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Ferry floats from Freeland at last
The superstructure of the Samish, Washington's newest 144-car ferry, left Holmes Harbor this morning aboard a 340-foot-long barge.
Bound for Vigor Industrial's yard in Seattle, the transit is expected to take about six hours, depending on weather conditions.
Today's departure was a bit later than expected. Nichol's Brothers officials had planned for the superstructure to leave Saturday morning on the high tide but crews ran into some unexpected headaches.According to CEO Matt Nichols, one of the support towers used to load the ferry onto the barge was out of alignment and had to be rebuilt. The loading procedure is slow, methodical and must be very precise. Having to make adjustments is not unusual, Nichols said.
"It's pretty common in the boat-building industry," Nichols said.
Crews worked through the night Saturday to fix the problem and the superstructure was seated aboard the barge by Sunday. It was separated from the track at about 8:45 Monday morning and tugs began preparing the barge for transit.
"On the launch crew, there are some tired puppies," said Chris Richards, the shipyard's project manager for the Samish.
Despite the hiccup, Nichols and Richards said the operation went very well. This is the second 144-car superstructure Nichols Brothers has built since 2012 and loading the first took weeks longer than expected.
Also, while Monday's launching is two days later than planned, the Freeland shipyard is about one month ahead of its Jan. 22 delivery deadline, according to Nichols.
Richards said there is also a tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes with helping to build a state ferry, especially one that may one day operate on the Clinton-to-Mukilteo ferry route.
"There is definitely a lot of pride," Richards said.
Just where the two 144-car ferries will operate is not yet final but there is much talk that one will service South Whidbey.
Nichols and Richards also said they were very proud of yard workers for the extra effort they put in to load the massive superstructure, which weighs in at 1,500 tons or 3,000,000 pounds.
Nichols Brothers will be closed the rest of the week so employees can rest and enjoy time with their families over the holidays.
"It will be a well deserved week off," Richards said.