The Kulshan probably has the unique distinction of being the most
loathed ferry to ever sail Puget Sound waters. While a dependable boat,
she was never popular. Her open deck and flattened profile was often
greeted with, "That's the uglist ferry I've ever seen" by many a commuter
used to full service ferries with large passenger cabins and galley service.
The Kulshan didn't have either.
The ferry had started her career as the Crown City, for the San
Diego-Coronado ferry company. Open decks were fine for San Diego,
where many a pleasant sunny and temperate afternoon would be spent
walking the open car deck, but it wasn't much use in Washington State.
Added to that, the propensity for most passengers aboard WSF vessels,
once on the boat, is to "go upstairs" and stretch out a bit.
Not so on the Kulshan, although you could wander the car deck and
peer over the side at the foaming Sound.
My experience with the Kulshan dates back to the brief time she filled in
on Hood Canal after the bridge sank in 1979. Normally she haunted the
Clinton, Whidbey Island, to Mukilteo route. It was a fairly bumpy day on the
Canal, and the Kulshan was rolling pretty well with the surf. Now, I can't
image anything more frightening to some who hated water and being on it
with the open deck Kulshan rolling about with her open deck. There were
several green faced passengers, and even though the crossing was
something like 1.5 miles, most folks were not happy. She made it, however,
and I am pretty sure that was the last time we ever rode on that boat.
A short time later the Kulshan's finest moment came while the filming of
An Officer and a Gentleman was done. The ferry was featured very
prominently as actress Deborah Winger walked the deck.
A few years later, the State sold her to the Coast Guard for a hefty profit,
and she went out to New York under the name of Governor, working from
Governor's Island to New York City. (The Coast Guard isn't known for
giving ferries imaginative names, from what I've been told.)
From the early 1980's into the early 1990's the old Kulshan sailed that
route. She made her last sailing for the Coast Guard on 26 July 1997, and
was sold shortly thereafter.
Somewhere along the line a rumor got circulated that the Kulshan had
somehow managed to get sunk by the Coast Guard. Nothing could be
further from the truth.
A quick of check of the online Coast Guard records easily dispelled this.
It is very much still working, as a reserve ferry, for Transportation Authority
at Martha's Vineyard, generally working mostly in the summers.
Still under the name Governor, she's had some modifications done to
her, including the addition of small enclosed area on the deck for
The ferry is now in her final years of service, as the MVTA is planning a
replacement vessel so that the old Kulshan, now 60 years old, can be
Official Number: 267527 Call Sign: WF6787 Length: 242' 1.5" Engines: 2 Beam: 65'1.5" Horsepower: 1,200 Draft: 11' 6''Speed in Knots: 13 Max
Propulsion: Diesel-Electric(DC) Max Vehicles: 65 Gross Tonnage: 678 City Built: Oakland, CA Auto Deck Clearance:16'0" Year Built/Re-built:
Name Translation: From the Lummi/Nooksack language: Great White Watcher, the name for Mt. Baker
Recently refurbished, the Kulshan is about to go to work on the Mukilteo-Columbia Beach run. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser.
At top, with the bridge nearly complete behind her, the Crown City's days in San Diego are
numbered. Middle, after being sold to the Coast Guard, she became the Governor. Bottom,
working her final years at Martha's Vineyard, this is how the old Kulshan looks today.