A skipper’s misreading of channel markers led to the passenger ferry Rich Passage 1 running aground Monday morning while traveling from Bremerton to Port Townsend.
The vessel, with three people aboard, ran aground about 6:15 a.m. on a sandy beach on the south side of the entrance to the canal connecting Oak Bay with Port Townsend Bay. The canal is located between Indian Island and the mainland.
Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson was on the 78-foot ferry with his son when it ran aground. Clauson chalked the incident up to user error.
“The skipper basically misread the channel markers and kept the red marker to his right,” he said. “Unfortunately, it should have been on the left as you’re going through the cut toward Port Townsend.”
Clauson said the boat had been traveling at about 22 to 24 knots during the trip, but he wasn’t sure of its exact speed when the skipper noticed the beach ahead and slammed the boat into reverse. It was dark at the time and visibility was poor, he said.
Marine Assist of Port Hadlock was the first responder, and the U.S. Coast Guard arrived on scene soon after and inspected the vessel. The tide was going out by that time, Clauson said, so a decision was made to wait until Tuesday morning to rescue the vessel. The 118-passenger boat was pulled off the rocks at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The boat, which is powered by four waterjets, was shut off and towed to Port Townsend as a precautionary measure, Clauson said, in case anything had been sucked into the intake hoses. He said the boat appears to not have been damaged by the grounding.
“There’s virtually no damage,” Clauson said. “There’s some scraped paint, but that’s about it.”
Kitsap Transit owns the ferry and has been testing it for possible use on a Bremerton to Seattle route. The impact of the vessel’s wake on beaches along the route was measured, and Clauson said researchers are now analyzing that data before a decision is made about next steps.