Boat builders are about ready to turn over the third and final new 64-car ferry to Washington State Ferries.
The Kennewick, built by a consortium led by Vigor Shipyards, is at Everett Shipyard this week for final outfitting and testing. It began sea trials late last week. Vigor will demonstrate the vessel to Washington State Ferries and the Coast Guard on Wednesday through Friday, and the state is tentatively scheduled to accept it from Vigor by the end of the month.
Then there’ll be several weeks of post-delivery sea trials and crew familiarization before the Kennewick goes into service in January. It will be assigned to the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, not Point Defiance-Tahlequah, as many expected. The Chetzemoka and Salish had both been assigned to Port Townsend through the peak season, which ends Monday (Oct. 10). The Salish will stay while the Chetzemoka, which has been operating since November 2010, goes into dry dock for maintenance, repairs and modifications.
When the Kennewick stars running in January, the Salish will become the backup boat. The Chetzemoka will replace the 48-car, 64-year-old Rhododendron at Point Defiance. They’re doing it that way because the Salish and Kennewick are more identical with parts and crews easily interchangeable. In particular, they both have variable-pitch propulsion systems that make it easier to get into Keystone Harbor while the Chetzemoka doesn’t.
That makes some sense. The only thing that seems weird is Port Townsend pushed so hard to get the Chetzemoka named for a famous Indian chief there, and now the boat won’t be there.
Washington State Ferries said the 64-car ferries are coming in ahead of schedule and under budget. The budget is $213.2 million for the three of them.
WSF and Vigor should also be close to finishing negotiations on the price of the first 144-car ferry.