Original Name: Mendocino     Year Built/Re-built: 1927 /1958/1987   City Built: San Francisco Official Number: 226712  Call Sign WA8696   Length: 256'   Beam: 73' 10''
Auto Deck Clearance: 13' 3''   Horsepower: 2,896  Draft: 12' 9'' Speed in Knots: 12 Max Passengers: 616  Propulsion: Diesel-Electric   Max Vehicles: 59
Name Translation: Derived from French traders who called the  South Puget Sound natives nez quarr, meaning "square nose," and altered by the natives inability to
pronounce the letter "R."  A large Mt. Rainier glacier and resultant river are also named after the tribe.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped in Ensenada, MX 2011.
The  Nisqually departs Anacortes in August, 1971  Author's collection.
Above, the Nisqually arrives in Sidney, B.C. in 1949.  Note the broken windows on
the car deck. Courtesy of the Robert Parkinson collection.
Above,  perhaps the worst accident in WSF's history, the Nisqually collided with a
freighter in July of 1963 while working the Kingston-Edmonds run.  Though both
vessels were equipped with radar, the thick fog resulted in 0 visibility.  Slicing right
into the galley, it was amazing that no one was hurt.  The ferry still shows scars of
the collision to this day.  Courtesy of Tom Sanislo/MOHAI, Williamson collection.
Mouse over for the color photo.
Northwestern Pacific Railroad built the M/V Mendocino in 1927.  At the time, she and
her sisters
Redwood Empire and Santa Rosa were the most advanced type of ferry in
the world.  With their steel hulls and diesel-electric power plants, they were known as
"Steel Electrics" to set them apart from a fleet of slightly smaller vessels with the same
type of power plant set up but with wooden hulls. (The Wood Electrics would become
Klahanie, Kehloken, Chetzemoka and the first Elwha on Puget Sound.)

Later absorbed by Southern Pacific, the ferries joined the Southern Pacific-Golden
Gate ferry fleet until 1938 when the bridges shut down  nearly all auto ferry operation
on San Francisco Bay.

Sold to Captain Alexander Peabody's Puget Sound Navigation Company (Black Ball
Line) in 1940, the vessels were all towed north to start their careers on Puget Sound.
Mendocino renamed Nisqually, started work on the Edmonds-Kingston-Port Ludlow
route.  She stayed on this run from about 1941 until the Port Ludlow route was
dropped in 1950 with the opening of the Lofall-Southpoint run.

The State of Washington took over ferry operations in 1951, sending the
Nisqually up
to the San Juan Islands and to the Vashon Island routes until 1957 when she went
back to the Edmonds-Kingston run.

Considered to be the "backbone of the fleet"  the ferries were modernized beginning
in the late 1950's. All the boats had  their decks sponsoned out eight feet. The
passenger cabins were modernized  though still made out of wood.

In 1977 the ferry system painted a gold band on    the smokestack of each Steel
Electric, symbolizing 50 years of service. It was   at this time that the system was
modernizing the fleet as well.  Looking at the Steel Electrics, an assessment was done
and found that  the boats could be modernized again, adding another 20 years to
their service  life.  
After many delays, the  Nisqually was rebuilt in 1987.  Over the next decade she
would work the Port Townsend-Keystone run and up in the San Juan Islands.  By the
end of the 1990's though, it was becoming clear that the entire class as a whole was
winding down their careers.  The
Nisqually left the San Juans in 1999 and was
reduced to stand-by service, making her last run in 2003 and then being put officially
on the retired list.

In 2007 she was reactivated, but cracks found in her sister ferry's hull caused the
Coast Guard and WSF to take a closer look at the class as a whole.  When it was
determined that all the concrete ballast poured into the hull would have to  be
chiseled out and the stern tubes replaced, the
Nisqually was quietly withdrawn.  While
WSF never officially said the ferry was not going to return to service, no yard time for
the hull inspections was ever booked.  After the entire class was deemed too
expensive to repair on 13 December 2007, the status of the
Nisqually as "retired" was
officially assured.

After several proposals, a deal was finally reached in June 2009 with Eco Planet
Recycling, Inc. of Chula Vista, California.  All four ferries were sold for $200,000.00.

Nisqually and Quinault were the first to be towed out for scrapping, leaving Eagle
Harbor on 7 August 2009 and arriving in Mexico on 16 August for scrapping, ending
their long and colorful careers.  Captain Peabody would have been amazed at how
long his 300,001.00 purchase lasted.
The Delayed Execution...  

  The Nisqually, which was last seen afloat in February 2011 (as seen in the photo here,
courtesy of Shawn J. Dake) had vanished by the time Mr. Dake made a return trip past
Ensenada in late April 2011--by which time active demolition had begun on the sunken
hulk of the
Illahee. (See the Illahee page for photos.)
      As Mr. Dake noted, there are no places to hide a vessel of the
Nisqually's size in
Ensenada Harbor, and it is likely in the time the photo was taken and the Mr. Dake's return
trip in late April, the
Nisqually was cut up.  Adding credence to this is the fact that there
were two freshly cut off Steel Electric wheelhouses on the shore across from the
which still had hers in place.
       It appears that the
Klickitat was scrapped first, followed by the Quinault (the last of her
hull disappearing sometime between June of 2010 when the Google photos were taken
and February 2011) and then the
Nisqually and finally the most difficult job, the sunken
Illahee--which, given the added work it is taking, was likely sunk by accident.
Originally the galleys on all the Steel Electrics looked like this.  The Illahee, on the
busy WInslow run, was remodeled in the 1950's, taking away the gracefully curved
counters.  See the section on the
Illahee for post-remodel galley.  Courtesy of the
Williamson Collection/MOHAI.