It’s been covering Edmonds like a pall all week, but in addition to being damp and more than a little depressing, this week’s dense fog poses a very real hazard for maritime traffic. Slowing many ferry runs to a crawl, it makes any kind of boating more hazardous.
Despite reducing speed, sounding foghorns and watching the radar closely, the ferry Cathlamet suffered a near miss this Thursday on the 9:30 a.m. run from Clinton on Whidbey Island to Mukilteo.
The ferry left Clinton as scheduled, disappearing quickly into the fog bank less than 50 yards out from the slip. The captain proceeded slowly, sounding the fog horn continuously. According to Washington State Ferries, the ship’s radar showed another vessel approaching, but the readings became intermittent. Attempts by the ferry captain to hail the approaching vessel via radio and foghorn were unsuccessful.
“The captain ordered the ferry brought to a stop in an attempt to avoid a collision, and issued a “brace for impact” alert to passengers via the loudspeaker system,” said Washington State Ferries spokesperson Marta Coursey. “Fortunately the approaching fishing boat passed safely in front and no one was hurt.”
According to the Coast Guard, the operator of the fishing boat (Taku) was not using its automatic identification system. The ferry system is filing a report with the Coast Guard.
With shifting fog conditions, ferry passengers should be prepared for delays. “Right now we’re running on schedule,” said the WSF employee staffing the booth on the Edmonds dock on Thursday afternoon. “But when the fog thickens, typically in the morning hours, it will affect our schedules.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel