Ferries, keep us informed | Guest column

Submitted by the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee.

Most of us in the islands are concerned about the ongoing problems with the Sealth, one of three mainland ferries, which is undergoing lengthy repairs in Anacortes.

Cancellations and late sailings have given rise to a great deal of frustration.

There is a tendency to blame Washington State Ferries for not solving the problems quicker, or at least providing another boat that could substitute for the Sealth in the meantime.

Each time Washington State Ferries visits the islands for their semiannual public meetings, we’ve heard David Moseley (assistant secretary and head of ferries) repeat the concern that ferries is not financially sustainable. What we may not have understood, until now, is that he was talking about exactly the situation we find ourselves in, with one boat out of service and no adequate replacements available.

FAC and ferries are very aware of the frustration stemming from the Sealth issue. We’ve been in contact with George Capacci (deputy chief and head of operations and capital)  almost daily. Ferries is doing everything possible, the problem is that there aren’t a lot of options.

The problem with the Sealth is a very infrequent steering failure at one end of the vessel.

Tracking down the cause and fixing it has turned into a frustrating exercise. The engineers and contractors have replaced all of the hydraulics and thought the problem was fixed, only to find that it failed once again. They are now going through the electrical control system, part by part, testing and replacing. No one knows how long this will last.

It is important to understand that WSF has only one spare boat, the 34-car Hiyu. It was brought up to replace the Evergreen State, which in turn has replaced the Sealth. So we have the full vessel complement for the current schedule, just smaller vessels and in one case slower. But that’s a whole lot better than being short a boat. The bulletins regarding reduced speed and delays have hopefully provided the opportunity to make adjustments.

That was one thing we stressed to ferries: keep folks informed.