COVID-19 stalls ferry meetings, service to Canada

Between the car deck and the passenger cabin there’s the warning that’s in the cartoon. I muse on what the “full extent of the law” really means. What law? The Law of the Sea? In those days of iron men and wooden ships “progressive punishment” started with bread and water, moved up through flogging, and could ultimately end by swinging from the yardarm. Anticipating questions, the sign references a statute: RCW 47.60. So I checked the 101 laws under 47.60. There was nothing remotely about punishing perps. Like my dog Yogi on a scent, I hunted down other statues. I found that WSDOT employees are guaranteed state compensation if assaulted. I also found that making assaults on certain professionals is a Class C felony. These include police, firefighters, transit and school bus drivers (along with their supervisors and mechanics), nurses, physicians, health care providers, court employees, county clerks, and anyone in, or near, a courtroom. Alas ferry workers weren’t on that list. Finally, I found a law allowing Ferries to issue “no trespass orders” to disruptive riders, and if you violate that… Aaarrrg!

Under the law, ferry workers are just like the rest of us. So what happens in the event of an over-enthusiastic elbow bump? That would be a fourth degree assault, a “gross misdemeanor.” That could mean a hefty fine or being put in the county slammer for up to 364 days.

Red tape and COVID-19

According to the crew the red plastic “danger tape” being used to mark off seating areas aboard ferries is simply for cleaning and no danger is involved.

The governor’s 50-person limit rule limits Kingston’s Fast Ferry to 46 passengers, with bus riders having the priority.

With border closures, WSF and the Victoria clipper are delaying the start of service to Canada until April 28. Sidney officials had already expressed concerns that Customs and Border Protection means more unnecessary human contacts.

Un-mark your calendars

Ferries has canceled its planned public ferry meeting. “Even webinars necessitate at least some of our staff being near each other, so we will revisit plans for community outreach in a few months.” Waiting several months to communicate at a time of serious safety, service, and health concerns is, at best, fuzzy thinking. We’ve urged WSF to find a way to hold webinar type meetings.


The legislature gave ferries another $5 million in their updated budget which is almost all they asked for. M/V Elwha’s retirement however saves an additional $4 million in operating costs, and $20 million in repair costs. Against that bonus will be significant lost revenue from the current low ridership.

Losing M/V Elwha along with M/V Hyak leaves us with a 21 boat fleet. As 19 are needed in the summer that leaves Ferries able to have one boat in for maintenance and only one boat for a backup. When both Hyak and Elwha were running we had three back-up boats and they were all used. With one boat we should expect increased service outages. Losing Elwha also means there’s no second boat for the Sidney route which puts the route at risk. The legislature’s looking into whether the route could be taken over by a private operator such as Clipper Navigation.

Your ferry advisory committee

We meet on the first Monday at 6:30 p.m. With the closure of the Village Green Community Center we will meet online. If you want to listen in, call me at 360-434-0583.