Ferry runs aground near Seattle; no injuries reported

Just saw a video of it going aground, and I couldn’t see a bunch of “full astern” wash happening. It just looked like the whole boat was dead ship. Even if I lose a gen set and my steering, I still can go all stop or go astern.

Walla Walla is a diesel electric boat. No electrical power, no propulsion or steering.

That’d do it.

Shouldn’t the emergency generator have allowed them to maintain steering even if they lost propulsion? Maybe in NFU mode? Looking at their AIS track it appears they had no rudder on and bee lined right for the beach

You would think so, but I don’t know the minute details of Walla Walla’s electrical plant.

On some of WSF’s diesel-electric boats (of which there are 8 left, of four different classes), the main generators are only for propulsion with other loads taken by separate service generators. On others, the main generators run everything. I’m not sure which setup the Jumbos (Walla Walla and Spokane) have and how the EDG would tie into all of it (of course, definitely not for propulsion).

This class has, in each wheelhouse, a traditional steering stand plus controls (FU and NFU) at the forward windows, typically only used when landing. This being an eastbound trip, the captain would have been in the wheelhouse and would presumably have time to check other steering modes. That turn at Pt Glover comes up fast though and they had the current behind them as well.

Remember that this is a 50 year old boat so who knows what kind of EDG setup it has and how it ties into the main buss and steering pumps. As a side note, it’s also a telegraph boat - the wheelhouses don’t have direct control of the propulsion.


At 1:10 as she’s approaching the shore you can see the radar scanner turning and light smoke from the stack.

Loss of electrical power doesn’t necessarily mean the prime movers (engines) also shut down. The exhaust could also be from the emergency generator.

Wheelhouse electronics, including the radars, are most likely on battery power on a UPS setup, or something similar. Not necessarily a precise indication of what’s going on with the main power.

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Wait-- you said this boat was diesel electric. Generators drive the electric motors that turn the props. The generators are the prime mover in a diesel electric boat, unless I’m misunderstanding.

The electrical system (which includes propulsion in this case) can trip offline without the prime movers (the diesel engines) actually shutting down. Depends on what the mode of failure was.

Just trying to explain why it’s possible that exhaust can still be seen.

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That is true. I’ve seen electrical gremlins cause a cascade failure in those type of systems. In this case, a minute or two to reset everything is way too long.

The only legitimate explanation for this occurring is somebody collapsing, same as the last WSF incident. These boats have had numerous machinery failures over the years without incident. It’s not like nobody ever thought about what would happen if X or Y failed on these routes.

Been a lot of that lately, hopefully it stops soon.

WSF’s preliminary findings suggest a generator failure may have led to the M/V Walla Walla losing all power, rendering the crew unable to steer the vessel away from land.

WSF has had some bad luck over the last year. At least no one was hurt.

Sometimes the bugs crop up in surprising ways. Went through an automation upgrade on a diesel electric plant where new computers were installed. Automation was XP based, new computers were some newer version of windows, so automation was running through an emulator. Turns out the emulator was a trial version and would only run for a month before shutting down. There was no warning, just boom, no computer. There were three computers and only one was needed but we couldn’t access anything on board to figure out what was going on, we just got into the habit of rebooting the computers one at a time over a few day spread to reduce the odds of lising all at once.

It’s fun to speculate but in reality the only people who actually know haven’t said anything publically yet.

Sure, and that could be a factor in a collision with another vessel or some dock damage.

With this amount of time to put something online manually there’s either a medical incident or rank utter incompetence. This could have easily been a mass casualty incident and I hope they get it figured out.

In the instance I referred to, it wound up finally coming to a head after all three computers crapped out simultaneously which lead to a blackout nearly result in grounding. I had left by then but the blackout was more than a few hours long. It was after that the emulator issue was discovered.

Yes, but how many of them happened in Rich Pass, with a following current and coming up on a 100 deg course change with the beach straight ahead? Anecdotally, the only relatively major recent ones I can remember are the Tacoma’s switchboard catastrophe almost ten years ago (which very nearly ended up on the beach) and the Wenatchee’s engine fire on sea trials a couple years back. Both required tug assistance to what are supposed to be very redundant, reliable vessels. Both were also traced back to human factors.

Sometimes, pure dumb luck in timing changes something from a simple adrift for a few minutes scenario to what we saw here. In this one, ten minutes either way would have made quite the difference to buying more time to stay off the beach or being in open water and avoiding it entirely. At least, for a grounding, it was a pretty benign area (Orchard Rocks, for example, would have been a much bigger disaster).

The wheelhouse crew (which on this leg would have been the captain and quartermaster) was certainly alert and aware of what was going on based on the use of the whistle and PA announcements. The captain definitely called VTS before grounding (I heard it). Unless an engineer collapsed onto a panel/control stand and shut everything down, I think that can be eliminated.

Nobody on here appears to have real inside info at WSF so until official updates to the investigation are made, speculation of human vs equipment failure aren’t worth much.

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I’m still curious about why the emergency generator didn’t allow them to maintain steering at least. Wouldn’t at least one steering pump be on the emergency generator?

I’ve sailed on two tugs over the years which were required to have emergency generators, and neither had any steering hooked up to them. It’s apparently not a requirement?

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