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
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 capacityâ€”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 successful 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 limited 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
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. She is currently moored at Ketron Island, not far from the ferry dock.
At top, after years of working at Clinton-Mukilteo, the Olympic was
reassigned to the Port Townsend-Keystone run in June 1974 on the other
side of Whidbey Island after Olympic Ferries Inc. shut down after the
summer 1973 season. Author's collection. Middle, Douglas Walker
captures the Olympic at her new mooring at Ketron Island. Above,in 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.
|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.