The Herron Island ferry approaches the mainland dock. It recently came back into service after inspection and new paint. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

Every other year, the Herron Island ferry –– the Charlie Wells –– has an out-of-water inspection, which means that island residents need to make other arrangements for getting to and from the mainland.

The Coast Guard-mandated inspection takes place in even-numbered years. This year the boat was out of service Sept. 15-29, according to Herron Island manager Laudia Ellsworth.

The boat went into a Tacoma shipyard, where workers and ferry crew did minor maintenance and painted the superstructure after it was scraped. At the same time, the Coast Guard inspected the engine and mechanical parts.

While the ferry was out of service, some island residents parked their cars on the mainland and traveled to and fro on small boats. Others took vacations, “and some of them just stock up on groceries and just stay on the island for the duration,” Ellsworth said.

Last year, the ferry was out of service for three weeks while the engine was replaced. “We thought that would just take two weeks, but it took three weeks,” she said. “But the new engine is very popular because its significantly quieter than the old one and cleaner and more fuel efficient.”

The 65-foot-long ferry carries about 60,000 passengers a year.

“We also average about 33,000 vehicles a year and about 3,600 round trips,” Ellsworth added. “We keep track of the numbers because we have to report them to the Corps of Engineers every year.”

Because the vessel is owned by the residents, the only way you can get to Herron Island is on the ferry –– “and the only way you can get on the ferry is if youre a member of the homeowners association or a guest, or a contractor or law enforcement or fire department people,” she said.

About 120 families live full time on the island, but on summer holidays that number can swell to 1,600, she said.

 “Its a beautiful island, with gravel roads and lots of privacy,” Ellsworth said. “We have our own untreated water supply. We own our water system and also the ferry. People love it especially because its so private.”