BUILT: 1927 by the Skansie Brothers Shipyard in Gig Harbor, WA.
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 226366 CALL SIGN: WE8648
L/B/D: 165 x 50 x 13 GROSS/NET TONS: 444/295 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 300/32
PROPULSION: 2 Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines
NAME TRANSLATION: Named for Point Defiance which was named by Cmdr. Charles Wilkes, who stated "This narrow pass was intended by nature for the
defense of Puget Sound."
FINAL DISPOSITION: Converted to a dogfish processor, the ferry was listed as being “out of service” in 2006 in Juneau, Alaska; likely scrapped at that time.
The Defiance at Port Townsend in August of 1968. Whistle of the Defiance sounded by Captain Oscar Lee. The Defiance and Skansonia both had steam
whistles, along with air whistles.
At top , the Defiance as she looked as built, making a landing a Gig Harbor.
Above, the summer of 1974 found the Defiance, her bow modified, working as a fish
processor. Bottom photo courtesy of David A. Ruble.
...but ugly. The tidy little Defiance was completely disfigured for use as a
dogfish processor. This clipping gives a closer view of the image captured
by David Ruble above, which shows just how clunky looking the Defiance
had become. Author's collection.
Washington State Ferries inherited the route from Port Townsend to tricky
Keystone Harbor when Olympic Ferries Inc, who'd been operating the route
since 1947, went out of business and ended service in the fall of 1973. The
Governor stepped in and ordered WSF to take up the route, and in June 1974
service began with the ferry Olympic.
Olympic Ferries had been operating the ferry San Diego on the route for the
previous few years, having purchased the vessel from the defunct San Diego-
Coronado Ferry Company which ceased operations in 1969 with the opening of
the Coronado Bridge. Prior to the San Diego taking the over the run, Olympic
had been operating their only other ferry—the all-wood Defiance, near sister to
Built in 1927 by the Skansie Brothers Shipyard in Gig Harbor, Washington, the
diesel ferry had first operated from Point Defiance (which is where she got her
name) to Gig Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula. Operated by the Washington
Navigation Company, which also owned the Skansonia, City of Tacoma,
Wollochet and a number of smaller vessels, the ferry worked the southern arm
of Puget Sound under charter for Pierce County until declaring bankruptcy in
1935. By 1938, the county had purchased a few ferries and given the charter
to another company; the opening of Tacoma Narrows Bridge finished off
The ferries were idled until the bridge collapsed, but by that time the
Washington Navigation Company nearly a memory. The ferries City of
Tacoma, Defiance and Skansonia were sold to the State of Washington. The
Point Defiance-Tahlequah run had been sold to Black Ball by this time. The
State at first contracted out with the Washington Navigation Company to
operate the run from Gig Harbor to Tacoma. This lasted 18 months and then
Black Ball took over the charter.
The Port Townsend-Keystone run, which had been abandoned by Black Ball in
1943, was sold to Olympic Ferries Inc in 1947. Service started when the new
harbor and dock was finished at Keystone, Olympic Ferries Inc. using the 18
car Fox Island.
Looking to improve service, Olympic Ferries purchased the Defiance in 1952.
The Fox Island was likely held in reserve and then sold to the Gulf Island Ferry
Company in British Columbia in 1955. From then on, in the summer months
the Defiance made the crossing from Keystone to Port Townsend, running
profitably for many years. In the mid 1950's she also made freight trips into
Seattle, supplementing the service of the Iroquois.
By 1970 Olympic Ferries Inc was looking to replace the Defiance with a vessel
that wasn't going to be as costly to maintain. The San Diego seemed to be the
perfect choice so they purchased the ferry and brought her up from San Diego
and sold the Defiance.
The Defiance did not end her career there. She was converted into a self-
propelled dogfish processor and could be seen roaming around the Sound for
several years. She did eventually move to Alaska and was last homeported in
Juneau. The Coast Guard has a record of her, but lists her as "out of service"
as of 2006.