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Bookings smooth Keystone sailings

With limited sailings heading out of Keystone Harbor, the Washington State Ferry System has been offering reservations to help motorists guarantee themselves a spot on the Steilacoom II.

The program seems to be working, as numbers have been increasing since the ferry system rolled out the reservation program.

From the week of July 21 through July 25, approximately 3,500 people used a reservation to save a spot on the Steilacoom II.

“It’s going quite successfully,” said Marta Coursey, spokesperson for the ferry system.

The Steilacoom II has been operating on the Keystone to Port Townsend route during a time of the year when two larger ferries normally serve the route. The ferry system’s four Steel Electrics were pulled from service last November for safety reasons, forcing the Steilacoom II into temporary service.

The ferry system reserves 70 percent of the little ferry’s vehicle capacity for reservations, the remaining space is allowed for motorists hoping to board stand by. People wanting to make a reservation can do so from 30 days to two hours before their desired departure.

Ian Jefferds, owner of Penn Cove Shellfish, has employees that use the Steilacoom II daily ferrying between his locations in Penn Cove and Quilcene Bay. He likes the reservation system but he’s concerned there won’t be space for his vehicles as reservations become more popular. He would prefer some kinds of commercial preference.

To date, Coursey said there haven’t been any formal conversations about commercial vehicles but that doesn’t mean a change could not be made in the future.

The Steilacoom II will continue serving the route until at least spring 2010, when the first replacement for the Steel Electrics is scheduled to be complete. Bids are supposed to be sought on the new vessel this month.

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