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‘Rogue wave’ damages foot ferry

The last three ferry trips were canceled Friday night after the passenger ferry Snohomish was damaged by a wave.

During the 5:05 p.m. ferry crossing from Port Townsend to Keystone, the foot ferry Snohomish encountered a “rogue wave” which damaged the vessel, said Traci Brewer-Rogstad, deputy executive director for Washington State Ferries.

She said a combination of factors contributed to the unusual wave. There were wind speeds between 25 and 28 knots, and pretty good swells caused by a strong ebb current.

During the run, the Snohomish waited for a freighter to pass by, which is common because of the long stopping times those vessels have.

The Snohomish encountered the wave when it was traveling through the wake of the freighter. The wave held the Snohomish’s bow down and it knocked down ceiling tiles and soaked the carpet, Brewer-Rodgstad said.

She said the crew checked the passengers and nobody was injured as result of the incident, although they were frightened. One crew member did have some bumps and bruises.

The Snohomish completed its run to Keystone because it was the closest terminal and then started repairs. A United States Coast Guard official came to Keystone to inspect the vessel and it was ready for service the next day.

The weather again plagued the run Tuesday morning when departure times were delayed due to severe weather.

The Snohomish has been serving the Keystone route off and on since November when officials retired the old Steel Electric ferries due to corrosion found in its hulls.

The passenger-only ferry will remain in service until the replacement car ferry, the Steilacoom II, is ready for service. Currently the Pierce County-owned vessel is undertaking sea trials on the challenging ferry route.

Some wary commuters are grateful to see the vessel undergoing trials.

“I’m super glad they’re going to test it,” said Jerry Mingo, a county employee who bicycles everyday from Keystone Harbor to the solid waste station south of Coupeville. He said it seems counter-intuitive to have a vessel serve the route that rides several feet above the water. It was unknown as of Tuesday when the Steilacoom II would begin serving vehicles on the Keystone to Port Townsend route.

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