Official Number: 636551 Call Sign: WYR7641 Length: 328' Beam: 78' 8'' Draft: 16' 6'' Auto Deck Clearance: 16' Speed in Knots: 16 Max Passengers: 1200
Max Vehicles: 124 City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1981 / 1993
Name Translation: From the Kathlamet tribe, the Chinook word calamet meaning "stone," was given to the tribe because its members lived along the rocky
stretch of the Columbia River. A city also bears its name.
The Cathlamet under a painted sky. Photo courtesy of Guy de Gouville.
For a time, the M/V Cathlamet was likely the most notorious of the
Issaquah Class--and certainly the boat that seemed to illustrate every
mechanical malady to ever plague the class of ferries that soon to became
known as the "Citrus Class."
The Cathlamet took an instant dislike of the ferry docks at both
Mukilteo and Clinton, and in short order demolished them both within
weeks of one another. The ferry earned the nicknamed "Can't Land It"
and one local radio station made up a song called "The Wreck of the Ferry
Cathlamet" set to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the
At WSF and in the Department of Transportation, no one was
laughing. The ferry had caused millions in damages and was endangering
the lives of ferry riders--something had to be done and quickly. Pulled in
and out of service, the ferry became the test boat for number of different
propulsion systems, providing invaluable information that allowed the state
to iron out all the bugs. Rid of her twitchy computer system, the Cathlamet
settled down and behaved like it should have.
Paired with her sister Kittitas on the Clinton-Mukilteo run, the two
sisters have been nearly inseparable now for close to two decades. The
Kit and Cat are very much considered "Mukilteo Boats" as they seldom
roam from this route any longer.
In addition to shedding the troublesome propulsion put in place by MP&
E, in 2003 the ferry had a complete passenger cabin refurbishment. How
anyone could have included the Cathlamet in the "rainbow" scheme put in
place by MP& E is a bit of a head scratcher, as the Cathlamet's paint and
floor tile stripe was brown--not what one immediately thinks of when the
word "rainbow" is mentioned. Her refurbishment put her cabin in a true
rainbow colors--blue and a very striking bright ruby red. This color had
been used a bit on the Puyallup, but the extensive use on the Cathlamet
sets her apart from the rest of the vessels in the fleet.
On board, you'll find an homage to her much smaller predecessor on the
Mukilteo route--the Olympic of 1938. Included in a display in her
passenger cabin are the Olympic's wheel and compass. The Cat is now
working on the Olympic's 20 year career record on the route, but won't
quite make the cut. With the addition of the Olympic Class ferry Tokitae in
the summer of 2014, the Cathlamet is scheduled to move to the Vashon
Island run to replace the Klahowya.
To the left, the number 2 end of the Cathlamet's passenger cabin, showing the bright red
chairs. At right, detail of the floor. Photo by the author.