Washington State Ferries will soon take delivery of the gleaming ferry Suquamish, the state's fourth Olympic-class vessel. And when it first serves the Bremerton-Seattle route as a relief vessel, it's likely it'll have the same cell service problems its sister vessel Chimacum has currently.
Shipbuilder Vigor put the new $122 million, 144-car, 1,500-passenger vessel through its paces last week during sea trials and could deliver it to Ferries as soon as next week, WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said.
After the state takes delivery, it'll be a couple months before Suquamish goes into service while it goes through more sea trials, crews train to operate the vessel and load it up with "toilet paper and food and everything that has to go on it to get it ready to sail," Sterling said. Suquamish is expected to begin moving passengers in the fall.
It'll serve the Mukilteo-Clinton route during summers and will work as a maintenance relief vessel in the winters, meaning it'll likely spend time on the Bremerton-Seattle route, Sterling said.
When it does, at least early on, it's likely that passengers will run into the same cell signal problems that they do on the Chimacum, given that they have the same design, Sterling said. Chimacum has "low-e" or "low emissivity" glass panes that keep out heat and UV rays but seemingly cut off the already weak cell signals in Rich Passage.
WSF announced earlier this year that it would spend $20,000 to add signal repeaters to the Chimacum in an attempt to boost cell service. Ferries wasn't able to fit the work into a maintenance period in April and May, and Sterling said it likely won't be until into 2019 that the vessel will be out of service and fitted with the technology. If the boosters work on the Chimacum, Ferries will put them on the Suquamish, Sterling said.
Suquamish is a sister to vessels Chimacum, Samish and Tokitae. Tokitae was the first Olympic vessel and began working Mukilteo-Clinton in 2014. Samish followed on Anacortes-San Juan Islands in 2015. Chimacum entered service on Bremerton-Seattle last year.