Share story

The ferry Tacoma, recently returned to service after undergoing $1.8 million in repairs, lost propulsion on a trip between Bainbridge Island and Seattle on Friday, delaying more than 500 people on an afternoon run.

The stalled ferry, which was pulled into the Seattle harbor by tugboats, will remain out of service until the problem is repaired, said Susan Harris, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries. There were 506 people and 140 cars on board, she added.

Ferry workers by mid-evening had not found the reason for the power loss.

“It appears to have something to do with the drive motors,” she said just before 6:30 p.m.

The 4:40 p.m. sailing from Seattle’s Colman Dock was canceled, and the 5:30 p.m. boat turned away walk-ons after filling to its Coast Guard-allowed capacity of 1,100 passengers. Car drivers were also delayed, and some walk-ons detoured onto boats to Bremerton.

Many passengers were angry as the turnstiles locked, and state troopers stood at the Seattle gates. The ferry Issaquah was removed from the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run, and brought around to Alki Point, to be used for a sailing around 6:30 p.m., according to updates that passengers heard shortly before 6 p.m., over terminal loudspeakers.

Some 30 people made it through the turnstiles but not onto the 5:30 p.m. boat, so they were given red cards allowing them to grab a snack, then board the Issaquah first. The Issaquah can also carry 1,100 walk-ons, said Susan Harris, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries.

The 460-foot long Tacoma, one of the three largest ferries in the fleet, returned to service March 28 after months of troubleshooting and repairs to its electrical systems, following a July 29 stall in the waters off Bainbridge Island.

The initial problem last summer occurred when a protective device in a circuit-breaker control failed, which led to a full loss of power, ferry officials said.

A board of inquiry was appointed to investigate the July failure, identify causes, contributing factors and lessons to be learned, as well as recommend corrective action.

Investigators found similar weaknesses in electrical switchboards of the ferries Puyallup and Wenatchee, which also underwent retrofits.

Harris said it’s unlikely that Friday’s problem on the 5,000-ton vessel is related to last year’s electrical issues.

Staff reporters JoNel Aleccia and Sanjay Bhatt contributed to this report.