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Ferry Fiasco: Bremerton-Seattle boat overloaded, turns back, hundreds ordered to get off or else

State ferry Cathlamet

State ferry Cathlamet

BREMERTON — A Bremerton-Seattle  ferry packed with pregame Seahawks fans Friday was mistakenly overloaded by more than 480 passengers and had to turn back to the terminal after the captain realized the error,  Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Marta Coursey said.

But that was just the start of the problem for those aboard the 4:20 p.m. sailing of the ferry Cathlamet.

When the captain asked volunteers to get off the ferry and not enough did, Washington State Patrol troopers boarded and began ordering passengers to get off the boat, passengers said.

Chaz Forsberg, 27, of Silverdale, told the Kitsap Sun that he was in the Cathlamet’s men’s room when a trooper told him he had to return to the terminal.

“He said if I had a problem with it, I should send a complaint to the ferry system,” Forsberg said, according to the newspaper.

Coursey admitted, “They had angry and upset customers.”

How did the overloading happen in the first place?

Coursey said her understanding was that the ferry staff thought the Cathlamet had the capability for 1,600 passengers but its capacity is actually 1,200 passengers. After the captain began the crossing, he got the passenger number of 1,684 and had to turn around.

Normally, Coursey said, the captain gets that number prior to sailing and said she wasn’t sure why the captain didn’t get it sooner.

He turned back and off-loaded 484 passengers, she said.

She said all of the passengers who volunteered or were forced off were able to get onto the next ferry sailing around 5:30 p.m. Passengers got free travel vouchers and, ultimately, they got to their destination, she said.

But many were not happy about it.

State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson issued an apology Friday night for the incident.

“I apologize to all ferry passengers impacted by the overloading of the Cathlamet late this afternoon,” Peterson said in a statement.

“Due to the safety concerns related to the overloading of the Cathlamet, a thorough review of this incident will take place and everyone in the chain of command at Washington State Ferries responsible for this oversight will be held accountable accordingly.

“As Secretary, the safety of the traveling public on our ferries, highways, and railways, is my top priority. I am pleased the crew took corrective action and all passengers made it across Puget Sound. The passengers, who disembarked the Cathlamet for the next sailing, received a voucher,” she said.

For hours, Washington State Ferries made no mention of the overloading on the 4:20 p.m. run and tweeted that the sailing was delayed 40 minutes because of “heavy traffic.” It made no mention of the passenger count being the problem.





  • Darlene Talbot

    @Kim…. What regular 1600 capacity ferry would that be? That crossing uses the Cathlamet and the Sealth which are both 1200 capacity. What ferry even has a capacity of 1600? Some have 2000, others 2500 and some have less than 1200 but don’t know any that are 1600.

  • Brandon Pedersen

    My fiance and I were on that ferry that had to send passengers away, and how does someone who makes decent money working for the WSF service not do there job? I am just upset because.I missed the 1st whole quarter of the game. And I had to add more money to my parking meter.

  • HRC

    It is time to take the Ferry System out of the State of Washington’s hands. It has repeatedly proven it is incapable of running it, at least correctly. If a private company wont run it, then the Ferry System should just disappear. Let the free market decide if it is worth having the Ferries. If you want to use the Ferry , then the USER, the rider should pay for it all, not someone who never or rarely uses it. Time to get the government out of our lives. IN all ways too.

    • C

      Um, then how will people get to vashon and the san juans? And the people who use it pay the fare. Besides, we tried that with the floating bridge and everyone HATES the tolls we didn’t vote for, and we already paid for the bridge with taxes. And, because they let the contractors do their own inspections, the bridge is a disaster waiting to happen. Sounds great in theory but it isn’t. While I agree that WSF has had numerous issues, it is also the largest system in the world. Even a large corporation would have inconsistencies at that scale. What really needs to happen is accountability, and adhesion to set standards.

  • David

    This is so lame, I thought AB stood for “Able Body”, in Coast Guard licensed language. I wonder if the deckhands even know how to tie a knot!!

  • Samantha Clarke

    They really should get the Tacoma fixed clearly. I was there the first day the Tacoma shut down and I was in line after I dropped my boyfriend off at the Light Rail and it was HELL. It was like Seahawks Victory Day Parade all over again, I have no idea how I managed to get on the Sealth Ferry ><

  • Owen

    Hey, folks, sometimes sh** happens – especially when people are involved. You ever make a mistake? Probably. Did anyone’s world come to an end? Probably not. Our ferry system works amazingly well for something run by bureaucracy and has been working well all of my 64 years. Now, what caused the problem? All those 12’s trying to get to the game, which the Seahawks won – as usual. Lighten up!

  • Brent Stewart

    @ Darlene Talbot
    Super Class (Kaleetan/Hyak) = 2,000
    Jumbo MK1 (Walla Walla) = 2,000
    This is bizarre, the Terminal peeps do a count and the crew couldn’t have failed to notice the overload. This is idiotic. There’s hardly a place to sit when they’re to capacity (the Issaquah Class that is).

  • Brent Stewart

    Before everyone goes off half cocked, keep in mind how many passengers and tonnage WSF successfully transports each year. Metro Buses have more failures.

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