Fast ferry trials set for Rich Passage

A sleek new ferry that will be making quick work of the gap between Seattle and Bremerton arrived in Sinclair Inlet this week. But riders shouldn’t expect faster commutes any time soon — this boat is unfortunately just on loan.

Bryan McConaughy, spokesman for Pacific International Engineering (PI Engineering), said the fast ferry will be visible to residents of Beach Drive near Port Orchard as it continues short trials today, then Monday it will begin several weeks of daily round-trip treks to Seattle.

McConaughy said PI Engineering rented the M/V Spirit, a 72-foot catamaran with a hull designed to minimize wakes at high speeds, through the month of April to test the boat’s impact on the shoreline of Rich Passage.

He said the boat will simulate a weekly ferry run, making eight round-trip jaunts between Seattle and Bremerton Monday through Friday. Instead of 149 passengers, however, it will be carrying 20,000 pounds of water, simulating the weight and distribution of a full load of human cargo.

Five years ago, residents along the waterway claimed the boats Washington State Ferries had been operating in the area were eroding the coastline, and successfully sued to have the ferries slowed down.

McConaughy said the current trials, part of the Fast Ferry Research Project initiated in June of 2004 and funded by the Federal Transportation Administration, will include extensive monitoring by both engineers and residents.

“We’ll be checking 50 sites along Rich Passage, and we’re encouraging residents to keep their own observations,” he said, explaining that people can visit to download observation sheets and submit data. “The more information we have the better.”

McConaughy said PI Engineering is especially interested in video footage or other examples of visible evidence of the impact of the boat’s wake.

The trials will determine if such a boat may be used to resume fast ferry service through the area in the future.

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