With a crowd of tourists and commuters aboard, the ferry Tacoma departed Seattle just after noon yesterday for Bainbridge Island, a run of about 30 minutes. The seventeen-year-old ferry lost all power a few minutes from its destination and with the vessel drifting toward shallow water her captain dropped an anchor and called for help.
It was only the second time in 40 years that a Washington state ferry dropped an anchor said Capt. George Capacci, the system’s interim director.
No one was injured. It was a calm and sunny day on Puget Sound and passengers aboard Tacoma snapped thousands of photos as help arrived. Everybody was hours late, however.
While the ferry system has image and political problems over staffing, budgets and aging vessels, passengers aboard Tacoma praised the professionalism of Capt. Ty Anderson and his crew in responding to the mishap.
Tim Wilson, a visitor from North Carolina,told the Seattle Times, “Everyone’s just kind of mesmerized how well everything’s being done by the DOT (Department of Transportation). It’s very organized and they know what they are doing.”
A second ferry, the Sealth, interrupted its run to Bremerton to pull alongside Tacoma and put a line aboard to keep her stern from swinging into shallow water. Two Coast Guard vessels were standing by. A tug, Pacific Knight, took the ferry in tow and delivered her to the system’s maintenance dock in Winslow harbor.
The 405 persons aboard, along with 138 vehicles, reached their island destination about 3 p.m.
Normally, the system assigns two ferries to the busy Bainbridge run. With no replacement available, crowds of commuters – both on foot and in cars – began to jam the Seattle terminal. Everyone was hours late getting home. The system planned to move a ferry from a Whidbey Island run to replace the ailing Tacoma.
Capacci apologized for the breakdown and delays and the system gave Tacoma passengers vouchers good for a free ride. Noting that ferries rarely have need to use anchors, he added: “It’s new territory,” he told the Seattle Times. “I really apologize to all of our customers who have been inconvenienced.”
The ferry system has not yet reported the cause of the loss of power, or when the Tacoma is expected to resume service.