Larkspur ferry boat shelved into 2016 after blunder

Golden Gate Ferry’s M.V. Mendocino will remain out of service for several more months after faulty refurbishment designs led to its water jets spinning in the wrong direction.

The 141-foot ferry that runs between Larkspur and San Francisco has been in a shipyard for midlife refurbishment since April 20. Its gearboxes, shafting and four water jets that propel the vessel were removed to be replaced with new, more capable equipment.

That was the plan, but the new water jets and gearboxes, selected by Australia-based Incat Crowther and installed pursuant to the firm’s design drawings, were fundamentally incompatible.

The equipment was installed by Marine Group Boat Works, the San Diego-based shipyard performing the refurbishment, Instead of powering the vessel, the water jets sucked water from the transom and pumped it through the bottom of the vessel as if clearing debris from the water jets, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District officials said.

The water jets were spinning in the wrong direction to work properly with the gearboxes. The problem was detected in October during a sea trial of the M.V. Mendocino.

“Needless to say, this appears to be a major engineering failure by I-C,” district officials said in a report referring to Incat Crowther.

The report was made to the district board of directors’ Building and Operating Committee, which will meet Thursday at the Bridge Toll Plaza.

The 450-passenger M.V. Mendocino was to be back in service this winter, but that has been delayed until late spring or early summer 2016, district spokeswoman Priya Clemens said.

The district plans to use a $560,000 Federal Transit Administration grant to remedy the situation, and has been in touch with Incat Crowther and its insurer.

Clemens said Wednesday:

“Our lawyers talked to their attorneys. There is no litigation. We anticipate they will pay to fix it.”

The immediate issue is that Larkspur-San Francisco ferry users are currently relying on the 400-seat M.V. Del Norte. Clemens said:

“Fifty people are being left behind in San Francisco waiting for the next ferry.”

The board of directors is scheduled to approve using the $560,000 federal grant on Friday to get the M.V. Mendocino back into service as soon as possible, Clemens said.

It’s the second time the $10 million, three-deck M.V. Mendocino has been refurbished since going into service on Sept. 10, 2001.