Ferry problems could mean trouble for state’s biggest art festival

ANACORTES -- Washington State Ferries canceled all international sailings into Anacortes for both Thursday and Friday.

But the cancellations couldn’t have come at a worse time for this city. The annual arts festival is expected to draw 90,000 people.

Commercial Street will be absolutely packed this weekend with thousands of tourists.

Many Canadian tourists were expected, but none are able to arrive by ferry – and business leaders worry they may not come at all.

“This is the No. 1 destination weekend for our community,” said Stephanie Hamilton with the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce.

Thousands of tourists, American and Canadian, will soon flood downtown Anacortes.

Allen Rhoades and his craft brewery is getting ready for the big rush.

“We take Canadian money at par just to get them in here and don’t have to worry about the money exchange,” said Rhoades.

But more than 300 Canadian tourists were forced to cancel their sea voyage from Sidney, B.C., to Anacortes on both Thursday and Friday – making business leaders and owners concerned.

“Disappointed that the state can’t manage their ferry system in a more efficient way, especially in our big tourist time,” said Rhoades.

Two of the state’s boats are down for routine maintenance, but some say that work should happen during the winter and not peak tourist season.

“I get what maintenance is all about but preventative maintenance can be done during the times when tourism is down,” said Rhoades.

“That’s something maybe the new director will look at and schedule,” said Hamilton.

The state promises that international ferry service will resume on Saturday morning, and they’re already taking reservations.