Official Number: D278437 Call Sign: WL3377 Length: 310' 2'' Beam: 73' 2'' Draft: 15' 6'' Horsepower: 2,500 Speed in Knots: 13 Max Passengers: 1061 Auto Deck
Clearance: 13'6'' Max Vehicles: 87 Auto Deck Clearance: 13'6'' City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1959 / 1994
Name Translation: Chinook Jargon: "friends; relatives."
The Tillikum arrives at Friday Harbor in 2018, working the inter-island vessel. Plans call for her to be used as a back-up vessel starting sometime in 2019. Photo courtesy of
|Top, the Tillikum's passenger cabin. Photo courtesy of Khris LaPlante.
Above, that galley. Courtesy of Brandon Moser.
She is the last of her class still in service.
The Tillikum, once the "big boat" on the Winslow-Seattle run, is spending
her twilight years in the San Juan Islands, as her two sisters did before her.
Joining the fleet on 11 April,1959, she took over the number one slot on
the Seattle-Winslow run. Her running mate was the Steel Electric ferry
Illahee, and for nearly a decade.
The Agate Pass Bridge, which had opened the same year the state took
over ferry operations, had created a far shorter route to the Kitsap
Peninsula and beyond; when the Hood Canal Bridge opened in August
1961, it opened a direct route to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic
National Park. It was a much quicker trip to take the ferry from Seattle to
Winslow or Edmonds to Kingston to get to the bridge. As a result, traffic
jumped on both routes (while continuing to fall on the Bremerton run.)
Summers found the dowagers of the fleet working supplemental service on
both runs. The Tillikum and Illahee would find themselves accompanied by
the Chippewa or San Mateo. But by the early 1960's, it was clear that
bigger boats were going to be needed, and fast.
The Tillikum held onto the run until 1968 when she was replaced by the
much larger Elwha. Even with two Supers traffic on the Winslow run
couldn't keep up and by 1973 they were bumped by the Jumbos.
Meanwhile, the Tillikum was shifted up to the Kingston-Edmonds route,
where she was paired with another Steel Electric--most often the Nisqually.
With two Supers freed up, one went to the islands (the Kaleetan) and the
Elwha landed alongside the Tillikum. The Evergreen State Class vessel
worked the route more often than not throughout the 70's, filling it at times
for the Klahowya and after the Hood Canal Bridge sank in a violent storm in
1979 on the re-established Southpoint-Lowfall route.
After the arrival of the Issaquah Class, the Tillikum eventually took a
permanent position at Vashon, though at times through the 80's and early
90's she would work in the San Juans. By the mid-1990's she was almost
exclusively at Vashon.
In 2009, the Tillikum earned her gold stripes on her stack as she
celebrated her 50th year in service. Today she can be found sailing the
waters around the San Juan Islands in the shadow of Mount Baker on the
inter-island route she took over in 2017.
|Century 21 & the Tillikum...
Beginning in 1961, all the ferries in the Washington State Ferries fleet
were fitted out with signs on their flank for the Seattle World's
Fair--Century 21--which opened in 1962.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, the Tillikum, being on the busiest route,
seems to have been photographed with the logo more than the other
ferries. The Kalakala is said to have been the second most popular
attraction of the fair, but thusfar I've only seen two or three photos of the
ferry with the Century 21 logo on it.
If you've got a shot of one of the fleet with the logo on it, feel free to
email it and I'll post it on the site.