The only thing they have in common are their names and a similar
speed: the Tacoma of 1913 and 1997 share little else in common. The
lovely steamer of 1913 would have been completely dwarfed by the Tacoma
that went into service for Washington State Ferries in 1997. Built to
accommodate the increasing traffic on the Winslow, Bainbridge Island to
Seattle route, the ferry has served the north end of Kitsap County well over
the years, rarely experiencing any problems.
There were some initial teething problems when first coming into
service--mainly vibration, particularly around corners. It was a design flaw
that had been present in the Jumbos and which, for reasons not ever well
explained, got copied right into the new boats. The Tacoma was later
retrofitted to get rid of the shimmy and is now much smoother running.
However, only the Puyallup, which was still under construction at the time
the problem was discovered escaped the vibration completely.
The added capacity of the Tacoma was very welcomed. In short order,
however, the ferry was at capacity. The boats are now so regularly full that
if the Tacoma or Wenatchee needs to go out for maintenance, they will be
replaced by the Puyallup as the Spokane and Walla Walla with 500 fewer
spaces for people can no longer work the route as commuters will be left at
the dock. For one brief period of time in 2002 the Kaleetan was placed on
the route. Even though the car capacity was cut, it was the Kaleetan's then
2,500 passenger capacity (which has since been revised downward) that
As the Tacoma and the others are maxed out and there is no room to
put a third boat on the run (it was tried for one summer and resulted in such
horrible traffic back ups across the entire island the idea for a third vessel
on the route had quietly been dropped) there has been some talk of
retro-fitting the solariums to be an enclosed passenger cabin, much like the
"library" areas already on the upper deck
Since going into service, the Tacoma has called Bainbridge Island
home. With few exceptions she has been there since that first day of
service in 1997.
In November of 2007 the Tacoma returned to service after an absence
of some three months for her ten year overhaul. She returned to service
polished, cleaned and freshly painted, and ready for another ten years of
sterling service. In early 2011, she went in for interior upgrades.
Official Number: D1052576 Call Sign: WCX9244 Length: 460' 2'' Beam: 90' Draft: 17' 3'' Horsepower: 13,200 Draft: Speed in Knots: 18 Max Passengers: 2500
Max Vehicles: 202 City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1997 Name Translation: Derived from the native word Tah-ho-mah for Mt. Rainier, or "snowy mountain." Tacoma was first
attributed to the mountain in an 1860s book, "The Canoe and the Saddle" by Theodore Winthrop, a popular volume on the early Pacific Northwest. The city picked the name over
Commencement City when the railroad made its terminius there in the 1870s.
The Tacoma sailing toward her namesake volcano. Photo courtesy of Matthew Hunnewell.
The Tacoma's refurbished interior, which makes use of the same dark green that was
installed on the Walla Walla. Photos courtesy of Brandon Swan. Mouse over for the before
pictures...at left, the cabin in a shot by Matt Masuoka, and right a photo by the author.
The First Tacoma...
The crack steamer S.S. Tacoma of 1913 was the
fastest single propeller vessel in the world. Even
today the steamer would give her namesake ferry a
run for her money. Author's collection.