|The Kwa-di Tabil Class
The Chetzemoka, Salish, Kennewick
|The Chetzemoka arriving at Keystone Harbor with a painted sky. Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.|
|The Port Townsend-Keystone Run
faced a crisis when Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond unceremoniouslyyanked the Steel Electrics for "safety concerns." Even though the Coast Guard had certified the boats, Hammond removed them from service in November of 2007. It was the last time the boats would ever see service.
With the idea of larger boats off the table--neither Whidbey Island or Port Townsend wanted larger boats and the expensive of relocating the ferry landing from Keystone Harbor to accommodate an Issaquah Class ferry grew out of practicality, it was decided to build boats that could use the existing terminal.
The problem has always been the shallow man-made harbor at Keystone. Designing a ferry that could get in the harbor without tearing at the bottom of the boat was critical. Meanwhile, Pierce County loaned WSF the Steilacoom II, a "K Class" ferry that was not certified for the run. The Coast Guard approved the boat only after additional safety equipment was installed and the keelless ferry went on the run.
It was announced shortly after the Steilacoom II that the state would be building several of those boats to take over the run. It became readily apparent a short time late that for the long term the Steilacoom II would not be an ideal solution. The ferry rolled and pitched so much even on calm seas that it quickly earned the nickname "Bob" by crews. Moderate seas caused a higher rate of cancellations than on the 80 year old ferries they had replaced.
The final straw was the bid to build a clone of the Steilacoom II came in way over budget. WSF had already dispatched a team to check out the Island Home working at Martha's Vineyard which had the draft requirements for Keystone but was a much sturdier ferry. After the team came back with their impressions, the idea of building a Steilacoom II clone was dropped and the contract for building three Island Home style ferries (they were lengthened and modified to include WSF's trademark pickle forks and in addition the bow doors on the Island Home were removed from the design).
Built by Todd (now Vigor) Shipyard, the first ferry was built on a tight 18 month schedule to be in service by the summer of 2010. The second (Salish) on arrived in the spring of 2011, the last ( Kennewick) in 2012.
The tight schedule would make some changes to the first of the class which was destined to be named Chetzemoka. She would not recieve the variable pitch propellers like her sisters. Meanwhile, the name for the class was decided upon by competition. The winning name came from the fourth-grade class at Port Townsend’s Blue Heron Middle School. They submitted the name Kwa-di Tabil (kwah DEE tah-bale) meaning “little boat” in the Quileute language.
At the urging of the Port Townsend Historical Society, the first boat was named Chetzemoka to honor Chief Chetzemoka of the S'Klallam tribe. In addition, it follows the tradition of renaming new vessels after historic vessels on Puget Sound--in this instance the Wood Electric ferry Chetzemoka built in 1927.