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Ferry riders vent about ‘dirty’ Bremerton boats

According to a number of regular morning and evening riders, the Seattle to Bremerton ferries have filthy tables and floors, a careless and sometimes rude crew and the boats often lack essentials in the bathroom like toilet paper, towels and soap.

They also say the Washington State Ferry system puts more effort into keeping the Bainbridge Island boats clean than it does the Bremerton run.

The riders want to see a more regular cleaning schedule, especially during the nighttime between runs.

“This morning I wiped off a small area (less than 1 sq. ft.) on my table on the upper level (on the Hyak),” said Brenda Fong, who takes the 6:20 a.m. ferry to Seattle every weekday and returns on the 5:30 p.m. run after work. “The tissue was filthy gray.”

Port Capt. Pete Williams oversees the crews on the Bremerton run, and said the crews usually walk on the boat 20 minutes before commuters arrive on the 6:20 a.m. run, and 10 minutes of that is usually spent in a staff meeting.

“There is no set cleaning schedule everyday,” he said. “It is a perpetual thing.”

Williams has personally investigated the allegations made by ferry commuters that the ferry is dirty and the bathrooms are not well-stocked.

On Tuesday Williams walked on the 6:20 a.m. boat, the Hyak, an hour early to take photos and survey how clean the vessel was.

“The main vessels were clean,” he said. “The cabin was clean. At that time I found nothing out of place.”

Williams said the night crew did not know he was going to be surveying the next morning.

“It’s an ongoing thing,” Williams said. He will spend the next two weeks investigating the cleanliness issue. “We intend on covering all the angles,” he said.

On the 6:20 a.m. run there are a total of 10 employees, including a captain and two other employees on the top floor, three on the car deck and four on the passenger cabin.

Susan Harris, Washington State Ferries customer relations manager, says the cabin and car deck employees are responsible for cleaning “but that’s just one of the many duties they have.”

One big difference between the Bremerton and Bainbridge runs is the age of the boats. Bremerton’s Hyak, which runs at 6:20 a.m. from Seattle, 7:20 a.m. from Bremerton, and is the last run at 12:50 a.m., was built in 1967 and has never had a major rebuild. The Kitsap was built in 1980 and rebuilt in 1990.

On Bainbridge’s side, the 2,500 occupant boats Tacoma and Wenatchee were built in 1997 and 1998 respectively.

Most of the grime on the Hyak cannot be cleaned, said Harris.

“The Hyak is a very old boat,” she said. “The fact is many of the tables you can attempt to clean but they cannot be cleaned.”

Although Washington State Ferry employees usually only have a chance to clean the boat while there are passengers on it during a run, many ferry passengers are asking for changes to the cleaning routine.

“Tables, chairs and booths should be wiped down with bleach and water or some kind of cleaning fluid with a frequent change of water,” Fong said. “Hopefully the tables are cleaned separately than the chairs and booth seats.”

Harris said it would be ideal to hire a cleaning crew to sweep through the ferry every evening after the last run, but there is no budget for it.

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