Out With The Old, In With The New In Washington State

The EVERGREEN STATE was the first ferry specifically built for the Washington State Ferry system.  Photo by Steven J. Pickens.

The EVERGREEN STATE was the first ferry specifically built for the Washington State Ferry system. Photo by Steven J. Pickens.

The first of the many ferries specifically built for the Washington State Ferry system has been retired.  The EVERGREEN STATE made her final run on the inter-island route in the San Juan Islands on June 29, 2014.  The State Of Washington took over a diverse fleet of ferry operations in June of 1951 consisting mainly of older, second-hand vessels.  Wishing to modernize, they made plans during 1953 to build a brand new vessel.  The result was the EVERGREEN STATE, which emerged in 1954.  The ship has a length of 310 feet, a beam of 73 feet and a 15 foot draft.  As designed, she could carry nearly 1,000 passengers and 87 cars.  In her early years, the ferry was used on the Seattle to Bainbridge Island run, but in 1959 transferred to the San Juan Islands, a beautiful American archipelago bordering British Columbia.  She would remain there for most of her long career.

The EVERGREEN STATE, completed in 1954 was designed to carry 100 cars and 1,000 passengers.  Postcard from the collection of Shawn J. Dake

The EVERGREEN STATE, completed in 1954 was designed to carry 100 cars and 1,000 passengers. Postcard from the collection of Shawn J. Dake

The EVERGREEN STATE was the first of a class of three ferries built by the Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Company, the other two being named the KLAHOWYA (1958) and the TILLIKUM (1959).  The names of those two were originally intended to be VACTION STATE and WASHINGTON STATE respectively, but in the end all of the ferries in the system were given native American-derived names, the lone exception being  EVERGREEN STATE.   The ship was given a thorough refit in 1988 and remained in international service to Sidney, B.C. until May 2003 when new SOLAS regulations forced her off the run.  She was then used as a relief vessel until November 20, 2007 when it was placed back on the inter-island run in the San Juan Islands.  As a senior member of Washington State Ferries, the EVERGREEN STATE was given a pair of gold bands around the funnels when the ship turned 50 in October 2004.   At 60 years old, she was the oldest remaining vessel in the Washington State Ferries fleet at the time of her retirement.    At least temporarily, her place is being taken by her sister the KLAHOWYA.

 The superstructure of the TOKITAE was brought by barge from the Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders yard at Whidbey Island, to the Vigor Shipyard where it was joined to the hull.  This view was taken upon arrival, March 3, 2013.  Photo by S.S. Sol Duc, Wikimedia Commons.

The superstructure of the TOKITAE was brought by barge from the Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders yard at Whidbey Island, to the Vigor Shipyard where it was joined to the hull. This view was taken upon arrival, March 3, 2013. Photo by S.S. Sol Duc, Wikimedia Commons.

Coinciding with the oldest vessel’s retirement, the newest member of the fleet, the m.v. TOKITAE entered service on July 1, 2014.  It will be the first of three new ferries designed to carry 144 cars and up to 1,500 passengers.  The TOKITAE is 362 feet long, with a beam of 83.4 feet and draft of 24.6 feet.  Built at a cost of $144 million the construction was rather unique.  The hull was built by the Vigor Industrial Shipyard in Seattle and moved out of the construction building into a drydock on March 2, 2013.  The superstructure was constructed separately at the Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders of Freeland, Whidbey Island, Washington and barged over to join the hull.  The two sections were merged on March 5, 2013.  By June, 2014 it was ready to run sea trials prior to entry into service.

The TOKITAE is the first of the new "Olympic Class" ferries.  In this photo taken June 4, 2014 the vessel is on its sea trials.  Photo by Steven J. Pickens.  © 2014.

The TOKITAE is the first of the new “Olympic Class” ferries. In this photo taken June 4, 2014 the vessel is on its sea trials. Photo by Steven J. Pickens. © 2014.

The new ferry develops 6,000 total horsepower to drive it at a speed of 17 knots.  This ship and the two vessels to follow are collectively known as the “Olympic Class” and are designed to serve all routes and terminals in the Washington State Ferry system.  State law requires that all vessels are to be built in Washington.  Following the TOKITAE, the next ferry has been named SAMISH and is expected to enter service in 2015.  The three “Olympic Class” ferries are intended to replace all three “Evergreen State Class” ferries built in the 1950’s, two of which currently still remain in service.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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