Ferry could be out for months; rest of the system will feel the pain

Just as more people travel again, state ferry service on five runs is about to take a hit.

The large ferry Wenatchee could be out of service for months after a newly rebuilt engine failed and started a fire during a sea trial.

With few backup options, Washington State Ferries plans to shuffle boats starting May 13, which means smaller-capacity boats on several runs.

“When you lose one of your superstars, this is one of the state’s largest ferries, there’s going to be a trickle-down effect,” said WSF spokesman Ian Sterling.

Instead of a 202-car boat, the Seattle-Bainbridge Island run will get a smaller ferry, possibly the 120-car Issaquah.

The Issaquah is now on the Vashon-Fauntleroy-Southworth run, which was supposed to see three-boat service restored next week.

Instead, for at least a month, the triangle route will get a downgrade with a smaller capacity ferry as one of its two boats.

The Port Townsend-Coupeville run will have to wait another month for the restoration of the two-boat service.

Mukilteo-Clinton will get a smaller boat for most of the summer, and one of the Seattle-Bremerton boats will only carry 64 cars and go slower, canceling a midday round trip.

For about a decade, the state built no new ferries.

In the last two years, it retired two worn-out old boats because of high maintenance costs.

“We’re right on the cusp now. We’re able to keep these routes open, but it is very, very challenging,” Sterling said.