Chetzemoka inaugural sailing begins Nov. 14 from Coupeville to Port Townsend

The inaugural sailing of the Chetzemoka will take place Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Coupeville ferry terminal.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
The inaugural sailing of the Chetzemoka will take place Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Coupeville ferry terminal.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Friday afternoon that the inaugural sailing of the 64-car Chetzemoka will take place Sunday, Nov. 14 from the Coupeville ferry terminal at Keystone Harbor.

The 64-vehicle Chetzemoka, named after the late Klallam chief Chetzemoka, will be christened by Gov. Chris Gregoire along with members of the Klallam Tribes.

Gregoire, state legislators and local officials will be part of the estimated 300 guests from communities on both sides of Admiralty Inlet who are invited to take a one-hour cruise to Port Townsend where representatives from the Klallam Tribes will conduct a ceremony aboard the Chetzemoka. The 750-passenger ferry will be available for public viewing at Port Townsend. It will start regular service Monday, Nov. 15.

"The Chetzemoka provides an important link between communities on both sides of the inlet," Gregoire said in a news release. "The inaugural sailing is truly a big event and I'm thrilled to be able to share in the excitement of the occasion."

Ferries spokesperson Marta Coursey said a start time for the Nov. 14 ceremony hasn't been set yet.

Officials originally scheduled the first sailing in late August. However, a vibration issue prompted officials to delay the event until the problem can be resolved.

"I want to commend and thank all the men and women from Todd Pacific Shipyards, Everett Shipyard, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and Jesse Engineering for building such a magnificent vessel," state transportation secretary Paula Hammond said. "The Chetzemoka is the first in a series of vessels that provide vital transportation links throughout the Pacific Northwest."

The Chetzemoka is the first of three Kwa-di Tabil class ferries that will be built for Washington State Ferries. The new ferries will provide a permanent replacement for the 80-year-old Steel Electric vessels, which were pulled from service in November 2007 because of safety concerns. The Chetzemoka will provide service from Coupeville to Port Townsend. Coupeville is the new name for the Keystone terminal. The second ferry will be used on the route during the busy summer season and the third one will replace the Rhododendron, which serves the Point Defiance route.

The Chetzemoka cost $76.5 million to build. That amount includes construction, contingency and construction management.

The lease Washington State Ferries has for the Steilacoom II was supposed to expire at the end of October. However, Coursey said staff negotiated an extension for the 50-car vessel to operate across Admiralty Inlet until the Chetzemoka starts service.

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