Formerly Napa Valley. Built: built by the Union Iron Works for the Monticello Steamship Co. in 1910. Retired, 1956.
Lengeth: 231' Beam: 62' 5" Draft: 15' 3" Propulsion: four-cylinder triple-expansion engine built by the United Engineering Co. Horsepower: 2,600 horsepower,
Speed: 18 knots. Passenger Capacity: 1,700 Auto Capacity: 75
Above, the Malahat at the end of her career. The bow doors somehow made the ferry look even more awkward.
The Black Ball Years
Arriving on Puget Sound on 24 April, 1942, the ferry was the only steamer
brought up from California to receive a name change. Black Ball made no
changes to the vessel at this time, save for turning the large windows on the
car deck into portholes.
Originally intended to replace the aging Olympic on the Port Angeles-Victoria
run, the traffic on the Bremerton route called for another ferry and the
Malahat, now painted in the trademark Black Ball livery, was placed into
service on that route. Her running mates were the Kalakala, Chippewa,
Enetai and Willapa.
A little over a year later, on 18 March 1943, an errant cigarette set the
passenger cabin on fire. The Bremerton fire department responded with five
fire trucks to combat the blaze. In addition, the Navy sent out two firefighting
tugs to assist. The weight of the water being pumped into the cabin caused
the Malahat to list dangerously. Fearing that she would roll over, the ferry
was towed to Manette and beached.
Towed to Todd Shipyard the next day, a full assessment was made of the
vessel. While the passenger cabin had been totally gutted, the machinery
below decks was untouched and still in good condition. Still very much
needed, the decision was made to rebuild the vessel. The ferry was towed to
the Winslow Marine Railway & Construction Company at Winslow, Bainbridge
Island (now the Washington State Ferries repair yard) and rebuilt.
|Out of the frying pan...
The Malahat is show here at Lake Union, shortly before being towed to
Portland. Once there, she caught fire yet again--only this time she was
beyond repair and was scrapped. Courtesy PSMHS/MOHAI, Williamson
|Top: the Malahat looked before the fire. Above, after the fire. She was beached at Manette
to avoid her capsizing. Photos courtesy PSMHS/MOHAI, Williamson collection.
Back on the Bremerton run, she sailed without incident until July of 1945 when her steering gear malfunctioned off of Pleasant Beach. A second incident took
place on 14 October, 1945 when, in heavy fog, she smacked into the Liberty ship James M. Whistler. $2000.00 in damage was done to the Malahat, but the
Liberty ship was undamaged. The Malahat's captain was found to be traveling too fast for conditions and was put on probation for a year.
1946 saw the ferry idled at Harbor Island. Not included with the fleet sold to Washington State in 1951, the Malahat went in for an overhaul in May and June of
that year at the Winslow Shipyard. At this time she was fitted with bow doors. In July she went to work on the Port Angeles-Victoria run.
She only lasted on the route until 13 September, 1951. Not particularly well suited to the route, she lurched and rolled across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in
rough seas, terrifying her passengers. She only made the run two more times, on 1 and 2 October of 1951, filling in for a drydocked Chinook.
Her last service took place in 1952 where she did the night freight runs between Seattle and Port Townsend, the Chinook having dropped that port from her
schedule. Later moored on Lake Union for a time, Black Ball sold the vessel for $25,000.00 in May of 1956.
Sold again the old steamer was towed to Portland, where it was rumored she would be turned into a floating restaurant. Before any work could start on her, the
ferry caught fire on 5 September 1956 and was completely gutted. Her remains were scrapped at that time.
Largely forgotten today, and perhaps one of the goofiest looking vessels to ever sail on Puget Sound (particularly with bow doors fitted on) the Malahat was,
however a dependable vessel. While certainly not the most popular vessel ever to sail the route, she did provide invaluable service to the Seattle-Bremerton
route during WWII.
Not a particularly attractive vessel after her 1926 rebuild, the new house on the Malahat was hardly an improvement. It actually made the old steamer even
more ungainly. Now built flush-sided as the Chippewa had been, a boxy superstructure was grafted onto the curved hull. A modern-looking wheelhouse and
crews quarters did little to alter the overall clunky appearance of the ferry. Finished in record time and back in service by August of the same year, the
Malahat could now carry 1,700 passenger and still handle about 75 autos.