The M/V Finest, the fast ferry that will run between Kingston and Seattle when Kitsap Transit begins service on that route later this year, began its journey to Kitsap this week.
Cranes lifted the 350-seat catamaran onto a large shipping vessel in New York on Tuesday. From New York, the Finest will travel south through the Panama Canal and up the west coast to Victoria, B.C., where Kitsap Transit will pick it up.
It could take between 30 to 35 days for the vessel to get to Victoria, according to Kitsap Transit executive director John Clauson.
“We’re excited to get it here and get moving on the refurbishment,” Clauson said.
The Finest is a 21-year-old catamaran that for most of its life shuttled commuters between Monmouth County, New Jersey, and Manhattan. Kitsap Transit bought it from New York Waterways in September to operate on the Kingston-Seattle route until a full-time vessel can be built.
Eventually, it will serve as a backup on the Kingston and Southworth routes.
Before it carries any passengers, the Finest will undergo over $5 million in renovations, including a complete rebuild of its engines. The interior will be gutted and refurbished with new seats, windows, bulkheads, and an upgraded galley and bathrooms. Kitsap Transit plans to replace outdated electronics and navigational equipment.
“When we’re finished, the plan is we’re going to have a new boat in a 21-year-old hull,” Clauson said.
NY Waterways dropped the Finest’s initial price tag from $2.3 million to $1.5 million after it was agreed that repairs would take place in the Northwest instead of New York. It cost $350,000 to ship the vessel, and an estimated $3.85 million for repairs, according to Kitsap Transit financial director Paul Shinners.
Kitsap Transit is preparing to open bids for the repair work, and officials hope to award a bid close to the time the vessel arrives. Service from Kingston is slated to start this summer.
Several shipyards have expressed interest, and a few sent representatives to look at the Finest in New York last month, according to Kitsap Transit marine services director Darryl Bryan.
“I think people will be excited when they see this boat, when we’ve got everything taken care of it will be very impressive,” Bryan said.
Federal law prevents foreign vessels from transporting good or passengers directly between U.S. ports, so the Finest will be dropped off at Ogden Point in Victoria, B.C., where Kitsap Transit will inspect it before taking it to a shipyard for repairs.
NY Waterways bought the Finest — which takes its name from the New York City Police Department — and put it into service between New Jersey and Manhattan in 2002, according to spokesman Pat Smith.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Finest was one of many vessels to help evacuate survivors from lower Manhattan and take them to New Jersey. The evacuation was the largest in maritime history, with over 500,000 people rescued, Smith said.
You can track the Finest's journey here.