CHINOOK (II)
BUILT: 1998, Dakota Creek Industries, Anacortes, WA.
PREVIOUS/LATER NAMES: a. Chinook, b. Golden Gate
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 1063252 CALL SIGN: WDF7183
L/B/D: 143 x 39 x 5 GROSS/NET TONS: 99/67 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 450/0
PROPULSION: Diesel waterjet SPEED: 36 knots
NAME TRANSLATION: Named for the first vessel of the same name; a warm wind.
FINAL DISPOSITION: In service at San Francisco as the Golden Gate
   
SNOHOMISH
BUILT: 1999, Dakota Creek Industries, Anacortes, WA
PREVIOUS/LATER NAMES: a. Snohomish, b. Napa
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 1084026 CALL SIGN: WDE8110
L/B/D: 149 x 39 x 5 GROSS/NET TONS: 99/67 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 450/0
PROPULSION: Diesel waterjet SPEED: 36 knots
NAME TRANSLATION:  Chinook for "tide water people"
FINAL DISPOSITION: In service in San Francisco


The former WSF passenger only fast ferry, the Snohomish as she looks today as the Napa.  Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.
Two former members of the Washington State Ferry fleet were, at the
time of their retirement, two of the newest vessels in the fleet, built at a
time when optimism was high for a new fleet of quick passenger-only
ferry service from Vashon Island, Bremerton and Kingston.

Built in 1998 and 1999 by Dakota Creek Shipyards of Anacortes, the
vessels were comfortable and very fast, capable of doing over 30
knots. The commute time to Bremerton dropped to 30 minutes, and
things looked good for an expanding fleet of similar ferries across
Puget Sound.

Trouble arose almost at once. After a short time on the route it
transpired that at the narrowest point of Rich Passage the wake cast
from the ferries didn't have enough time to flatten out, resulting in
erosion of the beach. WSF tried correcting the problem, but it didn't
help. After a court injunction was issued the ferries were slowed.  Nine
months later the injunction was lifted, but WSF continued to slow the
ferries at the narrowest point of the passage to prevent any further
damage and negating the shortened commute time.

Even slowed the vessels found no lack of passengers. However, when
I-695 passed, a significant portion of the budget for WSF was cut.
Although later thrown out as being unconstitutional, the legislature
caved to political pressure and kept the reduction in place, never
bothering to restore proper funding for the ferry system—a situation
that remains to this day.

Forced to make cuts to service, it was determined that the passenger
only ferries from Seattle to Bremerton should be withdrawn as they
simply could not be run cost effectively. Fares would have had to have
been raised so high that it was doubtful commuters would have paid
for the trip that was running only 15-20 minutes faster than the auto
ferries.

The vessels were withdrawn from service in the fall of 2003. They were
then mothballed in Eagle Harbor, at the WSF repair yard. After three
years of wrangling with what to do with the last remaining passenger-
only route from Vashon Island to down town Seattle, the legislature
decided that the vessels should be sold, the proceeds of which could
be tapped for another operator to take over the Vashon route, which
WSF was set to discontinue operations of in 2008.

The ferries were to be listed on Ebay in November 2007, but with the
sudden closure of the Port Townsend auto ferry run, the
Snohomish
was pressed into service between Port Townsend and Keystone.  The
potential loss of holiday business in Port Townsend due to the sudden
withdrawal of the Steel Electrics prompted the state to run the
Snohomish between Seattle and Port Townsend starting on 13
December 2007. She continued on the route until replaced by the car
ferry
Steilacoom II which was borrowed to restore auto ferry service
between Port Townsend and Keystone on Whidbey Island.

Due to "at ready" status, the
Snohomish was being kept as a reserve
vessel.  The
Chinook, however, was not considered for reserve status
and was listed twice on eBay at the price of 4.5 million.  There were no
bids on the ferry either time it was listed.

Finally, the pair was sold for just over 2 million apiece to Golden Gate
Ferries in San Francisco.  After being readied for the trip at Dakota
Creek, the
Snohomish made an uneventful trip to the Bay area.   Both
ferries were extensively rebuilt, upping their passenger capacity. In
addition, a snack bar was added, and more fuel-efficient engines
installed.  The pair, now under the names
Golden Gate and Napa,
have proven themselves to be very success in San Francisco and are
utilized by thousands of commuters each year.
The Chinook as the vessel looked working for Washington State Ferries.  Left, photo courtesy
Brandon Moser.  Interior photo courtesy of WSF.
Above the exterior and interior of the Snohomish, which used darker colors.  Photo courtesy
of  WSF and Emory Lindgard.