The Rhododendron, a 65-year-old ferry that was retired from the state fleet last year, has found a new home.
Island Scallops, LLC, a subsidiary of Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc., purchased the boat for $275,000 in a deal that closed last week, according to Marta Coursey, a spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries.
Atlantic Capes is based in Cape May, N.J. Island Scallops, based in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, operates several scallop farms along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island.
Robert Saunders, the chief executive officer of Island Scallops, said he plans to use the boat as a support vessel. The boat’s car deck will hold hundreds of feet of nets that workers lower into the water at the company’s scallop farms about a mile off the coast of Vancouver Island.
“We need a lot of footprint to be able store the nets,” Saunders said.
He said he was thrilled to have discovered the Rhododendron. He and his crew have been looking at Canadian-owned ferries ready for retirement as well, he said.
“This is a gorgeous boat. It’s been extremely well maintained,” Saunders said.
The Rhododendron has some limitations that make it unsafe as a ferry, he said. But for his purposes, the boat is more than adequate, he said. “It probably has another 50 years of life easily,” he added.
Saunders was planning to leave Monday to head to the Seattle area to pick up the ferry. He and a retired WSF crew will either sail it or tow it to its new home at Fanny Bay, a small hamlet just north of Nanaimo on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island.
The Rhododendron was originally built in Baltimore in 1947 and was restored in 1993 to serve the Point Defiance-Tahlequah run. The Rhody — a classic ferry, with brass railings, polished benches and a wrap-around exterior deck — was the oldest in the state’s fleet when it was retired a year ago.
When the state put it up for sale, WSF officials said it was valued at $750,000. An entity with the online handle “Kingstontown” offered $300,000 to purchase it last fall, a deal that never materialized. After the state got no other takers, officials said it was possible the ship could be given away to a maritime engineering program.