Ferry tales from the state's new boat

The "Chetzemoka" is a bit of a fashion disaster, and the rates go up today, but it's a welcome new family member and still has that new-ferry smell.

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The Chetzemoka arrives at Coupeville (Keystone) on Whidbey Island, accompanied by the US Coast Guard.

The "Chetzemoka" is a bit of a fashion disaster, and the rates go up today, but it's a welcome new family member and still has that new-ferry smell.

I was on the inaugural sailing of the M/V Chetzemoka from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend in mid-November. It wasn’t your typical 35-minute crossing of Admiralty Inlet. There was live music by the Shifty Sailors, complimentary food and refreshments, and an A-list of guests that included Gov. Chris Gregoire. Media were also on board, from bloggers and photographers to on-air journalists.

Six weeks later, I made my second voyage aboard the Chetzy on a weekday afternoon. I caught the noon ferry at the former Keystone Terminal, now known as the Coupeville Terminal. Although the name was officially changed to Coupeville, frequent ferrygoers such as myself refuse to call it such, knowing that Coupeville is five miles north of the ferry landing. It’s Keystone, baby! My plan was to spend the day in PT, have lunch with friends and do a little post-Christmas shopping along Water Street.

The passenger-holding area at the terminal was jammed with holiday travelers. I spotted a few folks who appeared to be locals, but for the most part, the walk-ons were comprised of families, friends, couples, and solo travelers headed for the Victorian seaport. The boat was full as we left right at noon, and I settled into one of the window seats. This time, there was no entertainment or free food, and nary a politician on board.

Although the Chetzy was starting to sprout some minor scars and bruises, mainly on the well-trodden stairs, it still had that “new boat” smell. The one thing that hasn’t changed is her appearance, which is top heavy and a bit boxy. She’s somewhat of a fashion disaster on the water, which is only worsened by her trademark list. Although I don’t have any major complaints about the boat, others do. On my Facebook page, the comments have ranged from "too few seats and empty floor space" to "strange heater and engine noise." The only thing I noticed was the extra-loud BAM! when the heavy steel doors to the outside decks slammed shut. If you’re a ferry napper, you may want to sit away from the doors.

The Port Townsend Leader published an article about WSF’s newest member of the fleet titled Getting on and off Chetzemoka: Learning how to use state’s newest ferry. And on New Year’s Day, ferry riders throughout the system will be hit with a 2.5 percent fare increase that goes into effect on all routes. One-way fares on the Port Townsend/Coupeville (Keystone) route will be $9.35 for vehicle and driver, $2.75 for passengers and walk-ons. The winter schedule for all routes begins Jan. 2, 2010. For more details, check the Washington State Ferries website.


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