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 Ketron Island, WA, and being slowly dismantled.
The Olympic as seen in a 1970's C.B. Ellis postcard.
|At top, the Olympic as she looked while working in Baltimore. She has a very
"East Coast" profile. 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.
Last photo shows the Olympic being dismantled. Courtesy of Google Earth.
|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.
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, 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 overhaul
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, where her new owner is slowly dismantling
her on the beach.