My home waters for 30-years. I lived on the hill overlooking that ferry landing at Pt Defiance for 21-years and kept my boat at one end or the other of that passage
. I sailed thru there hundreds of times so here are two observations.
- there can be very strong and large shifts in the tidal current
. The current
can be pushing you NW at three knots and 100-yards later it might be pushing you SSW at one knot
. I've been on my sailboard out there and have seen three foot mounds of water
where the tidal currents from Dalco Passage
, East Passage, and the Narrows meet. The small boat
operator may have thought he was on a course to take him astern of the ferry when the current shifted.
- The ferries on that run make sudden and unexpected, for those who've not been there before, course changes as they cross from Pt. Defiance to Tallequah on Vashon Island. The ferry captain
might head 45 degrees off the rhumb line and then when he gets feel for the current he will make a big course change to line up for the landing. I've seen them make almost a 90 degree change during spring tides.
NONE of that excuses the small boat operator from his responsibility to stay at the helm
while transiting such dynamic water
filled with small fishing
boats, ferries, and serious tidal currents. I've had dozens of close encounters with fishing
boats as they zig and zag while trolling or drift fishing. It is inconceivable that someone was not at the wheel
of the small boat.
One additional comment. I've talked to dozens of Washington
State Ferry bridge crews on the VHF
in similar situations. They are always very professional and courteous. They welcome the VHF
interaction and always do what is necessary to make the crossing or passing as safe and easy as possible.