VIN: D693273 Vessel Hull: Vessel Flag: USA Vessel Call Sign: WTS7740 Build Year: 1985 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 anyone.
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 dead.
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.
Top photo--the "Express" arrives in service, only to face controversy. Above, it all
comes full circle for the Tyee. Back to work for her original owners, she's cruising
Alaska waters again under her original name. Photo courtesy of Glacier Express.