This is an oddity, but it happens. Let me again explain why.
The ferry in question, the Hyak, was built to carry up to 2,000 passengers. The Coast Guard limits it, however, to lifesaving capacity — the number that can be strapped into life vests and fit on lifeboats. That is 600.
Since help is nearby from the route’s other boat, the Coast Guard allows ferries to exceed their individual life-saving capacity. At 10:30 p.m. Saturday, however, the other Bremerton boat, Cathlamet, had already been put away for the night, dropping the Hyak’s limit to 600.
About 50 people were left at the dock, Danielle Maloni of Bremerton wrote on Facebook. She couldn’t be reached for more information.
The long gap between the 10:30 and 12:50 sailings has long been a gripe of Bremerton riders. They often leave ballgames and shows before they’re over because there’s no way they want to wait until practically 1 in the morning for an hour-long boat ride.
Normally there’s plenty of room on the 10:30 ferry. Washington State Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling couldn’t put his finger on what caused the crowd. Maybe the Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders soccer game Or late St. Patrick’s revelers.
“We did strand some people, unfortunately, which is annoying,”
he said. “We’re not certain why there was so much demand for this
ferry. This is extremely rare.”
A similar incident occurred on New Year’s, but WSF was able to add another sailing. It didn’t have the staff available this time.
Counting passengers has been a hot-button issue for years. The Coast Guard would like an accurate count on every sailing of every boat, so the crew knows how many people would need to rescued if there’s an emergency. Ferry workers count the ferries they expect to be pushing capacity, and more, depending on the route. It’s unclear whether it’s legally required, and it’s difficult when using a clicker to be accurate.
The ferries system is moving forward with the Coast Guard on the issue, it says. It’s also looking into automated passenger counting.