New Port Townsend ferry to be dedicated Jan. 6

PORT TOWNSEND — The new ferry that will be celebrated with a community open house Jan. 6 will not go into service on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route for several weeks after the party, the state ferries system said.

The celebration will be a combined effort of three communities: Port Townsend and Coupeville on Whidbey Island, which will use the ferry, and Kennewick, the central Washington town for which the new vessel is named.

The event also will be the third inauguration of a new ferry in Port Townsend in 14 months, although it will be less extravagant than its predecessors, said Tim Caldwell, Port Townsend Ferry Advisory Board chairman.

The Chetzemoka was inaugurated in November 2010 by Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and other legislators, while the Salish’s July celebration was lower key — although it, like the planned Kennewick rollout, provided the public with a chance to tour the vessel while it was in the dock.

The Chetzemoka began service on the route between Port Townsend and Keystone on Nov. 20, 2010.

The ferry system announced in October the Chetzemoka would be moved to the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route on a permanent basis while the Kennewick and the Salish would alternate on the Port Townsend-Keystone route when two-boat service resumes in the spring.

The Salish, which went into service in July, and the Kennewick were built with a variable-pitch propeller, which allows better navigation of the narrow Keystone Harbor into the Coupeville terminal, state ferry officials said.

The guest list and the program for the Kennewick’s celebration have not been finalized, said Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Susan Harris Huether.

But some details are in place.

The party will begin at 11 a.m. with speeches and a ceremony, followed by an open house until 1 p.m. with on-board refreshments served.

People from Whidbey Island wishing to attend the event can ride the 10:15 a.m. sailing on the Salish for free, limited to the 750-passenger capacity.

The Wild Rose Chorale, a popular Port Townsend vocal group, will provide the entertainment, said Port Townsend Marketing Director Christina Pivarnik.

Huether said the Kennewick will go into service later in January after crew training is completed.

She said the inaugural voyage and the community celebration could not be held on the same day because of the Kennewick delegation.

“We had to pick a date for the event to give the people coming in from Kennewick a chance to plan ahead,” she said.

The mayor of Kennewick and other local dignitaries will attend, she said.

“This will be a unique experience for them since they don’t live in a place where ferries operate,” she said.

The Salish will operate on its normal schedule throughout the day, and there will be no event parking available at the terminals.

The Salish will continue to operate on the route until the Kennewick is ready, at which time the Salish will become the state ferries system’s backup vessel until it rejoins the route for the summer schedule in June.

*The ferry system has said it wants to run the Kennewick at full capacity as soon as possible to determine if there are any warranty issues.

The three 64-vessel car ferries represent the Kwa-di Tabil class of ferries, built for the state by Vigor Shipyards — formerly Todd Pacific — for $213.2 million.

The new ferries were the first built by the state in more than 10 years.

Peninsula Daily News reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

* This article has been edited since it was first posted to remove a reference to problems with the Chetzemoka’s propeller system. The ferry system says no problems exist with the vessel’s propeller system.

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