Vessel Name: CHINOOK
VIN: 1063252 Hull Number: 32 Vessel Flag: UNITED STATES Vessel Call Sign: WDF7183 Build Year: 1998 Service: Passenger (Inspected)
Length: 127.4 ft Breadth: 37.7 ft Depth: 12.8 ft Alternate VINs: CG4705261063252, IMO Number: 9183207
Name Translation: Chinook-- Breeze, wind.
Vessel Name: SNOHOMISH
VIN: 1084026 Hull Number: 36 Vessel Flag: UNITED STATES Vessel Call Sign: WDE8110 Build Year: 1999 Service: Passenger (Inspected)
Length: 123.7 ft Breadth: 37.7 ft Depth: 12.5 ft Alternate VINs: CG4990931084026, IMO Number: 8643004
Name Translation: Snohomish--"tide water people"
FINAL DISPOSITION: Sold to Golden Gate Ferries, San Francisco and renamed GOLDEN GATE (Chinook) and NAPA (Snohomish)
The former WSF passenger only fast ferry, the Snohomish as she looks today as the Napa. Photo courtesy of Brandon Swan.
Two former members of the Washington State Ferry fleet were, at the time of their retirement, two of the newest vessel in the fleet, built at time when
optimism was high for a new fleet of quick passenger only ferry service from Vashon Island, Bremerton and Kingston.
Built in 1998 and 1999 by Dakota Creek Shipyards of Anacortes, the vessels were comfortable and very fast, capable of doing over 30 knots. The commute
time to Bremerton dropped to 30 minutes, and things looked good for an expanding fleet of similar ferries across Puget Sound.
Trouble arose almost at once. After a short time on the route it transpired that at the narrowest point of Rich Passage the wake cast from the ferries didn't
have enough time to flatten out, resulting in erosion of the beach. WSF tried correcting the problem, but it didn't help. After a court injunction was issued the
ferries were slowed. Nine months later the injunction was lifted, but WSF continued to slow the ferries at the narrowest point of the passage to prevent any
further damage, and negating the shortened commute time.
|The Chinook as the vessel looked working for Washington State Ferries. Left, photo courtesy Brandon Moser. Interior photo courtesy of WSF.
|Above the exterior and interior of the Snohomish, which used darker colors. Photo courtesy of WSF and Emory Lindgard.
Even slowed the vessels found no lack of passengers. However, when I-695 passed, a significant portion of the budget for WSF was cut. Although later
thrown out as being unconstitutional, the legislature caved to political pressure and kept the reduction in place, never bothering to restore proper funding for
the ferry system—a situation that remains to this day.
Forced to make cuts to service, it was determined that the passenger only ferries from Seattle to Bremerton should be withdrawn as they simply could not be
run cost effectively. Fares would have had to have been raised so high that it was doubtful commuters would have paid for the trip that was running only 15-
20 minutes faster than the auto ferries.
The vessels were withdrawn from service in the fall of 2003. They were then mothballed in Eagle Harbor, at the WSF repair yard. After three years of
wrangling with what to do with the last remaining passenger-only route from Vashon Island to down town Seattle, the legislature decided that the vessels
should be sold, the proceeds of which could be tapped for another operator to take over the Vashon route, which WSF was set to discontinue operations of in
The ferries were to be listed on Ebay in November 2007, but with the sudden closure of the Port Townsend auto ferry run, the Snohomish was pressed into
service between Port Townsend and Keystone. The potential loss of holiday business in Port Townsend due to the sudden withdrawal of the Steel Electrics
prompted the state to run the Snohomish between Seattle-Port Townsend run on starting on 13 December 2007. She continued on the route until replaced
by the car ferry Steilacoom II which was borrowed to restore auto ferry service between Port Townsend and Keystone on Whidbey Island.
Due to "at ready" status, the Snohomish was being kept as a reserve vessel. The Chinook, however was not considered for reserve status and was listed
twice on eBay at the price of 4.5 million. There were no bids on the ferry either time it was listed.
Finally, the pair was sold for just over 2 million apiece to Golden Gate Ferries in San Francisco. After being readied for the trip at Dakota Creek, the
Snohomish made an uneventful trip to the Bay area. Both ferries were extensively rebuilt, upping their passenger capacity. In addition, a snack bar was
added, and more fuel efficient engines installed. The pair, now under the names Golden Gate and Napa have proven themselves to be very success in San
Francisco and are utilized by thousands of commuters each year.