Efforts to press the historic Tourist No. 2 back into service on the Columbia River are in a “hold-steady pattern” as the Astoria Ferry Group seeks new board members and a stronger fundraising arm to move the project forward.
The ferry group, a nonprofit formed to oversee the ferry’s restoration after owner Christian Lint sailed it to Astoria from Bremerton, Washington, in 2016, issued a news release proclaiming the initial phase of restoration on the vessel complete. The group secured state and nonprofit grants to weatherize the boat and fix its electrical systems, while striking a month-to-month lease with Floyd Holcom to park the vessel on the east side of Pier 39.
The second phase “will bring in a highly professional team of fundraisers and a new board to purchase the ferry from Captain Lint, and raise the $2.5 million necessary for full restoration and Coast Guard certification of the Tourist No. 2 as a commercial vessel,” the group’s news release said.
The ferry group hoped to raise $250,000 in a capital campaign by the end of the year, another $250,000 next year and take passengers out on the river by next summer. But the group has so far raised $160,000. Cindy Price, the group’s board president, acknowledged there will likely be no cruises next year.
One of the challenges has been determining the cost of restoring the vessel and getting it certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, a requirement to take passengers out on cruises. Estimates have have ranged between $500,000 quoted by Lint to between $2 million and $3 million quoted by Sam Shogren, a maritime heritage consultant who created a preservation plan for the ferry.
The ferry group recently contracted Haven Boatworks, a shipwright in Port Townsend, Washington, that works on wooden-hulled vessels, to create an estimate for the necessary work. The company estimated between $1 million and $2 million for work on the deck and hull, not including the cost of taking it to Port Townsend and out of the water.
Price called it the first professional estimate by a company capable of doing the work. “That took us a lot of time this year, so the capital campaign never started,” she said.
After getting the estimate, the board sat down and decided they had completed their portion of the project, and that a new group of volunteers with fundraising expertise was needed to take the project forward, Price said. How that new group will be formed is to be determined, she said.
“Christian is going to mostly be in charge of it from now on,” she said.
Lint threw cold water on the notion of taking the boat to Port Townsend and spending millions on restoration.
“There is no logic to that at all, unless you want to dump money down the drain,” he said.
He estimated it would cost $420,000 to replace about 20 planks on the ferry’s hull and argues the boat could be hauled out on air pads and worked on at North Tongue Point. Shogren agreed Lint’s estimate might be what it takes to get the vessel certified for passengers, but said a full restoration to the vessel’s historic look is more likely in the ballpark of his or Haven Boatworks’ figure.
Part of the issue is deciding which iteration of the vessel to restore, said Lucien Swerdloff, a historic preservation instructor at Clatsop Community College who serves on the group’s board. The vessel started as a ferry between Astoria and Megler, Washington, before being commandeered by the U.S. Navy to lay mines at the mouth of the Columbia.
After the Astoria Bridge opened in 1966, the ferry was enlarged and went into service for the Washington state ferry system. The vessel was later purchased, modified, renamed the Kirkland and leased to Seattle-based Argosy Cruises for taking people around Lake Washington.
A fire in 2010 took the vessel out of service. Argosy deemed it too expensive to fix and sold the vessel to Lint, who put it up for sale in 2015. The late Robert “Jake” Jacob noticed the vessel for sale and struck up a relationship with Lint, resulting in it coming to Astoria.
“My recommendations were to really to take her back to what she looked like in the 1930s,” Shogren said. “Keeping the car deck enclosed in glass is something that needs to stay.”
Fundraising to fully restore the vessel will take a mix of nonprofit, grant and private funding streams, Shogren said. There could be money available from the National Park Service’s maritime heritage grant program. For example, the National Steinbeck Center, honoring author John Steinbeck, received nearly $200,000 toward its efforts at the Boat Haven Marine in Port Townsend to restore the sardine boat Western Flyer into a research platform.
Lint said he has reached out to possible fundraising partners about how to move forward financing the Tourist No. 2’s restoration. The ferry group will lose its fiscal sponsor, the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, by the end of the year, and by extension its nonprofit status.
“I’m toying right now on whether it should be a nonprofit or a private entity,” Lint said.
Lint is also restoring the El Primero, a yacht built in 1893 that he docked just west of the Pier 39 causeway. He hopes to eventually put it on display at the end of a pier near Josephson’s Smokehouse. He also has an old tug docked at Pier 39.
Lint said he has had offers on the Tourist No. 2 for everything from a floating casino in Washington state to someone in Astoria wanting to make it a floating condominium. The vessel includes 6,000 square feet over two stories with a kitchen, bathrooms and bars.
But however the ferry group gets the money, Lint said he wants to see the boat kept as a floating museum to the history of Astoria. “The boat is where it’s supposed to be, providing a historical reminder,” he said.