VIN: D693273 Vessel Flag: USA Vessel Call Sign: WTS7740 Build Year: 1985 as Glacier Express Service: PASSENGER Length: 86.5 Breadth: 31.20
Depth: 9.000 Alternate VINs: CG004401, D693273 IMO Number: D693273
FINAL DISPOSITION: Resold to her original owners, renamed GLACIER EXPRESS and in use as a tour boat in Alaksa.
Meaning of Tyee: Chinook Jargon: "chief."
WSF tried for many years to get a passenger-only service fleet off the ground, dating as
far back as the mid 1980's. It wasn't until the late 1990s that the program got off to a fairly
good footing, with the introduction of low-wake, high speed water-jet driven catamarans
which could buzz along the water at an incredible 35 knots.
Starting the program back in 1986, WSF picked up a second-hand vessel by the name
Glacier Express, a former Alaska tour boat. Her named was chopped down to Express and
she was assigned to the Bremerton run, with the promise of a half hour commute.
It was far from a success. The Express constantly broke down. Dire warnings (which
proved to be unfounded) about the safety of the vessel floated up from the engineers.
The first year of service found the Express out of service more than in. And darker times
loomed ahead as property owners on Bainbridge Island got a look at what the wake was
doing to their beaches.
By the time the Skagit and Kalama joined the passenger only fleet in 1989, the Express
had already been slowed voluntarily by WSF.
Renamed Tyee in 1989 to be in line with the Native American names of her two running
mates, all three vessels were tied up when there was no funding to run them. The Skagit
and Kalama actually first saw service on San Francisco Bay after they were sent down
there to assist after the '89 earthquake.
Over the next decade the Tyee and her sisters ran from Bremerton and to Vashon Island
from Seattle, but with the two new POFF's (passenger only fast ferries) arriving in 1997
and 1998, it was assumed the Tyee and the others would be put out to pasture.
Funding for the expanded passenger only program dried up with the passage of I-695.
The ferries held on for a time, but service at Bremerton ended in 2003. The Tyee, which
had been working at Vashon, was pulled from the run.
A few months later, WSF listed her on eBay for sale. She was purchased by a new
company with designs on returning to the Bremerton route.
Renamed the Aqua Express, the ferry operated for about six months from Kingston to
downtown Seattle. Unable to make a profit, and with a steadily declining number of
passengers, the run was shut down. There were several attempts to revive the service,
but so far every one has failed. The inescapable fact that passenger only fast ferries are
not fuel efficient and are incredibly expensive to run seems not to have gotten through to
With the failure of yet another tax package to fund passenger only ferries in February of
2007, it is likely that, for all intents and purposes, cross-sound passenger only service is
Currently the vessel is back in Alaskan waters serving as a tour boat under her original
name--Glacier Express. She is still recognizable as a former Tyee. She'll likely pass into
the pages of history with little distinction.
|At top--the Glacier Express as built.
Middle, as the Express for WSF before becoming Tyee.
Bottom, back at work as the Glacier Express. ( Photo courtesy of Glacier