Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Captain Spencer Jack Piloting A Washington State Ferry In Anacortes

In the picture you are looking at my great nephew, Captain Spencer Jack piloting a Washington State Ferry at the terminal in Anacortes.

When Spencer Jack's dad, my equally great nephew, Jason, was a few years older than Spencer Jack he built the entire Washington State Ferry Fleet in scale model form.

Spencer Jack's dad's Washington State Ferry Fleet went up in smoke, under mysterious circumstances, at some point during the 1990's.

The Washington State Ferry Fleet is the biggest fleet of ferries in the United States. And the third biggest fleet in the world.

Based on the number of vehicles carried annually, at around 11 million, the Washington State Ferry system is the world's largest.

Washington State began ferry operations in 1951. Prior to that the ferry system, known as the "Mosquito Fleet" was a private business operation, with multiple operators, which by 1935 had been reduced to one company operating a fleet, that being the Puget Sound Navigation Company, nicknamed the Black Ball Line.

By the end of the 1940s the Black Ball Line was having labor relations woes with the ferry worker's union, which was demanding wage increases. The Black Ball Line wanted to raise its fares. But the state said no to fare increases. The Black Ball Line then shut down, with the State of Washington taking over ferry operations after paying Black Ball $5 million for all but 5 of its ferry boats.

When the State of Washington took over running the ferry system, in 1951, conventional wisdom of the day thought the state would only run the ferry system until bridges across Puget Sound were built. However, for the most part, no bridges were built, which has the Washington State Department of Transportation still in the ferry business over a half century later.

Cross sound bridges to take the place of ferry boats? Those would be some mighty big bridges. A bridge from Keystone on Whidbey Island to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula? A bridge from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island? Bridges from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands?

Cross-sound bridges? Washington would not be Washington without its ferry fleet.

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