A former state ferry with a colorful past is currently docked near the South Whidbey Harbor while it undergoes repairs from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. (Photo provided by Kathy Myers)

A former state ferry with a colorful past is currently docked near the South Whidbey Harbor while it undergoes repairs from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders. (Photo provided by Kathy Myers)

Privately owned ferry makes Whidbey stop

There are no longer just three ferries occupying the waters of Whidbey.

A former state ferry known as Evergreen State has taken up temporary residence at a private dock near Langley, according to an article from The Olympian.

In the story, Gavin Higgins, chief executive of Freeland-based Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, said the vessel will be undergoing some repairs by the company over the duration of the next three months. Its next destination will be a dry dock in Everett.

The vessel arrived late Monday night. It spent the previous three years at the Port of Olympia and was scheduled to stay there through 2022, but the port terminated its moorage contract with the boat’s owner.

According to another article from The Olympian, the contract mandated that the owner secure insurance and post a $1 million security bond. The owner failed to abide by both conditions.

Financial troubles seem to follow the owners of the former state ferry. A previous owner couldn’t pay its bills either, leading to the boat’s seizure and a public auction in 2020.

Bart Lematta, a resident of Vancouver, Wash., is the vessel’s current owner. He paid $290,000 for it at the auction last year.

The previous owner, a Florida man, had lofty dreams of making the ferry a floating restaurant and event center off the coast of the state’s panhandle, according to coverage from NPR.

Lematta had voiced plans about making the boat more “sustainable,” according to other stories from The Olympian.

The 310-foot, decommissioned ferry boat has a colorful history. A story from The San Juan Journal details the birth of an infant onboard who was able to incorporate her birthplace, the Evergreen State, in her wedding 30 years later when the ferry pulled up to the dock as she and her husband were exchanging vows.

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer article said the 87-car boat was the oldest one in the state ferry system upon the date of its retirement in 2016. It was in service for 62 years and was the first in the fleet to be custom-built.

A press release from the Washington State Department of Transportation said the Evergreen State was decommissioned because of difficulty locating replacement parts and maintaining the vessel.

The boat was outfitted with two motors that came from destroyers used in World War II.

It traveled the route to the San Juan Islands the most.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders did not return a request for comment from The Record by press time.

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