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July 29, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Wait times on Seattle-Bainbridge ferries up to 2 hours

UPDATE 6:45 p.m. | Wait times for the Seattle-Bainbridge run have stretched as long as two hours, said Capt. George Capacci, interim ferries director.  The state encouraged people to linger in Seattle and have dinner, until around 8 p.m., when the situation is expected to clear.  Instead, “they stampeded down to the dock,” said WSF spokeswoman Marta Coursey.

The Tacoma is expected to stay off-duty Wednesday, and the ferry staff plans to shuffle other boats around to cover the Bainbridge-Seattle route.  But several other routes will likely make do with a smaller vessel than usual.

UPDATED 4 p.m. | Ferry officials are urging travelers on the Bainbridge Island-Seattle run to change their plans, or take the Edmonds-Kingston route, because of expected crowding Tuesday afternoon.

The M/V Tacoma has been taken out of service, after losing power mid-day. That leaves only the M/V Walla Walla, which is limited to 1,200 passengers per trip. The Coast Guard’s limits are based on how many people can be theoretically evacuated using the available lifeboats and crew.

UPDATED 3:20 P.M.

The stalled ferry Tacoma arrived at the Winslow passenger terminal on Bainbridge Island at 3 p.m. with 405 people aboard, thanks to a pair of tugboats.

Washington State Ferries said the passengers are receiving vouchers for a free trip, and that engineers are looking for the cause of the Tacoma’s power outage this afternoon.

UPDATE 2:33 p.m.

Tugboats began towing the ferry Tacoma to Bainbridge Island just now, said Tim Wilson, a visitor from North Carolina who spoke to The Seattle Times by phone from the passenger deck.

“Everyone’s just kind of mesmerized by how well everything’s being done by the DOT. It’s very organized, and they know what they are doing,” he said.

Earlier this afternoon, the ferry Sealth pulled alongside the Tacoma — and using a blue rope, pulled one end of the Tacoma seaward, to keep it from drifting into shallower water, said Wilson, who photographed that effort.

The captain has been giving updates on the loudspeakers. Two small Coast Guard boats are alongside the Tacoma, as well as the tugboats that are awaiting for the Tacoma to raise anchor.

A line between the Sealth and the Tacoma was used to bring the stricken vessel about. (Photo by Tacoma passenger Tim Wilson)

A line between the Sealth and the Tacoma was used to bring the stricken vessel about. (Photo by Tacoma passenger Tim Wilson)

EARLIER POST:

The state ferry Tacoma lost power and is now anchored off Bainbridge Island, waiting to be towed to shore by tugboats.

As of 1:50 p.m., the tugs arrived and were hooking up to the ferry.  The Tacoma will unload passengers and cars at the ferry maintenance site at Eagle Harbor — not the usual passenger terminal at Winslow, said Marta Coursey, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries.

The vessel, making a 12:20 p.m. trip from Seattle to Bainbridge, has 405 passengers and 138 cars aboard, she said.

The ferry Sealth, which was en route from Bremerton to Seattle, stopped alongside the Tacoma on “standby” in case help is needed, said Coursey, and then resumed its trip to Seattle.  The Coast Guard was notified, she said.

Service is suspended on the Bainbridge-Seattle run until the Tacoma is cleared. After that, WSF will be down to one boat there.  Afternoon delays and crowds are expected at Colman Dock in Seattle. Commuters are encouraged to detour via the Edmonds-Kingston ferry route, Coursey said.

Passengers have tweeted pictures of a rope or chain between the Sealth and the Tacoma, but Coursey didn’t have details about that angle. She said water depths are high and there’s no indication the Tacoma grazed the floor of Puget Sound.

Further details about the cause, and schedule disruptions, were not immediately available. Coursey said the Sealth’s stoppage will cause some delay on the Bremerton-Seattle route this afternoon.

A tugboat prepares to tow the Tacoma, which was adrift off the east side of Bainbridge Island. (Photo by Sealth passenger Shane Cleary)

A tugboat prepares to tow the Tacoma, which was adrift off the east side of Bainbridge Island. (Photo by Sealth passenger Shane Cleary)

Here are some selected tweets from the scene:

Tweets describe the effort to tow the Washington State Ferry Tacoma to a dock after it lost power off Bainbridge Island on Tuesday.


Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: ferries

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