In addition to honoring the Suquamish Tribe, the new
Olympic Class ferry will also be paying homage to an
earlier predecessor--the passenger vessel M/V
Suquamish of 1914.
The first Suquamish bears the historic distinction of
being the first diesel powered passenger vessel on
Puget Sound, and, according to Wikipeida, the first
diesel passenger vessel in the United States.
(Photo courtesy of the Washington State Archives.)
From Wikipedia: Suquamish was built for and originally owned by the Kitsap County Transportation Company (“KCTC”), which operated the vessel between Pier 3, Seattle (now Pier
54) and Poulsbo, Washington, making three round trips a day, with 14 landings on each trip. These 42 daily landings tested the endurance of the boat, as the clutch and reverse gears
were constantly in use at these landings and the vessel was worked many times under the strain of a spring line tied to the wharves. In 1915, it was reported that Suquamish was
satisfactory and economical as compared with the steam-driven KCTC vessels.
The vessel was re-engined in 1922 with 125 horsepower Gulowsen-Grei diesel. In 1923, KCTC had Suquamish on the Fletcher-Bay-Brownsville-Manzanita route.
In 1930, the Puget Sound Navigation Company (“PSN”), the dominant passenger and ferry concern on Puget Sound, secured a mail contract for the San Juan Islands. PSN put the
steamers Monticello and Mohawk on the route, but there wasn't enough business to sustain two steamers of their size, and so PSN secured the use of Suquamish from KCTC. Suquamish
was placed on a route running from Bellingham to San Juan Island, where it made a connection with Mohawk. Suquamish was also used on holiday excursions. The mail contract expired
in December 1930, and Suquamish was returned to KCTC.
Suquamish was out of service and idle from about 1931 to 1938. In 1935, PSN acquired KCTC and the entire KCTC fleet, including Suquamish. PSN sold Suquamish to the Lake
Washington Shipyard, which in turn, in late 1938, sold Suquamish to R.G. Gibson. Suquamish was re-powered and used as a charter vessel. After some ownership changes, Suquamish
ended up working as a commercial fishing vessel in Canada under the name Terry.
The keel for the fourth Olympic Class, which was approved in last years seemingly never-ending legislative session, was put down in January of this year.
The Transportation Commission announced that the vessel will be named Suquamish. The other contender, Cowlitz, didn't have the support that Suquamish did.
"Sammamish" was on the table as well, but the Coast Guard objected (and rightly so) to it being too close to the already existing Samish. Crews had also
expressed concerns over the two very similar-sounding names. According to the article in the Kitsap Sun, because of the objection of the Coast Guard,
"Sammamish" was dropped from consideration.
The Suquamish will be assigned to the Mukilteo-Clinton run seasonally, from Mid-May to October, and filling in for a Super or other Olympic Class for the rest of the
Check out the state's official page HERE.
Photo of the Suquamish courtesy of WSDOT.