If you're going to break down, you might as well do it in one of the top vacation hot spots in Latin America.
The state's new fast ferry Fairweather, which is headed from Connecticut to Juneau by way of the Panama Canal, will spend an extra day in Acapulco, Mexico, while engineers replace a malfunctioning engine computer that burned out on Monday.
George Poor, senior port engineer for the ferry system, said an electronic control system module that monitors and operates one of the ship's four propulsion engines malfunctioned after a fuel stop in the tropical Mexican city.
"This is nothing unusual," Poor said. "Things like this happen with new vessels."
Poor said the ship could have continued on the journey operating on the other three engines, but the captain decided to replace the engine computer while waiting for weather conditions to improve.
He said the ship is expected to leave Acapulco this evening. It is scheduled to arrive at its next refueling stop in San Diego on March 20.
The Fairweather will make an additional stop for fuel in Seattle on March 23, Poor said.
Alaska Marine Highway System General Manager George Capacci said the computer malfunction is part of the debugging process of operating the new ship.
The Fairweather is the first of four fast ferries in the state's fleet.
The $40 million ship was built in Bridgeport, Conn., by Derecktor Shipyards. The vessel left Bridgeport on March 3, traveling south along the eastern seaboard and through the Panama Canal.
It is expected to arrive in Southeast by late March and begin operations in May. The 235-foot vessel will serve the communities of Juneau, Haines, Skagway and Sitka.
Derecktor Shipyards owns the vessel and will pay for all repairs associated with the computer malfunction, Poor said.
"It's their nickel," he said.
Poor noted that the ship will not belong to the state until after it arrives and undergoes warranty inspection tests.
Once the state takes possession of the vessel, it will be under warranty for 18 months.
The Alaska Marine Highway System has set up a Web site at www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/news/releases/pressrelease040303.html, where the Fairweather's progress can be tracked in real time.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.