Official Number: 636551 Call Sign: WYR7641 Length: 328' Beam: 78' 8'' Draft: 16' 6'' Auto Deck Clearance: 16' Speed in Knots: 16 Max Passengers: 1200
Max Vehicles: 124 City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1981 / 1993
Name Translation: From the Kathlamet tribe, the Chinook word calamet meaning "stone," was given to the tribe because its members lived along the rocky
stretch of the Columbia River. A city also bears its name.
The Cathlamet sails under The Brothers while on working on her new home route, the Vashon Island-Fauntleroy route. Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.
For a time, the M/V Cathlamet was likely the most notorious of the
Issaquah Class--and certainly the boat that seemed to illustrate every
mechanical malady to ever plague the class of ferries that soon to became
known as the "Citrus Class."
Upon entering service, computerized propulsion system failed and resulted
in the ferry demolishing both the docks at Clinton and Mukilteo within
weeks of one another. The ferry earned the nicknamed "Can't Land It"
and one local radio station made up a song called "The Wreck of the Ferry
Cathlamet" set to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the
At WSF and in the Department of Transportation, no one was laughing.
The ferry had caused millions in damages and was endangering the lives
of ferry riders--something had to be done and quickly. Pulled in and out of
service, the ferry became the test boat for number of different propulsion
systems, providing invaluable information that allowed the state to iron out
all the bugs. Rid of her twitchy computer system, the Cathlamet settled
down and behaved like it should have.
Paired with her sister Kittitas on the Clinton-Mukilteo run, the two sisters
were inseparable for close to two decades. The Kit and Cat were
considered "Mukilteo Boats" as they seldom ran anywhere else.
In 2003 the ferry had a much needed passenger cabin refurbishment.
The "rainbow" scheme put in place by MP& E is on the Cathlamet's had
been a muddy brown-not what one immediately thinks of when the word
"rainbow" is mentioned. Her refurbished cabin is more in line with rainbow
colors--blue and a very striking ruby red. This color had been used a bit
on the Puyallup, but the extensive use on the Cathlamet sets her apart
from the rest of the vessels in the fleet.
After nearly 20 years calling Mukilteo-Clinton home, the Cathlamet was
displaced by the addition of the Olympic Class ferry Tokitae in the summer
The Cathlamet moved to Vashon Island run to replace the Klahowya,
pairing her with sisters Issaquah and (until the Tillikum is retired in 2019)
Current plans have the Kitsap joining the Cathlamet and Issaquah on the
triangle route in 2019.
|Homage to the Olympic...
Mindful of the route the Cathlamet served for so many
years, Washington State Ferries placed several relics
from her predecessor on board--the wheel and telegraph
from the M/V Olympic.
While the Olympic spent the lion's share of her time on
the Mukilteo run, she did spent the last part of her career
on South Vashon Island working the Point
Defiance-Tahlequah run, making the artifacts on the
Cathlament not at all out of place. (Unlike the
Chetzemoka, fully decked out with artifacts pertaining to
Two shots of the Cathlamet's passenger cabin, showing the bright red chairs and details of the
floor tile. Photo by the author.