|The M/V Hiyu|
| Back in 1967 the state of Washington was looking to replace the aging wooden ferry Skansonia which had been working the Point Defiance-Tahlequah, Vashon Island route since the state took over ferry operations in 1951.
The Skansonia by that time was down to a mere 32 cars. The Hiyu would carry 40, and be just two knots fast, but it’s over height clearance would be 16 feet—well over the Skansonia’s 11. It would allow larger trucks to reach the island without having to drive all the way to Fauntleroy.
Built by Gunderson Brothers of Portland for just under $750,000.00, the Hiyu went into service without much fanfare in the summer of 1967. The Hyak, recently arrived from San Diego was hogging all the attention at the time.
For close to 20 years the Hiyu worked without too much issue, but as the 1980’s wore on, it was becoming clear that the traffic on the southern end of the Island was starting to outpace her. She was replaced by the Olympic and eventually the Rhododendron.
Freed up from service at Tahlequah, the Hiyu was assigned to take over inter-island duty in the San Juans. The dependable little boat chugged along at ten knots, carrying cars to and from Friday Harbor, Lopez, Orcas and Shaw Islands.
By the late 1990’s traffic in the islands had increased to the point where the Hiyu’s size and speed were becoming an issue. The Hiyu was pulled from service to be mothballed at Eagle Harbor, replaced on the inter-island route by the Nisqually.
For the next decade the Hiyu would sit mothballed at Eagle Harbor. On occasion she would be contracted out for service at Anderson Island when the ferry Chirstine Anderson needed emergency repairs. The idea of selling the ferry arose around the same time, with the State Department of Corrections interested in using her for use between the mainland and McNeil Island. The idea never came to fruition, and there was some talk of selling her to Whatcom County, either for use at Lummi Island or between Blaine and Point Roberts, neither of which came to pass.
In the spring of 1999 she had been rented out to film a Seahawks commercial, and was featured in a few forgettable movies after that. Her main use at that time was to serve as training vessel for new hires to the ferry system.
After a decade of virtual inactivity, the Hiyu suddenly became useful to the ferry system once again.
|The Hiyu sits calmly at Eagle Harbor as it had for nearly a decade. A mere two years after this photo was taken, the ferry would find itself in an unexpected roll. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser. At top and at right, two historic photos of the Hiyu not long after entering service. Author's collection.|
The Hiyu Today
|The First Hiyu|
| The name Hiyu means "big" or "plenty" yet both ferries thave have had the name were quite small. The first Hiyu was a motor ferry launched in March 1924 as the first vessel built by Lake Washington Shipyards Corp—the yard that would go on to build the Kalakala.
The first Hiyu was a wooden vessel a mere 61 feet in length by 28 feet wide, was built for the Kitsap County Transportation Company. She worked the routes around Bremerton, including the Point White-Bremerton run.
Photo courtesy PSMHS/MOHAI