Service resumed on Kitsap Fast Ferry on Friday afternoon after morning cancellations for mechanical issues. It was the 12th time that service has been disrupted, and Kitsap Transit said there could be damage to some engine components after the boat sat in storage for five years.
The Kitsap Fast Ferry was back in service Friday afternoon after missing morning sailings due to mechanical problems, but Kitsap Transit said there could be issues with the boat’s engine components after it sat in storage for five years.
Friday morning was the 12th time since the ferry’s July 10 launch that service was disrupted for repairs or mechanical issues.
Sailings were also canceled Thursday afternoon.
The ferry runs three morning and three afternoon round trips between Seattle and Bremerton. The trip, for foot and bike passengers only, takes about half the time as Washington State Ferries’ standard route, but also costs about 50 percent more.
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Fast-ferry service returned to the route in July, after a decade’s absence. Previous state-run fast ferries shut down in 2003, after property owners on Rich Passage — the narrow strait between Bainbridge Island and Kitsap Peninsula — sued, claiming the fast ferry’s larger wakes were damaging their beaches.
The new ferry solved that problem with a hydrofoil, essentially an underwater wing that lets it ride higher in the water and leave a smaller wake. But there have been mechanical issues in the early going.
On Friday, a recently installed strainer, which filters seawater used to cool the engine, broke, sending water into another compartment and short-circuiting part of the ferry’s jet-propulsion system.
In September, sailings have been canceled on six days in total because of damage to the boat’s hull, an exhaust-system problem and the broken strainer.
Kitsap Transit has owned the boat since 2012, when it ran for several months to test its wake. But it has had little use since then.
“It appears some engine components degraded over the five years the boat was in storage,” Kitsap Transit spokesman Sanjay Bhatt said. “We also now know the exhaust system’s design contributed to high pressures on the engines. We are replacing engine components, exhaust pipes, and all major electrical components of the jet-drive system, and our board recently approved the purchase of three spare engines.”
Bhatt said they would be having “serious conversations” with the boat builder and both the engine and jet-drive manufacturers “to hold them to account for component reliability.”
Bhatt noted that the ferry completed 93 percent of its scheduled sailings in July and August.
The Rich Passage 1 was built by All American Marine, a Bellingham-based aluminum boatbuilder. It has Caterpillar-built engines and HamiltonJet water jets.
There is only one ferry serving the route, although Kitsap Transit plans to expand in the coming years, with three ferries on the Bremerton-Seattle route as well as service to Kingston in 2018 and Southworth in 2020.
Despite the mechanical issues, the service, which cuts Washington State Ferries’ hour crossing time to 28 minutes, has been popular. The ferry service averaged nearly 900 passengers a day in July and August. Its weekday capacity, for all sailings combined, is about 1,400 passengers.
There are 88 reservations per sailing, and all are booked on morning Bremerton-to-Seattle routes through the rest of September. Each sailing leaves 30 spots open for walk-ons. Reservations for October went on sale at 9 a.m. Friday, and all weekday spots on the 6:50 a.m. Bremerton-to-Seattle sailing, for the entire month, were sold out within 90 minutes.
The Fast Ferry costs $12 for a round trip ($2 from Bremerton to Seattle, $10 for the return trip), or $168 for a monthly pass. Its primary source of funding is a 0.3 percent sales tax in Kitsap County that voters there approved last year.