The Kulshan probably has the unique distinction of being one of the most disliked
ferries 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
ugliest 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.
Normally she haunted the Clinton, Whidbey Island, to Mukilteo route, the Kulshan
found her way to Hood Canal for a time after the bridge sank, where the barge-like
ferry rolled heavily when conditions got rough--which they often do on the Canal.
Winds are funneled down the narrow body of water, and can kick up very heavy
seas. It was just such a condition (along with a slack tide) that sank the bridge in
the first place. It wasn't uncommon to see a green-faced passenger in their car as
the Kulshan rolled and pitched her away across a stormy Hood Canal.
The ferry achieved a little bit of immortality while working on Puget Sound. The
Kulshan was rented out for the filming of An Officer and a Gentleman. The ferry
was featured prominently as actress Deborah Winger walked the deck, the Kulshan
motoring aimlessly up and down the Canal.
The State sold the ferry to the Coast Guard in 1982 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
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, the slightly modified Kulshan is still working at
Martha's Vineyard. Having been repowered to direct drive diesel, she is still working
even though her "replacement" went into service a few years ago, her open deck,
once the scourge of Puget Sound proving invaluable for hauling freight.
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 Passengers: 350
Propulsion: Diesel Max Vehicles: 65 Gross Tonnage: 678 City Built: Oakland, CA as Crown City
Auto Deck Clearance: 16'0" Year Built/Re-built: 1954
Name Translation: From the Lummi/Nooksack language: Great White Watcher, the name for Mt. Baker
FINAL DISPOSITION: at work at Martha's Vineyard, though due to be retired soon
The Kulshan on the Mukilteo run in the 70's. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser.
The Kulshan about to dock in Mukilteo. The flat top,
cabinless boat would soon be moved away from the route
and then retired. At right, how she looks today working at