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. Being 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 ran steadily.
In 2014 with the Evergreen State "retired," the Klahowya left for her first new permanent reassignment 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 to keep her in service until at least
the Chimacum was ready to take her place on the Seattle-Bremerton run.
The Klahowya retired in 2017, replaced on the inter-island run by her slightly younger sister, Tillikum.
She currently sits at the WSF yard in Eagle Harbor, awaiting her final disposal.
|The refurbished interior of the Klahowya, and the galley. Photos courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
BUILT/REBUILT: 1958/1995 Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Co, Seattle, WA. OFFICIAL NUMBER: D277872 CALL SIGN: WK7107
L/B/D: 310 x 73 x 16 GROSS/NET TONS: 2055/1397 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 800/ 100 cars as built, 87 by 2018 PROPULSION: Diesel Electric, 2500 HP SPEED: 13 knots
NAME TRANSLATION: Chinook, “greetings”, or “how do you do?”
FINAL DISPOSITION: Retired in 2017. Awaiting disposal as of 2020.
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.