VASHON
Official Number: 229805 Radio Call Number: WB3763 Built: Lake Washington Shipyard, Houghton WA 1930 Hull: wood Length: 200' Beam: 58' Draft: 12'
A
uto Deck Clearance: 11' 6" Speed: 10.5 knots Propulsion: Washington Estep Diesel  Autos: 90 (1930) 50 (1980)  Passengers: 646 Gross Tonnage:
641
Name Translation: Named for Vashon Island
FINAL DISPOSITION: Sank in Johnson Cove, Alaska, after running aground. Parts of the vessel still visible in the Cove.
The Vashon at Orcas Island, June 1960. Whistle sounded by Captain Frank Fowler.
The Ghost of the Vashon...
Nearly three decades  after her grounding, the remains of the Vashon are still visible near the beach in Johnson Cove, Alaska.  
Courtesy of "ElainaG"/Google Earth.

At left, a newspaper clipping from the time she was grounded.  The ferry's remains are still in the same canted over position.
At top, the launch of the Vashon.
Center, the
Vashon after Black Ball took over the ferry.
Bottom, the passenger cabin.
The historic Vashon was one of three ferries built for the Kitsap County
Transportation Company--a ferry service that, for a brief time, gave the rival
Puget Sound Navigation Company serious competition. KCTC constructed
three large ferries between 1925 and 1930 that proved to be reliable, solidly
built craft that were extremely versatile in their auto and passenger carrying
capacity. The three--
Kitsap, Bainbridge and Vashon were tremendously
popular vessels with patrons of KCTC.

All three vessels were built at the Lake Washington Shipyard at Houghton.
The last vessel out of yard, and the largest of the three, was the
Vashon.
Launched on 10 May 1930, the ferry mainly served its island namesake until
Black Ball took over the ferry. In 1941 the vessel was assigned to the San
Juan Islands. For the next nine years the
Vashon made the rounds in the
Islands until the new route between Lofall and Southpoint opened up. She
was then moved to Hood Canal, making 28 trips a day until the
Olympic took
her place in 1954.

For Washington State Ferries the
Vashon moved back up to the San Juans,
becoming a “San Juan boat as she stayed there for the next 18 years. Island
residents became protective of their little ferry, giving her the name "old
reliable". She was joined by the much larger
Evergreen State by the late
1950's, but still held her own, making countless landings at San Juan, Orcas,
Shaw and Lopez Islands.

By the 1970's the
Vashon became the last wooden ferry still at work for
Washington State Ferries.  While her upkeep was expensive, her
Washington Estep diesel engine was as reliable as ever and the
Vashon
could still do a day’s work.  As traffic built in the San Juan Island, the
Vashon
moved to the Mukilteo run, working Friday through Monday during the fall,
spring and summer months. She returned to the San Juans in June of 1978
she went to work on the newly-established "inter-island" route.

The State was scheduled to retire the 40-year-old vessel, but the sinking of
the Hood Canal Bridge and delays in the delivery of the new Issaquah Class
ferries kept the
Vashon in service. Despite the dry rot, and with the fleet
suffering from capacity woes again, the ever-reliable
Vashon was called
upon to work.

Finally, there were enough Issaquah Class ferries in service. The
Vashon
made her last run in December of 1980, from Mukilteo.

Sold in 1982, the ferry lingered on the waterfront near Colman Dock for a
few years. A group called "The Friends of the Vashon" were unable to raise
the money to bring her to Friday Harbor for use her as a restaurant or
floating resort. The ferry was sold again, and was used as a hostel in Port
Townsend, but she operated in that capacity for only one summer.

Her owner took her to Alaska, planning   to use the vessel as a supply boat.
Outside of Ketchikan in June of 1986, the
Vashon ran aground. For days
she leaked oil and sank into the sand, eventually rolling over on her side.  
Declared a total loss, the
Vashon was abandoned. As of a few years ago,
the remains of the vessel were still visible on the beach at low tide at
Johnson Cove in Alaska.

Many a resident of San Juan County mourned her passing. While not always
the fastest, most comfortable or most modern, the
Vashon could almost
always be depended upon.