Fleet’s health is on the comeback trail | FerryFare

This winter, the Legislature added $6 million for general ferry maintenance and $3 million for emergency repairs. This is an appreciated, albeit overdue, step on the comeback trail for a healthy fleet.

Crossing paths with the grim reaper may be a warning sign (see cartoon, page 4), but seeing smoke is too.

That’s what alerted the Yakima’s crew to a fire in its electric drive controls while loading in Friday Harbor. The fire went out when the power was turned off and it was blasted with CO2.

It’s Yakima that’s in Kingston’s poster photo, taken when she served here with Hyak in the 1990s.

Yakima and her sister ships have 50-year-old drive motors which have been obsolete for decades. Though her propulsion systems were rebuilt in 2014, troubles continue.  With these old boats, breakdowns have been the payback for maintenance shortfalls.

This winter, the Legislature added $6 million for general ferry maintenance and $3 million for emergency repairs. This is an appreciated, albeit overdue, step on the comeback trail for a healthy fleet.

So why is it “Appletree Cove”?

At the Boat Show, I met historian Dick Blumenthal whose book “Maritime Places, Inland Washington Waters” is an encyclopedia of every name you may find on a chart and many that aren’t.

In 1841, Lt. Charles Wilkes named Appletree Cove “from the numbers of that tree which were in blossom around its shores. This cove answers well all the purposes of a temporary anchorage.”

Pacific crabapple was used by local Tribes, and when Benjamin Bannister settled 200 acres around the cove in 1874 he reported that crabapples surrounded it.

Wilkes’ expedition charted much of our western coast. As head of the Navy’s fledgling hydrographic (charts) office, Wilkes was given charge in 1836 of a three-ship expedition to survey Pacific waters. His explorations were among the most successful in American history. They are chronicled in a great beach read, “Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery” by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Wilkes’ personality, however wasn’t so successful. Relations among his officers became so contentious that he was court-martialed on their return. Back then, a court-martial served both to exonerate as well as condemn and Wilkes’ career continued undiminished.  Although court-martialed for a second time, he nonetheless retired as a rear admiral.

Malfunction junction

Solving the cluster of cars, ferry traffic, pedestrians and trains that converge at the Edmonds dock has been given new life with the “Edmonds Waterfront Access Study.”  Forty trains go through Edmonds now; that’s projected to more than double by 2030. Though the trains don’t take that long to pass, it doesn’t take much to upset the schedule given our summer traffic.  Several years ago, we lost several sailings when the schedule had to be loosened up so that the boats could run on-time.

In 2004, WSF almost had a solution in hand with the “Edmonds Crossing” project. This was to be a new terminal south of the marina on Point Edwards with a parking lot, bus terminal, and a bridge for vehicles to cross the train tracks. The land had been purchased, and negotiations over fishing impacts were underway when federal funding was pulled because it wasn’t up to the new “shovel ready” stimulus standard. After that, the Legislature decided not to fund any more terminal expansions and they shifted the state’s funding over to building 64-car ferries.

In 2012, the project was born again with the “Edmonds Train Trench,” which proposed that trains

un under the ferry traffic in a below-water-line open trench. You can see the details at edmondstrain trench.net. The current study will look at the trench, along with other alternatives.

You can see the details at edmondswaterfront access.org. This month there will be a public meeting and online open house to go over concept alternatives. Check the website for dates and to sign up for project updates.

— FerryFare is written for the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee by Walt Elliott, committee chairman. Contact him at  elliottmoore@comcast.net.