BUILT: 1967, Gunderson Bros. Engineering Corp., Portland, OR
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 508159 CALL SIGN: WX9133
L/B/D: 162 x 63 x 11 GROSS/NET TONS: 498/378 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 200/34 cars
PROPULSION: Caterpillar Diesel, 860 HP SPEED: 10 knots
NAME TRANSLATION: Native American/Chinook: "plenty."
FINAL DISPOSITION: Sold in 2016, currently a floating entertainment venue on Lake Union. (2019)
The Hiyu as she looks today. Photo courtesy of Zack Heistand.
|The cabins are small, but comfortable. Below, the main tunnel, designed with trucks in
mind. Photos courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
The First Hiyu and the Hiyu's Cousin.
The name Hiyu means "big" or "plenty" yet both ferries that have had the name were quite small. The first Hiyu (photo at right) 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 Kalakala. A wooden vessel a mere 61 feet in length
by 28 feet wide, the first Hiyu was built for the Kitsap County Transportation Company. She worked the routes around Bremerton, including the Point
White-Bremerton run. Photo courtesy PSMHS/MOHAI
Far from the cold waters of Puget Sound, a near twin of the Hiyu (photo left) worked in Hawaii between Ford Island and Oahu. Christened Moko Holo Hele,
which translates to "ship that goes back and forth" the ferry was known as YFB 87 to her owner, the US Navy. Built by Western Boatbuilding of Tacoma in
1970, the ferry was sold by the Navy in 1999. It is currently being readied to be sunk as an artificial reef, but unfortunately permission could not be gained and
the former ferry was sunk in deep water instead.
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 faster, but its overheight 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 the time.
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 pass.
In the spring of 1999, she was 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.
With the only thing spoken about the Hiyu in years was about its impending sale, it was a
surprise to ferry watchers when the little ferry was reactivated in the spring of 2007. Work was
done to bring her up to a working standard again, including safety upgrades and other work. It
proved to be a wise decision as June of 2007 saw the Hiyu return to service after a decade of
sitting in Eagle Harbor when the Rhododendron suffered a rudder flop and was unexpectedly
pulled from service for repairs. At the time there were no other vessels available for use due to
maintenance and other issues; the Hiyu was it.
More unexpected issues arose in November of 2007 when all four Steel Electrics were
suddenly withdrawn from service due to hull corrosion issues. Quite suddenly the Hiyu, which
carries a mere 34 cars, found itself in an unenviable position: the only back up ferry in the fleet.
The governor's budget for 2009 called for the Hiyu to be put back into service in place of the
Rhododendron. It was an ill-conceived idea. The ferry was unable to keep up with traffic at
Point Defiance, resulting in nearly constant extra service calls, and perhaps more critically, the
ferry was not ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant and couldn’t be retrofitted to meet the
Fortunately, the legislature didn't agree with the proposal and the idea of replacing the Rhody
was dropped. The Rhody was retired on schedule in 2012 and replaced by the Chetzemoka.
With the arrival of the Tokitae, the Evergreen State went into a very brief retirement before
being placed back into service. With the Evergreen a far more useful back up ferry, the Hiyu
continued to see less and less service. When moved up to the San Juans in 2014, it was an
indication of just how desperate the ferry system was in need of new vessels as age and
breakdowns continued to plague the fleet.
With the arrival of the Samish in 2015, the Hiyu made its last trip in July of 2015. On 17 May
2016, the ferry's official retirement was announced, and the Hiyu was sold for $150K to
Menagerie Inc for use as floating entertainment venue. Work began almost at once, with
bottom painting and upgrades to the cabin and a new blue livery. With the conversion of one
passenger cabin to a Tiki bar named the Pau Hana Lounge and the addition of a food truck
facility on the former auto deck, the “mighty Hiyu” is available for rental as either a stationary or
mobile party facility, whooping it up in her second half-century.
On the Hiyu
Rendering of the Hiyu courtesy of Johan Iverson.