|The Chetzemoka approaches the ferry landing at Point Defiance|
Built at Todd Shipyard in Seattle at the cost of $79.4 million, the Chetzemoka caused all kinds of fanfare when it arrived in Port Townsend to serve the Port Townsend/Coupeville run. That was only a little over a year ago. (You can read about the whole expensive and probably misguided saga in this article from the Port Townsend Leader.) This ferry was meant for Port Townsend and named for a Native American leader from that area. The passenger cabin even features artwork portraying historic Port Townsend. Now we have it here in Tacoma, and they don't.
Maybe I'll get used to the Chetzemoka, but it might take a long time. Right now, it doesn't feel like it belongs here. With a gross tonnage of 4,623 and horsepower of 6,000—compared to the Rhododendron's gross tonnage of 937 and horsepower of 2,172— it will obviously use far, far more fuel for the 1.5 mile, 10-minute trip. How much shorter does a 10-minute trip need to be? And so what if it has a galley? Who has time to buy food and consume it during this short trip? Here is a comparison of the two vessels: M/V Rhododendron and M/V Chetzemoka
|The Rhododendron heads for the Point Defiance dock with the Chetzemoka waiting in the background.|
After what seemed like some kind of test, the Chetzemoka pulled out, heading toward the passage on Vashon's west side, then made a surprisingly quick maneuver, turning around and positioning itself for another approach to the dock, even as the older boat headed for Point Defiance. At that moment, I felt the sadness of what was happening. It seemed like the 64-year-old Rhododendron, still beautiful—and in the opinion of many, still repairable—was leaving a long marriage against her will. And out there in the water, her much younger replacement watched and waited impatiently, to move in. Here is a video of the Rhododendron's arrival.
Leaning against that railing, surrounded by things I love—the gulls, the smell of the salt water, sounds of boats and waves, the sight of Vashon Island— I thought about change and how many endings life brings. Ships, like people and places, can be taken for granted, there one day and then gone forever. I've seen many ferries come and go and I treasure childhood memories of some of the older ones. Even though the Rhododendron showed up on the Vashon-Point Defiance run many years after my childhood, I've come to know it well. And my husband had worked on this ferry when it was in the dry dock. He loved it. Now it was leaving.
|M/V Rhododendron at the Point Defiance ferry landing.|
I know my husband and I weren't the only ones who cared. I am sure the officers and crew did, along with the islanders who depended on and loved this vessel. I know that last Sunday a group of folks from Vashon took a farewell ride, described here in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber. But where was the press on Monday? Did the people sitting in Anthony's seaside restaurant pay attention?
It seems that too often people quickly lose interest in the things that are part of our local history and every day lives—and in this case our maritime heritage—just because they are old. Why must we always replace things with something newer and always far more expensive? Old buildings and old ships seem to lose their lustre in some people's eyes. Not mine or my husband's. He had worked doing repairs on the Rhododendron in the past.
So for all of you who will miss this great old ferry as much as we will, no matter how few your numbers, here's a gift. I discovered a wonderful website called "Evergreen Fleet" and on this page, ou can hear the Rhododendron's whistle blow once again, lest you should forget.
Note: Video recorded by Candace Brown. All text and photos in this blog post are the property of Candace Brown and cannot be used without permission. Copyright 2012 Candace J. Brown