Washington State Ferries confirmed on Monday what many were already expecting: the route from Sidney to Anacortes will not sail this spring, with summer sailings also unlikely.
John Vezina, director of government relations at Washington State Ferries (WSF), said in a statement that this was due to a lack of crew to navigate the route. “While we continue to recruit, hire and train, it is very unlikely that we will have any crew available for the Sidney route in this booking horizon or for the summer outing as well,” Vezina said.
Vezina emailed the statement after he and WSF chief of staff Nicole McIntosh met with elected officials from the Anacortes and San Juan Islands routes to discuss the upcoming release of April 10-June 18 reservations.
“WSF is working on a (service restoration plan), which is not yet complete, but with Thursday’s bookings released, we need to release the schedule to the public and we wanted you to know that an Anacortes boat/ Sidney would not be part of the release.
Although Vézina’s statement lays out a sequence of events that could lead to a restoration of the Sidney-Anacortes highway at a later date, its tone is also clear. “So unfortunately, while understanding the economic importance of the Anacortes/Sidney route, we simply don’t have the crew available to take it over for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Ferries have operated between Sidney and Anacortes since 1922, first under private ownership and later by WSF since 1951. WSF suspended service in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Historically, WSF offers one daily return sailing during the second quarter and fourth quarter of any calendar year, two daily return sailings during the third (summer) quarter and suspension of service during the first quarter .
Sailing between Sidney and Anacortes is part of a larger route connecting Anacortes to San Juan Island. Although Sidney-Anacortes is not a major route in the Washington ferry system — accounting for 0.5% of the system’s total passengers in 2019 — it is of significant historical, cultural and economic significance to the region.
Asked about the long-term future later, WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said the WSF intended to restore the route when they had the crews to do so.
“That’s part of the ambiguity of John’s message,” Sterling said. “If we suddenly had a large and unexpected influx of employees, we could potentially reinstate the route later this year. That said, that’s pretty unlikely.
Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said it was disappointing that this important link between the Saanich Peninsula and the United States remains suspended.
“The (municipality) was looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ferry service this year with the community of Anacortes, which has been a sister town to Sidney since 1996,” he said in a statement. “We recognize that labor shortages are impacting many departments and organizations. We remain committed to this ferry route and have heard the same commitment taken up by Washington State Ferries. We are optimistic that the service will return as we emerge from the pandemic. »
The municipality contracts Washington State Ferries to provide ferry service through the municipality-owned International Ferry Terminal at Tulista Park.
According to Sidney’s statement, ferry service began on a converted kelp carrier at the foot of Beacon Avenue in 1922. “The route between Sidney and Anacortes has long supported local tourism to benefit local and regional economies,” reads- we. “It also connects friends and families across our shared border.”
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