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Bad weekend for Whidbey Island ferries

Islanders were plagued with lousy ferry service Saturday and Sunday on both routes serving Whidbey.

Tourists couldn’t get to the island on a sunny October weekend. Service was canceled on the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville ferry route Saturday for more than six hours when the only ferry capable of navigating out of Keystone Harbor, the Steilacoom II, broke down.

Susan Harris-Huether, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said the fuel injector system on the 50-car Steilacoom II failed. A technician was called in to help the fix the problem. Service on the Central Whidbey ferry route resumed Saturday afternoon with the 12:45 p.m. sailing out of Port Townsend.

Traffic to the Olympic Peninsula was diverted south to the Mukilteo-Clinton route and then the Edmonds-Kingston route — a trip that usually takes four hours to complete. But this time, the trip got more complicated.

Approximately two hours later, the 130-car Kittitas, which serves the far busier route out of Clinton, had to be pulled from service when the ferry lost power at one end. The problem started Saturday morning and continued into Monday.

Harris-Huether said the extent of the repairs needed to fix the Kittitas wasn’t known as of Monday afternoon when ferry officials were busy finding a shipyard to repair the ferry.

The breakdown of the Kittitas meant only one ferry served the Clinton route, which translated into only one sailing an hour. Motorists endured waits as long as three hours in Mukilteo and Clinton. Harris-Huether said an extra sailing was provided Saturday to deal with people returning home from the Husky game. To help mitigate the ferry loss, the 34-car Hiyu started serving the Clinton route beginning with the 3:30 p.m. sailing. However, Harris-Huether pointed out the Hiyu is smaller and slower than the larger Issaquah 130 class vessels.

On Monday morning, the 87-car Evergreen State started sailings on the Clinton route, while the Hiyu sailed back to the San Juan Islands.

Saturday morning’s cancellation of the Steilacoom II comes one month before the inaugural sailing of the new Chetzemoka. The 64-car Chetzemoka is slated for permanent service on the trouble route.

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