Built: 1938, Baltimore, MD Length: 207' 6" Beam: 62' Draft: 8' 6" Auto Deck Clearance: 12' Speed: 11 knots Propulsion: 1 diesel engine. Autos: 55 Passengers: 605
Name Translation: named after the Olympic Mountain Range in Western Washington.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Moored at Anderson Island, WA. Status beyond that unknown.
A year before being displaced by the Kulshan, the Olympic departs Mukilteo in 1968. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser.
| Put out of work when a bridge was built across Chesapeake Bay, the Gov. Harry W. Nice and Gov. Herbert R. O'Conor were snapped up by Washington State Ferries. At the time, building a new ferry was a few years away at the earliest and the system needed more carrying capacity—and quickly.
Painted in green and white, the two ferries were renamed Olympic and Rhododendron. In 1954, the Olympic started on the Southpoint-Lofall run, but a month later she was displaced on the run by her sister, Rhododendron. The Olympic was moved up to the Clinton, Whidbey Island - Mukilteo run, taking over the number one ferry spot from the Chetzemoka.
The Olympic worked side-by-side with the Rhododendron on the Clinton run full time until 1969 when the Kulshan joined the Rhododendron. The Olympic was then used as a third/summer overflow boat.
In 1974 the WSF was ordered to take over operations of the Port Townsend-Keystone from Olympic Ferries Inc., which had recently gone out of business. WSF moved the Oly over to the route, where she operated for the next several years.
In February 1979 the Hood Canal Bridge sank in a violent storm. With it, the quick link to the Olympic Peninsula was cut off. Traffic tripled on the Keystone run. The Olympic couldn't keep up, so she was moved back to Clinton. By the time the bridge was rebuilt, and with the new Issaquah class ferries taking their place on the Sound, the Olympic was scheduled to be retired in 1983.
The retirement never happened. While the Rhododendron was mothballed, the Olympic continued on at Keystone until ordered off the run by the Coast Guard. Her single engine shut down one day leaving her adrift for over an hour before the engine could be restarted. The Coast Guard did not want a vessel with a single engine on the route, and the Klickitat, recently out of being completely refurbished, was moved to the route.
For the next ten years the Olympic continued on in service on various routes in the system, mainly at Point Defiance and even subbing as the inter-Island ferry for a few summers in the San Juan Islands.
After the succesful updating of the Steel Electrics, WSF decided to upgrade the Olympic and Rhody. The Rhody, already out of service, was sent in for overhaul first.
Much to the chagrin of WSF and the DOT, the Rhody was far more deteriorated than first thought. Much of her steel was completely wasted and the entire passenger cabin had to be rebuilt from the ground up using entirely new steel. The cost overruns were in the millions.
This spelled the end of any thought of refurbishing the Olympic, which with her single engine limited her to where she could work. Her carrying capacity and limted over-height clearance made her of little use to the system, so plans for her overhaul were shelved.
After the Rhody returned to service in 1993 the Olympic was mothballed the WSF repair facility. The years ticked by until the state decided to surplus the vessel in 1997. She was put up for auction, and sold to Darrell McNabb of Bainbridge Island for $71,000.00. McNabb hoped to turn the Olympic into a sightseeing vessel and museum. He towed her across the harbor to begin her new life.
Sadly, nothing was done with the ferry. She remained moored where McNabb towed her after the 1997 sale. Broken glass littered her car deck, rust streaking her sides. Nesting crows looked out from the wheelhouse.
In 2006 the vessel was cleaned up inside, with some new paint being added to the passenger cabin. There has been some interest in returning her to her home waters, but aside from the purchase price there would be expense of towing her back to Chesapeake Bay. In July 2009 the ferry went up for bid on eBay. The Olympic was facing eviction from her moorage at Eagle Harbor and had to move.
Shortly after, the Olympic changed hands and was moved to Ketron Island. Piece County did not want the owners of the Olympic to tie the ferry up to their pier/dolphin. On Monday, 3 May 2010 an unusual late spring storm with very strong winds rolled into Puget Sound. Without the secure mooring, the Olympic broke free and ran aground on the Island.
After about a week on the beach the ferry was pulled off none the worse for wear. She is currently moored at Ketron Island.
|At left, after years of working at Clinton-Mukilteo, the Olympic was reassigned to the Port Townsend-Keystone run on the other side of Whidbey Island after Olympic Ferries Inc. shut down in 1974. Author's collection. At right, Douglas Walker captures the Olympic at her new moorage at Ketron Island.|
|The Olympic fights heavy seas on the Port Townsend-Keystone run. A few years later ther ferry would be ordered off the route permanently after her engine broke down and left her adrift. Author's collection.|
|to the KULSHAN
|Near sisters together again...
n an odd coincidence, the Rhododendron had been filling in for the Christine Anderson, when the Oly arrived at Ketron Island. For the first time in decades, the two ferries were briefly reunited. Photo courtesy of Carol Just.