QUINAULT
Class: Steel Electric Class      Length: 256'  Beam: 73' 10'' Draft: 12' 9''  Speed in Knots: 12 Max Passengers: 616 Propulsion: Diesel-Electric
Max Vehicles: 59  City Built: Oakland, Ca, as Redwood Empire Auto Deck Clearance: 13' 3'' Year Built/Re-built: 1927 /1958/1985 Official Number: D226738 Call Sign: WA9820
Meaning of Quinault: From the Quinault language: "river with a lake in the middle." It refers to both the river and lake on the Olympic Peninsula.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped, Ensenada, MX, 2009.

The Quinault seen here filling in the Kingston run in one of the last years she was in service.  Photo courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
Immortality of a sort: In 2002 the supernatural thriller The Ring was released.  Certain elements from the Japanese original film (Ringu) wouldn't translate well to American auidences,
and one of the new scene written for the film involved a run away horse on a ferryboat.  For the ferry sequence the film company rented the
Quinault from Washington State Ferries.  
While making a few changes to the boat--most notably a large steel gate at each end of the car deck--the ferry sequence is one of the most memorable in the film, particularly when the
CGI horse leaps over the side of the ferry--directly in front of the
Quinault's name.
While somewhat out of scale, the ferry receives some nice coverage, and is likely the last footage of her shot. Photos courtesy of Dreamworks.
The ferry is real, but the sound of the horn in the film is not the Quinault's.  Also, remarkably, the island does not exist , and the lighthouse is actually the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in
Newport, Oregon, demonstrating the magic of computers.
Top : The Redwood Empire on San Francisco Bay.  Second photo, in Black Ball livery.  Third,  A rare
color postcard of the
Quinault in the brief period the Steel Electrics operated in WSF livery while still
having the large car deck windows.  By 1953 all six would have the windows replaced with portholes.   
Above, the cut down hull of the
Quinault in Ensenada, Mexico, courtesy of Alex Zecha.
The M/V Redwood Empire arrived in 1927 for Northwestern Pacific
along with sisters
Mendocino and Santa Rosa.  At the time the vessels
were the most advanced type of ferry in the world.  With their steel
hulls and diesel-electric power plants, they were known as "Steel
Electrics."  This set them apart from a fleet of slightly smaller vessels
with the same type of power plant set up but with wooden hulls. (The
Wood Electrics would later become the
Klahanie, Kehloken,
Chetzemoka and the first Elwha on Puget Sound and end up working
again with their steel-hulled counter parts.)

Later absorbed by Southern Pacific Railways, the ferries joined the
Southern Pacific-Golden Gate ferry fleet and worked steadily until
1938 when the bridges shut down  nearly all auto ferry operation on
San Francisco Bay.

In 1940 Captain Alexander Peabody's Puget Sound Navigation
Company (Black Ball Line) bought all six Steel Electric ferries for
$300,001.00--less than half the cost it had taken to build just one
vessel 13 years earlier.  The vessels were all towed north to start their
careers on Puget Sound.

Redwood Empire was renamed Quinault and went to work on the
Bremerton-Seattle run while the Santa Rosa and Fresno went under
an extensive conversion to single-ended vessels.

The Steel Electrics were considered too slow for the route, which is
why Peabody had the other two converted to single-enders with bigger
engines. (As the
Willapa and Enetai they could sail about 15-16 knots,
four or so knots over their diesel-electric sisters.) After being relieved
on the Bremerton run, the
Quinault went over to the Seattle-
Manchester and Seattle-Bainbridge runs, then over to the Harper
(later Southworth)-Vashon-Fauntleroy runs.

The State of Washington took over ferry operations in 1951, and but
for a brief stint on the Seattle-Winslow run in 1951-53, kept the
Quinault working at Vashon where she remained mainly until she was
scheduled to be refurbished in 1985. Vashon Island residents actually
formed a committee to prevent the state from changing the wooden
cabin of the
Quinault, feeling it would ruin the vessel's historic status.  
In the end, the cabin was replaced--but kept to a much more original
cabin foot print than the
Klickitat had ended up with.  The forward
observation rooms, while modified, were left intact and the crews’
quarters we placed aft of the wheelhouses as they had originally been.

After being refurbished, the
Quinault went back to work at her old
route, but as time wore on she became too small for the route and was
placed in reserve status.  By the late 1990's and into the 21st century
would find her filling in where needed for maintenance schedules at
Vashon, Port Townsend, and the inter-island vessel in the San Juans.  
Occasionally she would work in as a third boat if one of the larger
vessels was not available at Edmonds-Kingston or even at Mukilteo.

When issues with the
Klickitat's hull were revealed in the spring of
2007 and when it was discovered that the
Illahee's stern tubes were in
poor condition, the
Quinault was pulled from service. Her stern tubes
were replaced, but a more thorough inspection of the hull revealed
more corrosion than first expected.  With all the layers of paint inside
and out removed, it was revealed that fully 60% of the hull would need
to be replated--and that was still with 30% of the paint left to be
removed.

WSF and the state were faced with a huge problem. Continue
dumping money into the 80-year-old vessels, which had already
reached $7 million per vessel, or stop the work and scrap the vessels.
It was decided to retire the vessels.

Work on the
Quinault was stopped.  She was given a quick coat of
bottom paint and sealed up to make her suitable for mothballing.  She
was towed to Eagle Harbor, while the state made attempts to sell all
four vessels.

In September of 2008 all four Steel Electrics were to be sold to
Environmental Recycling Systems. The boats were be towed to Mexico
for scrapping, but the deal fell through.  A local buyer came
forward and wanted to purchase the boats to reuse them in some
capacity but was unable to find moorage.

On June 19th, 2009, the sale of the four ferries for $200,000.00 was
completed to Eco Planet Recycling, Inc. of Chula Vista, California. In
August 2009 the ferry was towed out of Eagle Harbor for the last time.
The
Quinault made the trip to Mexico uneventfully and was scrapped
as planned.