When you step on board the 77-foot catamaran Rachel Marie – which will make the West Seattle-Downtown Seattle run of the King County Water Taxi when this year’s service starts April 5 (new date) – you may feel a little smarter. That’s because the boat used to carry rocket scientists. True! As explained by Robert Patronsky of Four Seasons Marine, which owns the RM and its sister ship Melissa Ann – the Water Taxi for the Vashon-Downtown Seattle run – this one made shuttle runs in the Western Pacific for many years, to a US military missile-testing site. A photo inside the vessel is testimony to this:
So are signs in English and the Marshall Islands’ language, Marshallese.
More recently, the RM was on a foot-ferry passenger project in Honolulu. But we digress. The reason we asked the King County Ferry District for a sneak peek on board the Rachel Marie, which is currently at a Ballard shipyard, is because many WSB’ers asked for more details when we first reported on the Rachel Marie (with photos) last month. Ask, and we’ll do our best to make sure you receive. “Is there an outside deck?” some asked. Here it is – room for about 40 people topside, stern – a one-minute tour of where you can sit/stand outside:
There’s an inside deck upstairs, too – keep in mind, this eventually is meant to run year-round – and then, the main deck:
While the Rachel Marie is capable of carrying more than 200, Susan Whitmore with King County says it will be certified for up to 150 – any more, and they have different crewing and security requirements. Right now, they’re finishing hiring the crew – they’ve got their captains, who will be in a wheelhouse you can watch through windows at the front of the top interior deck:
Some other notes: No concessions; the county might look at that later as a revenue measure, says Whitmore, but nothing’s planned when the season starts. You can bring your own food/drink, though, and there are some tables in the main-deck seating.
(A few power outlets, too, if you just can’t stay off your laptop during the trip across the bay.) And as you probably noticed in the video clip, interior bike racks – enough to hold 18 total, no extra charge. Though the Rachel Marie has the ability to run faster than its predecessors, they’re keeping the same schedule for now – while looking for the “sweet spot” between fuel efficiency and speed. The basic fare is higher if you’re paying cash, as reported previously; Whitmore says they’ll keep taking cash “for a while,” but the farebox will be at the dock, along with an ORCA transit-card reader, and they hope eventually to install credit-card-capable ticket machines at the docks (remember, on the downtown side, they’ll be switching to Pier 50, just south of Colman Dock). Again, the new Water Taxi season starts April 5; that’s a Monday, so Whitmore says they’re not planning the kind of festivities with which they kicked off the season in past years, but might have an open house at some point. Meantime, the new dock at Seacrest needs to be finished – and then this summer, county leaders have to figure out the funding that’s needed for the service to run year-round as hoped.