Ferry service delayed by bong

SEATTLE — A “suspicious package” found at the height of the Wednesday morning commute on one of the largest ferries in the Washington state fleet turned out to be a hollowed-out tube made of duct tape and smelling of marijuana, a State Patrol spokesman said.

The tube, described as about the size of a paper towel roll, was “made out of pure duct tape” and contained several thin wood sticks, State Patrol Sgt. Craig H. Johnson said.

The tube “had an odor of marijuana, according to the bomb technician,” Johnson said, adding, “How or why you would smoke marijuana with duct tape, I don’t know.”

The tube, wrapped in carpet, was found behind a toilet in a men’s restroom of the 460-foot ferry Puyallup.

The State Patrol was analyzing the item, Johnson said.

While patrol officials don’t know what it was used for, they would like to find the person who left it, prompting an investigation that idled the ferry for more about an hour.

The ferry had just been emptied of cars and passengers after arriving at Colman Dock from Bainbridge Island about 8 a.m. when the package was found, said Marta Coursey, a spokeswoman for the ferry system.

Following a search and examination by State Patrol troopers, the 2,500-passenger, 202-vehicle ferry was cleared to resume service about 9 a.m., Coursey said.

During the shutdown, service on the Seattle-Bainbridge and Seattle-Bremerton runs was maintained on the terminal’s other main slip.

Coursey said two Seattle-Bainbridge runs were canceled during the package scare.

The scare came amid heightened security in the ferry system following reports of “suspicious behavior” in recent weeks. On Monday the FBI released photographs of two men who were described as showing unusual interest in the vessels, Agent Roberta A. Burroughs said.

The FBI would not release further details of the men’s behavior, Burroughs said.

“It appeared to the people that reported it to us that the men seemed to have an undue interest in the workings of the ferry and the ferry terminal,” she said.

Several ferry employees and passengers reported the men to the FBI about a month ago, but agents have been unable to identify them and released the photos hoping members of the public would know who they are.

Neither man is considered a suspect or has been charged with a crime.

“We admit right up front that the behavior could be completely innocuous,” Burroughs said.

The Puyallup delay was the second ferry disruption during the Wednesday morning commute. Less heavily used runs between Point Defiance in Tacoma and Tahlequah at the south end of Vashon Island were canceled until midmorning after about a dozen cracks were found during the wee hours in the state ferry Rhododendron.

The 48-car Rhododendron, built in 1947 and rebuilt in 1990, was taken to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island after the chief engineer noticed the cracks in a 12-foot by 10-inch section on the starboard side about five feet above the water line, Coursey said.

The cracks ranged in width from a pinhole to a gap big enough for a finger and were near the rub rail, a ridge that is the first part of the boat to contact the dock.

The 34-car ferry Hiyu, built in 1967, was dispatched to resume service between Point Defiance and Tahlequah after 10 a.m.

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