Thegood ferry Plover finally gets to go home

Published on Thu, Mar 24, 2005 by ack Kintner

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The good ferry Plover finally gets to go home

By Jack Kintner

Drayton Harbor Maritime will take the final steps toward renovating the former landing site of the passenger ferry Plover and its predecessor next month, and with the receipt of the final check in a Washington State Historical Society matching grant will begin their new season debt free.

Richard Sturgill, the guiding force behind restoring the 1946 Seattle-built passenger ferry to its former run as a tourist attraction, described having the original moorage location back with a brand new $100,000 all-weather float to operate from as a dream come true.

“It’s been 17 years,” Sturgill said, “and while we were aiming at both getting the boat ready to go and renovating the old dock, I guess we ended up with the boat first and now the old moorage. It means that the Plover finally gets to go home!”

The Plover has been operating from space on a small 40-foot float tied to a pier near Semiahmoo Resort’s lounge since 1996, when an eight-year $90,000 restoration was finished on the Plover. Sturgill discovered the boat while investigating storage areas being used by Whatcom County Parks in the old Blaine Air Force radar station, now Bay Horizon Park.

State representative Kelli Linville, D, Bellingham, proposed house measure 6241 in March of 1996 to allow the use of city hotel/motel taxes to restore, operate and maintain the local Plover project and support the operation of historical maritime vessels. It passed both houses of the legislature unanimously, giving the Plover about $8,000 in operating revenue each year from the local tax.

The old float that the Plover has been using is 40 feet long by eight feet wide, and was designed for lake use. The new float is 100 by 16 feet and has been built to standards used for installations in the Aleutian Islands. “It will be a lot more solid, and the longer gangway will make it possible for virtually anyone to get to the boat,” Sturgill said.

Concrete piling were driven last fall to replace the old wooden piling and this next month the float itself will arrive. It will be reached by the 80 foot gangway Sturgill was referring to, 10 feet longer than the one presently used. It’s being built locally by Mantle Industries, and is designed to descend from the pier next to the old faded red APA commissary building to a smaller 16 x 20 foot float that will attach directly to the main float.

Sturgill said that his captain and first mate for the past two years, Ryan and Anne Meyer, are now full time with Grays Harbor Maritime and will be spending much of their time working with the Lady Washington, so he’s looking for more crew, especially Plover captains. “You need either a restricted license for that route or a general license of at least 25 tons,” Sturgill said, “but it’s a tourist promotion, and needs to have a good people person at the helm.” Interested people should call Sturgill at 332-5742.

The Plover’s season begins on Memorial Day, but it will also be operating at least on Saturday of the coming Wings over Water festival April 2 and 3. For that, Sturgill will be at the helm.