I’ve seen some weird stuff aboard
the Washington State Ferries, and I’m not talking about mermaids
beckoning me to join them in the briny deep. But I have never seen
Certainly not even close to what
the passengers and crew of the Hyak endured last week when a
23-year-old woman allegedly attacked her male companion, while four
ferry workers tried to restrain her and she stripped naked. By the
way, there is no indication that all this started over the
new concessions contractor jacking up the price of a cup of
coffee from $2 to $3.01.
The ferry captain returned the boat
to the Bremerton terminal to turn over the woman to police. She has
since been charged with two counts of third-degree assault,
felonies, for the attacks on the ferry workers and remains in the
Kitsap County Jail.
A noteworthy fact of this case is
that ferries spokesman Ian Sterling told Seattle media, and the
Kitsap Sun, that fights are not uncommon aboard the ferries,
particularly on the 60-minute Bremerton-Seattle route.
“The crossing is longer, so you have
longer for something to go wrong,” Sterling said, adding that
incidents are more common following big sporting events.
This assertion raised eyebrows
around here, as many of us could recall seeing strange things
aboard the route, but no fights. In fact, I’ve heard the opposite,
that people have witnessed what appeared to be love making. No
So we asked Sterling to provide some
numbers, which he did. According to those numbers, the incidents of
anarchy are in fact much more frequent aboard the Bremerton route.
But for two reasons, the information does not support the assertion
that the Bremerton ferry is hosting some kind of fight
Plus, the Washington State Patrol
sergeant who handles security for Colman Dock, among other ferry
terminals, could recall only two incidents that rose to the level
of violent criminal conduct over the past couple of years, and both
of those were aboard the Bainbridge Island ferry.
(First, some history: Perhaps the
most legendary melee in ferries history, “The
Great Bremerton Ferry Punk Rock Riot of 1987,” which definitely
needs a folk ballad written about it, caused $40,000 worth of
damage to the Kitsap and also involves nudity. The seminal British
punk band GBH played Natasha’s in Navy Yard City.
While concertgoers sailed back to Seattle, the riot seemed to have
kicked off after a couple of Bremerton police officers intervened
when a woman started an impromptu strip show on top of a
After reviewing the ship’s logs
starting Jan. 1, 2011, to Thursday, WSF reported there have been
eight “assaults” and seven “altercations” on the Bremerton
Next highest is the Bainbridge
route, with two “assaults” and five “altercations.” These amount to
22 of 30 incidents reported by WSF over the five-year
Every year WSF carries about 22.5
million riders, according to the state Department of
Transportation, with the Bainbridge route alone carrying almost 6.3
million riders in 2013.
“If you look at the numbers and
think about how many thousands of sailings we have every year, and
that there are only eight assaults on the Seattle-to-Bremerton run
in five years,” WSF spokeswoman Broch Bender said, before trailing
off. Then she added: “We want to see that number at zero, of
How the ferries defines
“altercations” and “assaults” also is unusual and problematic when
trying to support the assertion that fights on the Bremerton route
are not uncommon.
Bender said the numbers represent a
“good approximation” of incidents as recorded in ship logs. She
defined “altercations” as typically including physical or verbal
incidents among passengers and “assaults” as typically physical or
verbal attacks inflicted by passengers on ferry
This, of course, muddies the
is by definition not a physical dispute, but a verbal one.
“Altercation” means an angry quarrel or a noisy disruption,
especially in public.
In state law, an “assault” is a
physical attack, not a verbal attack.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Kyle
Smith could recall two incidents, beside this most recent one, that
would rise to the level of assaults as defined by law. He has been
posted on the Homeland Security detail at Colman Dock since
One, this year, was a domestic
violence incident that appeared to have started in the vehicle
waiting area on Bainbridge Island and escalated into an assault
while underway. That case was referred to King County prosecutors,
The other, in February 2015,
involved a group of people who were being obnoxious. When
confronted by a ferries worker, a shoving match ensued, according
to court documents, and it escalated to punches and spitting. The
group was rounded up by law enforcement once they landed on
While this incident last week was
likely frightening for passengers, the crew and the woman’s victim
— and turning the boat around obviously is unusual — it doesn’t
appear that violence is at all common aboard the
As for the price of a cup of coffee
going up $1.01, violence might feel like the appropriate response, but it is not. I repeat, it is
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