This is our annual passenger vessel issue. Note the cover photo and the cover story starting on page 34. And as it happens, two of the three boats featured in our On the Ways section that begins on page 28 are also passenger vessels. We do this to coordinate with the Passenger Vessel Association’s annual MariTrends convention, which is being held this year in Houston.

At some point, all of us are boat passengers. Living on an island in Puget Sound, as I do, I’m a frequent ferry passenger. I depend on Washington State Ferries to get my family, our visitors and me safely and dependably across the water between the mainland and the south end of Whidbey Island.

Frankly, I have some issues with WSF. The boats could be cleaner and the crews more friendly. But the ferries generally run on time and WSF’s safety record is stellar. Every time I hear about some deadly ferry accident in Indonesia or Zanzibar, I recalibrate my personal complaint index.

I’m often amused watching other ferry passengers, especially children. For them, going for a boat ride, even just a quick crossing between ferry terminals, is an adventure. I must admit that I’m a bit more jaded, but watching the weather and the water while heading into the city or coming back home is often a pleasure.

Having a safe and pleasing experience on the water is what the passenger vessel industry is all about, and overall our industry is very good at it. From luxurious riverboats to high-speed catamaran ferries to simple double-enders shuttling people and vehicles, the U.S. fleet is well built and professionally operated. 

Just before Christmas, I visited nearby Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland to observe the transfer of a new ferry superstructure from the yard to a barge for transport to Vigor Industrial’s Seattle shipyard, where it will be mated with a waiting hull. This is the second superstructure that Nichols has built as a Vigor subcontractor. Nichols and Vigor would love to do a third — and it makes a lot of sense to do so — but the state doesn’t have the money and our political leaders are afraid to increase gas taxes to fund ferries and other transportation projects. But that’s another story.

The story this month here at WorkBoat is that good things are happening with passenger vessels. Bookings are up, new boats are being built and the future is looking brighter.