I was one of the unfortunate souls on board the state ferry Kittitas Saturday afternoon, which had just docked at Clinton and was getting ready to unload. I have been riding this route for 49 years and even so, was shocked at how WSF handled what happened next, particularly about the disregard shown the paying passengers. The sequence was as follows:
• The boat did not unload; we were told there was an “incident” on the dock and we were backing off to wait. OK, I’m good with that; I hope everyone is OK.
• The boat headed out and then went all the way back to Mukilteo. Why? Couldn’t we just wait off shore till the problem was over? Haven’t we waited when there were drills or boat interference?
• We were made to drive off the ferry back at Mukilteo and made to go to the back of the line, now more than a mile long as, of course, cars backed up when they stopped loading boats at Mukilteo. Why could they not have put us right back in the lot or at the empty train station so we could have priority boarding on the boat when it started running again?
• We were given almost no information about what was happening or what the outlook for the situation was.
• When I called the ferry information line to ask some questions about my “Why’s and What’s,” I reached a horribly rude person on the phone who would not answer any questions, told me to drive around (3+ hours) and hung up on me.
• We were given white “refund” cards as we drove off the boat, but then they apparently required the receipt from the original trip. I normally toss those into the recycling to keep garbage from accumulating in the car and we’d already docked and were preparing to unload.
• When I finally got to the ticket booth an hour or so later, they wanted to charge me again.
• When I complained to the head agent at Mukilteo about how the situation was handled, she said Homeland Security took over when the Coast Guard was called and that no one can tell us anything. Shocked, I responded that this is what the fascists did to the German citizens during the Third Reich. The public has a right to know what is going on.
As it turns out, there was a kayaker (and possibly a rowboat) under the Clinton dock and the kayaker refused to leave. Admittedly, the kayaker was a big jerk, but there are no signs at any of the ferry docks, advising people they are not allowed to paddle, paddleboard, row or motor under the dock and directing them how to get safely past the dock if they are in transit. In British Columbia, boat launches are frequently located right next to their ferry docks.
I have paddled past the Clinton dock on numerous occasions and have circumnavigated the island by kayak. If the WSF posted a sign directing boaters where to pass by the dock — how many feet off the dock and when in terms of the ferry comings and goings — and that boaters are not allowed under the dock, the vast majority of paddlers and other boaters would happily comply.
Presumably, the state has a sign shop that could easily make such a sign.
The way that WSF handled this gives me no confidence that they could handle a real emergency with logic, problem-solving or respect for their paying passengers.
Sue Ellen White