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Triangle Route down to two boats for a month

With scarcely two-day’s notice for commuters, Washington State Ferries announced on Friday that the Southworth-Vashon-Fauntleroy ferry route would begin operating on a two-boat schedule starting Monday and continuing for the next month.

WSF Director of Communications Marta Coursey said the late notice was due to her agency learning only the day before what inspections would be required and “what we were going to have to change for the entire system.”

Coursey said following the discovery of hull problems with the fleet’s steel electric boats and the eight vessels being removed from service, the U.S. Coast Guard instituted a “very aggressive” inspection schedule for the remaining boats.

“It was a ripple effect,” Coursey said, explaining that an increased need for vessel inspections, a shortage of dry dock space and, finally, a lack of back-up boats forced the WSF to implement system-wide changes.

For the Triangle Route, the changes mean a two-boat schedule will be in effect until “mid-February,” a result of the M/V Chelan going into dry dock at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle and there now being no vessel available to replace it.

Coursey said she couldn’t couldn’t give a more detailed estimate as to when the Chelan would return to service, but said it would be undergoing its normal annual inspection.

“The crews have a very strong sense of how long the annual work takes, which is about a month,” she said. “If it is finished sooner, great.”

Currently, the M/V Kitsap, which normally serves the Bremerton-Seattle route, is operating on the Triangle route with the M/V Issaquah.

When asked about the possibility of the Issaquah having to be used on the Bremerton route once the Kitsap goes in for inspections, thereby leaving the Triangle route on a two-boat schedule for another month, Coursey said she could not speak to that yet.

“I think it is safe to say the WSF will do everything possible to return service to its normal levels as soon as possible,” she said. “But riders should expect service changes and impacts across the entire system as we try and navigate through these issues.”

Coursey said WSF officials were scheduled to meet with Coast Guard officials yesterday to discuss any flexibility they might have available to them, or any changes they could make to the current schedule.

“We should be able to announce relatively soon after we meet with the Coast Guard what we can do,” she said, explaining that the WSF will be trying “very, very hard with very, very limited staff” to send out e-mail alerts and regular press releases to keep riders updated.

She said information should be updated regularly on the Web site, as well.

On Friday evening, ferry workers at the ticket booths were handing out two-boat schedules and warning riders of the impending change.

The two-boat schedule has virtually no direct sailings between Southworth and Fauntleroy without first making a stop at Vashon.

The only exceptions leaving Southworth appear to be the 6:05 a.m. — which technically stops at Vashon to pick up foot passengers — and the 1:10 p.m. departures, along with three sailings after 11 p.m.

From Fauntleroy, the only direct sailings leave at 7:45 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., and are not likely to benefit Southworth commuters.

WSF has added two sailings to the normal Seattle/Vashon passenger-only service, a 5:50 a.m. sailing from Vashon; a 6:25 a.m. from Seattle; a 3:35 p.m. from Seattle, and a 4:10 p.m. sailing from Vashon.

The WSF is encouraging Southworth, Vashon and Bremerton to form temporary carpools during this time. Three-person carpools get preferential loading over single occupancy vehicles.

To sign up for a temporary carpool permit, contact Nicole Patrick at 206-515-3857.

To view the two-boat schedule, visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/schedules/current/index.cfm?route=f-v-s

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