Ferry service between Bellingham and Alaska will be sporadic over the next few weeks as the MV Columbia goes in for repairs.
The Alaska Marine Highway’s biggest ferry recently sustained damage to a starboard propeller blade that has slowed the boat and will require drydock repair, said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation.
The damaged propeller is forcing the ferry to travel at a slower speed. It currentlyis heading to Bellingham and is scheduled to drop off passengers at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25, two days later than scheduled.
It will then head south to Portland, Ore., for repair, Woodrow said. At this point it is unclear how long the repair will take, but Woodrow said they hope to have the Columbia back in service in early October.
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The next northbound trip to Alaska from Bellingham is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, on the ferry MV Kennicott.
Officials are not sure what damaged the Columbia’s propeller but it could have been done by debris such as a log, Woodrow said. As a result, there is a vibration when the boat hits a speed of 13 knots. The ferry usually cruises at about 15 knots, Woodrow said.
The Alaska ferry is a regular service out of the Fairhaven terminal, providing an influx of business to the Bellingham area. Fall is typically the slower part of the travel season, but around 150 passengers arrive at this time of year, said Mike Hogan, spokesman for the Port of Bellingham.
At 418 feet, the Columbia is the largest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway system fleet. Built in 1973, it is designed to carry 499 passengers and about 133 vehicles.
Ticketholders whose travel is being disrupted by the ferry delays will be offered refunds and alternate routes. Woodrow recommends checking FerryAlaska.com for updates or calling the reservation office at 800-642-0066.