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Catamaran replaces Vashon-Seattle foot ferry

Commuters who ride the Vashon-downtown Seattle foot ferry will board a catamaran on Sept. 28, a new vessel leased by King County to operate the route from now on.

The 21-year-old catamaran, the Melissa Ann, is coming to the Puget Sound from Hawaii, where it operated as a commuter ferry for Honoluluans for a year.

The new vessel arrives the same day that the King County Ferry District takes over operations of the ferry route. Beginning Monday, Sept. 28, the 77-foot catamaran, emblazoned with the King County Water Taxi logo, will shuttle riders between Vashon and Pier 50 in downtown Seattle in a 22-minute crossing.

The route, which operates only on weekdays, will also have an extra morning and afternoon sailing, with schedules slightly altered to accommodate the extra crossings.

“Vashon riders have been asking for additional sailings, and we feel great about being able to add one,” said Kris Faucett, a spokesperson for the newly formed county ferry district, which operates one other route, the water taxi between West Seattle and Pier 55 downtown.

“We hope it’ll provide people with more opportunities to take the boat,” she added.

The King County Ferry District is leasing the Melissa Ann from Four Seasons Marine Services based in Seward, Alaska, at a cost of $35,000 per month, said Susan Whitmore, communications specialist for King County’s marine division.

The new vessel carries 150 passengers and 18 bicycles and can travel at speeds up to 32 miles per hour. The crossing, which currently takes 30 minutes, will be eight minutes shorter aboard the Melissa Ann.

The Melissa Ann was built in 1988 as a passenger vessel for the U.S. Army, but has since spent 2006-2007 as the Bremerton-Seattle passenger ferry, and then served as a commuter ferry in Honolulu, Whitmore said.

After retirement from the Vashon-Seattle route, the two Washington State Ferries passenger-only vessels that served the run for years — the Skagit and the Kalama — will likely be sold, said Marta Coursey, communications director for the ferry system.

Besides being faster than the Skagit and Kalama, the Melissa Ann is also quieter, rides more smoothly and has more seating options, Faucett said. Riders can sit in theater-style seats or at bench seats facing tables, and there is also some outdoor seating on the boat’s upper deck. The Melissa Ann also has restrooms and a heating and air conditioning system.

“There’s a little bit for everybody,” Faucett said.

Fares for the passenger-only route will change Sept. 28 also, from $8.70 for a round trip, charged as riders leave Seattle, to $4.50 each way (or $3.75 if riders pay with a transit pass). There will be no surcharge for bicycles.

New fare box machines will be installed at the Vashon and Pier 50 docks, Whitmore said. The machines will not give change. Beginning Oct. 1, Washington State Ferries fares will no longer be accepted.

Beginning Sept. 28, the Melissa Ann will sail from Vashon at 6:10 a.m., 7:10 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. in the morning, and 4:58 p.m. and 5:58 p.m. in the evening. The catamaran will depart from Pier 50 downtown at 5:38 a.m., 6:38 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. mornings and will leave at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the evenings.

King County Metro bus schedules on both sides will be coordinated with the sailing schedules.

Open house

The Melissa Ann will visit Vashon for an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at the north-end ferry terminal.

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