Here's an interesting picture of when the Hyak ran around in
Anacortes on April 14th, 1986. All 250 people on board were
safely evacuated. The Coast Guard determined that a
navigational error caused the accident. About $200,000.00
damage was done to the ferry.
She was called the "time capsule boat", her vintage
interior making her somewhat of a floating museum of the
Ever the workhorse, the Hyak, reliable to the last, had the
distinction of becoming an inadvertent curiosity due to
lack of funds in the late 1990's. The gutting of WSF's
budget in the wake of car tab tax elimination in 1999
meant they Hyak didn't get the same mid-life upgrades
like Yakima and Kaleetan.
Over the next decade and a half, the ferry was patched
up, cleaned and kept in service, with the eye still toward
retirement during her entire last decade of service. The
last major work done on the ferry included getting the
refurbished engines from the Jumbo Class and an
elevator installed. This retirment date outward, which was
first scheduled as early as 2008.
Several things happened in the fleet, including the
sudden withdrawal of the Steel Electrics in 2007. Plans to
retire the Hyak quietly vanished.
Realizing that the Hyak could be fully refurbished for an
additional twenty years of service, the legislature
budgeted in $20 million to finish the work on the ferry that
had been coming in fits and starts over the
years--including a much needed interior updating. Bit by
bit, the money vanished, as did the idea of a custom
hybridization of her propulsion system.
The Hyak slipped past tipping point where in the long
run, it was cheaper to replace her rather than rebuild
her. With a backlog of $46 million in repairs and
upgrades (one wonders if that included the asbestos
mitigation or not) it simply was not practical to put the
money into a vessel which, at best, had eight years left of
service life in her.
With the Suquamish coming online, and an additional
$25 million dumped into the Elwha in steel repairs, the
Hyak's fate was all but assured.. Given the precarious
state of the drive motors of the entire class, and the
continuing issues with deteriorating steel, not investing
in the Hyak from an economic point made the most
sense. Her retirement date moved up from 2020 to 2019.
WSF and the governor had requested additional funds to
keep her running through October when her Coast Guard
certification expired (and without significant renewals and
upgrades, she was not expected to keep) but the
legislature nixed the funds, leaving the summer of 2019
precariously balanced with no relief boat in the event of
Fittingly, the mighty Hyak ended her career on the same
run she started out on. 30 June, 2019, saw the ferry
make her last revenue crossing from Seattle to
Bremerton, where, 52 years earlier, almost to the day,
she had sent that other beloved icon of Puget Sound into
The Hyak will not be sold as an operating vessel, leaving
little doubt that her next stop will be the scrap yard. A
victim of her own reliability, the Hyak will always be
remembered as a steady workhorse, and where time
seemed perpetually stuck in 1967.
Some new tile, some new upholstery, but all in the original color scheme. The Hyak
looks almost the same today as she did in 1967. One notable change--the lighting.
The old "egg crate" style fixtures were all replaced, as they rattled horribly. Photo
courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
Official Number: 508160 Call Sign: WX9439 Length: 382' 2" Beam: 73' 2" Draft: 18' 6'' Auto Deck Clearance: 16' Horsepower: 8,000 Speed in Knots: 17
Max Passengers: 2000 Max Vehicles: 144 City Built: San Diego Year Built/Re-built: 1967
Name Translation: Chinook jargon: "fast" or "speedy."
The Hyak making one of her final crossings to Bremerton, 30 June 2019. Photo courtesy of Matt Masuoka.