Dry dock ahead for Pierce County ferry

Beginning this week, the Pierce County ferry M/V Christine Anderson will be at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle for six weeks of routine inspections and maintenance. The U.S. Coast Guard requires bi-annual inspections to maintain vessel certification.

The Washington State Ferry M/V Rhododendron will provide service between the Town of Steilacoom and Anderson and Ketron islands during the county ferry’s dry-dock. Updated ferry schedule information is available at http://www.piercecountywa.org/ferry .

“Due to unique funding opportunities available this year, we are putting a strong emphasis on heavy maintenance for the drive system,” said Michael Esher, the airport and ferry administrator for Pierce County Public Works and Utilities.

Esher noted that the 2008 dry-dock project involved such preservation work as repainting and new flooring, in addition to the requisite hull and mechanical inspections and repairs. This time, work will include a complete main engine and generator overhaul, plus inspection and maintenance of tail shafts, propellers, reduction gears, rudder and cooling systems, rehabilitation of the hydraulic steering gear and cleaning and maintenance of the sewage tank. Improvements more visible to riders include replacement of water and fire sprinkler system pipes and passenger cabin heaters, pressure washing the hull with spot cleaning and painting, and resurfacing and repainting the vehicle deck.

The $1.5 million project is 80 percent funded by the Federal Transit Administration, with the balance equally shared by the Pierce County Ferry System and Washington State Ferries.

The M/V Christine Anderson is expected to be back in service no later than May 14, at which time the M/V Rhododendron will return to state service between Point Defiance and Vashon Island.

Due to its low freeboard, tides will be a factor when the M/V Rhododendron is in use between Steilacoom and Anderson Island. Large vehicles with excessive overhang and cars with low ground clearance may have difficulty boarding the ferry during lower tides. Ferry customers are encouraged to plan ahead, arrive early for their desired sailing, and be prepared to wait for a higher tide before being allowed to board. Tide tables for Steilacoom, Washington are posted on the Web site.

In 2008, Pierce County leased its ferry M/V Steilacoom II to Washington State Ferries to fill an emergency need on the Port Townsend-Keystone route, leaving the M/V Christine Anderson as its only vessel. A new state vessel is under construction and scheduled for delivery in August 2010, whereupon the M/V Steilacoom II will be refurbished and returned to the county.

The Pierce County Ferry System makes more than 8,000 crossings per year and carried 200,000 passengers in 2009.