Share story

Sketched March 31, 2015

It’s all in a day’s work for chief mate Scott Freiboth as he navigates a jumbo ferry carrying hundreds of commuters on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge route. From the wheelhouse at the bow of the ship, he pulled out his binoculars to check sailboat traffic.

Last summer, on July 29, the situation at the MV Tacoma controls wasn’t this calm. Less than a mile from the Bainbridge dock, the ferry lost power due to an electrical failure and started drifting. The alarms in the navigation systems started going off, Freiboth recalls, and the crew had to drop the anchor to prevent the ship from hitting the shore.

Fortunately, the episode only meant a few hours of delay for passengers, who waited until tugboats got the ship to the Bainbridge dock. The response to the emergency went flawlessly, said Freiboth. “It was a moment of pride for us.”

Usually when I board a ferry, I’m too distracted by the views to pay attention to the ship’s name. But after eight months of repair work, I’m sure the regulars noticed when this one returned to service a few days ago. Welcome back, Tacoma.

With a 2014 ridership of 6.3 million people and 1.9 million cars, the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route is the busiest in the Washington Sate ferry system. That explains why it relies on the largest ships of the fleet. The Tacoma, shown in the sketch, can carry up to 2,500 passengers and 200 vehicles.
With a 2014 ridership of 6.3 million people and 1.9 million cars, the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route is the busiest in the Washington Sate ferry system. That explains why it relies on the largest ships of the fleet. The Tacoma, shown in the sketch, can carry up to 2,500 passengers and 200 vehicles.
Poulsbo-native Scott Freiboth, who is 47, said he studied Fine Arts at Gonzaga University but found his calling as a seaman. He joined  Washington State Ferries when he was 24 and has worked his way up to his current job as chief mate.
Poulsbo-native Scott Freiboth, who is 47, said he studied Fine Arts at Gonzaga University but found his calling as a seaman. He joined Washington State Ferries when he was 24 and has worked his way up to his current job as chief mate.
Left: Freiboth steers the ferry toward the dock at the Winslow passenger terminal in Bainbridge Island. The 8.6-mile ride took just 29 minutes. Right: Deep inside the ship, a ferry engineer stands next to the electrical controls that power the vessel.
Left: Freiboth steers the ferry toward the dock at the Winslow passenger terminal in Bainbridge Island. The 8.6-mile ride took just 29 minutes. Right: Deep inside the ship, a ferry engineer stands next to the electrical controls that power the vessel.