Both Whidbey ferry routes have problems

"Thursday was a bad day for ferry patrons on both of Whidbey Island's routes.In Clinton, early-morning commuters were down to one boat from approximately 5 a.m., when mechanical problems shut down the Cathlamet, to 8 a.m., when the Cathlamet was repaired and returned to duty.During that busy three-hour period, the Chelan handled all the traffic itself, making many commuters late to work. However, Clinton terminal agent Winnie Yabe said patrons seemed to take the delay fairly well. It was the busiest time of the day on this side, she said. There was quite a back-up but I didn't hear any complaints.The Keystone/Port Townsend route had its own problem later in the day. Its sole boat, the Klickitat, went down with steering problems, at 11:42 a.m., and all trips to Port Townsend were canceled until the Klickitat resumed service at 4:51 p.m. People waited on the docks at Keystone and Port Townsend for five hours, or changed their travel plans.Susan Harris, State Ferries spokesperson, said the Klickitat was back on its regular schedule at 7:15 p.m. There wasn't much of a backup at either dock due to greatly reduced business in the winter months, she said.On the Clinton/Mukilteo route, the Cathlamet has suffered several breakdowns in recent months after a couple of years of perfect performance.Maintenance is our number one priority, Harris said. But age is the key here. The Cathlamet and other Issaquah Class boats are nearing 20 years old, she noted. The Cathlamet's sister vessel, the Kittitas, is undergoing maintenance at the present time. The Chelan is filling in until its return.But Harris said dependability on the Clinton/Mukilteo run is the best in the system. You guys have it better than anyone else, she said. "

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