Hyak exceeds lifesaving capacity; strands passengers

hyakSeveral walk-ons were kept from boarding Saturday’s 10:30 ferry from Seattle to Bremerton Saturday night, and they weren’t happy about it. There’s not another boat until two hours, 20 minutes later.

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.

Fast ferry rides broached, but a long way off

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Fast ferry rides could be part of Armed Forces Day weekend.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido suggested this week during a Kitsap Transit subcommittee meeting that the Rich Passage 1 make demonstration runs so residents can experience it before voting on cross-Sound service, probably in November.

The 118-seat ferry can cross between Bremerton and Seattle in half an hour without harming Rich Passage beaches. There’s no money to operate it, however, hence a sales tax increase will likely be going to voters.

Lent proposed to run the ferry Saturday, May 21, the day of the big Bremerton parade. Garrido wanted commuters to get a taste of it on a weekday. The two agreed on May 19-21. Now it’s a matter of pulling it off.

First, it would have to be approved by the full nine-person transit board. Not all members are crazy about fast ferries, though the majority seem to be.

Then the Rich Passage 1 would have to be available. It’s being stored at Port Townsend Boat Haven and needs a little work before getting back in the water, said Kitsap Transit service and capital development director Steffani Lillie. It would need to pass an annual Coast Guard inspection, which shouldn’t be a problem. A crew would have to be lined up.

And there’s the matter of paying it — primarily fuel, labor and insurance. Lent believes she can find a sponsor for the insurance, which she estimates at $8,000. Finance director Paul Shinners is examining the cost. Lent said $70,000 generated from fares during a three-month testing period in 2012 could be spent on demonstration trips. That money is long gone, however. It offset some of the cost of providing the 2012 service, said Shinners.

Permission would have to be granted by the Federal Transit Administration to use the Rich Passage in such a way and it would determine whether fares could be collected, Lillie said.

Executive director John Clauson, who was out of town and didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, is concerned about Lent and Garrido’s proposal coming off as a foregone conclusion.

“We’re a long ways from that,” he said. “No. 1, two members do not make a quorum. That would have to be a full board decision because it would have to be a budget expenditure. Currently we don’t have the funds to operate it. The board’s in control of it. They can do what they want.”

“There’s an awful lot that would go into putting that into operation, though it’s not something we couldn’t do.”

In January 2015, Lent pushed for the RP1 to provide trips to Seahawks playoff games. Passengers would’ve paid $25 per round trip. She requested contributions from five large companies, but they said they couldn’t act quickly enough.

Tokitae’s rust not as bad as sister ship

corrosion

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After a hole and hull corrosion were discovered on the state’s newest ferry, Samish, its sister Tokitae was put in drydock for a thorough inspection for similar problems. It went in Friday after the Samish returned from about two weeks of repairs.

Tokitae, which is at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, doesn’t have nearly as much corrosion, said Washington State Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling, and no holes. There are two places where less than a square foot of steel must be replaced.

It could return as soon as Friday. In the meantime, the Samish is running in its place on the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

A final determination of the cause of the corrosion is coming soon, Sterling said. It is believed to be the reaction between dissimilar metals.

Quick response limited ferry fire damage

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The Yakima crew, at the Friday Harbor ferry dock Tuesday, smelled smoke. And you know what that means. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But where’s where?

The ship was in the slip, pushing the dock, as they say. That describes how the propeller keeps running slowly after the boat is tied up to help keep it in place. Then it lost power, Shaun Bukovnik, the assistant engineer, described in a phone interview.

The captain called down from the bridge to report that smoke was coming out of engine room vents, onto the car deck. The engine room crew checked their quarters, smelled the smoke but found no flames. They quickly assembled a fire team, turned off the ventilation, started the fire pump and asked the Friday Harbor Fire Department to stand by at the dock.

“Any fire is a dangerous situation because minutes matter and seconds matter,” said Bukovnik, of Arlington. “We were on our way to check the engine room again. We looked in the engine operating station shop, our workshop, and there was smoke coming out of the motor exciter electrical cabinet”

They opened the breakers to de-energize it and blasted the fire with CO2 extinguishers. It was out in seconds, but they kept spraying to cool off the wires.

“This is a small electrical fire that was hiding from us because it was in a contained cabinet, but we found it, we attacked it and we won,” said the 36-year-old Bukovnik. The fire only hurt about one quarter of the cabinet. We were able to find it in time and save a lot of damage.”

An investigation is looking into the cause of the fire. The ferry will be out of commission indefinitely. The Kaleetan was moved from Bremerton to the San Juans to replace it. The Spokane, which had been at the Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility, was assigned to Bremerton. The Yakima was towed to Eagle Harbor.

Bukovnik credited crew training and communication between the deck and engine room staffs for limiting the damage.

“I first want to thank God for the safety of the crew and helping us remember our training,” he said. “If it weren’t for the brave men and women of the crew, this could have been a lot worse.”

Washington State Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling said all crew members go to fire school.

“We are really proud of our crew who leapt into action and did exactly what they’re trained to do,” he said. “They were able to extinguish the fire in a matter of minutes and keep it from spreading beyond the electrical panel.”

Adopt a pet on the Bremerton ferry

Washington State Ferries is teaming up Thursday with Seattle Humane for the first-ever pet adoption day.

Seattle Humane’s mobile adoption vehicle will be on board the 11:10 a.m. sailing from Seattle to Bremerton and the 1:45 p.m. return trip. From about 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., it’ll be in the Bremerton ferry parking lot.

The ferries system’s pet policy also will be explained.

 

Kitsap Transit hires first public information officer

sanjay

Kitsap Transit’s first public information officer is in the house. Well, not quite, but he’s on the way.

Sanjay Bhatt (pronounced “Bot”) will arrive on March 21 after emerging from 109 candidates. He’s been working since 2003 at the Seattle Times, where he covers real estate.

Bhatt received a bachelor’s degree in History from Duke University in 1996 and a master’s in Information Management from the University of Washington in 2013.

Ferry’s iron man award goes to MV Sealth

The ferry Sealth received the equivalent of Washington State Ferries’ Fleet Achievement Award as the most reliable boat in the fleet. The 34-yar-old vessel made 7,049 trips, ran for 3,522 hours and traveled 52,157 miles while missing only five trips because of mechanical failure.

It beat out four ferries that didn’t lose a single trip to mechanical problems. The are the Chelan, Chetzemoka, Evergreen State and Hiyu. The latter two shouldn’t really count. The Evergreen State was supposed to be retired. It was needed as a backup boat, however, and ran more than expected but nowhere close to full time. I don’t remember the 34-car Hiyu ever leaving the dock.

 

 

Republican wants flags off ferries, especially rainbow ones

According to the Tri-City Herald, state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, wants no other flag besides the Stars and Stripes, the Washington state flag and maritime signal flags to fly on state ferries.

Ferry workers are Washingtonians of the Day

Washington State Ferries director Lynne Griffith will join Jay Inslee at 3:30 p.m. today to “recognize the many heroic acts of crew members who went beyond the call of duty to save lives.”

Inslee will name the visiting crew members as Washingtonians of the Day.

“From rescuing people in swamped kayaks and capsized sailboats, performing CPR on deck, to even delivering babies, these crew members go beyond the call of duty and sometimes risk their own lives to keep our citizens safe,” the governor’s office said.

Transit spokesman will push info, not agenda

For the first time in its 30-year existence, Kitsap Transit will employ a public information officer. You might think that’s a big deal for me, a reporter. For you, not so much.

Just the opposite. I go to the meetings. When I need to talk to somebody, I dial them up. That’s my job. Not being yours, you’re harder for the agency to reach. Even if you had time, you wouldn’t go to meetings. Transit needs to come up with other ways to engage you.

Until now, tasks normally handled by a public information person were split up. They were considered “other duties as assigned,” said executive director John Clauson.

“Right now it’s not something that’s a high priority of any one person’s job description,” he said. “We need to focus more attention on it.”

That might have been reinforced when a survey last year revealed only a minority of Kitsapers knew about a cross-Sound ferry plan the agency had been working on for years.

The going rate for a professional communications person starts at $88,000, as determined by a salary survey of like agencies, Clauson said. Intercity Transit in Olympia, a bit smaller than Kitsap Transit, starts at $75,000.

Are they adding this position now to push the cross-Sound passenger-only ferry plan, you might wonder. It crossed my mind. The transit board will decide soon whether to ask voters to fund the service. If yes, they’ll choose whether to put it on the ballot in April or November.

Upon further review, a PIO wouldn’t be plugging the plan. It’s not allowed.

“As a public agency, we can’t campaign,” Clauson said. “What we can do is provide information, as long as it’s factual. They’re not going to be a campaign manager.”

The prospective hire follows earlier marketing efforts that include a new logo and revamped website that’s more appealing and functional. Clauson holds quarterly community meetings. A website — www.kitsapferries.com ­— has been created to provide ferry plan information.

“There’s a lot of information that we need to share and we just need to do a better job of that,” Clauson said. “It’s very important to us to remember who owns Kitsap Transit. It’s not me, it’s the communities, and the communities have a right to know.”

Kitsap Transit plans to add two other new positions this year — operations supervisor and mechanic apprentice — and bump the ORCA coordinator from half time to full time.

Transit board member Leslie Daugs of the Bremerton City Council asked during a budget briefing whether it’s a good idea to be adding positions with the “fiscal cliff” looming. That’s where revenues are estimated to increase 3.5 percent a year while expenses rise at a 5 percent rate. Kitsap Transit could be in a deficit position as early as 2019.

Clauson said the deficit needs to be postponed through other means, such as replacing diesel buses with those that run on propane, which is cheaper.