On July 20, 1967, the superferry Hyak enters service after many troubles ranging from a shaky trip up the coast from San Diego to union disputes. This is the first of four Hyak-class vessels to sail on Puget Sound. The others are Kaleetan, Elwha, and Yakima.
The Hyak was launched in December 1966. After six months of outfitting she was ready to head home, and sailed north. On June 26, 1967, the vessel ran into a severe storm 100 miles north of San Francisco and suffered slight damage to the false bow, which had been put in place for the journey. She was forced to turn around and be put into Richmond, California, for minor repairs.
A Storm in the Port
Meanwhile in Seattle, Washington State Ferries was dealing with a storm of a different sort. Members of the Masters, Mates, and Pilots union had served notice that they would not skipper the boat unless a new labor agreement was signed first. They claimed that because the Hyak was a larger ferry than other vessels in the fleet, new salary classifications were required for the ship's officers.
The vessel arrived on July 4, 1967, three days late. The fireboat Duwamish greeted her with waterguns aimed high, and thousands watched from the shore as the 382-foot craft plied the waves into Seattle. The San Diego crew left the boat, but without a local crew the Hyak wasn't going anywhere.
Talks with the labor union continued for the next few weeks, but bogged down. Superior Court Judge James W. Mifflin stepped in and ordered the union to man the boat. At one point during the hearing, a union attorney maintained that the only emergency caused by a delay of service was a loss of money by the state. Judge Mifflin shot back, "The public has some rights here, too."
Fits and Starts
At 6 p.m. on July 20, 1967, the ferry made its first scheduled trip to Bremerton. The public loved her, and for the next few days, traffic snarls occurred in both Bremerton and Seattle as thousands came to ride the gigantic craft.
The ferry had a few minor troubles during her first weeks on Puget Sound, though. On her first day out, the engines died, almost causing her to ram Pier 52 in Seattle. A few days after that, the ship's master accidentally fell overboard as he was leaving the vessel. Then she was temporarily taken off service for nine days because of mechanical problems.
The Hyak was the first of four ferries of the Hyak class, which 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 ferries. At a service speed of 20 knots, the new ferries were 43 percent faster.