Alaska's fast ferry Fairweather is out of commission again after high seas damaged the ship Thursday while it was returning to Juneau from Haines.
There were no injuries in the incident but the Fairweather's cowling, a protective component between the ship's two hulls designed to deflect water from the front, was bent inward and punctured by the force of heavy waves crashing into the vessel.
The ship serves Juneau, Haines, Skagway and Sitka.
"We will further asses the damage and will know more after we download data from the data recorder, the ship's 'black box,' " said Tom Briggs, deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Transportation, in a written statement. "We are hopeful that the repairs can be done in two weeks, but will have a better idea after we do a complete assessment."
High winds also blew away a passenger gangway at the Skagway ferry terminal on Thursday, leaving it sitting on the beach, according to DOT spokesman John Manly.
The Fairweather still is under warranty by Derecktor Shipyards, the Bridgeport, Conn., company that built the $40 million catamaran, he said. But Manly was uncertain whether the damage is covered by the warranty.
He said Derecktor is sending an engineer to Juneau to assess the damage and work with DOT engineers to formulate a plan to repair the ship.
"They expect to have the parts in town and ready to be installed by the day after Christmas," Manly said.
Manly estimated that initial repairs would cost about $75,000 and an additional $150,000 will be needed to install a stronger support system behind the cowling.
It's not the first time the ship has been out of commission for repairs since it hit Southeast waters earlier this year.
The Fairweather operated on a limited schedule after one of the ship's four engines broke in September. Later that month, high winds were blamed when the Fairweather collided with a mooring dolphin in Skagway, causing small cracks in the ship's bow.
Travelers will have to rely on regular sailings of mainline vessels to make it to Haines, Skagway and Sitka until the Fairweather is repaired, Manly said. DOT is not planning to deploy a second ship to fill in, but it might schedule some extra sailings through the end of the month.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at email@example.com.
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