The Illahee is scheduled to return to the Port Townsend – Keystone run Thursday after being taken off the South Vashon – Tacoma route June 23rd when a hole was found in the hull. It was a small hole, about one-quarter inch and likely due to decay, says the Coast Guard’s John Dwyer. “You get wastewater from condensation and drippage. Like any vessel that operates in a marine environment, it’s subject to corrosion.”
It doesn’t help that the Illahee is old, built in 1927, though parts of the boat were rebuilt in 1986. Dwyer says the hole was found by an onboard engineer, not as part of a routine inspection.
The Coast Guard inspects Washington’s ferry fleet regularly— annually for structural issues and safety certification and quarterly to double check on the basics. “We’re pretty cautious,” Dwyer says.
Good thing ‘cause the Illahee isn’t the only ferry with a hole.
The Quinault, also built in 1927, was taken off the Port Townsend – Keystone run yesterday after a hole was found in its innards. This hole, however was not from wear and tear, it was a puncture from a drill bit that was being used to remove paint. The Quinault is on its way to Todd Shipyards in Seattle to be drydocked for repairs.
In March, the Klickitat was also pulled from the Port Townsend – Keystone route after water seepage was discovered from a crack in the hull plating that was six inches long and three inches wide. The damage required WASHdot to shut down service on the run for two days. The Klickitat is another one of those 1927-built boats.
Says ferry system spokeswoman Marta Coursey: “It’s always a surprise [to discover holes in the ferries] but not a surprise because they’re old. That’s why the Coast Guard watches us so carefully. We only put safe boats on the water.”
Thank goodness for inspections and vigilant onboard engineers. But the disruptions in service alone, not to mention the cost of these constant repairs, is ridiculous. Let’s hope the deal to build some new ferries is inked soon so the state can get a couple of these 1927-era vessels out of the rotation. We can’t afford to keep riding these rickety old boats.