WSF ferry HYAK, 14 April 1986,
Captain Terry Lee
Location: reef near the Anacortes ferry landing,
Skagit County, WA.
Photo by Richard S. Heyza for the Seattle Times©
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
The HYAK ran aground not because of a lady in the wheelhouse but because of paint in the wind and a captain's concern for the working conditions of his crew.
Skipper Terry Lee was trying to keep the wind off workers while they were painting the outside of the deck. So after stopping at Lopez, he headed to Anacortes without turning around as usual to keep the wind to their backs.
When he arrived at Anacortes on schedule at 10:40 am he swung the boat in toward shore before heading away from the landing so he could "back" in.
The boat got too close to shore and went aground on a reef a few hundred feet from the dock, ferry spokeswoman Pat Patterson explained.
Chairs slid to one side, a video machine that was not secured wobbled, and riders were caught off balance. Some vehicles slid into each other on the car deck and were damaged.
There was minus 0.6-foot low tide at 1:37 pm at Anacortes, so the water beneath the big boat continued to drop. The vessel tilted until it had more than a 15-degree list. A tug secured a line and pulled to help keep it upright.
The boat sat there, helicopters and planes buzzing around all day. Finally, at 6:30 pm when rising tides and two tugs worked in tandem, the HYAK came free.
"It was like a fair ride––when we first hit, the deck started going up and up. It felt like an earthquake. The whole boat shook," said Tim Thomsen of Friday Harbor, who returned to San Juan on the 7 PM ferry.
"They announced for everyone to put on life jackets. That was scary. Then they said not to abandon ship until we were told to. That was really scary," said Marty Robinson of San Juan.
Response to the crisis was excellent, riders said. The Red Cross showed up. The ferry system paid for some inconvenienced customers to stay overnight in motels. The system paid for meals and long-distance phone calls.
Ferry officials also took photos of every vehicle so damage could be recorded.
Patterson said she expects claims to come in soon. Several vehicles were damaged slightly. No one was injured. Two persons were taken to Island Hospital to meet their doctors' appointments.
Patterson said the ferry system is investigating the mishap. The HYAK will be put up on blocks in Seattle. A rudder and propeller appear to be damaged.
The ELWHA (that ran aground off Orcas in 1983), was called in to replace the HYAK temporarily.
From the air, the mammoth ferry looked uncomfortable leaning on one side with a line extending to a tug boat that was keeping the ferry from listing any further on the reef, about 200-ft from shore.
"It's really listing," said pilot Si Stephens, who flew circles over the boat with county commissioner Doug Corliss.
There were 250 passengers and 127 vehicles on the ferry when the mishap occurred. Passengers were evacuated by a Coast Guard ship, a fishing vessel, a tug boat, as well as by life boats [from] the ferry.
Text by Allison Arthur, Friday Harbor Journal, 16 April 1986.
Washington State Ferry HYAK:
Built 1967 at National Steel and Shipbuilding Co of San Diego, CA.
A reporter from the Seattle Times wrote that there were only four 15-passenger life rafts on the HYAK at the time of the stranding.
If anyone was a passenger this day and would like to leave a comment, it is easy to do in space below this post.