Above: the Spokane nears completion while the work on the Walla Walla is well underway. Author's collection.
Five years after the highly successful Super Class ferries sailed in to service for Washington State Ferries, the State found that they weren't going to be
enough. Even the addition of the Kulshan didn't help much. The fleet was suffering from expensive upkeep and obsolescence; four vessels were still of
all-wood construction, only one of which--the Vashon--could still do a day's work. WSF assigned her to the San Juans to help out with traffic there.
Plans for a "Super Super Class" were drawn up. Later they were dubbed the "Jumbo Class", a name fitting of vessels that were 440 feet long, 87 feet
wide, and that could pack 206 cars onto their decks. The massive vessels would be the largest double ended ferries in the world.
Todd Shipyard in Seattle was awarded the contract. Plans originally called for a total of four vessels to be built. The first two would be put in service and
then, based on their success, two more would be built. The first two were named Spokane and Walla Walla. As it turned out, while both the ferries proved
their worth, the two sisters to have been built never were constructed. The funding wasn't available.
The interiors of the two vessels reflected popular color trends and space-age design of the early 1970s: the dominant colors were orange and yellow. The
complaints about the boats were varied, from the music that was piped in irked many passengers who enjoyed the quiet or low rumble of conversation while
working, to perhaps the largest blemish on the new boats--the vibration they had at full speed. The boats had a shake not seen on the Sound since the
Kalakala had been retired some five years earlier.
The complaints didn't stop there. When the Walla Walla was assigned to the San Juans, the grumbles from both north and south Sound were fierce and
immediate. The residents of the islands complained about her large auto capacity overwhelming the islands and her wake swamping sailboats.
Residents down south wanted to know why a vessel built with federal mass transit dollars was being assigned to a route with the lowest passenger
ridership in the fleet.
Avoiding conflicts from both sides, WSF removed the boat, reassigning the Walla Walla alongside her sister on the Seattle-Winslow route. The grumbling
eventually faded and the ferries remained on the route until the Mark II's replaced them in the late 1990's--a run of more than 20 years.