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Ferry Kittitas expected to be out several more weeks

It will be several weeks before the ferry M/V Kittitas returns to the Clinton-Mukilteo route, ferry officials said Monday.

“These things happen,” George Capacci, deputy chief for operation and construction of the Washington State Ferries, said Monday. “We’re working on fixing it right now.”

Capacci said the Kittitas lost power on its 2:30 p.m. run from Mukilteo on Saturday, Oct. 16 and has been out of service since, creating long waits initially and the substitution of three different vessels.

He said the root of the problem is the failure of a 4-inch-diameter oil tube that carries oil down the tail shaft to the propeller hub and facilitates the pitching of the propeller blades.

Capacci said the Kittitas would remain at WSF’s Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility until a new oil tube can be made.

He said the ferry would then be moved to a local shipyard, most likely Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, when the new parts are ready to install.

He said the ferry also would be drydocked, to allow the propeller hub to be replaced.

Meanwhile, the 124-car ferry M/V Chelan, moved to the route Friday from service in the inner San Juan Islands, will remain on the Clinton-Mukilteo run with the M/V Cathlamet until the Kittitas returns to service, Capacci said.

He said the Cathlamet “is holding up fine.”

Gapacci said failure of the oil tubes was common after the class of ferries was introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but that a redesign reduced the problem significantly.

“They’ve been pretty trouble-free since,” he said. “We’re not sure why this one failed.”

Gapacci said that metallurgical studies would be conducted.

He said it will probably take several weeks to find materials, construct the replacement oil tube and install the new part.

Repairs are expected to cost between $175,000 and $200,000, he said.

“It’s a complex system, and when machines have moving parts, sometimes they break,” he said.

“But we’ve had 30 years of reliable service,” he added. “We’re pretty proud of that.”

The Kittitas also had experienced two instances of propeller trouble that caused it to be pulled from the route briefly shortly before the latest failure.

The latest problem created waits up to three hours during the weekend, and some motorists chose to turn around and travel across the Deception Pass Bridge.

The 34-car ferry Hiyu was added to the route on Oct. 17, the 87-car M/V Evergreen State on Oct. 18 and the 124-car Chelan on Oct. 22, all from the San Juan Islands inter-island route.

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