Clinton ferry narrowly misses fishing boat

The ferry Cathlamet steams toward Mukilteo on Thursday evening. The same ferry nearly collided with a fishing boat in heavy fog earlier that morning. - Justin Burnett / The Record
The ferry Cathlamet steams toward Mukilteo on Thursday evening. The same ferry nearly collided with a fishing boat in heavy fog earlier that morning.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

A state ferry leaving the Clinton ferry dock in heavy fog Thursday morning nearly collided with a fishing boat, the U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed.

The 9:30 a.m. ferry Cathlamet had left the terminal and was proceeding toward Mukilteo when it encountered the fishing vessel Taku, a boat approximately 60 feet in length, said Petty Officer George Degener with the 13th Coast Guard District’s public affairs office. Both vessels had to take “evasive action” to avoid a collision, he said.

“I don’t know exactly how close they were,” Degener said. “I know it was closer than they should have been.”

Jane Edgley, a Langley resident, was on the ferry with her husband. Sitting in their car, they heard a “frantic” voice over the loudspeaker.

“All of a sudden, ‘Ladies and gentleman, brace for impact. Brace for impact,’ ” Edgley recalled.

The ferry then veered sharply to one side. Edgley said she was surprised to watch a man in the car ahead of her jump out of his car and look out a porthole.

“I thought, ‘That doesn’t look like bracing for impact to me,’ ” Edgley said. “I don’t think people took it seriously.”

Edgley said the crew then told passengers that the collision had been avoided but that it was “very close.

Marta Coursey, communications director for the Washington State Department of Transportation, Ferries Division, said she didn’t know just how close the two vessels came to colliding either, but confirmed the crew’s loudspeaker announcement.

She added that the Cathlamet crew saw the fishing vessel on radar and sent out the required fog-horn blasts, but received no responses.

Degener said Thursday that he didn’t know who was at fault and that the Coast Guard will not launch an investigation as no collision occurred.

“We’re just thankful no one was injured,” he said.

Coursey said the heavy fog has caused headaches throughout the system, causing another non-collision incident on the Seattle-to-Brainbridge route and being a source of delay throughout the system.

“We’re sending out constant email alerts at this point,” she said.

She added that the fog is unusually bad this year, saying one veteran captain noted it’s some of the heaviest fog in the past 30 years.

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