The Kulshan probably has the unique distinction of being one of the most disliked
ferries to ever sail Puget Sound waters. While a dependable boat, she was never
popular. Her open deck and flattened profile was often greeted with, "that's the
ugliest ferry I've ever seen" by many a commuter used to full service ferries with
large passenger cabins and galley service. The Kulshan didn't have either.
The ferry had started her career as the Crown City for the San Diego-Coronado
Ferry Company, operating there until 1969. Open decks were fine for San Diego,
where many a pleasant sunny and temperate afternoon would be spent walking the
open car deck, but it wasn't much use in Washington State. Added to that, the
propensity for most passengers aboard WSF vessels, once on the boat, is to "go
upstairs" and stretch out a bit. Not so on the Kulshan, although you could wander
the car deck and peer over the side at the foaming Sound.
Normally haunting the Clinton, Whidbey Island, to Mukilteo route, the Kulshan found
her way to Hood Canal for a time after the bridge sank, where the barge-like ferry
rolled heavily when conditions got rough—which they often do on the Canal. Winds
are funneled down the narrow body of water and can kick up very heavy seas. It
was just such a condition (along with a slack tide) that sank the bridge in the first
place. It wasn't uncommon to see a green-faced passenger in their car as the
Kulshan rolled and pitched her away across a stormy Hood Canal.
The ferry achieved a little bit of immortality while working on Puget Sound. The
Kulshan was rented out for the filming of An Officer and a Gentleman. The ferry
was featured prominently as actress Deborah Winger walked the deck, the Kulshan
motoring aimlessly up and down the Canal.
The State sold the ferry to the Coast Guard in 1982 for a hefty profit, and she went
out to New York under the name of Governor, working from Governor's Island to
New York City. (The Coast Guard isn't known for giving ferries imaginative names,
from what I've been told.)
From the early 1980's into the early 1990's the old Kulshan sailed that route. She
made her last sailing for the Coast Guard on 26 July 1997 and was sold shortly
Somewhere along the line a rumor got circulated that the Kulshan had somehow
managed to get sunk by the Coast Guard. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A quick of check of the online Coast Guard records easily dispelled this. It is very
much still working as a reserve ferry for the Steamship Authority at Martha's
Vineyard, generally working mostly in the summers. Having been repowered to
direct drive diesel, she is still working even though her "replacement" went into
service a few years ago, her open deck, once the scourge of Puget Sound, proving
invaluable for hauling freight.
BUILT: 1954 Oakland, CA.
PREVIOUS/LATER NAMES: a. Crown City, b. Kulshan, c. Governor OFFICIAL NUMBER: 267527 CALL SIGN: WF6787
L/B/D: 242 x12 x 65 GROSS/NET TONS: 678/352 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 350/65 (1969)
NAME TRANSLATION: For the steamer of the same name; Native American name for Mount Baker; various meanings, including, “white sentinel” and “shot at
FINAL DISPOSITION: As of 2020, in service as the Governor at for the Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority.
The Kulshan on the Mukilteo run in the 70's.
The Kulshan about to dock in Mukilteo. The flat top,
cabinless boat would soon be moved away from the route
and then retired. At right, how she looks today working at