The crew of the ferry Hyak could have avoided a Sept. 13 crash with a small boat between Lopez and Orcas islands, according to a post-crash inquiry by Washington State Ferries.
The collision is blamed on a lack of “situational awareness” in a news release that accompanied the report Wednesday.
While approaching Harney Channel, heading northwest, Capt. Patricia Whaley chose a path between the Tasya and another sailing vessel, believing there was ample room to pass, the report said.
Though fog covered much of the Puget Sound region that week, visibility was at least one mile, shortly after 1 p.m. The second mate was at the helm as the Hyak left Lopez Island, the report said. The report says the captain was relying on radar.
As the ferry closed in on the Tasya, at 18 knots, the second mate informed the captain, who ordered her to steer left, and sound the whistle if needed. But the mate, who was relatively new to the route, set the rudder the wrong direction, and didn’t sound the whistle, the report says.
“I knocked the second mate out of the way and went full astern,” Capt. Whaley recalled in a statement to an inquiry board. About four seconds later, the 2700-ton Hyak overtook the 25-foot Tasya, puncturing its left rear.
Jack Gray, 68, of Chimacum, owner the Tasya, and his dog, Pablo, were rescued by another boat. The Tasya, which was equipped with both motors and sails, sank while being towed to shore. A week later, Gray told the Port Townsend Leader the impact “sounded like a volcano going off, and everything got really dark, just black.”
Ferries chief David Moseley said this was the only ferry-versus-boat collision during his six years in charge of the agency. He called the report “thorough, complete, and exhaustive.”
The captain and second mate are on paid administrative leave, until WSF’s operations and human-resources managers review the investigation and decide on potential discipline, Moseley said.
The WSF inquiry recommends a navigational refresher course for crew officers, and that the ferry system consider installing voyage data recorders. Only two ferries have VDRs now, because they travel internationally to Sidney, B.C. Still, the inquiry included speed, audio, and position data.
Moseley estimates the VDRs will cost $250,000 or more per vessel, and that the extra training would take several months.