Official Number: 127440 Radio Call Number: WA 3651 Built: Toledo, OH, 1900. Rebuilt: 1928, 1932 Length: 212' 3" Beam:52' 7" Draft: 15' 5" Auto Deck Clearance: 9' 6" Speed: 15 knots Horsepower: 2,130 Propulsion: twin triple expansion steam; Busch-Sulzer diesel, direct drive
Autos: 52 Passengers:950 Gross Tonnage:887
Name Translation: Great Lakes Native American tribe
The Chippewa, like all the other WSF vessels in 1961-62, got the World's Fair logo on her side as well. Seen here sailing past Gooch Island on the way to Sidney, British Columbia, her wake is evidence that the old ferry could still get up some speed. Often referred to as the "Grandmother" of the fleet, she would be 64 when retired--16 years younger than the Steel Electrics . Courtesy of B. Moser.
|The Chippewa: The Steamer that Became a Flagship
Few vessels on Puget Sound led as interesting a life as the well-loved Chippewa.
Built in 1900 in Toledo, Ohio, she was used as a passenger vessel of the Arnold Transportation System on the Great Lakes. She was powered with twin triple expansion steam engines fed by four oil-fired water tube boilers.
The steamer was purchased by the Puget Sound Navigation Company (Black Ball Line) in 1907. Having made her way to the east coast, she left New Jersey on 18 February 1907. Sailing around the Strait of Magellen (there was no Panama Canal at that time) she arrived 80 days later on 8 May 1907, on what had not been exactly a pleasant trip. Problems had included loss of power, fire, and a disgruntled crew. After clean-up and repainting, the steamer started service on the Seattle-Victoria, British Columbia run, which she held onto until 1911 when she was replaced by the Indianapolis, another former Great Lakes steamer. The Chippewa then took over the Seattle-Tacoma route until the outbreak of World War I. During the war years, she was used as a school ship for the merchant marines. After the war, the Chippewa sat unused for many years. Steamers were becoming extinct on Puget Sound. Many of the old wooden "Mosquito Fleet" passenger steamers were being scrapped or converted to carry automobiles.
In 1926 Black Ball invested heavily in the Chippewa. The steamer underwent major refurbishment at the Lake Washington Shipyard at Houghton. Her bow and stern cut off and her interior was extensively modified.
The lower deck was cleared out and could now accommodate 90 cars. Her passenger capacity was rated at 2,000. Relisted as the flag ship of the line, the then largest ferry on the West Coast went into service mainly between Seattle and Bremerton on the "Navy Yard Route."
|At left, the Chippewa as she looked when arriving on Puget Sound. She would keep this look until her first major reconstruction in 1926. Author's collection. At right, looking somewhat half-done, the Chippewa emerged from the Lake Washington Shipyard in 1926 still powered with her original steam engines, which is very evident in this photo. Bayless collection.|
| Proving she was a versatile vessel, she also sailed between Seattle, Port Angeles and Victoria on the "International Circuit Route." For a number of years the Chippewa was used successfully in this configuration. However, her triple expansion steam engines, which had been left in place in the 1926 rebuild, were starting to become troublesome. In 1932 PSN decided to pull the ailing steam engine out and repower the vessel with a direct drive Busch-Sulzer diesel.The rebuilding caused a loss of carrying capacity, down to 75 cars, but a gain of speed to a respectable 16 knots
The Chippewa would emerge from the yard this time with over $200,000.00 (1926 dollars) in alterations in addition to her new engine.
Changes to the passenger cabin, which was completely rebuilt included a glassed-in main observation deck on the forward part of the vessel. The cabin was paneled in Phillipine mahogany, with long padded bench seats padded in red leather. Her galley, located amidships, was redesigned and included a gift shop. The long square counter was ringed by padded stools, where passengers could expect to get a full service meal.
Both a men's smoking room and a ladies lounge were included, adding a touch of North Atlantic elegance to the Puget Sound ferry
The final rebuilding gave her a more modern look, a completely new wheelhouse. The line of square windows along her car deck were replaced with portholes. One stack was removed, replaced with a shorter, more rounded funnel.
The Chippewa continued as the flag ship of the fleet. She remained mainly on the Seattle-Bremerton run throughout the 1920's and into the 30's, preceding the Kalakala in moonlight cruises and live music being broadcast from her forward observation room. She was, however, deposed in 1935 from flagship status after the Kalakala arrived.
While the Kalakala would later gain a reputation for disliking ferry slips and barges, the Chippewa actually logged more accidents as a ferry than the Kalakala ever did. It is important to remember, though, that radar wasn't available until after World War II. Navigation through fog was done by reducing speed, keeping a sharp look out, and sounding the ferry's whistle. This usually proved to work well so as not to collide with another vessel; it did not, however, prevent the vessel from going aground more than once.
|This photo clearly shows the Chippewa's main flaw--her 9 1/2 foot auto deck clearance. From the look of this photo, it seems that the truck was about three or four inches too tall. Author's collection. .Mousing over you'll see the car deck. Courtesy of PSMHS, MOHAI. Williamson photo.|
After WWII, the Chippewa moved from her usual Bremerton-Seattle route to the San Juan Islands in the summer. In 1950, after a summer spent in the San Juans, the ferry was assigned to the Winslow-Seattle route. Traffic on the run had picked up significantly since the opening of the new Agate Pass Bridge, which connected Bainbridge Island with the mainland. She stayed on the run, now under Washington State Ferry management, until 1953. She then went to work back up in the San Juans until 1956, at which time she was assigned back to the Bremerton route.
Her days working for WSF were coming to an end. The Chippewa spent the summers from 1960-63 in the San Juans, often doing the Anacortes-Sidney B.C. route, then back on the Bremerton route for the fall season. She was placed on "reserve" for 1964, and made her last run on 19 September, 1964. Subsequent drydocking and inspection revealed 28 unacceptable faults in her hull and superstructure, to the tune of some $400,000.00 to repair. Given her limited clearance, and car capacity (down to 52 of the 1950's sized cars) WSF decided against retaining the ferry. She was sold in 1965 to Foss Launch and Tug. After spending three years on Lake Union unused, she was sold to Donald Clair of Oakland, to be used as a museum and shopping mall in the Bay area.
Unfortunately the new life for the Chippewa was not to be. While undergoing conversion, the ferry was set on fire on the night of 28 June 1968 while tied to the Oakland pier. She was completely gutted. She was moved to Stockton, moored at Paradise Point fishing resort. She was stripped down to the hull in 1970 to be rebuilt as a replica of the luxury ferryboat Chrysopolis. The plans never came through, and the hull was last reported as half-sunk at Collinsville, California, in the 1970's; another report has her listed as a stationary sewage treatment plant on the Sacramento River.
Most plausible is that the hull was cut up long ago, but if you have any specific information regarding what finally happened to the hull, please feel free to email me.
|The elegant passenger cabin of the Chippewa at the time of her last inspection. Note the mahogany paneling. At right, the burned out hulk. Both photos courtesy of Brandon Moser.|
|to the KITSAP
Several sources over the last two decades claim that the hull of the Chippewa is still afloat somewhere in the Delta. Collinsville, Antioch and several other locations on the Sacramento River.
Careful searches on Google Earth haven't turned anything up--but that doesn't mean the hull isn't still around around somewhere.
If it is still with us, the hull would be 111 years old--beating out the old hull of the City of Sacramento.