‘Queen of the Northern Fleet’ bids adieu, legacy lingers

Bound for Anacortes and retirement, the Evergreen State sets sail out of Friday Harbor for the very last time June 29, escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and with the Fireboat Confidence leading the procession.   - Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen
Bound for Anacortes and retirement, the Evergreen State sets sail out of Friday Harbor for the very last time June 29, escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and with the Fireboat Confidence leading the procession.
— image credit: Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen

She took along with her an untold number of memories and myriad reflections of 60 years of maritime expeditions when the venerable Evergreen State set sail out of Friday Harbor, bound for Anacortes, for the very last time.

A host of ferry lovers, history buffs and local dignitaries made their way to the waterfront, assembling around the ferry terminal, to see her go.

Sunday, July 29, marked the final sailing of the oldest boat in Washington State Ferries’ fleet, and state and local officials memorialized the event with photos, gifts and speeches onboard her deck.

Known by many as the “Queen of the Northern Fleet,” the Evergreen State cruised out of Friday Harbor for the very last time escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard boat and with San Juan Island Fire Department’s Fireboat Confidence in the lead, casting aloft a steady stream of water at the head of the procession.

Bill and Schevaun Massey of Anacortes, accompanied by friend Jan Conklin, boarded the boat in Anacortes and made the roundtrip back home to be part of the 2:15 p.m. sailing and send-off. They memorialized the occasion with chocolate ice cream cones on the sun-splashed Sunday afternoon.

“It’s sort of a historic thing,” Conklin said. “We’ve never been on a final trip onboard a ferry before.”

Evergreen StateThe first-ever ferry commissioned by Washington state and built before the age of the internet, cellphones, Facebook or space travel, in 1954, the Evergreen State has long been a fixture in the San Juan Islands and the nearby international waterways as well. It’s been a mainstay on the inter-island route and the international run for decades.

San Juan Island’s Robert Demar boarded the boat with a copy of “Nautical Highways” in hand. The book focuses on four ferries that plied the San Juan waterways in the 1990s, the E-State included, and also features his photographs. In addition to its maritime legacy, Demar noted that for some, himself included, the ferry also calls to mind an air of romance. He and his then-bride-to-be boarded the E-State, bound for Sidney, B.C., married on Vancouver Island, and returned to Friday Harbor as newlyweds.

Similar in size to the Evergreen State, the Klahowya, with 87-vehicle capacity, will serve as its replacement. The Klahowya, which means “greetings” in Native American/Chinook, was originally constructed in 1958 and retrofitted in ‘95. The San Juans are expected to be served by a newly constructed 144-auto ferry by late 2015.

For many, like Catherine McKenna-Smith, memories of the Evergreen State run deep. Like Demar, she and her husband, Joseph, rode the ferry to Vancouver Island 20 years ago to get married. It was the first ferry that Joseph, a former San Juan County planning director, ever rode in his first-ever trip from Washington D.C., where he worked for the FBI, to Puget Sound.

In the mid 1950s, Catherine McKenna-Smith’s father was the purser on the Evergreen State. She later worked for the ferry system for several years. The Mount Vernon couple boarded the Evergreen State in Friday Harbor to commemorate the ties that bind on the ship’s final sailing.

“Every Sunday I would ride the boat with my dad,” McKenna-Smith said. “That’s before there were any galleys and my mother would make us fried chicken for lunch. Those memories are very special to me.”


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