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 its over height clearance would
be 16 feet--well over the Skansonia's 11. It would allow larger trucks to
reach the south end of the island without having to drive all the way to
Fauntleroy for a vessel with higher clearance.
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
For close to 20 years the Hiyu worked without too much issue, but as the
1980s wore on, it was becoming clear that the traffic on the southern end
of the Island was starting to out-pace 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 1990s, 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 Christine 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
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.
Above: Another shot from the Captain Raymond W. Hughes Jr collection shows the new Hiyu.
Below: The Hiyu sits mothballed at Eagle Harbor as it had for nearly a decade. A mere two years after this
photo was taken, the ferry would find itself pressed back into service. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser.
The name Hiyu means "big" or "plenty" yet both ferries that 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,the yard that would go on to build
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
|Above: A nearly brand new HIYU on the Point Defiance run.
Photo courtesy the Captain Raymond W. Hughes Jr. Collection.