Official Number: 624022 Call Sign:WSD3625 Length: 328' Beam: 78' 8'' Draft: 16' 6'' Speed in Knots: 16 Auto Deck Clearance: 16'
Max Passengers: 1200 Max Vehicles: 124 City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1979 / 1989 Name Translation: Samish/Snoqualmie Tribes, Lushoot dialect—
“place of the Squak People”
The Issaquah departing Fauntleroy. Photo courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
Back in the 1970's, the Issaquahs were replacing a fleet of old wooden hulled boats. The state wasn't looking for anything particularly extravagant or
"luxurious,” just simple, comfortable, reliable boats.
Originally the plan was for three boats to look like the drawing below. However, the state recalled the bid after the only bidder--a shipyard in Texas--came in
64% over the state's cost of 36 million. The plans were shelved.
The Issaquah's refurbished interior has made use of darker colors, and bears more than a
passing resemblance to the Sealth. Photos courtesy of Zack Heistand. Mouse over for the
before photos, courtesy of Ross Williams.
The original concept for the Issaquah class looks suspiciously like the current drawings from Washington State Ferries for the new 144 car class vessels. The big difference here is the
center section of the concept of the Issaquah was designed to be cut out to allow expansion of the vessel, as B.C. Ferries had started to do about the time the plans for the what would
become the Issaquah Class were drawn up. Courtesy of Johan Iversen.
Why Equitable lost the bid
and quality control issues...
While there was some controversy to Marine
Power and Equipment getting the contract to build
the six ferries, what cannot be denied is that the
Equitable design was nothing like what the state
wanted. The open deck vessel was not suitable to
Washington waters, and the design harkened back
to the old San Diego built some forty years earlier.
To the right, the Issaquah's shortcomings were
painfully obvious. This warped bulkhead was used
as evidence as to the shoddy quality of
construction--along stairs steps that were different
sizes, paint slopped all over the place and peeling
wallpaper--all evident within three months of
It took time to set the Issaquah Class right, but
they are now some of the most reliable vessels in
A year later the plan was resurrected. The idea of being able to slice the
boats up for expansion was dropped. Instead, six boats would be built as
inexpensively as possible. To make each boat seem individual, slight
changes in the color of the burlap wallpaper, paint on bulkhead walls and
floor tile was done. Given that there were six vessels, that gave the builders
six different colors to work from. As the boats began to appear, they were
publicized as the "Rainbow Class" because of the different colors of each
Unfortunately, the cheerful term for the class was not well received as the
problems with them began to appear. Reliability was thrown out the window
within the first few months, and the boats were about as "plain Jane" and un-
rainbow like as you could get. Even the foam rubber seats were too hard
and quickly drew complaints for being nearly unbearable to sit upon for any
length of time.
The name, not surprisingly, never stuck. Overshadowed by the
mechanical problems that at first plagued the class, the cutesy "rainbow"
moniker quietly died. Commuters were not taken in by a bit of tile and paint,
and it was patently obvious that the vessels were virtually identical inside. As
time went on the six ferries were referred to by first vessel in the fleet the
"Issaquah Class” and the only place you'll find them listed as the "Rainbow
Class" are on very old postcards.
The Issy went into service in 1979. Her "rainbow" color had been orange--a
color that is no longer present anywhere on the boat. The Issaquah was the
first to be refurbished in the class, and emerged from the yard with a far more
comfortable interior than had previously been installed. Different shades of
blue and tan were used in the main cabin with touches of red in the
redesigned galley. Commuters familiar with the boring interior previously
installed on the boat found themselves on a virtually new ferry. A far more
comfortable vessel, the Issaquah was now adorned with Native American
artwork on cedar panels and framed historic photographs throughout the
The Issaquah spent her early years on the Bremerton run, but shifted
around for time in the 1980's. After being refurbished though, she was
shifted over the Southworth-Vashon-Fauntleroy run when added capacity was
needed. She's been there for well over a decade now, and is largely
considered a "Vashon"ferry.
Her interior was redone in the early 1990's as a test for materials for the
Jumbo Mark II class, and had started to wear out. The Issaquah went in for
refurbishment and emerged looking not unlike the Sealth, using darker blues
which are less likely to show discoloration.