Pierce County’s M/V Christine Anderson will be going out of service Tuesday, June 3 for repairs and will be replaced by the Washington State Ferries’ M/V Rhododendron. The Christine Anderson, which has been operating at half speed with a broken shaft seal since May 24, is expected to return to the Steilacoom-Anderson Island-Ketron Island run in 10 days or less.
The Rhododendron, which regularly runs between Point Defiance and Tahlequah on Vashon Island, is older and slightly slower than the Christine Anderson. But it can carry about the same number of vehicles and twice as many passengers.
The state is leasing Pierce County’s primary ferry, the Steilacoom II, for its open-water run between Port Townsend and Keystone on Whidbey Island. Pierce County requested that the Steilacoom II be returned in accordance with the lease agreement, which provides for the ferry’s return in the event of an emergency.
However, the Rhododendron isn’t approved by the Coast Guard for open water use and isn’t available for Port Townsend/Whidbey service. That leaves the state without an available vessel for that run. The state asked the county to consider using the Rhododendron, and the county reluctantly agreed to that option.
To compensate Pierce County during the temporary disruption, the state will provide free parking in Steilacoom for those who can leave their vehicles on the mainland; and all passengers, including those in vehicles, will receive free passage until the Christine Anderson returns. Vehicles and drivers will be charged the normal fare.
The Christine Anderson Tuesday will go to Todd Shipyard in Tacoma for what county officials hope will be a dockside repair. If that is unsuccessful, the vessel will go into drydock as early as Wednesday, June 4.
Beginning Monday evening, June 2 the Rhododendron will begin sailing between Steilacoom and Anderson and Ketron islands. The state relief ferry M/V Hiyu, which has been operating for the past several days on the county run, will replace the Rhododendron on the Point Defiance-Vashon Island run.
The Christine Anderson, which joined the county fleet in July 1994, is 213 feet in length and can carry 54 cars and 250 passengers. It is virtually identical to the newer MV Steilacoom II, which is being leased to the State of Washington following the grounding of four aging, leaking Steel-Electric class vessels.