The New Giants:   The Jumbo Mark II Class
Completing another succesful run, the Tacoma docks in Seattle in the spring of 2002.  Note the Space Needle, celebrating its 40th year, is painted in the original "galaxy gold."  Photo by the author.

Official Number:D1052576     Call Sign: WCX9244   
Length: 460' 2''   Beam: 90'   Draft: 17' 3'' Horsepower: 13,200 Draft:  Speed in Knots: 18
Max Passengers:  2500  Max Vehicles: 202   City Built: Seattle ?   Year Built/Re-built: 1997
Name Trandlation: Derived from the native word Tah-ho-mah for Mt. Rainier, or "snowy mountain." Tacoma was first attributed to the mountain in an 1860s book, "The Canoe and the Saddle" by Theodore Winthrop, a popular volume on the early Pacific Northwest. The city picked the name over Commencement City when the railroad made its terminius there in the 1870s.
Amazingly, the "new"  Mark II's will be celebrating their 10th birthdays over the next  three years, starting with the Tacoma in 2007.  They were  first new auto    ferries built for WSF in 20 years and have proven to be a highly reliable class of ferries, every bit as the Jumbos before them.
   There were some  initial teething problems when first coming into service--mainly  vibration, particularly around corners, which caused the first two ferries to be retrofitted.  The
Puyallup, however, still under construction at the time,  had the problem corrected before she went into service, making her the smoothest and quietest of the trio. 
    The Mark II's hold 2,500 passengers, 500 more passengers than the Jumbos. The increase bumped their size up 20 feet.  At 460 feet, they are the largest double-ended auto ferries in the world, just slightly edging out their Canadian Cousins, the C Class vessels.   While carring 500 more passengers, the auto capacity only went up by 202. Passeger capacity was more important on the Bainbridge run, where the 2,000 passenger Jumbos were filling to capacity on the morning and evening commuter runs.  In the years since they've gone into service, the ferries have filled to capacity.  There is even talk of retro-fitting the solariums  to be an enclosed passenger cabin, much like the "library" areas already on the upper deck
     Since going into service, the
Tacoma has called Bainbridge Island home.  With few exceptions she has been there since that first day of service in 1997. 
     In November of 2007 the Tacoma returned to service after an absence of some three months for her ten year overhaul.  She returned to service polished, cleaned and freshly painted, and ready for another ten years of sterling service.

The crack steamer S.S. Tacoma of 1913 was the fastest single propeller vessel in the world.  Even today the steamer would give her namesake ferry a run for her money.  Author's collection.uld give her cur
Summer sun streams through the windows of the Tacoma's passenger cabin, while above, the ferry's name is proudly on display.  Photos by the author.
Against a backdrop of blue skies and calm waters it is no wonder the ferries are the state's number one tourist attraction.  Here the Wenatachee presents a wonderful photo op, one taken advantage of by photographer Matt Masuoka, who snapped this picture.

Official Number:D1061309  Call Sign: WCY3378
Length: 460' 2''  Beam: 90'   Draft: 17' 3''  
Auto Deck Clearance: 16'
Horsepower: 13,200     Speed in Knots: 18 
Max Passengers: 2500   Max Vehicles: 202
  City Built: Seattle, WA   Year Built/Re-built: 1998
Name Translation: From the Yakima word wenatchi for "river flowing from canyon." When Lewis and Clark traveled through the Columbia River valley in 1803-1805, they mentioned the word Wenatchee in their journal, hearing of the river and the tribe living along its banks. A city, lake, river, and national forest are also named after the tribe.
    In every sense of the the word the Wenatchee is a sister ship to the Tacoma.  There are only slight variations in patters to the floor tile and the colors in upholstry.  The largest difference would be in the Native American artwork on display on the ferry.  Reflecting the artistry of the tribes in the Wenatchee area which lies east of the Cascades, you'll find many  fine examples of basketry, differing from the coastal tribes stylized woodworking and painting.  In addition, you will also fine historic photos of the Wenatachee area and examples of artwork from labels and other items advertising Eastern Washington's biggest crop: the famous Washington apples.
     As with the
Tacoma, the Wenatchee has been a steady, dependable running  vessel, infrequently breaking down.  Her service has been marred with only one serious mechanical failure--brought on by an uncharted rock.
     During a particularly low tide, coupled with the phenomenon of "squatting" which is when the ferry rides lower  down in the water  at full speed, the
Wenatchee clanged a rock in Eagle Harbor that hadn't been a problem ever before.
     The resultant damage consisted of a crack in the hull and a banged up propeller blade and necessitated drydock and repairs that kept the
Wenatchee out for many weeks.
     It was about this time as well that it was discovered that subbing a Jumbo ferry with a capacity of 2000 as opposed to 2500 was really no longer an option for the Seattle-Winslow run.  Unable to keep pace with the amount of travelers during peak commute times, WSF has since taken to moving the
Puyallup off the Kingston-Edmonds run instead of bumping either the Walla Walla or Spokane into the empty slot.  This is why when the Tacoma was out unexpectedly, the Hyak, which with its split decks can carry 2500 people, was moved from Bremerton over to Bainbridge--the Walla Walla simply wouldn't be able to handle the traffic.
     Luckily, breakdowns have been very uncommon over the last ten years of service.  The
Wenatchee has been living up to the reputation of her predecessors, the Jumbos,  in proving to be a remarkably trouble free  runner.
The uppermost deck of the Mark II's has a small room for additional passenger capacity.  Often referred to by commuters as the "reading room" or "library" you'll often find the room filled with people, but very quiet as they are either reading, writing, or napping.  Photo by the author.
Ever the optomists, WSF calls the uppder deck on the Mark II's, like on the Mark I's, the
"Sun Deck."  Photo by the author.
he ferries
While the largest double ended ferry in the world, the  Puyallup can't quite measure up to the size of a cruise ship.  Still, the ferry is impressive in its size compared to many of the other vessels in the fleet.  Photo  courtsey of Khristopher LaPlante.

Official Number: D1061310  Call Sign: WCY7938
Length: 460' 2''   Beam: 90' 
Draft: 17' 3''   Auto Deck Clearance: 16'
Horsepower: 13,200  Speed in Knots: 18 
Max Passengers: 2500   Max Vehicles: 202 
City Built: Seattle  Year Built/Re-built: 1999
Name Translation: From the Puyallup language: "generous people." The Puyallup tribe had a reputation for generosity in dealing with traders and travelers. Early settler Ezra Meeker renamed his town from Franklin in 1877 looking for something unique. Besides the tribe and town, the name "Puyallup" is also used for a river and a  glacier on Mount Rainier.
Perhaps the best of the trio, the Puyallup's passenger cabin is slighltly set apart by the use of red in the floor tile.  Photo courtesy of I. S. Black.
   It is not a name that readily slips off the tongue.  Pronounced   PEW-AL-UP, and while certainly of noble meaning and a accurate reflection of the tribe, it does manage to cross-up tourists who do not routinely speak the numerous Native American names in Washington State.  Still, it could certainly have been worse--reportedly, there were plans for a fourth Mark II that was allegedly going to be named Sequim-- a name that still sparks arguements by its own residents on how to pronounce correctly.
Puyallup has been on the Kingston-Edmonds run for most of her career, though as noted she will move south when one of her sisters is "in the shop" for repairs.  The vessel, huge in comparison to many of the ferries that have called the Kingston-Edmonds route home, quickly made short work of full parking lots and back ups on either side of the run.  However it was short-lived, as now the traffic has even out-paced the Puyallup and the Spokane in summer months, particularly if any event is taking place on the Kitsap or Olympic Peninsulas.

Current Fleet