(Page 2 of 3)
Once up in the cabin, however, passengers find themselves aboard a most comfortable ship. The ride is smooth and extremely quiet. Passengers can circulate on no fewer than three decks — the lowest one being a mezzanine level with side-facing windows that occupies the space devoted to the mezzanine car-decks on other WSF vessels. A complex architecture of staircases and seating areas beckons to those who want to wander about, have a game of hide-and-seek, or just plain get lost.
Seattle's Elliott Bay Design Group drafted the new boat class's plans on the basis of a design the group had done for a Massachusetts ferry authority, for service between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. That asymmetrical boat, the Island Home, lists no more than a degree, according to Haupt, who has ridden the vessel.
John Waterhouse, chief conceptual engineer at Elliott Bay, defended the boats' design in a telephone interview. “This is a design that the state went out and found,” he said, with officials having in view a very tight time frame imposed on the construction. “If the state had had the time to design a boat from scratch, it would have been a different design.” He declined to speculate on how the design might have changed, but added that WSF decision-makers, as “prudent stewards of our taxpayers' dollars,” wanted to save money by using a proven design.
Update: After the original publication of this article, Washington State Ferries provided an additional statement about the new ferries:
The Kwa-di Tabil vessels were named Significant Boats of 2011 by U.S. maritime industry publication WorkBoat Magazine. WorkBoat magazine editors said the industry considers the Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick significant because they are the first new boats for WSF in more than a decade and represent a much-needed vessel upgrade for the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. The boats are also distinctive in design, both inside and out, compared to the other ferries in the WSF fleet.
In a sense, what WSF has is the Island Home (which received praise on the Seattle Transit Blog during the state decision making) with some additions and subtractions. The add-ons include a surprise for bicyclists using the boats. In contrast to the long-established practice of tying off bikes with a hunk of rope on the car deck, the regime on the Kwa-di Tabils has been to lug one's wheels up a ramp to the mezzanine, where they can be parked in bonafide bike racks and kept in view, if one chooses, from a seat nearby. The schlep is no big deal, although, on his recent test run on the Chetzemoka, this reporter, who had his own cycle along, overheard a couple of fellow travelers complaining about the matter.
Waterhouse explained that the feature grew out of a request submitted by the Cascade Bicycle Club during the planning phase. He described the club as seeking “better bicycle stowage and access.” He pointed out that a horde of touring bicycles can take up a good bit of room on the car deck, which some would view as compromising their own motor-vehicle access to the ferries. The system has to accommodate all constituencies. A call to the bicycle club seeking comment was not returned. WSF spokeswoman Marta Coursey told Crosscut that “tie-off ropes are being added to the vehicle deck.”
Rep. Seaquist said the new boats were using more fuel than other boats, and thus driving up operating expenses. Critics say the 6,000-horsepower engines exceed the need, but WSF happened to have them warehoused. Seaquist noted that the listing profile in itself worsened the ships' hydrodynamics, causing it to consume extra fuel.
It was not immediately possible to quantify the three boats' burn rate relative to other WSF ships, however, since figures are not available for Kwa-di Tabils and alternative ship classes plying the same route and subject to the same conditions. One of the new boats, which have been found to use 75 gallons of fuel hourly on the Port Townsend route, is however moving to take over the Tahlequah-Point Defiance run, where the Rhododendron currently sails, consuming 30 gallons of fuel hourly.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!