Passengers irked by yet another ferry cancellation

SEATTLE -- Some ferry commuters were inconvenienced and delayed Monday morning after another ferry cancellation.

The announcement came late Sunday night - dwindling the West Seattle, Vashon and Southworth sailings down from three to two ferries.

Sick calls disrupted service multiple times last year, but this time the state had a two weeks heads-up about the staffing issues.

Drivers arriving to board the 11:55 a.m. Fauntleroy Sailing Ferry got the same greeting: "How are you doing today and we're running about 30 minutes behind."

Eight hours after one of three Fauntleroy-Southworth Ferry Sailings had been canceled, ferry commuters were still feeling the pinch.

"If I ran my business like they run the ferry service I wouldn't have any clients," said Vashon Island resident Arthur Rack.

He's relied on the ferries 30 years. He said in the last couple years he'd give the state failing marks for service.

"I'm frustrated with it," said Rack.

A string of sick calls left vessels essentially dead in the water last year and commuters in a lurch, but Monday's issue didn't come as a surprise to officials. The state had plenty of warning that it needed to replace staff pulled for mandatory training .

"We've been working on this for nearly two weeks, ten days at least trying to fill these vacancies," said Washington State Ferry Captain George Capacci, Deputy Chief of Operations and Construction.

The state says it's in the throes of hiring and training new staff after recent hiring mandates. In addition to that, it has to rely on the wintertime, when it's less busy to complete vessel maintenance and staff training. Monday's cancellation left commuters with two boats instead of three from 4 a.m. to noon.

Each day the state runs more than 450 sailings.

"I'm just going to see my parents, I grew up on the island and I'm use to it," said a very patient and happy Kellen of Ballard while waiting in line for the ferry.

Kellen chalked the wait up to island living, but the majority of waiting passengers were like Marge.

"This is an inconvenience. You're tied up here and it's not worth it," said Marge, a lifelong Vashon Island resident. "We're retired, but we commute at least once a week on the ferry."

Captain Capacci nobody, including ferry officials, like to see passengers frustrated.

"I would say I'm sorry," Capacci said. "I recognize the inconvenience. We don't appreciate this or like this either."

Officials say the state is in "a constant dance to match people with jobs," and that hiring and training staff is a top priority that takes time.