Up until the summer of 2014, the Klahowya was a record-breaker in the fleet: she
held down the same route with very rare exception for over fifty years.
Entering service on December 9th, 1958, the ferry served almost exclusively the
Southworth-Fauntleroy-Vashon route. Such a fixture on the route, nearly all photos
taken around the north end of island showed either the Klahowya or another long
time worker on the route, the Quinault.
Her sister Tillikum joined the route after new vessels replaced her at Kingston, and
for many years the two sisters worked alongside one another, with the Issaquah
acting as the number 1 ferry. A few times in the 2000's the Evergreen State was
moved to the route to fill in, creating an extremely unique moment in ferryboating: all
the sisters of a class working the same route.
The sudden withdrawal of the Steel Electric Class resulted in some serious boat
shuffling for Washington State Ferries. For the first time the Klahowya left her home
waters for the San Juan Islands to work as the inter-island vessel--where crews took
an instant liking to the ferry and expressed their disappointment when she left to
return to Vashon Island.
After earning her gold stripes in 2008, the Klahowya started showing some signs of
her age. Her WWII era drive motors became a little more fragile, but with careful
care of engineering crews both on board and at Eagle Harbor, the ferry has been
In 2014 with the Evergreen State "retired" the Klahowya left for her first new
permanent assignment in her career: inter-island vessel in the San Juan Islands.
After a series of mechanical failures plagued the fleet in the summer of 2014, the
idea to shuffle the Klahowya off to retirement was reconsidered. It was decided
(wisely) to keep her in service until at least the Chimacum was ready to take her
place on the Seattle-Bremerton run.
The Klahowya is now working her final months in service. The Chimacum, ahead of
schedule, is due to start service in the late winter/early spring. The Klahowya has
been tentatively scheduled to be de-crewed and retired in March of 2017. Her
replacement in the Islands will likely be the 90-car Sealth, as the Tillikum is being
assigned as a back up/emergency relief vessel.
|The refurbished interior of the Klahowya, and the galley. Photos courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
Official Number: D277872 Call Sign: WK7107 Length: 310' 2'' Beam: 73' 2'' Draft: 15' 6'' Auto Deck Clearance: 13' 10 Speed in Knots: 13
Horsepower: 2,500 Max Passengers: 800 Max Vehicles: 87 City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1958 / 1995
Name Translation: Native American/Chinook: "greetings."
The Klahowya in the twilight of her career, seen here on October 23, 2016. Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.
|They didn't call it the Evergreen
Fleet for nothing...
Washington State Ferries did its level best to distinguish itself from its predecessor, the
Puget Sound Navigation Company from the moment it was created. Maintenance
improved, older vessels were spruced up, and schedules were expanded.
One area where the state made its mark was its trademark green color. It was soon
everywhere in the fleet, and liberally applied... and sometimes not to good effect. (See
the pages on the Kalakala.)
For the new builds, the state went with the now familiar green color scheme. Nearly
identical in appearance, the Evergreen State Class all came out of the yard with acres
of green upholstery and tile.
While certainly crisp looking, it did have an unintended consequence. The vessels
were dark on the interior. In winters in particular, they seemed cave-like--something
not evident here on this shot of the Klahowya taken when she was new--and likely the
result of a timed exposure.
Courtesy Washington State Archives. Colorized by the author.