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Wait for ferry ends Sunday; Governor to christen the Chetzemoka

The 273-foot Chetzemoka pulls away from the Coupeville terminal during sea trials. The new ferry is to be christened Sunday by Gov. Chris Gregoire. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
The 273-foot Chetzemoka pulls away from the Coupeville terminal during sea trials. The new ferry is to be christened Sunday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

The new ferry that will permanently serve as the transportation link that connects Whidbey Island to the Olympic Peninsula will be officially christened by Gov. Chris Gregoire at the Coupeville ferry terminal this weekend.

And for Central Whidbey and Oak Harbor business leaders, Sunday’s event can’t happen soon enough. Years of unreliable and inconsistent service by vessels not suited for the rough conditions common to the Coupeville to Port Townsend ferry route will finally come to an end.

It’s hoped that the 273-foot long Chetzemoka, named after a 19th Century Klallam chief, will help bring the run back to a level of service close to that provided by the Steel Electrics, which were pulled from service for safety reasons in November of 2007, and help to restore stable commerce between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula.

“We’re hoping it does that and we’re pretty confident it will,” said Eileen Hunter, a Front Street merchant and president of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association.

Sunday’s ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will take place at both the Coupeville terminal, formerly known as the Keystone terminal, and in Port Townsend. Gregoire is expected to break a bottle of champaign over the bow of the vessel, christening and officially welcoming the ferry to the run.

The governor, a myriad of local and state elected officials and about 300 invited guests will then board the Chetzemoka for a hour-long cruise to Port Townsend, where the boat will then be blessed by Klallam tribal representatives. The ferry will then be open to viewing by the public.

Coupeville business leader Mary Alice Sterling said has been an active voice in the ferry crisis since 2007, even traveling to Olympia as part of a merchant lobby group in 2008. To see all the hard work of so many people finally pay off with the arrival a new and reliable ferry is very exiting indeed.

“I don’t think there is a person not thrilled to have it,” Sterling said. “It’s been long awaited.”

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