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Horluck ferries down by two boats

"Though inconvenienced, many Horluck Transportation ferry riders were relieved when U.S. Coast Guard officials this week indefinitely retired two Horluck ferries for safety and environmental hazards.We're very glad the Coast Guard found these hazards before somebody died, said long-time Horluck commuter Leslie Yuenger, who said she could speak on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Sinclair Ferry Service. That was just a recipe for disaster and an explosion waiting to happen.During a surprise inspection March 14, Coast Guard officials discovered safety and environmental hazards aboard the Spirit of '76 and the Eagle. Large amounts of oily waste were found in each bilge of the vessels, as well as loose wiring and electrical connections. Officials found an unsecured diesel generator, gas generator and kerosene heater aboard the Eagle.The inspection came after Coast Guard officials received a letter on possible violations from a concerned Horluck rider.At the earliest, Horluck officials expect service to resume next Monday. That's when Horluck hopes to bring back the Mary L, which was expected to be up and running March 13. Horluck general manager Ed Morgan said the vessel wouldn't be ready until a custom-built part was installed that helps keep sea water out of the boat. Before the Mary L can sail again, Morgan said Coast Guard officials first want to take it out on sea trials, even though inspectors already certified the craft.Until Horluck can restore service, Kitsap Transit will provide bus service around Sinclair Inlet on weekdays and Saturdays.Meanwhile, Morgan said repair work on the sidelined boats is underway.Built in 1975, the vessel reportedly needs two engines rebuilt and installed, which could cost $23,000. Problems cited by the Coast Guard are also being addressed, he said, and the boat should be back in shape by April.The Eagle, however, will remain docked, Morgan said. The vessel also needs new engines and other major repair work that will be finished as soon as possible, he said.Morgan said the 83-year-old Carlisle will be brought back immediately instead of the Eagle after new engines are installed and some wood work is finished. Horluck owner Hilton Smith said he suspects sabatoge. He said a wrench was found by a Coast Guard inspector in an electrical panel on the Spirit of '76. He said the wrench caused a generator and a pump motor for the boat's fire system to burn out in January. The Coast Guard couldn't be reached for comment.Sabotage or not, commuters just want reliable service.What a poor operation. The boats are late, there's no heat on them. Horluck complains about losing riders, but it's driving them away. I'll probably start driving to get to work, said Frank Graziani, a Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker. But if Horluck or somebody else can provide reliable, service, I'd be interested in riding the ferries again. If Kitsap Transit took them over, I'd be very interested. they're the only ones who seem to care about commuters in this county."

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