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Longer ferry waits

Last week, the ferry Nisqually was pulled from the Keystone / Port Townsend route to undergo an inspection. That leaves impatient ferry riders dealing with even longer waits because the route is down to only one vessel.

Officials had to pull the second vessel from the ferry route several weeks earlier than originally planned to undergo inspection as mandated by the Coast Guard. Each of the ferry system’s four 80-year-old Steel Electric vessels must be inspected. While old, they’re the only boats in the ferry fleet capable of navigating in and out of narrow Keystone Harbor.

There are currently two Steel Electric vessels operational while the other two are out of service.

“We’re down to two boats. One here and one in the San Juans,” said Mike Anderson, executive director for Washington State Ferries.

The fourth ferry, the Quinault, is out of service until work to repair its stern tube can take place. It’s expected to return to service in mid-November.

With the one vessel sailing from Keystone, riders have had to endure waits as long as three hours, according to the ferry system. It’s about a 90-minute wait for the boat to cross Admiralty Inlet and return to Keystone.

The wait didn’t appear to be that long Monday evening, but motorists found themselves waiting for a couple of hours at the terminal.

Silverdale resident Bruce Noyer was heading home and thought showing up a little early would ensure he’d make the 6 p.m. sailing from Keystone. Unfortunately other people thought the same thing and he found himself second in line when the full Klickitat sailed 15 minutes late.

“I thought that if I came a half hour early I’d be in good shape,” Noyer said. “I guess it should have been 45 minutes.”

The person who ended up being at the front of the line, Bellingham resident Kaitlin Donnell, found herself separated from her friend that she was helping move to the small peninsula town of Joyce.

“I thought I’d be able to go on behind her,” Donnell said as she sat in her car filled with her friend’s things, including a Beta fish named Sushi.

Ferry officials have taken steps to offset the loss of the second vessel for the next couple of weeks.

An additional sailing was added on Fridays and Saturdays and an additional sailing can be added at the end of each weekday depending on the backup, Anderson said. Those additional sailings will take place through Columbus Day as the busy summer season winds down.

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