Chetzemoka leaves Coupeville

The Chetzemoka will go into service on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
The Chetzemoka will go into service on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With the start of winter, reduced service has returned to the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville ferry route along with several vessel changes in the coming weeks.

The Chetzemoka, the first of three 64-car ferries recently built by Washington State Ferries, was pulled from service Tuesday for a three-week maintenance period. After that it will go into service on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route, replacing the Rhododendron.

Remaining on the route across Admiralty Inlet is the Salish, which will serve until the end of 2011, and then be replaced by the ferry system’s newest ferry, the Kennewick.

The Kennewick, which was built by Seattle boat builder Vigor Shipyards, started sea trials last week and cost $58.8 million to build. Ferry officials want the Kennewick to start sailing in January so staff can break in the ferry during its one-year warranty period.

“We’re looking forward to Vigor really putting the Kennewick to the test in sea trials before we add it to our fleet,” said Capt. George Capacci, deputy chief of construction and operations in a news release. “Both Washington State Ferries and Vigor have learned great lessons in this construction project as demonstrated by the delivery of a class of vessels ahead of schedule and under budget.”

Washington State Ferries is scheduled to take delivery of the Kennewick at the end of October.

The Kennewick is the third of three new ferries built by the state. The ferry system received $213.2 million in funding from the Legislature for the 2011-2013 biennium and the combined cost for the new ferries is 3.2 percent under budget, spokeswoman Laura Johnson said in an email.

The new Kwa-di Tabil class ferries provided a permanent replacement to the ancient Steel Electric ferries, which were pulled from service in November 2007 because of safety concerns. They were later sold for scrap.

The new ferries ensure two-vessel service on the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville route during the busy summer tourist season. Another ferry will join the Kennewick in May.

The next project up for the ferry system is construction of a larger, 144-car ferry. The Legislature in 2011 provided $146.9 million for the new ferry. Johnson said Washington State Ferries has accepted Vigor Shipyards’ design for the new ferry and officials are currently negotiating over the price. Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland has been helping build the vessels.


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