Passengers aboard the MV Suquamish ferry watch as a motorboat passes in front of the vessel as it approaches Clinton. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Passengers aboard the MV Suquamish ferry watch as a motorboat passes in front of the vessel as it approaches Clinton. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Boaters behaving badly, boldly are making ferry crews crabby

Crab pots are another hazard on ferry routes. An entangled encounter can put a ferry out of service.

MUKILTEO — Hey, dude in the speedboat.

Seriously, how can you not see a 362-foot ferry?

Happens all the time.

On a clear Thursday mid-afternoon, the ferry operator blasted the horn five times when a small pleasure craft came near its path while sailing on the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

The motorboat just kept going until veering last minute to the side of the giant green-and-white state workhorse, narrowly avoiding a potential collision.

“It’s like riding a bicycle around a semi truck,” Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling said. “There are no brakes on a state ferry. It’s frustrating for our folks.”

Boaters behaving badly and boldly are especially problematic for ferries with summer’s increase of recreational traffic.

“We got fishing people and boaters who don’t have enough experience around ferries and like to cut in front or park in front and do all sorts of bizarre things,” Sterling said. “System-wide, we have about 500 sailings a day. There’s a lot of possibility for people to do something that’s not smart.”

The ferries assist with rescues of boaters and swimmers in distress. These cause delays in sailings and increases wait times, which makes riders crabby.

Speaking of crabs … ferries also have to deal with crab pots.

“We’ve got crab season in full swing,” Sterling said.

A big honking ferry is no match for a little crab pot if the line gets entangled in the propeller shaft.

“Run over crab traps and that can pull a boat out of service and cost a couple hundred thousand dollars,” Sterling said. “We’ve got one out now that just got pulled from service that is more than likely crab pot-related.”

Usually, it’s crab pot owners who lose their gear.

“Nine times out of 10 they get run over and that’s the end of that,” he said.

Crabbing is allowed Thursday through Monday in the waters around here through Sept. 5.

According to Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife rules, crab fishing gear must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset on the last day of any fishing period.

Crabbers, watch where you drop your pot.

“Anybody who knows what they’re doing doesn’t put their crab pot in front of the ferry terminal,” Sterling said.

Yet it happens all the time.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443;; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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