Memorial Day weekend starts with San Juan ferry cancellations

Crew shortages at Washington State Ferries have scuttled at least 11 runs to the San Juans Saturday morning, potentially fouling Memorial Day weekend plans.

The following sailings on the ferries Chelan and Tillikum have been canceled, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation:

5:30 a.m. from Anacortes to Orcas Island
6:05 a.m. from Friday Harbor to Lopez Island
6:45 a.m. from Orcas Island to Shaw Island, Lopez Island and Anacortes
6:55 a.m. from Lopez Island to Shaw Island, Orcas Island and Friday Harbor
8:30 a.m. from Anacortes to Friday Harbor
8:30 a.m. from Friday Harbor to Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands
9:55 a.m. from Friday Harbor to Lopez Island and Anacortes
9:55 a.m. from Lopez Island to Shaw Island Orcas Island and Friday Harbor
11:35 a.m. Friday Harbor to Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands
11:55 a.m. from Anacortes to Lopez Island and Friday Harbor
1:55 p.m. from Friday Harbor to Anacortes

The morning’s vacancies on the Chelan (running from Anacortes to the islands) have been filled, according to WSDOT, and the ferry will make an unscheduled run from Anacortes to Friday Harbor around 9:30 a.m. to help ease the backlog.

Reservation holders on the Chelan will be loaded first-come, first-serve, WSDOT reports, and no-show fees will not be charged for today’s sailings.

“People can make the decision to not travel, if possible,” said WSDOT spokesperson Justin Fujioka. “But if you have to travel and have a reservation, you will be prioritized for the next trip — we do leave 10% room on each ferry for standby space.”

Washington State Ferries does not expect the Tillikum (which runs between the islands, and does not require reservations) to be fully staffed until 5:30 p.m.

Travelers can check the Anacortes/San Juan Islands timetable for scheduled sailings — plus the real-time WSDOT ferry map for updated information about delays and estimated arrival times.

The state legislature has only allocated enough funding to staff state ferries at the minimum level required by the U.S. Coast Guard, Fuijoka said. “Anytime one person calls out, it’s a scramble,” he added. “Usually the Vashon, Bainbridge Island and Bremerton positions are filled more quickly because more people live nearby — but for the San Juans, it takes a little while.”

Washington State Ferries also canceled two early-morning sailings between Vashon and Southworth due to crew shortages, but the position has been filled and service has returned to normal.

“It’s just typical Memorial Day travel,” Fujioka said. “I have friends who say ‘I have to travel, and I have to drive on,’ and I always say: ‘Take the first morning sailing or anything after sundown.’ “

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