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Kitsap Connections hears about ferry alternatives

"From a slick Boeing JetFoil to a South American behemoth called the Ernest Hemingway, members of the Kitsap Connections committee viewed a montage of ferry designs last week, comparing smooth rideability and cost effectiveness. Kitsap Connections is seeking alternatives that would simultaneously provide short commutes and preserve beaches through Rich Passage following a lawsuit from beachfront property owners who say Washington State Ferries' fast passenger-only service eroded their land. Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes said Kitsap Transit recently tested the St. Nicholas, a promising former whale-watching vessel with a capacity of 149 passengers. Once a part of the Mosquito Fleet, a refined version stripped of heavy whale-watching equipment is now being offered, he said.While cost is a limiting factor in choosing a fast, passenger-only ferry alternative, Kitsap Connections members must also consider available technology and laws regulating ferry travel, according to Ron Lokites of John J. McMullen Associates, Inc.Lokites compared the wake, speed, capacity and cost of 16 vessels for Kitsap Connections members, though none emerged as a primary source of interest.Though Boeing's jet-foil might prove to be cost prohibitive, Lokites called it the best ride that's possible. There's very little wake effect, so the rideability is super. It's the closest thing to flying on the water, he said.The jet-foil design costs about two or three times more than the more common catamaran model currently used by WSF.On top of the expense of the initial construction, (jet-foils) are very expensive to operate, Lokites said. Lokites also analyzed ways to reduce wakes by upgrading existing vessels. Trim tabs and T-foils change the vessel's attitude in the water, improving the ride and reducing the wake.Trim tabs also lift the stern, as do wedges and interceptors, forcing the flow of water down and lifting the stern from the water. It's scientifically proven, if you will, that lifting the stern is effective in reducing energy behind the stern, Lokites said. Washington State Ferries already has installed interceptors on the Chinook.Currently, any U.S. vessel with a capacity of more than 150 passengers must be made of steel, which is heavier and slower than vessels made of fiberglass, though a new study might allow the use of fiberglass. That would be a very big benefit because designs could be made to make vessels lighter, cheaper and easier to maintain, Lokites said. If the vessel has to be made of steel, we can't look at higher speed models because they need to be made of lighter-weight materials.Turbine-powered ferries are lighter than diesels and cause less air-pollution because they use natural gas. Though turbine engines consume more fuel than diesel engines, what is consumed burns more effeciently, Lokites said.The Jones Law requiring any vessel running between two U.S. ports to be built in the United States also limits the availability of some models."

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