Passage To Guemes Island

The Samish used canoes to cross Guemes Channel until the early 1900s.

1890: The steam tugboat Iola ran from Ocean Dock to North Anacortes on Guemes Island. It made twelve round trips daily. Captain M. B. Clark was in command.

1902-1911: Harry Rickaby ran the Sunny Jim on the Guemes Ferry run. The Glide also operated during the 1890s:

1912: Harry Rickaby put the 40-foot Elk into service on a five-trip-a-day schedule. Elk could carry 35 people; the fare was 5¢ each way. Harry was paid $105 per month.

1914: Harry Rickaby and Frank Taylor place order with Keesling Ship Yards for construction of a large and commodius vessel to handle growing Guemes business.

1917-1959: Guemes I (photo taken of brass band aboard the Guemes, July 4th, 1918):

1917: In 1917, a new ferry service was started. “John Brand had the honor of bringing across the first horses. He brought two teams to have them shod and then loaded a set of wagon scales and took them back with him." Anacortes American, December 13, 1917.

1920: The ferry was sold at a sheriff’s sale. Bill Bessner was hired by a new company to get the ferry running again and to run it.

1921: Bill Bessner bought the ferry company; it was subsidized in part by Skagit County. Fares: Car and driver - 50¢, passengers free, milk cans - 10¢ each.

1948: Bill Bessner sold the ferry.

1950: Sandrup Bernsen purchased the ferry from the two-year owners and ran it for nine years.

Guemes in 1954

Guemes was refitted with new side walls in 1957 that replaced the windows which vibrated loudly.

Guemes around 1957.

1959:  The new Guemes ferry,  Almar, is placed into service. The Almar was “backyard built” in 1947 on Swan Island in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Washington, and was designed for use in that river. After serving for 42 years, the Guemes was sold and almost immediately accidentally run aground near Lummi Island.

Captain Sandy Bernsen, center, shaking hands with islanders, January 1960 at the Guemes ferry dock.

Captain Al Bacetich  and Purser Mick Allen bring in the

c.1961: Guemes ferry terminal is moved from the foot of Q Avenue to 6th Street and I Avenue.

The Black Ball Line operated ferries to the San Juan Islands from the 6th and I dock from 1946-1951 when they sold to Washington State. Washington State operated the vessels from this location through the 1950s.

1963: Captain Bernsen left as master in 1963. Skagit County purchased the Almar. Al Bacetich was Master and Ray Separovich was alternate.

Almar approaches the floating dock on Guemes Island.

Left to right: Ray Separovitch, Bill Scott, Bob Leatherwood and Al Bacetich.

1979: The new 16-car Guemes was put into service.

Bob Leatherwood lowers the ramp on Guemes Island in 1979.

The ferry docks were replaced in 1980 after County Engineers concluded: "The Guemes docking facility consists of a floating bridge-like span, the loading truss and apron, and dolphins. The condition of the span determines the 12 ton load limit of the ferry system. The Engineer’s evaluation...states that the float is kept operational only by the addition of foam after it sunk in 1976, and that it will require continual maintenance until it is replaced. The loading apron hinge and counterbalance are judged to be in poor condition, the truss timbers are in fair to good condition with the steel hangers and bracing in fair to poor condition, and the end hinge judged poor."



The ferry schedule in 1979.

1988: Al Bacetich retired.

1988-1991: Tony Bacetich, Al’s son, was Master.

Al and Tony Bacetich.

1991-Present: A series of Skagit County ferry managers and skippers have run the ferry operation.

Captain Gary Casperson in 2004

Photos collected by Tim Wittman. Photo credits: Anacortes Museum, Wally Funk Collection, Rachel Beck, Allen Bush, Win Anderson and Betty Crookes. Timetable by Anacortes Museum staff.

Tags: history