Local Information

Long ferry lines for vehicles expected Labor Day weekend

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 - 12:25

Ian Sterling, communications, 206-714-1556
WSF media hotline, 206-402-8070

Plan for extended waits, possible disrupted sailings from crew shortages

SEATTLE – Pack extra patience if your Labor Day weekend travel plans include a Washington State Ferries ride. In addition to the usual long vehicle boarding lines surrounding holiday weekends, riders should be prepared for the possibility of disrupted sailings due to COVID-19 cases and quarantines among crew and the global shortage of mariners.

“Our dispatch team is working in overdrive to staff our vessels with some crew needing to quarantine, with many crewmembers holding over and working beyond their scheduled shifts to keep our vessels in service,” said Patty Rubstello, head of WSF. “In addition, like many industries, the maritime sector, both locally and internationally, is facing a shortage of experienced employees and many marine transportation systems are dealing with a staffing shortfall. We continue to recruit new employees, but we’re struggling to find qualified mariners.”

WSF crew who are sick are required to stay home and anyone exposed to COVID-19 also must follow health safety guidelines that can include quarantining at home. This affects already strained crew levels.

No new vehicle reservations available during holiday weekend
Due to the possibility of disrupted sailings from a lack of crew over the holiday weekend, no new vehicle reservations are being taken on either the Anacortes/San Juan Islands or Port Townsend/Coupeville routes for travel on Friday, Sept. 3, through Monday, Sept. 6. Existing reservations for those dates are not affected, but no new ones can be made. This reservation suspension is intended to increase the reliability of existing reservations and of customers reaching destinations.

Ongoing schedule modifications
In addition to possible last-minute sailing cancellations, the following routes are operating on modified schedules:

  • Seattle/Bainbridge, Seattle/Bremerton and Mukilteo/Clinton: Final daily round trip suspended
  • Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth: Two-boat service instead of three on Sundays only; late-night sailings suspended
  • Edmonds/Kingston: Final round trip suspended on Fridays and Saturdays only
  • Port Townsend/Coupeville: One-boat service instead of two
  • Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, British Columbia: Suspended until 2022

Busy travel times
Ferries are popular every holiday weekend and people boarding a ferry by vehicle should be prepared for long waits. The busiest sailings will likely be westbound (or onto an island) Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 2-4, then eastbound (or off island) Sunday through Tuesday, Sept. 5-7. To reduce or eliminate waiting, riders may consider taking an early morning or late-night sailing or walking on.

Holiday schedules
On Monday, Sept. 6, there will be a few Labor Day schedule adjustments on most routes. Holiday sailings are marked on the timetables for each route.

Seattle/Bremerton route schedule changes starting Tuesday, Sept. 7
Because of crewing challenges and a shortage of available vessels, the Seattle/Bremerton run will be reduced from two to one-boat service after Labor Day. Starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Chimacum will operate only the #2 sailings on the route’s schedule while the Kaleetan undergoes necessary drydock work through mid-October.

Before heading a to terminal or boarding, customers are encouraged to sign up for ferry email alerts and check terminal conditions. A face covering is required in all indoor areas of vessels and terminals in compliance with the governor’s “Washington Ready” proclamation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order for public transportation.

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan ahead for potential holiday travel backups and delays with real-time traffic information on the WSDOT traffic app for mobile devices.

Limited food services available
Although galleys on vessels remain temporarily closed, WSF is working with its concessions vendor to gradually resume limited galley services on a vessel-by-vessel basis over the coming months. Vending machines are available at most terminals and on vessels. In addition, the Dockside Café kiosk at the Anacortes vehicle holding lanes is open daily.

WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. The system is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.

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