MV Steilacoom sits idly at Anderson Island waiting to be moved by its new owner
Pierce County’s backup ferry Steilacoom has been sold and will be towed to Lake Union in Seattle next month for refurbishing for its next role. The 71-year-old former Navy vessel, which has a colorful history, was sold for $49,500 on eBay, the online auction site.
R. T. Wallace of Hado Inc., Las Vegas, was the lone bidder. The buyer indicated the ferry will be reconstructed and probably remain in the Puget Sound area.
Built in Bath, Maine, and named the Aquidneck, it ferried vehicles to and from Ford Island at Pearl Harbor. Its capacity was 30 vehicles and 150 passengers when acquired by Pierce County in 1976.
The ferry served commuters well between Steilacoom and Anderson and Ketron islands but eventually became too small to handle the growing numbers of users. The News Tribune reported in October 1986 that the Steilacoom made nine round trips daily to Anderson Island but sometimes that wasn’t enough to meet the demands. Controversy erupted after the contract ferry crew stranded people both on the dock at Steilacoom and on the island when the demand was too heavy for the day’s final trip.
Pierce County solved the issue by ordering a new 54-car, 250-passenger ferry, the Christine Anderson. The $5.2 million vessel went into service in 1994. At that time, the Steilacoom became the backup ferry replacing the Islander, a small vessel with an 18-car capacity.
The Islander was purchased from the State of Oregon in 1967. Built in 1924 and named the Tourist 2, it operated across the Columbia River from Astoria, OR to Meglar, WA. During WWII it was used by the Army to place mines across the mouth of the Columbia River. It was retired by Oregon when the new Astoria bridge opened in August 1966 and moved to Pierce County the following year. Pierce County sold the Islander in the 1990s to Argosy Cruises, and it continues to serve as a passenger-only ferry on Lake Washington.
Pierce County’s ferry fleet expanded during the past month when the Steilacoom II, nearly a mirror image of the Christine Anderson, was christened and put into service. The Steilacoom II and Christine Anderson will be used alternately, extending the life of each vessel.