First Alaska state ferry sinks at Anacortes dock

The first ship built for what would become Alaska's state ferry system sank Jan. 13 in a windstorm and dock collapse in Anacortes, Washington, where the decommissioned Chilkat had been moored to a concrete floating pier.

The ship sank about 85 miles north of Tacoma, where it was built in 1957 at a cost of about $300,000 to provide daily service between Juneau, Haines and Skagway.

When Alaska entered the union on Jan. 3, 1959, the Chilkat became the first Alaska state ferry, later joined by four larger vessels that were built after voters later that year approved a bond issue to pay for construction of the fleet, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation website.

The Alaska Marine Highway System sold the 99-foot-long vessel in 1988 to a seafood company that used the ship as a scallop fishery tender.

The Chilkat capsized shortly after 55 mph winds and strong tidal forces sank the pier, the U.S. Coast Guard said, as reported by KOMO TV news in Seattle. No injuries were reported, and two other vessels tied at the dock were saved from sinking. The Chilkat is under 40 feet of water, the station reported.

The ferry could carry 59 passengers and 15 vehicles, and was built with a bow ramp that allowed passengers and vehicles to offload on an unimproved beach as well as a dock.


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