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High speed, low-wake ferry tested

A test of a high-speed, low-wake passenger ferry between Bremerton and Seattle was conducted last week, generating excitement about the possibility of a crossing of less than 30 minutes.

“If Kitsap County is only a half an hour from Seattle, it opens a lot of possibilities,” said former Central Kitsap Commissioner Tim Botkin. “It makes it a lot closer to the regional hub. Perceptually, half an hour is a lot different than 45 minutes and a long way from an hour.”

As an example, Botkin said when the passenger ferry Chinook was in operation “real estate in the Manette area went through the roof.”

Botkin said if the ferry were to run every hour, it would bring Bremerton and Kitsap County into Seattle’s radius and increase the areas’s overall desirability.

Independently operated passenger ferries began on the Bremerton/Seattle route last summer, but has suffered some drawbacks.

Many passengers have opted to travel eastward on the Washington State Ferries, which is free in that direction.

Furthermore, potential wake damage forces the boats to slow down to a sluggish 12 knots while in Rich Passage.

The new boats can travel up to 30 knots without causing wake-related shoreline damage.

The cost of the test is around $1.4 million, and was totally financed with government grants. This means ferries won’t have to drastically raise rates in order to earn back the investment.

The boat used in the test, which carries 149 passengers, was rented from an Alaska whalewatching company, which is currently in its offseason.

The boat was constructed by All American Marine Incorporated of Bellingham.

The wake tests, which are accomplished through computer modeling, were engineered and executed by Pacific International Engineering.

The test results will be able to be used in the future, and provide the blueprint for the operation of high speed boats in wake sensitive areas.

While the test and modeling efforts were centered on the existing Seattle-Bremerton run, it could be used to establish additional Kitsap County lines. Keyport was mentioned as a possibility.

The test was observed by two members of the Poulsbo City Council — Kathryn Quade amd Jim Henry — who were researching the possibility of an eventual Poulsbo-Seattle route.

Partners in the venture include Kitsap Transit and Pacific Navigation, which currently operates the Bremerton-Seattle run.

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