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New foot ferry starts service between Bremerton, Seattle

The Rich Passage 1 heads toward the Bremerton ferry dock as it returns from its maiden voyage to Seattle on Monday. About 45 people, mostly shipyard workers, caught the 6:20 a.m. sailing to Bremerton.
The Rich Passage 1 heads toward the Bremerton ferry dock as it returns from its maiden voyage to Seattle on Monday. About 45 people, mostly shipyard workers, caught the 6:20 a.m. sailing to Bremerton.
June 25, 2012

By Ed Friedrich of the Kitsap Sun

June 25, 2012 0

Travelers hopped aboard Kitsap Transit's Rich Passage 1 research ferry for the first time Monday to trim time from some crazy commutes.

Instead of taking the state's 4:50 a.m. car ferry, Rachel Wyss caught the low-wake research vessel's inaugural 5:30 a.m. sailing.

"I get to sleep in a half-hour more," said the paralegal, bound for her Kirkland office. "It will put me back home at least an hour earlier."

The teal-trimmed white catamaran pulled away from the Bremerton Transportation Center dock with about 15 riders. Kitsap Transit executive director John Clauson handed out navy blue caps designating them as a "Rich Passage 1 Honorary Crew Members."

Minutes later, Capt. Ed Morgan revved the catamaran's four diesel engines at the south end of Bainbridge Island for a sprint through Rich Passage. The boat glided around the backward S-turn at 37 knots, the speed at which it produces the least wake, then slowed to a fuel-efficient 27 knots for the rest of the trip to Seattle. The crossing, on a smooth Puget Sound, took 35 minutes.

Rebecca Bauer of East Bremerton began ferry commuting because the former Washington State Ferries Chinook and Snohomish were making half-hour crossings. The 350-passenger boats were slowed by property owners claiming their wakes damaged Rich Passage beaches. The boats were shut down completely in 2003, adding 1 1/2 hours to Bauer's commute.

"So if I can get back to passenger-only, it'll shorten my day," said Bauer, who manages a credit union collection department in downtown Seattle.

Brenda Payette of Port Orchard had been getting up at 3 a.m. to catch the Kitsap Transit foot ferry to Bremerton and the state's 4:50 a.m. boat to Seattle. Rich Passage 1 will save her more than an hour a day, and the headache of the 4:20 p.m. ferry home. It's crowded, noisy and sometimes she has to stand up because people are lying down on the benches.

"This is much quieter and relaxing," she said. "I can't wait to come home."

Trips on the Rich Passage 1 are free this week as riders and the crew become accustomed to it. Then the cost will be $7 for a round trip, collected in Seattle. That's slightly less than the state price because Kitsap Transit has a federal grant to operate the boat with passengers as the final stage of wake research.

Payette said she'd pay $10.

"For me, it's worth it," she said.

At Colman Dock, about 45 people, including several bicyclists, boarded the 6:20 a.m. boat for the return trip. Most were headed for jobs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. They had been riding the 6 a.m. car ferry.

Morgan bided his time outside Rich Passage as the state's Walla Walla and Kaleetan passed each other in the mouth. The captain sped to 37 knots, and quickly caught and passed the Walla Walla. Shipyard workers Johnny Baker and John Pennington watched from window seats. Baker, who rides the Sounder train from Sumner to Seattle, and Pennington, who buses from Lynnwood, will take any commute savings they can get.

The schedule works well for their work shift, which begins at 7:20 a.m. and ends at 4:02 p.m.

"It is so much better," said Pennington. "It saves me a good two hours a day."

Several monitoring sites throughout the passage are recording the boat's wake. The vessel won't run after Nov. 1 so that effects of winter storms on the beaches can be observed. There is no money to continue the service beyond that time.

"I'm going to cry my eyes out when it goes away," Baker said.

The vessel departs Bremerton at 5:35 a.m., 7:12 a.m., 4:25 p.m. and 5:55 p.m., and sails from Seattle at 6:20 a.m., 7:55 a.m., 5:07 p.m. and 6:43 p.m. Reservations, which aren't necessary but guarantee one of the 117 seats, are accepted at www.kitsaptransit.org or by calling (800) 501-7433.

Ed Friedrich thumbnail
About Ed Friedrich

Ed Friedrich is the Kitsap Sun’s transportation and military affairs reporter. He has worked for the paper for 32 years.

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