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Kingston port buys backup ferry

KINGSTON — If the weather is nasty this fall, Kingston foot ferry passengers will get to know the Victoria Express.

Port of Kingston commissioners voted March 19 to buy the Victoria Express, a 105-foot, single-hull foot ferry to use as a backup to its main passenger ferry, Spirit of Kingston. The port bought the boat for $650,000 from the Victoria Express company, which runs boats between Port Angeles and Victoria, British Columbia.

The port plans to use the 149-passenger Spirit of Kingston on a commuter route to downtown Seattle beginning in October. The Victoria Express will be swapped in when the Spirit of Kingston needs maintenance and it’s also capable of handling rougher weather, passenger ferry project manager Eric Osnes said.

Victoria Express was used for a route across the often-stormy Strait of Juan de Fuca and was previously a crew boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s a very solid, stout boat,” Osnes said.

The Victoria Express shouldn’t be much of a step down when it’s used on the route. With a top speed of about 20-knots, the backup boat is only a little slower than the Spirit of Kingston.

The prop-driven Victoria Express is powered by three, 740-horsepower diesel engines, one fewer than the Spirit of Kingston.

The port bought the Spirit of Kingston — formerly Spirit — from Four Seasons Marine Services of Silverdale on February 24 for $2.5 million. The catamaran was used as a charter boat in Alaska.

Both boats were purchased using money from a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration grant for purchasing equipment. The grant money is nearly depleted, but Osnes said the port’s only remaining capital costs will be a few improvements to its loading dock.

The Spirit of Kingston will be welcomed to its new home port in a christening ceremony at 11 a.m. March 28 on the Port of Kingston guest dock. The public will be welcomed onboard following the ceremony.

The Spirit of Kingston will be used by Four Seasons for charters in Alaska this summer. Victoria Express will also be leased back to its old owners for the summer. Both boats arrive in Kingston in late September to begin ferry service.

The port will raise revenue by chartering or leasing out the boats when they are not in use on the ferry route.

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