JUNEAU -- The damaged state ferry Columbia left Wednesday for repairs.
Kurt Parkan, Department of Transportation deputy commissioner, said tugs will tow the Columbia as far as Ketchikan, where it will await scheduling at the Ketchikan Shipyard or another repair facility.
''At least we're getting it closer to where it's finally going to go for its repair work,'' Parkan said.
Parkan said two tugboats will ease the Columbia out of port and just one will escort it for most of the trip.
''It can still steer,'' he said.
The trip is expected to last one to one and a half days, Parkan said. The vessel will carry a skeleton crew of about 20 people.
A fire in the engine room of the Columbia during the noon hour June 6 destroyed the vessel's electrical control panel and left it dead in the water in Chatham Strait three miles north of Tenakee Inlet.
The Columbia had departed Juneau for Sitka. All 434 passengers were evacuated onto the ferry Taku.
Alaska Marine Highway officials announced Tuesday that the Columbia will be out of service all summer. The ferry Matanuska is assuming the Columbia's Bellingham-Skagway route and the Marine Highway is reducing the number of trips north out of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, the Matanuska's regular summer route.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard completed their investigations of the fire Tuesday night, Parkan said.
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