MV Elwha

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The MV Elwha at Bainbridge Island
Name: MV Elwha
Owner: WSDOT
Operator: Washington State Ferries
Port of registry: Seattle, Washington,  USA
Completed: 1967,
rebuilt in 1991
General characteristics
Class and type: Super Class auto/passenger ferry
Tonnage: 2,813 gross-tonnage
1,322 net-tonnage
Length: 382 ft 2 in (116.5 m)
Beam: 73 ft 2 in (22.3 m)
Draft: 18 ft 9 in (5.7 m)
Deck clearance: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Installed power: Total 10,200 hp from 4 x Diesel-Electric engines
Speed: 20 kn (37 km/h)
Capacity: 2500 passengers
160 vehicles (max 30 commercial)

The MV Elwha is a Super Class ferry in the Washington State Ferry System.

The Elwha is usually seen working the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route, and is one of only two ferries in the system certified for international sailings because she meets certain Safety Of Life At Sea (or, SOLAS) standards. This allows the Elwha to make the crossing between the United States and British Columbia. The only other vessel in the system with this certification is the Chelan.

Accident and incident prone

The Elwha is notoriously known for being incident and accident prone. Through her career, the Elwha has rammed numerous docks, run aground multiple times and has even been taken on unscheduled, alternate routes - resulting in the firing of two of her captains.

  • After an investigation, Captain Charles Petersen was found to have violated four sections of the ferry system's Code of Conduct on July 25, 1996 when he took the Elwha 15 miles off her designated route in the San Juan Islands and nearly running the vessel aground. Although the designated route between Anacortes and Sidney, British Columbia runs north of San Juan Island, Petersen took the Elwha around the south end of the island where she scraped bottom in an area known for shallow water. Along with being charged with putting his vessel, passengers, and crew in jeopardy with the unauthorized detour, Petersen also tested positive for Marijuana use during a urine test following the incident. Licensed by the Coast Guard since 1979, Petersen was found to have poor judgment when he took the Elwha into an area where he did not possess pilotage or experience for operating a vessel the size of the Elwha. After testing positive for drug usage, Petersen was immediately fired by the Washington State Department of Transportation and eventually had his Coast Guard license and Merchant Marine documents revoked.[1]
  • On Oct. 2, 1983, Captain Billy Fittro made an unauthorized swing into Grindstone Harbor to give an Orcas Island resident a waterside view of her home from the Elwha's wheelhouse. During the excursion, the Elwha hit a reef, ran aground and was damaged at a total of $250,000. Captain Fittro eventually resigned and his supervisor, Captain Nick Tracy, was fired for trying to cover up the incident. In 1989 the reef the vessel hit was officially named "Elwha Rock".[2]
  • In January 1994, a power failure caused the Elwha to slam into the Anacortes ferry terminal dock, causing $500,000 worth of damage.
  • On September 8, 1999, a computer software malfunction caused the Elwha to crash into the Orcas Island ferry dock. The incident stranded 158 passengers, halted passenger service to the island for a period of time, and caused the vessel to sustain $40,000 in damage and $2.5 million in damage to the dock.[3]


  1. Seattle Times article on 7/25/96 incident[1]
  2. Article in Kitsap Sun newspaper on 10/2/83 incident[2]
  3. Kitsap Sun article on 9/8/99 accident[3]

External links