the system, whose ridership rose 5 percent in the same period.

So what gives? A statistical anomaly or something permanent? I asked Raymond Deardorf, planning director for the Washington State Ferries, for his thoughts. He mentioned the economy plays a role in the whole system, and it doesn’t hurt to have the Seahawks in Seattle.

“Looks like the route ridership has returned to its pre-recession levels,” Deardorf said. “And maybe even exceeding those levels.”

Why is that, you ask? Here are my theories:


It’s the economy, stupid: we know that the Great Recession is over. So more people could be riding as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s employment near 13,000. Ridership earlier this decade has reached 2.5 million before. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Seattle’s economy really couldn’t get much hotter. But the economic changes should affect all ferry runs and the system as a whole isn’t growing as fast as Bremerton’s.

Nimitz Arrival: In January 2015, a second aircraft carrier arrived in Bremerton, bringing about 3,000 sailors and their families to the Kitsap peninsula. It will be here through at least 2018.

The Seahawk effect: Yep, we’ve got one heck of a football team in the Pacific Northwest, don’t we? They’ve been packing the ferries for each home game. That might result in some higher numbers but remember that the vessels only hold between 1,200 and 2,000 passengers. That would explain a little jump but also remember the Seahawks have been packing them in for more than a few years now.

On a related note, the Mariners’ potential of late has more people going to Safeco (notice I said “potential”) which could be helping the uptick.

Avoiding 305: There’s an imaginary line through Kitsap County where Seattle commuters who live here make a choice to go to either Bremerton’s ferry terminal or Bainbridge. We can debate where that line is but I think it’s moving north, with more commuters choosing Bremerton over Bainbridge. Why? The nightmare each day on Highway 305 as Bainbridge’s ferries arrive in Winslow. Trying to drive off the island during the commuting hours is just brutal.

Public Market

While Bainbridge has more ferry runs and a shorter crossing time than Bremerton, Highway 305 congestion could be bumping some riders to the latter run. Case in point: While Bremerton’s run grew almost nine percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to last, Bainbridge’s actually fell a half-percent.

After posting this on Facebook, many readers argue that the state ferry system has been more accurately counting customers heading to Bremerton. It’s no secret that many of us have returned to Bremerton over the years only to find the ticket booth attendant had registered our car to the Bainbridge route.

I thought not only about the northern commute but the southern one as well, in which many ferry over to Seattle and then drive back around via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But I can’t see how that is changing ridership, especially with so much of the Seattle waterfront torn up and under construction right now.

I’d encourage you to check out the numbers for yourself and weigh in on my hypotheses. And feel free to add some of your own.

Bill Clinton to ferry crewman: ‘I’m your president’

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 1.41.35 PM

Craig Salt can tell some great stories about working the Bremerton ferry run. For 35 years, Salt (above, middle) worked for Washington State Ferries, taking passengers and cars  back and forth across Puget Sound.

For me, one story stands out: Salt’s encounter with none other than our 42nd president, Bill Clinton.

Salt most frequently worked the Bremerton run and particularly enjoyed the passenger-only ferry the Tyee. He has found memories of all his time in the system, which he retired from a few years ago.

“It wasn’t a job,” Salt said. “It was an adventure.”

Clinton came to Blake Island in November 1993, a fact you should know because it was featured on my President’s Day video. Salt was selected as one of the seamen who would accompany the president, along with other country leaders that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.

Salt was surprised to find Clinton ventured out to the rear of the boat, taking in the Seattle skyline with great interest. He started asking questions.

Salt is quite the conversationalist and local historian himself, so filling Clinton in about the Yeslers and the Mercers of Seattle’s past was not only an honor, but something easy to do.

But when Salt realized he was going on a bit long and felt he was keeping the leader of the free world from his counterparts, Clinton put him at ease.

“He said, ‘I’m not their president, Craig,'” Salt recalled. “I’m yours.”

So Salt went on.

He still has the White House photo (above), though not much else from the visit. What’s left is mostly in his memory. But it’s a visit he says he’ll never forget.

“He was a nice man,” Salt said.

One note of caution: please don’t determine this post to be political. It’s not. I just wanted to recognize a nice memory from a man who helped drive a ferry back and forth for more than three decades.