Washington State Ferries folks sound like they would never leave
the Port Townsend-Keystone route in another lurch after they
abruptly retired the only boats that could operate there and left
it without a car ferry for three months. That wouldn’t be fair to
the communities and it would be really bad PR for the ferries.
However, my impression is that the communities would prefer a 60- to 80-car, 1,200-passenger Island Home-class ferry than a 50-car, 325-passenger Steilacoom II-style boat. An Island Home boat is like a new version of the route’s beloved Steel-Electric ferries that were retired in November.
The problem is, it would take longer to get an Island Home boat built. The state has to give back the leased Steilacoom II to Pierce County, and there would be a 6- or 7-month gap before an Island Home boat could be built.
I’m wondering if the communities would think it worthwhile to go without a car ferry again and wait for the bigger boat. I doubt it, because it would be right during their busy summertime, plus I think the Hood Canal Bridge will be closed during that time.
Ferry officials are working hard to find another boat they could lease to fill the gap, but there are few ferries out there and none so far that can operate in Keystone harbor. If they could luck out and find one soon, I think they would scrap the 50-car boat. The only bid on it came in way high and the state plans to try again.