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Bigger ferry to start Sunday from Keystone

Peter Hanke talks with a ferry worker as his boat, the P.S. Express Glacier Spirit, waits to make another sailing to Port Townsend. - Guy O’Connor photo
Peter Hanke talks with a ferry worker as his boat, the P.S. Express Glacier Spirit, waits to make another sailing to Port Townsend.
— image credit: Guy O’Connor photo

Be aware. Be very aware.

That’s the advice from passengers transiting from Keystone to Port Townsend.

“We expected to ride a bigger ferry,” John Colton said as he watched the whale watch tour boat Glacier Spirit tie up in Keystone Dec. 27. “That’s what the ferry Website said, a big catamaran called the Snohomish.”

Colton and his wife and two children were planning to visit relatives in Port Townsend. They knew that the regular car ferry had been withdrawn from service but figured walking on might be fun.

Ferry workers indicated that people could board on a first-come, first-served basis and folks jostled each other to snag a seat on the fully loaded craft.

As the 74-passenger boat started into windy Admiralty Inlet, the Coltons and others aboard the packed boat dealt with the rough crossing as best they could.

“We’re happy to have something new and different besides whale watchers,” said crewman Chelsea Whalen.

The 80-foot boat was handled in seamanlike fashion, but the ride was clearly not everyone’s cup of tea as Whalen handed out seasickness bags.

The boat, owned by Peter Hanke, had been contracted into service by the Washington ferry system when the four 80-year-old Steel Electrics had been declared unsafe and the larger 149-passenger M/V Snohomish was assigned to take people between Seattle and Port Townsend over the holidays.

“We plan to have the Snohomish back on the Keystone route after the final run to Seattle on Jan. 6,” said ferry spokeswoman Susan Harris.

Foot ferry ridership remained steady on the Keystone run with an average of 333 passengers between Dec. 13 and Dec. 21, state ferry officials said.

After the Snohomish began service to Seattle, the passenger load went from six to 818 over the same period out of Port Townsend.

“I understand people in Port Townsend want to keep the Snohomish running to Seattle,” Hanke said. “We’ll just have to see what they come up with.”

Meanwhile, Jefferson Transit is providing bus service at the Port Townsend terminal every 20 minutes and Island Transit provides service on the Keystone side every hour on the half hour.

Passenger fares remain at $2.60 one way, and free park-and-ride lots are available at both terminals.

“This was a real adventure for the kids,” Colton said as he disembarked from the Glacier Spirit in Port Townsend. “I don’t feel all that well, though. I won’t be riding again.”

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