The Salish, shown here during a haul-out for repairs, was one of three ferries damaged by crab pot lines last year. It costs about $100,000 just to get the vessel out and back into the water. (Washington State Ferries)

The Salish, shown here during a haul-out for repairs, was one of three ferries damaged by crab pot lines last year. It costs about $100,000 just to get the vessel out and back into the water. (Washington State Ferries)

800 canceled ferry sailings due to tangled crab pot lines

Improperly placed pots caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to three boats in 2017.

EDMONDS — When crab pots get tangled in ferry propellers, it’s the taxpayer who gets pinched.

A poorly dropped pot can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

In 2017, three vessels had to be repaired after crabbing lines were caught in the propellers, resulting in nearly 800 canceled rides.

The crabbing season starts June 30 in this part of the state and agencies are working together to prevent local crabbers from grounding ferries.

“It’s an inconvenience to thousands and thousands of passengers, and the taxpayers,” said Ian Sterling, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

It costs about $100,000 just to get the vessel out and back into the water, according to Tim Koivu, a ferry captain for nearly 30 years. He said the actual repairs are “above and beyond” that price.

“All over one crab pot,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Sterling said last year was worse than most and crabbing newcomers are a likely culprit.

“The people who have been doing this for years don’t drop their crab pots in the ferry line,” he said.

Crabbing is prohibited every Tuesday and Wednesday during the season. This year, that includes July 4. Pots left in the water on those days will be confiscated.

Natalie Hale, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer, said the agency seized more than 2,000 crab pots last year.

Every year, about 12,000 pots and 180,000 crab are lost in the Puget Sound area, according to a Snohomish County news release.

“We ask that people list their full name and address on their (buoys),” she said. “Just in case your crab pot is lost or accidentally left out because of bad weather, people can report that to us and we’re able to contact the owner and get it back to them.”

Ferries, unlike most boats, have propellers in the front and back. When the vessel makes its routes, the front end is exposed to buoys and lines.

Koivu said it’s almost impossible to spot the floating markers at night, during windy weather and if they’re pulled just below the surface of the water.

“This boat requires a quarter-mile to stop,” he said.

When the boat hits the buoy, the line winds itself in the propeller until it snaps. The propeller is connected to a seal on the vessel that keeps out water. Tangled lines can damage that seal.

Workers in the engine room are the first to spot the damage via water breaking through or a rising oil temperature.

“We never know,” Koivu said. “We don’t feel it and we don’t hear it.”

To avoid impairing other boats, Hale said to use weighted line for crab pots, monitor water depth and keep away from highly trafficked areas.

“It’s not a secret where the ferry is going,” she said. “Be mindful of other vessel traffic. Stay away and keep your pots out of the way.”

Koivu said he’s a good crabber, and he advises newcomers to drop their pots during high tide, use an extra third of line and let go of the buoy once the pot hits bottom.

When it comes to penalizing people for dropping pots in ferry routes, there’s a gray area, Hale said.

One violation that is enforced deals with whether line is weighted. Hale said the flimsy yellow line commonly used in pots isn’t weighted. While it’s not illegal to use, weights must be attached.

In Washington, pots are required to have a rot cord, which is made of biodegradable cotton. The cord dissolves if the pot is left in water for too long, allowing crab to escape from lost or abandoned pots.

On Saturday, Sunday and July 7, volunteers from the Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee and Washington State University Extension Beach Watchers will be at local docks, handing out free rot cords and crab measuring tools.

Joseph Thompson: 425-339-3430; jthompson@herald Twitter: @JoeyJThomp.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Trapped: A ‘murder hornet’ is captured near Canadian border

The state now plans to search for nests using infrared cameras and to place additional traps.

Despite drownings, TikTok fame draws hordes to Eagle Falls

The swimming hole in east Snohomish County has been cramped with people — and bad parkers along U.S. 2.

Missing Maple Valley woman found alive near Index

She was in stable condition after bloodhounds found her about 1.2 miles south off U.S. 2.

Boy, 16, dies in rollover crash on I-5 near Silvana

Three others were injured. The driver reportedly over corrected, causing the vehicle to roll over.

Arlington PD gets big gift; Everett Elks assist fire safety

Cascade High School junior top-10 nationally at Computer Problem Solving Max White,… Continue reading

School levies in front of Lakewood, Darrington voters again

After setbacks in February, both districts trimmed their proposals in pursuit of success Tuesday.

Still want to vote in the primary? You have until Tuesday

State law allows registering and voting on same day. There are three places in the county to do so.

Former Arlington Christian teacher charged with voyeurism

Prosecutors allege Stephen Brown had hundreds of photos and videos of students and faculty.

Most Read