New ferry’s debut delayed

OLYMPIA — The state is postponing the inaugural run of its newest ferry over concerns about excessive vibrations.

The Chetzemoka, a 64-car ferry, was scheduled to start moving passengers between Port Townsend and Keystone on Aug. 29.

Washington State Ferries is not saying when the newest ferry will go into service. Sea trials are scheduled today to gather more information. It will be sometime next week before officials have a better idea when the boat could begin carrying passengers, said David Moseley, assistant state secretary of transportation in charge of the ferry system.

It’s possible the vessel could be put into service at lower speeds to prevent the vibration while that cause is ferreted out, Moseley said.

The boat is safe, he said. The vibration occurs only at the highest speed and during abrupt stops from that speed, officials said.

“We don’t need the full power on this boat all the time,” Moseley said.

The $76.5 million vessel is one of three scheduled to be built by Todd Pacific Shipyards for the state. It was built to replace the Steel Electrics, which were pulled from service two days before Thanksgiving in November 2007 because of corrosion found in their hulls.

Those boats — the Klickitat, Quinault, Illahee and Nisqually — were more than 80 years old.

Since January 2008, the state has leased a small ferry from Pierce County Transit to carry passengers between Port Townsend and Keystone on Whidbey Island.

Some data about the vibration was collected from the Chetzemoka in sea trials in July. Experts from the ferry system, Todd Pacific Shipyards, equipment suppliers, designers and state transportation engineers are looking at this information.

The vibration appears to be coming from the drive train, which includes the main diesel engine, couplings, shafting, reduction gears and propellers.

Moseley said it’s common for issues to arise in sea trials.

“You really don’t know until you get it in the water,” said George Capacci, the new deputy chief of operations and construction for the ferry system.

The Chetzemoka was designed and built in 18 months. Sections of the boat were built at four locations around the Puget Sound region, including Everett. The ferry was towed from Todd to the Everett Shipyard on April 3 for final outfitting and system testing.

“We always knew it was an aggressive schedule,” Moseley said. He said there’s no indication that pressure to get the boat done led to the vibration.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said it’s important to make sure the boat runs properly before it goes into service.

“If it takes more time to get it right, then that’s what we have to do.”

The Chetzemoka is named after a Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chief who was a friend to early settlers in the area. A Port Townsend park also bears his name.

The other two new ferries, the Salish and the Kennewick, are scheduled to be put into service on different routes in 2011 and 2012.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439;

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