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By Dan Rudy 

Local ferry out of commission again


An interisland ferry service startup has stopped again, after reporting trouble with its landing craft.

After discovering water in the stern of the Rainforest Islander, operator Rainforest Islands Ferry contacted its customers last week to cancel reservations for the foreseeable future.

On May 11, the ferry’s crew discovered water inside the hull. Closer inspection identified stress cracks on welds to the hull plating. Baker explained the engine’s shaft is slightly out of alignment, leading to the vibrations which may have caused the plates to fluctuate.

“We may know more later this week,” said one of the landing craft’s captains, Bob Baker.

The managing board was to meet Tuesday evening in Coffman Cove to discuss the service’s future. In the meantime, the Rainforest Islander is at Coffman, awaiting an opening at Wrangell’s Marine Service Center.

Connecting communities on the Wrangell, Mitkof and Prince of Wales islands, the three-stop ferry was envisioned by North End Ferry Authority as an affordable alternative to charter travel. The 65-foot vessel it uses is a repurposed landing craft previously used by a Haines logging firm which was retrofitted late last spring.

Since starting service, Rainforest Islands Ferry has experienced a series of operational setbacks, with delays in delivering the Rainforest Islander bumping the initial start to September. The boat has required various repairs at different times since then, intermittently putting service on hold.

After a four-month hiatus, the ferry began its new year in April, intending to run for a 26-week season before this latest interruption.

Updates on the service’s future can be expected on the Rainforest Islands Ferry website, http://www.rainforestislandsferry.com.


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