New Ferry Links the University of Washington with South Lake Union

This is our favorite story of the week! What a burst of wonderful news after a hard month of local tragedies…

From the Seattle Times website with permission…..

Across the heart-shaped lake in the middle of the city, a tiny 14-passenger ferry cruises hourly between South Lake Union and the University of Washington.

Mist sprayed over the bow Thursday afternoon while Capt. Matt Stark steered clear of seaplanes, duckboats, kayaks and tribal fishing nets under a blue sky. The boat cruised at seven knots for the 22-minute trip.

The Seattle mini-Ferry began Sept. 5. Its founder, Capt. Larry Kezner, wanted to operate the whole summer but took longer than expected to secure permits. Still, he’s been able to carry Huskies football fans, and make hourly round-trips.

Kezner’s business model is predicated on starting as small as possible.

After a long career in maritime electronics, Kezner, 66, obtained a captain’s license and worked temporarily on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, which inspired him to launch his own tour-boat business. For years, he has operated the larger Fremont Avenue, a party boat that regularly takes a Sunday ice-cream cruise.

He bought a pair of retired Navy whaleboats — “built to carry 20 drunk sailors back from shore to ship,” he says — that sip only 1/3-gallon of diesel per hour. They’ve been renamed the Espresso and the Mocha.

Kezner contrasts his philosophy to transit foot ferries that are underutilized and require subsidies.

At a fare of $5 per one-way ride, the enterprise could break even on 55 passengers a day, he said. He said he had 30 or 35 passengers on Thursday, but some days hasn’t had any. Service will continue through October, then resume in the spring.

“This is something I’ve always done, to try and make something out of nothing,” he said.

While there’s not yet a commuter market, the Mocha satisfied passengers who took a long lunch break Thursday.

“I would say we’d use this three times per summer, that’s my prediction,” said Jed Thompson, among five UW employees returning to work.

“I would probably try to find ways to use it, if I ever need to go back and forth,” said Kathryn Reniewicki, cruising back to work at Experience Music Project. “I would do it if I was commuting, absolutely.”

The boat rocked a bit from a dinghy wake, but its high bow and foam-filled walls provide stability. The Mocha cruised easily into 30 mph headwinds last week, Kezner said.

The south dock sits next to a floating Thursday farmers market aboard the tour boat Virginia V, along with the historic Arthur Foss wooden tugboat, the Center for Wooden Boats and a South Lake Union streetcar stop.

Seattle mini-Ferry operates one boat on this run but could add a second if ridership were to pick up. Kezner said he’s designing a diesel-electric hybrid vessel that would carry 18 passengers and be partially covered. Trips could then be added to form a triangular circuit with the Fremont neighborhood.

Comments are closed.