Washington state gets a new ferry, finally

At last, there’s a new ferry for Washington State Ferries. On Nov. 15, the 64-car, 750-passenger Chetzemoka began regular service between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend in northern Puget Sound. This is the first new ferry for WSF in 10 years and the first of three replacements for the old riveted-hull Steel Electrics that were pulled from service about three years ago.

Built by Todd Pacific Shipyards (the only bidder), with subcontracting help from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, the total cost came in at $79.4 million, which is $2.47 million or 3.2 percent over budget. However, WSF believes that the next two of this class, currently under construction, can be completed within budget. We’ll see.

The Chetzemoka was originally scheduled to begin service in August, but vibration problems took a few months to fix. Apparently, it’s now smooth sailing.

Except when it’s not. The first two runs on Nov. 17 were cancelled due to “deteriorating weather conditions,” according to WSF.

Hey, I thought this design, which was originally created by Elliott Bay Design Group, Seattle, for travel to and from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast, was supposed to be a heavy-weather boat. Yeah, we’ve been having a little bit of a blow out here (about 200,000 people lost power Monday night), but still …

Maybe this just proves the point that this run needs a stout vessel, which I assume the Chetzemoka is, even though it’s tied up as I write this. I haven’t been on board yet, even though I live on Whidbey Island and expect to be checking it out soon.

Guess I’ll have to wait for calm weather.

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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