Ferry slowed down by lack of schedule

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2004

It's quite a thrill and an honor to work on the Fairweather, the fast ferry. Traveling up and down the Lynn Canal and to Sitka at 35 to 40 knots is not to be missed. But don't take my word for it. Ask the hundreds of passengers that have ridden on the fast ferry since June 7, 2004. Or is it in the thousands now? I have never heard a negative comment from any passenger. Most guests of the Fairweather praise the design, the roominess, the speed, the professionalism of the crew and the speed, speed, speed.

It's unfortunate that operating problems have been slowing down the fast ferry. No, not logs jammed into water intakes. The thing still maintains about 32 knots on three engines; not broken engines that are covered by the warranty because of a design flaw (see the three engine speed); not by mishaps with cruise ship mooring lines. No, what slows the fast ferry is not having a regular schedule, schedules changing without notice to the riders until the last minute, a lack of commitment to at least try and make this $40 million transportation system viable and useful (we are constantly being threatened to get "tied up to the dock until summer" if we don't agree to the states contract demands of minimum staffing and the like). Not having a contract that workers who were promised jobs can work under.

You should see the crew though, from the captains to the mates to the engineers, deck hands and passenger service workers, all excited to be there, some having relocated to help get this thing going, all extensively trained and many doing two or three different jobs, and excited to be there (except for the uncertainty of whether the state is going to back this thing and run it or are we just an experiment that can be thrown out with the garbage at the whim of whoever administers this thing).

We have up times, we have down times, big loads and small. But the fast ferry runs and runs well. We who work on it could use some positive input form anyone who has ridden the ferry and has something nice to say, or even some constructive criticism on how to make it better (like "keep it going") - and send it to Gov. Frank Murkowski in Juneau.

Christopher Sharpe

Auke Bay

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