Rhododendron put up for auction

The ferry that served the south end of Vashon for nearly 20 years and was beloved by many commuters has been put up for auction by the state.

The 65-year-old Rhododendron has been moored at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island since it was replaced earlier this year by the newly build Chetzemoka. This month Washington State Ferries posted the ferry on a government surplus auction website, listing it with a starting bid of $300,000. So far, the vessel hasn’t garnered any bids.

The Rhododendron was originally built in Baltimore in 1947 and was restored in 1993 to serve the Point Defiance-Tahlequah run. The small but classic ferry — with brass railings, polished benches and a wrap-around exterior deck — was well liked on the Island and was affectionately referred to as the Rhody.

Marta Coursey, a spokeswoman for WSF, said it’s customary for the state to auction off ferries that have been taken out of service. Other vessels have been purchased by out-of-state transportation agencies or sold for scrap metal.

The auction for the Rhododendron is set to end on Nov. 20. Coursey said that if there are no bids, as is often the case in ferry actions, the auction may be extended, possibly with a lower minimum bid price. WSF may also ask the state Department of Enterprise Services to step in and negotiate the sale, she said.

The Salish, one of the Chetzemoka's sister ships, is currently serving the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route while the Chetzemoka undergoes scheduled maintenance and inspection. The Chetzemoka is expected to return to the route early next month.


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