Tokitae ferry service entry delayed

The Tokitae, Washington’s new 144-car ferry, will enter service a little later than expected. Instead of this past Sunday, it’s now expected to begin working Tuesday, June 24. - Justin Burnett / The Record
The Tokitae, Washington’s new 144-car ferry, will enter service a little later than expected. Instead of this past Sunday, it’s now expected to begin working Tuesday, June 24.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

The MV Tokitaes entry into service will be delayed at least one week, ferry officials said Monday.

The boat was expected to begin shuttling travelers on and off the South End on Father’s Day, June 15, but crews need a bit more time familiarizing themselves with the new Olympic-class vessel, according to Capt. George Capacci, interim chief of the state Department of Transportation, Ferries Division.

“We’re targeting the 24th of June,” Capacci said.

The delay is largely the result of the vessel’s later than expected delivery. The state was expected to take possession of the craft last month, but a rudder problem pushed it back until June 2, Capacci said.

“Two weeks just wasn’t enough time [for crew training],” Capacci said.

While not overly impactful, the setback was disappointing for many Clinton residents who were eagerly anticipating their first ride on the new boat, and shorter ferry-wait lines.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it in service as soon as possible, so it can expedite some of our traffic congestion,” said Bob Craven, president of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce.

“Bumping up [vehicle capacity] by 20 will certainly speed things up,” he added.

The Tokitae can carry 144 vehicles, compared to the 124-car capacity of the Issaquah Class boats, MV Cathlamet and MV Kittitas, the former of which will be reassigned to the Fauntleroy-to-Vashon route once the new boat begins service on South Whidbey.

Sue Ellen White, a Clinton resident, said she wished the state agency had announced the delay sooner, so that those who had made plans to ride the new ferry on Father’s Day would have known ahead of time, but that she also was looking forward to having a “larger, more efficient” ferry on the Clinton-to-Mukilteo route.

She attended the vessel’s welcoming ceremony earlier this month, and complimented the Tokitae’s aesthetics, calling it a “gorgeous boat.” She also noted that it’s a monument for a locally built ferry that will serve the community that put it together.

“Often they go somewhere else, so this is especially meaningful,” White said.

The ferry’s superstructure was constructed by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland. It was barged to Seattle and completed by Vigor Industrial.

White added that she hopes the legislature and the public will lobby for additional funding to bolster ferry staff on the route. Doing so would allow ferries to open the Tokitae’s uppermost sun deck to the public, and better ensure that runs aren’t scrubbed when an employee doesn’t show up for work.

Capacci said the sun deck will be closed off due to U.S. Coast Guard requirements, which mandate a crew of 14 rather the boat’s existing complement of 12.

“I’d like to have the sun deck open, but I don’t have the funding authority to do that,” he said.

Two more 144-car ferries, currently under construction and destined for the Seattle-to-Bremerton and Anacortes-to-San Juan routes, won’t have that problem he said, as they have crews of 14.

Capacci noted that crew numbers in Clinton could change if the state allocated the funding to do so. Whatever happens, he said he was very pleased with the Tokitae.

“It’s a good ship and will fit into our system very well,” Capacci said.


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