On March 23, 1968, the superferry Yakima makes her maiden cruise on Puget Sound. More than 2,000 passengers attend the ceremony, including 21 representatives from the Yakama Indian Nation, and more than 1,750 citizens from the Eastern Washington city of Yakima. The ferry is the last of four Hyak-class ferries built for Washington State Ferries in its efforts to modernize its fleet. The other three are Hyak, Kaleetan, and Elwha.
A Wonderful Canoe
Before the 11 a.m. sailing, Yakama Indians, led by Chiefs Tony Skakan and Alex Saluskin, performed the ceremonial Welcome Dance in full regalia. Afterwards, Chief Alex Saluskin stated, “I certainly welcome the opportunity to ride this wonderful canoe.”
As the boat left shore, ceremonies continued on board. Mayor Jack Larson of Yakima presented a flag of the City of Yakima to Captain Arnold F. Eikum, general manager of Washington State Ferries. Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce president Frederick Halverson presented a dedication plaque to Charles G. Prahl, state director of highways. Prahl had been general manager of Washington State Ferries in 1963, when planning for the superferries was initiated.
At Work That Evening
A buffet luncheon was served during the 2½-hour inaugural cruise. The Yakima stopped at Bremerton, saluting the city with three blasts from her whistle. From there the vessel traveled to Vashon Island before returning to Seattle in mid-afternoon. That evening she began regular service on the Seattle-Bremerton run.
Designed by W. C. Nickum & Sons, and financed by $23 million in state bonds and federal funds, the four ferries of the Hyak class were enlarged versions of the Evergreen State class built by Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Company in the mid-1950s. The new ferries were 382 feet long, carried 2,067 passengers and 160 automobiles, and had more than three times the horsepower of the Evergreen State class. At a service speed of 20 knots, the new ferries were 43 percent faster.