The Rhododendron was built in 1947 at Baltimore for service on the Chesapeake Bay as the The Governor Herbert R. O’Conor. The O’Conor was operated by the state owned Chesapeake Bay Ferry System on a route between Matapeake and Annapolis until the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge was opened on July 30, 1952.
The Washington State Ferries, then known as the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority, was formed in 1951 when the state purchased the Puget Sound Navigation Company (the Black Ball Fleet) after a series of shutdowns and strikes disrupted ferry service. The newly formed Washington State Ferries required additional ships – rather than build a new ferry at a cost of $2,000,000, the O’Conor could be purchased for $300,000, with another $200,000 required for rehabilitation work.
In November 1953 she was towed from Baltimore, through the Panama Canal, and to Seattle where she underwent a three month retrofitting, On April 17, 1954 the MV Rhododendron began her new career in the Washington State Ferry fleet.
Rhododendron on Hood Canal in 1954
In 1990 Rhododendron was sent into a refit that would include a refurbished hull and passenger cabin and new engines that replaced the original 1,600 hp engines. The entire passenger cabin was full of rotten steel and a completely new cabin had to be made from fresh steel
With the implementation of more stringent safety regulations, the Rhododendron was only able to work on short, inland water routes due to her classification as a one-compartment vessel, meaning she could stay afloat with only one compartment flooded. On Monday, January 23, 2012, MV Rhododendron was retired after 65 years of operation on both the East and West Coasts.
Washington State Ferries offered the Rhododendron for sale at a public auction with a minimum bid requirement of $300,000 – the auction failed, and on February 2013, the Rhododendron was old for $275,000 to Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc, for use at as floating platform for handling scallops by Island Scallops. On March 11, 2013, the Rhododendron left Eagle Harbor for the last time, arriving in Fanny Bay on the following day.
And now you know…
Rhododendron at Fanny Bay
- Built: 1947,Maryland Drydock Company,Baltimore
- Tonnage: 937
- Length: 669.3 m
- Beam: 18.9 m
- Draft: 13.0 m
- Deck clearance: 4.1 m
- Propulsion: 2 x 2,172 hp Diesel
- Speed: 11 knots
- Capacity: 546 passengers 48 vehicles (max 15 commercial)