Ferry trouble in the San Juan Islands is exacerbated when it happens near the Fourth of July holiday. In the late 90s, it was chaos when the Orcas Ferry Terminal was taken out of service after a ferry collided into it. No one was hurt, but people were stuck on the island for a few days. This year, a hoax bomb threat created lengthy delays for folks trying to return to or leave Friday Harbor on July 1.
Bomb detection team arrives to search the ferry July 1, 2019. Sharon Kivisto
And now on July 6, we have canceled sailings due to the Elwha needing repairs. We have cars parked in every conceivable space in Friday Harbor as people wait hours for service on a first-come, first-served basis.
While the first two examples were arguably unavoidable, a ferry needing repairs is a foreseeable problem. The ramifications from an out-of-service ferry would be greatly reduced if a backup vessel was readily available. But the Washington State Legislature chose not to fund the Hyak and keep the 51-year-old ferry in service as a backup. Instead the ferry is being decommissioned.
That decision plus the one to not fund enough crew to open the top deck of the Samish shows a lack of understanding of the needs of ferry riders system wide.
If you'd like to share your thoughts with your state legislator, here are some helpful links:
State House of Representatives