Debut of Kingston passenger ferry draws commuters, joyriders

Photos by Brad Camp.

KINGSTON — Onboard the Spirit of Kingston Monday morning, halfway to Seattle, commuter Catherine Borstad forgot her commuter worries for a moment and enjoyed the ride.

"It's a lot smoother than the Aqua Express, and it's amazing how fast we're moving," Borstad said of the Port of Kingston's new passenger boat, as the lights of Seattle slid into view.

The inaugural 5:55 a.m. sailing of the SoundRunner ferry service attracted 75 riders. About half were commuters like Borstad, eager to test the new connection to Seattle. The port's 149-seat ferry, which runs four round trips daily, is the first direct link between North Kitsap and downtown Seattle since the Aqua Express ferry discontinued service five years ago.

"This is the future of Kingston," Port Commissioner Pete DeBoer said. "This is the future of the North Kitsap Peninsula, and all the way to Port Angeles."

The first sailing of the Spirit of Kingston drew a cross section of riders, including stalwart commuters, casual travelers and ferry supporters who woke up early to experience the maiden crossing.

Laura Eccles and Pat Ryan had traveled from Port Townsend to be on the first SoundRunner sailing. Eccles and Ryan, both retired, said the ferry would be a valuable link for Jefferson County residents who usually drive to the busy Bainbridge ferry terminal to reach Seattle.

This morning the friends were on board to "do something we'd never done before and watch the sunrise," Ryan said.

They weren't the only joyriders.

On the ferry's starboard side, Jim and Renee Chrisman were riding to show their support of the ferry.

"We've been waiting for this for a long time and wanted to support it," Jim said. "I think it's an outreach, a lot of people here are connected to Seattle in one way or another."

For other riders, Monday was a testing day for the new service.

Several commuters onboard said they were still deciding whether the ferry's timetable would mesh with their work schedules.

Graham Breakwell usually rides the Kingston to Edmonds ferry. He said he and his wife pay for parking in Kingston and Edmonds and keep a car on the east side of the sound to reach their jobs in Seattle. Breakwell said whether they make SoundRunner their new routine will all depend on how the schedule impacts their day.

"I'll give it four stars right now, and reserve the last star for the timing," Breakwell said. "But they can't please everyone."

Commuters streamed off the Spirit of Kingston at Colman Dock but no new passengers came onboard for the 6:50 a.m. return trip to Kingston.

Ferry project manager Eric Osnes said he was encouraged by the commuter turnout for SoundRunner's first sailing but he hopes to see more passengers on the westbound sailings.

"It's a good start for the service," Osnes said, as the Spirit of Kingston motored back toward Kitsap. "In a few weeks it will just be the routine thing."

More passenger ferry coverage

- Port of Kingston buying passenger ferry for Seattle service

- Kingston port buys backup ferry

- Kingston welcomes passenger ferry

- Kingston passenger ferry planners don't want to repeat history

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