Tourist No. 2 (Astoria Ferry)
Year Built: 1924
Location: Astoria, Oregon
The wooden ferry Tourist No 2 was built by Wilson Shipyards in Astoria, Oregon, in 1924, for $42,000. It is the only surviving vessel from the once-vital fleet of ferries owned and operated by Captain Fritz Elfving that crossed the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington from 1921 to 1966, completing the last water gap in the Pacific Coast Highway system and facilitating Pacific Northwest coastal travel. It allowed cannery, maritime, and service workers to enjoy employment on both sides of the river. It provided shopping opportunities for the developing villages of southwest Washington, and therefore increased economic development in Astoria.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US Navy commandeered the ferry to lay mines at the mouth of the Columbia. Renamed the USAMP Octopus, her structure was modified for the task and it was painted gray. It was difficult to work on because it bobbed in the water and didn’t have all the usual equipment. Even so, it was awarded an E for Excellence as the fastest minelayer in the Army. At war’s end, the Army used the Octopus as a passenger ferry between Fort Stevens, Oregon and Fort Canby, Washington. In 1946 Captain Elfving re-purchased the boat for $36,000.
When the Astoria-Megler Bridge was opened in summer 1966, the ferry was sold for $32,000, moved to south Puget Sound, Washington, renamed the Islander of Pierce County, and worked for 30 years as a primary vessel in Pierce County’s fleet of auto and passenger ferries. In 1996 it was purchased by Argosy Cruise Lines, renamed the Kirkland, modified for passenger use only, and used for summer cruises. In 2010, the ferry was sold to Captain Christian Lint, who used her for dockside events at the Bremerton, Washington marina.
Late in 2014, Astoria resident and hotelier Robert Jacob learned of the ferry’s existence. He began negotiations with Captain Lint to return the ferry to Astoria, and local residents formed a non-profit corporation, The Astoria Ferry Group, to manage the task.
The Group quickly raised over $50,000 to “Bring Her Home.” On August 1, 2016, fifty years almost to the day after she left Astoria, Captain Lint returned the Tourist No 2 to the Columbia River under her own power, in an epic journey from Bremerton. The ferry participated in the Astoria Regatta and hosted several dockside “open tours” in August and September, generating enthusiastic support for the possibilities the ferry presents.
Unfortunately, since that time, the ferry has been moored at a Port of Astoria facility at North Tongue Point and while it provides protection from the weather, it is a primitive facility, with dilapidated pilings, and provides power sufficient only to keep the generator battery charged.
These conditions contribute to the bare maintenance of the ferry since last fall, leading to some deterioration in its condition, particularly due to humidity on the main deck. The passenger (2nd) deck leaks in several to-be-discovered places, causing water damage to the main deck. Heat for the ferry is provided by a boiler that runs on its own engine, located in a large, deteriorating cabinet behind the wheelhouse on the third deck. Water inside the cabinet is a constant, and the engine isn’t considered safe to start. Rot from water damage to exterior surfaces is apparent on all decks. To complicate matters, its size is too big for Astoria drydocks.
The Astoria Ferry Group was formed to bring the Tourist No 2 home. Since that accomplishment, the group has focused on starting apply for grants to put together a preservation plan to restore the boat according to both preservation standards and Coast Guard standards.