Daily Astorian file
Courtesy of Clatsop County Historical Society
Astorians may have noticed that the Tourist No. 2, a ferry that shuttled riders between Astoria and Washington state between 1924 and 1966, did not visit Astoria last summer as some in the community had hoped.
But take heart: The push to bring the 91-year-old vessel home from Bremerton, Washington, is happening on two fronts.
Capt. Christian Lint, the Tourist No. 2’s owner, is waiting for a spot to open up at Northlake Shipyard on Lake Union in Seattle, where the U.S. Coast Guard would inspect the boat below the waterline and determine the repairs that must be made.
Once everything checks out, Lint, who said the ferry really belongs in its hometown, will sail the ferry to Astoria before winter and moor the vessel at a city pier. The Coast Guard would then be asked to inspect the rest of the frame, and the community would have a chance to see the ferry and work out a plan to reclaim it.
Meanwhile, a new nonprofit, Friends of the Astoria Ferry, is forming to raise the funds and community support needed to help fix up the ferry, buy it from Lint and maintain it. Lint, who is waiting to see what the repairs will cost, did not disclose a final price.
Though still unincorporated, the Friends group has five board members, including City Councilor Cindy Price, and hopes to end up with seven to nine members.
Right now, their plan is to turn the Tourist No. 2 into a passenger boat for sightseers and a part-time charter service.
During the fair-weather months, the ferry would travel 3 to 4 miles along the riverfront and remain docked the rest of the year, though still open to the public. Occasionally, the ferry would be rented out to businesses for private parties and excursions. User fees would help keep the ferry staffed, insured and operating in Astoria.
“We think it’s just this super-unique opportunity to combine community spirit, maritime expertise, preservation of the riverfront and general entertainment,” Price said.
The Tourist No. 2 — a three-deck wooden-hull ferry 110 feet long, 40 feet wide, 40 feet tall that can accommodate at least 185 people — is the last surviving Astoria ferry. For more than four decades, the vessel transported riders and their cars 4 1/2 miles across the Columbia River — a service that the Astoria Bridge rendered obsolete.
Next July, the city will commemorate the bridge’s 50th birthday — and, by extension, the 50th anniversary of the Tourist No. 2’s last voyage as an Astorian ferry service. But whether the ferry’s last run in Astoria will remain its final run there will depend on whether the Astoria community steps up to welcome it back.
The vessel was Coast Guard-certified through 2012, “so the chances are very likely that it’s in perfect condition,” Lint said.
A few weeks ago, Lint legally rechristened the ferry “Tourist No. 2”; for years, it had gone by the name “MV Kirkland.”
Robert “Jake” Jacob — the majority owner of the Cannery Pier Hotel, who would pay the shipyard fees and, possibly, the inspection fees — has a message for the skeptics.
“It’s the same thing as the trolley: Everybody wondered who would insure it, who would ride it, who would paint it, who would drive it,” he said. “Now everybody knows that the trolley is part of Astoria, and locals and tourists love it.”
Anyone interested in joining the Friends board can email Price at firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also visit the Tourist No. 2’s official websites, astoriaferry.com and astoriaferry.org, which have links to the ferry’s Facebook page.
“I just think a historical city with the original ferry boat is a helluva deal,” Jacob said.