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Dec. 3, 2022

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Washington ferry that crashed near West Seattle dock is out until next year

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SEATTLE — The Cathlamet ferry, which crashed in spectacular fashion last month near the Fauntleroy dock in West Seattle, will undergo repairs in Everett through at least the end of the year, according to Washington State Ferries.

The 1980s-era boat will go into dry dock at Everett Ship Repair, one of the few shipyards left in Washington and a relatively new contractor with WSF.

How much the repairs will cost is still up in the air, said WSF spokesperson Ian Sterling. Early estimates pegged the work at around $7 million, but could easily go higher.

“I would anticipate them to go up,” said Sterling.

Since the July 28 crash, the Cathlamet has lived in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island. Crews towed it off the island Wednesday midday.

The damages to the boat’s exterior are dramatic, sustained when it veered off course near West Seattle at unusually high speeds and slammed into a bundle of pilings known as a dolphin. The collision crumpled one corner of the boat inward, collapsing the outside passenger deck known as the picklefork.

There were no injuries. Several cars were damaged, including one that was pinned inside the car deck beneath the bent metal.

The Coast Guard is leading the federal investigation into the crash, with the help of at least one investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board. The spokesperson for the northwest division of the Coast Guard, Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, said they’ve completed a first round of interviews, but would not have more details on the cause of the crash for weeks or months.

The captain of the Cathlamet, a veteran of Washington State Ferries, resigned in the aftermath of the crash, although Sterling said that decision did not preclude mechanical failure.

A lawyer representing the former captain declined to comment.

The Cathlamet is one of six boats in the Washington State Ferries’ Issaquah class, which came online in the early 1980s. In its early days, it earned a reputation for crashing and being difficult to land, earning it the nickname the “Crash-lamet.”

The ferry’s systems have been upgraded since then. In recent years, however, a quarter of all of its systems were in need of upgrading, according to WSF. In early 2021 it was taken out of service for nine weeks for an overhaul of its reduction gears at Eagle Harbor.

In 2022, the ferry system hit a new low for delays. Much of that is driven by crew shortages. The fleet is also aging and in need of upgrades. The Washington Legislature budgeted $1.6 billion to upgrade the ferry system in the last session, including four new hybrid-electric ferries. Ferry officials have called for $4 billion in new spending to add 16 new boats.

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