Smooth sailing ahead for 30-min. commute

The development of a passenger-only ferry that carries people between Bremerton and Seattle in 30 minutes is sailing along nicely, and could be in operation in two and a half years, according to its supporters.

“This will happen in steps,” said Kitsap Transit Director Dick Hayes. “It will create a very powerful market if we can develop a connection between speed and price. And as Bremerton grows, it becomes more apparent that a fast-ferry can be a tremendous asset.”

Much of the preparation focuses on complex wake tests to determine the impact on the shoreline from the boats that pass through Rich Passage. And the most important aspect is the development of a high-speed low-wake boat, which will not only decrease local shoreline erosion but provide a framework for other ferry transit systems around the country.

Kitsap Transit ran several years worth of wake tests using the Spirit, a high-speed, low-wake hydrofoil vessel. Such tests will continue in the summer. Additionally, Bellingham-based shipbuilder All-American Marine will construct a prototype vessel in March 2007, which will incorporate the data gathered during wake tests conducted this year.

Harry Hosey, manager of Pacific International Engineering, said the resulting boat could be known as “a Rich Passage-class vessel.”

“The research coming out of these tests will be of tremendous value to the entire industry,” Hosey said.

To conduct the wake tests, Hosey’s company is seeding four of the most sensitive areas in Rich Passage with radio-equipped rocks that will allow the development of a computer model of the tide patterns.

By tracking the path of the rocks through metal detectors on each beach the county can determine the path an impact of the wake as it pertains to the individual boat.

Hosey would not specify how many such rocks will be used or their exact location, in order to prevent local kids from adding them to their personal rock collection.

This summer the Spirit will accommodate passengers twice daily to accommodate commuters and test the economic model.

The remaining 16 trips will be used to gather and measure additional wake data.

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