Built: 1938, Baltimore, MD as Governor Harry W. Nice 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.
The Olympic as seen in a 1950's postcard.
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, making the first run for the
state on the Port Townsend-Keystone run in June, 1974.
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
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, where she
routinely is aground with the low tide.
|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.
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.
|One of the reasons why the Port Townsend run is one
of the toughest in the system...
The Olympic fights heavy seas on the Port Townsend-Keystone run. A few
years later the ferry would be ordered off the route permanently after her
engine broke down and left her adrift. Given the Oly only had one engine, it's
surprising she was allowed to work the route at all. Author's collection.