Steilacoom II breaks down

A 50-car ferry, which many residents feel is incapable of handling the Port Townsend-to-Keystone run, broke down for several hours Tuesday morning.

The state ferry system canceled several morning runs due to mechanical problems with the Steilacoom II. It was up and running in time for the 11:15 a.m. run from Port Townsend.

Hadley Greene, communications manager for the ferry system, said Tuesday morning the starboard generator on the Steilacoom II broke down and an electrician was on board trying to fix it. Because the ferry system only has one boat available to serve the route, it was shut down until repairs were completed.

At around 8:30 a.m., the ferry parking was pretty much empty with two trucks in the lot. Motorists arriving at the dock turned around rather than wait for the Steilacoom II to return.

The trip cancellations pinched businesses that rely on the ferry service everyday to go to and from the Olympic Peninsula.

Ian Jefferds of Penn Cove Shellfish said his employees weren’t able to harvest from his Quilcene Bay location Tuesday, and such delays are expensive.

He said it also shows the need for two boats on the route and that those boats should be capable of handling such a difficult route. He thinks the ferry system should get two of the antiquated Steel Electric vessels repaired well enough to operate on the route for the next several years. Then the ferry system can move forward with building the larger “Island Home” vessels.

The Island Home design is a similar size to the Steel Electrics, which were pulled from service last November due to safety concerns.

The ferry system received a bid last week for construction of a new ferry that would be modeled after the Steilacoom II. Unfortunately the one bid came in approximately $9 million over the ferry system’s estimate.

Greene said staff was busy evaluating the bid. She said they will have a recommendation this week on how to proceed.

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