State ferry Columbia expected back at sea this week


The state ferry Columbia, after a week in the shop to repair leaky pipes and its bow thrusters, was expected back at work starting Wednesday, June 28, with its regularly scheduled run from Ketchikan to Bellingham, Washington.

The vessel was pulled from service on June 20, missing two southbound stops and one northbound stop in Wrangell. The 50-year-old Columbia left Haines that day — without any passengers — and headed straight for the Vigor shipyard in Ketchikan for repairs, canceling all stops along the way.

“There’s a manifold down in the engine room that takes in saltwater and distributes it to different components of the ship, including ballast and other things, but the saltwater fire main has corrosion and it’s leaking,” Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Dapcevich told the Ketchikan Daily News last week.

“The design of the manifold makes it necessary to come into the shipyard and get permanent repairs made,” he added. “It’s not something that can be done out on the fly.”

Vigor was to remove the leaky valve manifold and fabricate a new one, Dapcevich explained.

“The bow thruster issue required consulting its U.K.-based manufacturer, and was narrowed down to a sensor called a ‘potentiometer’ … due to loose clamps it had rotated approximately 90 degrees, causing a fault,” he said in an email to the Sentinel.

“If all goes to plan,” the ship will be back at work Wednesday, Dapcevich said late Monday afternoon. Sea trials had been scheduled for Tuesday.

The Columbia, which had been in layup the past three years, was brought back to service this summer for the weekly run between Bellingham and Southeast Alaska — the most heavily traveled route on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Dapcevich last week said he wasn’t able to estimate how many passengers held reservations on the canceled sailings. He said passengers were either given a refund or rescheduled for another sailing.

Breakaway Ferry and Freight, operated by Eric Yancey, stepped in to help on its own and ran a trip from Wrangell to Juneau, via Petersburg, on Monday, June 26, with the return scheduled for Tuesday. Yancey’s Rainforest Islander can carry more than two dozen passengers and four to seven vehicles, depending on their size.


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