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Ferries for sale

The state General Administration office has put four Steel Electric class ferries up for sale. If there are no buyers, they will go onto eBay. - Washington State Ferries photo
The state General Administration office has put four Steel Electric class ferries up for sale. If there are no buyers, they will go onto eBay.
— image credit: Washington State Ferries photo

Just last November the Klickitat was ferrying cars and passengers between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend, but now it and its sister ships could be headed for the scrap heap.

Generating a number for the monetary and intrinsic value of a historic, 80-year-old sea transportation vessel, while difficult and subjective, was not beyond the purview of the state's General Administration office.

The four Steel Electric class ferries built in 1927 and rebuilt in the '80s are the oldest vessels in the state's fleet. Even riding the pine, the aged boats have value.

The ferries are now on sale for $350,000 each. For under $400,000 any average Joe or Jane can take home the Illahee, Nisqually, Klickitat or Quinalt.

Tim McGuigan, director of Legal Services an Contracts for Washington State Ferries, said steel salvagers estimated the value of each vessel at $450,000. Shave a hundred grand off the price and you got yourself a screaming deal you just can't shake a seagull carcass at.

State Ferries has thus far seen only nibbles by tepid, reluctant buyers apprehensive about purchasing ancient ferries. The boats are available for sale through July to state agencies, counties, cities, governmental organization and private non-profits.

"As of a week ago, nobody had expressed interest in them," McGuigan said Thursday. He added that the city of Port Townsend has done some window shopping and the Washington Scuba Alliance is eyeing the boats as vessels to sink for diving attractions. The latter would likely not be a difficult undertaking.

If there are no takers, the ferries, currently at Bainbridge Island's Eagle Harbor, will go up for sale on eBay, sharing cyberspace with denim coats and used chewing gum sellers. Granted, Leif Garrett chewed the gum.

"It's good coverage and gets the word out there worldwide," McGuigan said.

He said the likely buyers would be steel scrappers able to dissect the vessels and recoup money from recycling.

McGuigan said notices will go out announcing onsite tours of the ferries and a review of maintenance requirements.

The formidable and currently unseaworthy boats, powered by two diesel-electric engines, have double-ended steel hulls and steel superstructures.

At the time the ferries were pulled from service in November 2007, each of the Steel Electrics carried a maximum of 59 vehicles and 616 passengers, except for the Klickitat, which carries a maximum of 64 vehicles and 617 passengers.

Interest in bring any of the boats to Whidbey Island appears nil.

Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik was reluctant to entertain the idea of purchasing one of the boats. He was also against parking a ferry at Windjammer Park, instead advocating the beautification of the facility. Even if the Windjammer Plan does not include a section on ferry purchases, the original drafters could hardly have anticipated the possibility of placing a huge boat in the middle of a park.

The pragmatic Deception Pass Park Manager Jack Hart spent a lot of time on the Klickitat and remembers the boat fondly. He theorized the multi-level boat could be tied off and docked locally.

"We could be put cabins in the bottom and the top could be a restaurant. We'd have to have a latte stand," he said.

If all else fails, Hartt said lining the boats up could act as a makeshift Deception Pass Bridge reminiscent of the overly-photographed covered bridges on the the east coast.

"It could work," he said with a laugh.

For more information about the surplus special, visit www.ga.wa.gov/Surplus/special.htm.

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