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Fans of the Rhododendron say goodbye to the classic ferry

Heather Erickson and her son Evan, a 9-year-old who loves ferries, were on one of the Rhododendron
Heather Erickson and her son Evan, a 9-year-old who loves ferries, were on one of the Rhododendron's last sailings.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Islanders had hoped for a large farewell gathering to commemorate the Rhododendron’s final full day of service. The boat, after all, is the oldest in the fleet, and its modest beauty — with its brass railings, polished benches and wrap-around exterior deck — suggests an earlier time.

But the state’s announcement — while long anticipated — came suddenly. On Friday, Washington State Ferries sent out a brief bulletin noting that the Rhody would retire on Monday. Long-time commuter Sue Trevathan hastily organized a farewell ride for Sunday, and a small contingent showed up on a grey and rainy afternoon, including (pictured above) Heather Erickson and her son Evan, a 9-year-old who loves ferries.

“I just like how fancy it is,” he said, when asked why he’s so fond of the Rhody.

Trevathan was joined by her husband Jim Bazemore and her friend Wendy Gibble for Sunday’s ride. An environmental consultant, Trevathan commuted on the boat for years to her job in Olympia, a trip she still takes about once a week, though now she mostly works from home. It was a joy to return on the boat after a long day in Olympia, she recalled, to sit outside on one of the benches and drink in the salt air. “I love this boat,” she said, as her husband snapped photos of the near-final sail. “It’s a classy boat. It’s got personality.”

Marynell Matt (right) arranged her errands so that she, too, could participate in Sunday’s commemorative sail. For a while, she sat on the bench, eyes closed, taking in the sound of the motor, the feel of the boat. Noting the Rhody travels a tad slower than its newer cousins, she added, “There’s something about the pace. It’s a nice transition to the Island.”

 

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