|The Jumbo Mark II's: Giants of the Fleet|
| As the 1980’s closed out, it was becoming evident that even with the Issaquah Class expanded to carry more cars, the ferry system was still going to be woefully short of carrying capacity. Added to the problem, the fleet was aging rapidly and two classes of vessels were going to need mid-life upgrades which would result in vessels being out of service for extended periods of time leaving the system with no back up. (Eerie how that seems to keep happening with the system, isn’t it?)
The runs needing more capacity were two of the busiest routes in the system: Seattle to Winslow, Bainbridge Island and Kingston to Edmonds. The Jumbos on the Seattle-Bainbridge route had reasonable carrying capacity for autos, but their cabins were rated for 2000 passengers. On the early morning runs and the early evening runs it was becoming standing room only. While the Supers could have been placed on the route for added walk on capacity (2,500) the loss of some 40+ spaces for cars resulted in large backups on either end of the run.
At Kingston where the Yakima and Hyak were working, the backups on weekends were becoming hours long. The boats were in serious need of reconditioning, and were getting slower by the day. The plans to refurbish them had already been made—and were set to take place after the Elwha went in for upgrading in the winter of 1990-91. The damage the boat sustained during the Arctic Express and the lack of back up boats shelved the projects until the boats could be spared.
Three boats were authorized for construction. They would be drawn off the plans for Jumbos, but with expanded capacity for both autos and passengers. They would carry 218 cars, 2,500 people and be just over twenty feet longer than their predecessors, which would make them for a time the largest double-ended ferries in North America. (The title has since gone to B.C. Ferries new Coastal Class and will likely remain theirs as WSF has no plans to build larger boats. The Mark II’s are still the largest double-ended ferries in the United States.)
Christened rather unimaginatively the “Jumbo Mark II Class” the contract was awarded to Todd Shipyard and construction finally started in 1996. The first ferry, the Tacoma, would appear in 1997 with the other two following in 1998 and 1999.
In the decade since they first appeared on Puget Sound, the trio have proven to be very reliable additions to the fleet. After ten years of service they’ve recently all had security upgrades and new paint, and one interior upgrade. The Mark II's are ready to continue serving Puget Sound commuters for many more decades to come.
The snowy cone of Mount Baker on the horizon, the Puyallup crossed from Edmonds to Kingston. Courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
|The Mark II's Today:
The Current Fleet