Official Number: 643291 Call Sign: WRA9001 Length: 328' Beam: 78' 8'' Draft: 15' 6'' Horsepower: 5,000 Speed in Knots: 16
Max Passengers: 1076 (SOLAS)/1200 domestic Vehicles: 124 City Built: Seattle ear Built/Re-built: 1981/2004
Name Translation: From the Chelan language: Tsill-ane, meaning
"deep water." The tribe lived along Lake Chelan, which is very deep. A city, county and river also bear the name.
The Chelan speeds past Mount Baker in the summer of 2015. Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.
The Chelan's early career was spent on the Kingston-Edmonds run, where
she worked alongside the Yakima. For many years the pairing worked well,
but traffic on the route steadily built up and finally the Chelan could no
longer handle the traffic and a second Super Class was added.
Cut free from Kingston, the Chelan was often used as the "spare" Issaquah
while the others in the class went into the yard for being overhauled and
having the upper car deck added to increase capacity. Summers would
most often find her working in the San Juan Islands.
When it became apparent that the Evergreen State was nearing retirement,
and a replacement ferry would need to be upgraded to SOLAS (Safety Of
Life At Sea) standards to work the international route between Anacortes
and Sidney, British Columbia, the ferry system looked within the fleet to
replace it. The popular tourist route has been operating since 1922, and
was generally handled by the Elwha, but the larger Super Class is very
uneconomical to run. A downward turn in the number of passengers (a
trend that has since reversed) also suggested that upgrading a smaller
vessel (nixing the Kaleetan, which had originally been considered for the
SOLAS upgrades) seemed to be the wisest move.
The Chelan was chosen to fill the role. The first step in the SOLAS upgrade
was to expand her to carry 130 cars (with the addition of more safety
equipment, revised to 124.) She emerged from the yard in 2001 with
gleaming white paint and the expanded car deck.
Four years later, after the Sidney run was discontinued, then restored to 9
month service, the Chelan went in for the conversion work. At the same
time as the additional safety equipment was added, the passenger cabin
was totally refurbished. She emerged from the yard and like the Kitsap,
she, retained some of her original "rainbow" color--in this case orange.
Added to the palette were teal, black and a powder blue. Historic prints of
Lake Chelan brand apple labels adorn the walls, along with historic and
contemporary photos of the Lake Chelan area, and quilt artwork by Erika
After the conversions were done, the Chelan was scheduled to take over
the International run in the fall of 2006. However, on April 7th, 2006 the
Elwha suffered at catastrophic failure of a drive motor and would spend the
next 15 months out of service. The next day the Chelan was hurriedly
moved up to Anacortes to take over the route.
The Chelan spent the winter schedule of 09/10 at Todd Shipyard. Part of
her annual maintenance included her first paint job since 2001. The rust
that had become an embarrassment has been erased and the ferry looks
sparkly new and ready to serve the Anacortes-Sidney run for the spring
and summer months.
The Chelan as she looks today. Mouse over for the "before" shots, taken in roughly the
same area. In photo 1, the brochure rack is where the Duty Free ship now resides. Before
photos courtesy of Brandon Moser. The after shots were taken by the author.