Memorial Day rush to get home causes long wait times at some WA ferry terminals

More than 350,000 people were expected to use Washington State Ferries over Memorial Day weekend. On Monday, the holiday rush home caused delays and longer waits for those trying to travel east on some ferry lines. 

Washington State Ferries reported at least three terminals experiencing long wait times or full reservations on Monday afternoon.  


Travel weekend underway with some WA ferry delays, tidal cancellations scheduled Saturday

While it did clear up as the evening wore on, hundreds of travelers experienced hours-long delays for several local ferry routes as Memorial Day weekend began.

"Took a little bit to get back here," said Maxon Estrella, who described his Memorial Day trip aboard the ferry from Clinton to Mukilteo as amazing. "It was so good. I was literally like screaming, and I was watching the ocean."

Despite long lines at the Clinton Terminal, the Estrella family beat the rush.  

"We did see a line, once we landed on Clinton, but on the way back it was a 25-minute wait, and then we boarded," said Jovan Estrella. 

"We went up to the kite festival up at Fort Casey," said Gene Schmidt, a resident of Whidbey Island.  

 FOX 13 caught up with Schmidt as he was heading home on the Kitsap ferry. 

"We walk on to avoid the lines," he said. "On Memorial Day the island actually sinks two feet, and then when everybody goes home on Labor Day, it comes up again and that sort of marks the beginning and end of the season." 

The Clinton Terminal, near Schmidt's home, was one of the busiest, with waits reported at 90 minutes at one point in the afternoon.  A two-hour wait was reported from Kingston, where the Washington State Patrol helped to hand out boarding passes to people in the queue. Vehicle reservations and standby space were also full for those departing Port Townsend until 10 p.m. and Coupeville until 9:10 pm. 

"Everyone that went over now wants to come back home. I’m sure it’s a long wait over there," said Kay Maynard, a Mukilteo resident.

Washington State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling says that they have hired hundreds of people to prepare for their busiest time of year. However, the challenge remains with the number of boats. 

Sterling says they're operating 15 right now and have a 21 vessel fleet. He says they need 26 to run what they were doing pre-pandemic. 

"I could see where having a few extra would help, especially as the summer approaches," said Jovan. 

Schmidt says if you get stuck waiting for a boat, the best thing to do is try to enjoy yourself. 

"We have several good restaurants in Clinton, and, of course, Mukilteo is full of good places to eat and relax," said Gene.  

WSDOT also announced that on Tuesday, May 28, the 90-vehicle Sealth will replace the 124-vehicle Kitsap on the Mukilteo/Clinton route for approximately the next four weeks due to limited vessel availability. It will mean a 34-car reduction in vessel capacity which may result in customers experiencing vessel loading delays.   

With the busy summer travel season ahead, WSDOT says planning makes a difference and encourages people to travel off-peak times, such as early in the morning and late at night.


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