New ferry expected for Port Townsend-Keystone run by 2010 | Ferry Committee

In August, Washington State Ferries goes out for bid on the Island Home ferries to replace our “steel-electric” boats. The first boat will be delivered in 2010 for the Port Townsend-Keystone run. So what’s this about?

Our new Island Home

In August, Washington State Ferries goes out for bid on the Island Home ferries to replace our “steel-electric” boats. The first boat will be delivered in 2010 for the Port Townsend-Keystone run. So what’s this about?


WSF planned to replace the steel electrics with a standard 144-car ferry design to be used throughout the fleet. Port Townsend and Keystone objected. The larger boat would create traffic congestion in Port Townsend while widening the Keystone harbor and moving the Keystone terminal was unacceptable. When the steel-electric boats were suddenly retired, WSF rented the Steilacoom II from Pierce County with the possibility of building more. That didn’t work out. Riders reported that Steilacoom II took on water in the gale conditions of Admiralty Inlet. The ferry’s small car and passenger capacity wasn’t a good fit for other routes where it might also be used. When the construction bid was $9 million over what WSF had expected, the Steilacoom was shelved.

Finding the Island home

The search for another ferry took WSF to Cape Cod, Mass. and the “Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority” (SSA). SSA had, a year before, put their Island Home ferry into service between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard. Designed by Seattle’s Elliott Bay Design Group, Island Home met WSF’s requirements. It was nimble and docked easily in Woods Hole where the extreme currents led locals to call ferry landings a “controlled crash.” Its ride was comfortable in the winter gales that sweep Vineyard Sound with six-to-eight foot waves. With a draft two feet less than the steel electrics, Island Home can squeeze into shallow channels – a must for Keystone’s low tides. Using a proven design also saved time and money.

The boat

Island Home has completely enclosed ends to protect vehicles from freezing spray. It also has a large pilothouse that hangs over the sides giving it a bobble-head appearance. Our version will keep the pilothouse but have WSF’s familiar open “pickle fork” ends. There will also be six-foot high rolling gates to block spray in rough weather.


Island Home carries 64 vehicles and 1,200 passengers. It can add 16 cars with ramps that drop down from the overhead to split the truck lanes into two levels. WSF decided to defer the drop-down decks, which can be added later. WSF will increase the length adding room for more cars. While the passenger lounge will remain the same size, WSF will initially limit passengers to 600 to reduce crew and life raft costs. Island Home processes and discharges sewage while underway and refuels every night. WSF will instead add sewage holding tanks and enough fuel capacity for a weekly refueling.

Propulsion and control

Island Home will use the same standard engines as our 144-car boats will have. This pushes her at 16 knots, a speed that can keep up with the schedule on any WSF run. To enhance maneuverability, Island Home has articulated (“high lift”) rudders. These rudders have an aft edge that turns independently of the rudder to give the boat exceptional maneuverability.

ADA compliant

There are two elevators on the car deck with a 36-inch-wide passenger pathway running the length of the car deck. Alarms also will have flashing lights and all signs are also in Braille.


The SSA paid $33 million for their boat in 2006. This figure includes several millions for rework caused by changed Coast Guard rules. WSF has also eliminated some unneeded features, which should also reduce costs. On the other hand, material costs have increased and the Island Home was built in a high production Mississippi shipyard with lower labor costs than here in Washington.

Want more info?

See the Society of Naval Architects and Naval Engineers Web site at and WSFs FAQs at

How much…

… does WSF get from ferry advertising? Here are some examples: JanSport, $38,700; Lufthansa, $84,150; Washington Mutual, $33,000; Air New Zealand, $8,800. The contract term with T4M (the ad company) is 10 years, Sept. 15, 2007 through Sept. 14, 2017. During years 1-5, Washington State Ferries will get 55 percent of all gross revenues and years 6-10, 60 percent.

The Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee includes Rex Carlaw, Dennis Cziske, Walt Elliott, Paul Lundy and Linda Paralez. Contact the committee at (360) 297-2845 or