Would You Like Drydock in the Spring?

A note from Colleen:
Riley Starks, of the Willows Inn, is looking for support for a Spring drydock, rather than continuing to pull the ferry in September for maintenance. When I moved here 20 years ago, drydock was in always in May, and it seemed to work much better for all the folks that wanted to enjoy the last glorious month of Summer here on the island, as well as island businesses.  

From: Riley Starks <innkeeper@willows-inn.com>   To: lummiferry@gmail.com
Date: Sat, Jul 2, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Subject: Drydock

I am hearing comments against moving drydock from September to April (or May), and would like to see if anyone out there would be interested and have the energy to create a petition showing support for such a move. It seems likely that, given the present feelings expressed by task force members, unless some serious support for the move is expressed, it will not happen. Chandler crunched the numbers for last September and found that there was not a significant increase in revenue. I think that one month of data did not fairly represent the likely increase in September traffic if it were known that there wouln never be a drydock that month.

All of us in the tourist industry know that September is one of the 3 busiest travel months of the year, especially here in the San Juans. The state ferry system keeps its summer surcharge through September, and my friends on other islands tell me that September is equivalent to july in terms of sales. I think there are a lot of islanders who agree with me that commerce is important to this island. We employ 34 islanders at the Willows, and our payroll is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars being circulated right here in our community. There is no logical reason that drydock should be scheduled in one of the busiest times of the year for tourism, hurting all island business including the reefnet fishery. If anyone is willing to come forward, it would be much appreciated.

Riley Starks,  Proprietor
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island
New York Times Top 10 Restaurants in the World Worth a Plane Ride
2579 West Shore Dr
Lummi Island, WA 98262



11 thoughts on “Would You Like Drydock in the Spring?

  1. Yes, I remember when dry dock started the week after Memorial day instead of Labor Day. That was nice. I preferred that date then. But now, for my native plant nursery business, my busy season is March through May. I would lose thousands of dollars in off-island sales if dry dock was BEFORE Memorial day. If dry dock was in April or May it would kill my nursery business.

    • I’d prefer a summer, rather than a spring or fall drydock, for efficiency/cost of ferry work, as Jim points out, but also because I think that the island is at its loveliest when car traffic is diminished.

      In a September vs May contest, I’ll vote for September every time.

  2. I would support such a move back to May. Like it or not, we are a tourist and part-timer destination for many people. Why shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to picking a month with relatively the same weather patterns?
    May or September are about the same. If we can support our local business owners and their employees and families, including lot’s of B&B’s, then why not.
    I’m in.

  3. When the dry dock occurred in June in meant that when school let out their was no car ferry service for family vacations. This was the basis behind the change. It appears that any time you choose somebody will find a reason why it is no good.

  4. I like drydock in the spring. The attitude is hopeful, the weather promises to get better rather than worse, the days are growing longer…. it all makes drydock something to celebrate rather than dread. It is getting ready for summer, not closing up and battening down for winter. I vote SPRING!

  5. I spoke to two shipyards yesterday. The two best months for shipyard availability and more rapid turn-around are July and August. One shipyard owner went as far to say that these would be the only months that costs might be lower. Simply these are the months that nearly all the working Vessels are on-the-water and the yards are mostly empty.

    In the winter and spring of the year they have the Alaskan Fleet in for repair as most have to be on Station from May on, the last are finished in June, In the fall the working fleet is coming off-the-water and getting work done to beat the Springtime rush and Alaska Crab Boats.are preparing for the winter fishery..

    The worst painting months are November to May and perhaps beyond depending on weather. In these months paint takes longer to dry and tarping, which runs up the labor costs, is likely needed. May and June are variable painting months depending on the weather, September would be the next best month after July and August. They both said October and May are similar in yard use volume and painting delay. I personally know that the Pierce County Ferry Stailacoom II spent two extra weeks in the yard in the early part of this year due to bad painting weather.

    When asked the question is there better availability in April than September, the answer was no, and it is likely that the Vessel would be in the yard longer in April due to taking longer to paint.

    Just reporting what I was told by two well respected area shipyards.

    Jim Dickinson

  6. Interesting how many more ‘likes’ than ‘needs’ are represented in the comments. And clearly there are competing needs for different businesses. Riley’s thinks that his business would benefit from a shift to spring; John tells us his business would be devastated by That shift. Contractors, including for heavy materials, do much of their work in summer (curious that no contractors have spoken up here on anything; I hope they’ve been expressing their needs to the Task Force.)

    Here’s a different idea re: tourist traffic and dry dock. Make dry dock in July or August (may be cheaper, faster) AND some enterprising islander could start a car/ibke/moped rental business (or, transportation could be part of summer rental charges for each B&B or Inn). Then tourists won’t need to drive across for the 2-3 weeks of dry dock, or even other times. I imagine that contractors shouldn’t be hurt much — they already aptly plan for the Sept dry dock so they have needed materials on island during that time.

    Of course, parking problems would abound, especially if we lose the leased secure Gooseberry Pt parking area — and islanders keep moving all cars (but one) they own to the mainland during dry dock.

  7. I have no business or kids at home. I would like to see it in April as the weather is as predictable as September & because we use the ferry more in Sept…
    I also have relative’s that travel in Sept more that have to live off island because of the difficulties getting on & off with the disabilities.
    The ferry also used more in Sept than April by tourist, friends & relatives than April.
    Isn’t that what we want, more money from tourist?

  8. As someone who has recreational property on the island, I would support a May dry dock. Generally, September weather is still very favourable and it would seem a waste not to be able enjoy the experience on Lummi Island. I visit the island more often in summer than I do in spring. I would not want the dry dock in July or August because I generally zip down for the weekend with my children who are out of school.

  9. Again, Tree Frog Farm Nursery is very dependent that a regular ferry service runs March 15-June10. If the ferry is in dry dock it would be more than disasterous for my business. Sorry I can’t be more supportive.

    • The Task Force is recommending not shifting to spring, I believe. Renting the passenger ferry is ~$7000/wk in September but only $3000 in April or May.

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