Keystone curse follows ferry

The curse of Keystone has followed a ferry to another route in the system.

The Snohomish, a passenger-only vessel which was damaged two times in recent days on the Port Townsend/Keystone route, was shaken Monday evening by a “hard landing” the vessel made while attempting to dock at the Bremerton ferry terminal.

Even though there wasn’t any significant damage to the vessel or terminal, sailings on the Snohomish were canceled for the remainder of the evening.

The Snohomish was carrying approximately 141 passengers and crew at the time of the accident and five passengers reported minor injuries, according to a news release from Washington State Ferries.

The ferry system and the Coast Guard are conducting separate investigations of the incident. The Snohomish returned to service Tuesday morning.

Ironically, the Snohomish was sent to the Bremerton route on Monday after the 144-car Yakima was damaged in another “hard landing” and pulled from service.

When the Snohomish was working the Port Townsend/Keystone route earlier this month, it was damaged in two separate instances when waves crashed against the boat. Water entered the passenger cabin, scaring a number of people.

Meanwhile, the new auto ferry serving Keystone has been operating without incident.

With one weekend in the books, the Steilacoom II has been making its scheduled routes. The vessel started service Saturday, allowing cars and trucks to cross Admiralty Inlet for the first time since late November.

Hadley Greene, communications manager for Washington State Ferries, said there weren’t any delays or a cancellations on the route over the weekend. She said the ferry is hauling about 20 vehicles for each sailing. Its capacity is 50 vehicles.

The Port Townsend/Keystone route had been without car ferry service since the old Steel Electrics boats were tied up due to safety concerns in November. In the months following, the ferry system provided passenger ferry service with the Snohomish and smaller, privately-owned boats when necessary.

The ferry system contracted with Puget Sound Express to provide passenger-only service on the route during various times over the holidays. But Greene said the ferry system isn’t inclined to use the private firm again. The boats, the Olympas and Glacier Spirit, can’t use the slips at either end of the route and neither is ADA accessible.

She said the Snohomish would likely return to Keystone if the Steilacoom II has to be pulled from the route for a long-term period of time.

The Steilacoom II, owned by Pierce County, is providing a test case to see how the vessel will handle the challenging route. There are plans to construct replacement ferries that would be based on the design of the Steilacoom II.

However, some people would like to see a bit bigger vessel navigating the waters from Central Whidbey Island.

“The Steilacoom II design is one we can definitely use on our ferry system,” state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said. “But I’ll be pushing for the design and construction of some larger vessels that can handle all of the demands of this route — including a wider variety of weather and tidal conditions.”

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