More than 300 people turned out on Sat., Feb. 19, to welcome the return of the Steilacoom II to the Pierce County ferry fleet. The vessel had been leased to Washington State Ferries (WSF) system for the last three years to service the Port Townsend-Keystone route while a new state ferry, the Chetzemoka, was built.
Riders celebrated by taking a quick trip around Anderson Island. The Steilacoom II won’t return to regular service on the Anderson Island-Ketron Island-Steilacoom route until early March, but the sail on Saturday provided an opportunity to thank islanders and give the crew a training run at the same time. The 216-foot ferry was new when it started the Steilacoom-Anderson Island-Ketron Island route in 2007, and riders rode the ferry for a year before it was leased to WSF.
During Saturday’s celebration, Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval presented a painting of the ferry to Anderson Island residents as a way of saying thanks. Other dignitaries included County Executive Pat McCarthy, County Councilmember Dick Muri (District 6), Public Works and Utilities Director Brian Ziegler, Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas, and Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson.
As a condition of the lease, WSF was required to restore the Steilacoom II to the same condition it was before the lease arrangement. WSF hired a private company and drydock for the refurbishment, including replacing the interior upholstery and providing a new paint job.
“We were promised the Steilacoom II would be returned in a condition as good or better than when she left. From what we see, that promise was well kept,” said Dave Jacobsen, Anderson Island Citizens’ Advisory Board liaison to the Pierce County Ferry system.
The Steilacoom II has a service speed of 11.4 knots and can safely accommodate 330 passengers, including the crew. A few riders had to be turned away at the Anderson Island terminal because maximum capacity was reached.
“We had great weather and a great turnout, but unfortunately, that meant not everyone could come aboard,” said Brian Ziegler. “Coast Guard regulations prevented us from letting everyone enjoy the trip, but the safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority.”
The Pierce County Ferry System recorded total ridership of 198,791 in 2010. More information is available at piercecountywa.org/ferry.