Sleeping captain found on wrong ferry, trip delayed

FREELAND - Ferry riders from Whidbey Island are furious over cancelled sailings, the most recent caused by a sleeping captain.

Wednesday morning at 4:30 a.m. the first boat out of Clinton, the Cathlamet, turned around more than halfway to Mukilteo, reported two South Whidbey residents who were on the boat, Bill Couch and Pamela Sipe.

The captain announced the reason as a “staffing issue,” a problem that has become common and widely reported. However, this one was different.

Couch said he heard from a ferry worker that the captain of the Kittitas was asleep on the Cathlamet and as soon as that was discovered, the boat had to turn around.

That account was confirmed by Marta Coursey, Washington State Ferries spokesperson, later this morning. “The captain of the Kittitas was overnighting on the Cathlamet,” Coursey said. “He overslept, and the Cathlamet didn’t realize it.”

When the sleeping captain was noticed, the Cathlamet had to immediately turn around to put the captain back on the Kittitas to keep it on schedule as much as possible, Coursey explained.

“We were running about 20 minutes late,” she said.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Couch, who has been riding the ferries for 40 years.

“What a waste of fuel and time,” Sipe said in an email after Wednesday’s early morning problem.

(Record editor Jim Larsen contributed to this story.)


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