Pt. Townsend-Coupeville sailing down to one boat; one out of service after hits ground

The ferry Salish heads back to Port Townsend after steering fails and it hit the ground on its way to Coupeville. (Photo: KOMO NEWS)

COUPEVILLE, Wash. -- The ferry service from Port Townsend to Coupeville is down to one boat after the steering failed on the ferry Salish Tuesday morning, causing the vessel to hit bottom when docking in Coupeville.

The ferry reportedly experienced rudder steering failure when it "bumped the bottom" of the sandbar in Keystone Harbor about 9:15 am Tuesday while approaching the dock, according to Washington State Ferries.

The route is now reopened with the ferry Kennewick after crews were able to move the Salish back to Port Townsend to check for damage.

A remotely operated underwater vehicle inspected the Salish.

Those with reservations will be on a first-come first-served basis for today's sailings, according to WSF.

With one ferry out of service, lines are piling up at alternate routes such at the Clinton terminal where wait times have reached two hours.

"It's one than two running all day that means that half the people get on that means that half the people don't get on," said ferry passenger Sharon Christiansen of Coupeville.

Theresa Farage of Oak Harbor is daily commuter who had to cut her work day short because of longer wait times.

"I had to leave work two hours early just so I could get on a boat and get home so I can feed my family," she said.

WSF is also advising travelers to take the Edmonds and Kingston route as an alternative.

Earlier today, passengers were let off the Salish with no injuries.

Ian Sterling with the WSF said the Keystone landing is one of the most challenging landings.

He said the WSF has the most experienced captains and crew on that route because of the sandbar and factors such as high currents, high winds and fog.

"A boat the size of a state ferry is not support to touch the bottom ... that's what happened," he said.

This isn't the first time this has happened on this route.

"We have seen this before," Sterling said. "There's basically a car width in between where the ferry docks and where the sandbar is so there's very, very little room for anything to go wrong."

New reservations for the route will be unavailable for the rest of the day, according to WSF. Those on stand-by will also not be able to get on the route until further notice.

It's been a difficult summer on the ferry system's 22 boats that run 22 hours a day every single day of the year.

The San Juans have taken the biggest blow. That route is down a ferry as the Samish is under repair at Eagle Harbor.

"It's down about 20 percent in capacity and it's about the same capacity we use in the winter time when we care 50 percent less people. So, yes, there is an impact there," Sterling said.

See the latest travel alerts from Washington State Ferries on this website.

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