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Who makes the call to cancel, delay ferry routes when seas turn rough?

EDMONDS, Wash. – Passengers endured a wild ride aboard a Washington State Ferry Sunday evening.

Cellphone video shows strong winds pushing high seas over a ferry’s bow and onto the car deck.

So, makes that call to cancel or delay ferry routes during inclement weather?

Incidents like the one that happened on the Friday Harbor to Anacortes run only happen a handful of times a year, according to WSF spokesperson Brian Mannion.

While the weather in Puget Sound can get dicey this time of year, the routes farther north can sometimes get downright dangerous.

Jeremy Ridgway and his wife had a front-row seat on a San Juan Island ferry last weekend, and he says the turbulent waters weren’t much fun for his wife.

“She’s not a big water fan, she’s not a big boat fan,” he said. “For us to be on the front of a boat and the waves crashing at us, it scared her pretty good.”

Ridgway’s cellphone camera caught the salty spray, which then turned into a giant wave of seawater as it slammed into the cars parked next to him aboard the WSF vessel MV Samish.

“It was one of those situations that just happened,” said Ridgway. “I didn’t plan for it; I wasn’t expecting it.”

“The fact that the weather is so variable in this part of the world in this season, and we have so few of these incidents, is a testament to our crews doing it right,” said Mannion.

Mannion says crews loaded cars farther back from the bow on Sunday’s sailing.  Crews also told passengers to either stay inside their cars or in the passenger deck for their own safety.

Mannion says in many places the ferries sail, the weather can change fast.

“When you leave one of our destinations, the weather can be perfectly clear on one side or the other,” he said. “That can change when we cross, the conditions can change rapidly.”

“She says she doesn’t want to ride ferries anymore,” Ridgway said of his wife. “I think she’s joking but for the meantime I don’t think in the near future she’s going to ride the ferry.”

When weather turns nasty, ferry captains and administrators in the office together make the call when seas turn rough, according to Mannion.

“Crews slowed the vessels down, they took alternate routes to make sure they took the safest pass through these weather conditions,” he said.

WSF says it asked the owners of the three cars to fill out claims form so the agency can investigate to find out who could be liable for any damage – and to make sure everyone gets what they might be owed.