A Washington State Ferries captain used a loudspeaker this morning to tell his passengers on the Clinton-Mukilteo run to “brace for impact” when an object popped up on the radar of his ferry, the Cathlamet.
It was foggy, of course, when the ferry left the Clinton dock at the south end of Whidbey Island about 9:30 a.m. Shortly after the ferry got under way, the captain saw the blip on the radar screen while crew on the car deck and in the pilot house had additional eyes on the water, said Capt. Pete Williams, director of the system’s operations center.
The smaller vessel appeared to be a fishing boat on the move, Williams said. Luckily, the ferry captain was able to stop the ferry in time before there was a collision.
Another incident attributed to the fog happened Wednesday when the ferry Wenatchee had to stop mid-course on its 2:05 p.m. run Seattle to Bainbridge, officials said. In that case, the captain went off course. He reversed direction to find the proper travel lane and resumed the run, Williams said.
Ferries have been traveling at low speed all week. Captains are expected to be able to stop within half the visible distance, he said.
On the Clinton-Mukilteo route, a ferry would go 13 nautical miles per hour in good conditions, but the Cathlamet was moving much slower, allowing it to stop in time. “Contact was averted because of the efforts of the captain,” Williams said.
Capt. George Capacci, WSF’s deputy chief for operations, said he rode another ferry this week where the captain was “picking his way through” gillnetters between Seattle and Bainbridge Island.
There are about 450 ferry trips daily in the state, and so far these are the only two fog-related incidents significant enough to be noticed by passengers, he said.
Williams said this stretch of foggy days has occurred about 10 times in his 31-year career with the ferry system.