Coho ferry honored as historical society's 'ship of year'
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The MV Coho is seen Thursday coming into Port Angeles Harbor on one of its runs from Victoria, B.C.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — The MV Coho ferry will join the ranks of the world's first nuclear-powered passenger ship and one of the country's last operating steam-powered car ferries when it is honored today by a nationwide powered-ship historical society.

The Steamship Historical Society of America has chosen the Coho as the society's 2013 ship of the year, an honor that society board members have chosen once a year for the past 20 years, said retired Navy Cmdr. John Hamma, president of the society.

Hamma will be on board during the Coho's 12:45 p.m. crossing to Victoria today to present the award to Jack Cox, chairman and CEO of Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the Coho.

“I was highly pleased and proud [the society] would select the Coho,” Cox said Thursday.

Past ship-of-the-year awards have been bestowed upon the NS Savannah, built in the late 1950s as the world's first nuclear-powered cargo and passenger ship, and the SS Badger, the only steam-powered vehicle and passenger ferry still plying the waters of Lake Michigan, Hamma explained.

Board members chose the Coho to recognize its 53 years of reliable service, Hamma said, adding that the maintenance of the ferry is a major part of its continued reliability.

“The way they're maintaining it, she can probably run for another 50 years with no trouble,” Hamma said.

Cox said he was proud to have the award presented in part because of the ship's staff and crew, which tops out at 26 during the summer season.

“The award is being [given] with them in mind. They're the ones that have to be cheered,” Cox said.

The award also recognized the ship's design, with Hamma pointing out the ease of traffic-flow through the vessel as vehicles enter and exit.

“I think the design of the ship is outstanding,” Hamma said.

“It's unique and very well-run.”

The design of the Coho, which was built in 1959, was developed by Philip F. Spaulding and Associates of Seattle, Cox said, and was used as the basis for the three passenger ferries used in the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“The design lived on and was successful,” Hamma said.

This year's award was announced at the society's annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif., in May, Hamma said, after Cox and Black Ball Ferry Line Marketing Director Ryan Malane gave a presentation about the Coho and the ferry line to a crowd of about 85 people.

Nominations were collected starting this January, Hamma said, with more than a few society board members putting their vote in for the Coho as this year's winner.

“One of our board members is particularly fond of the Coho,” Hamma said.

“It's like his favorite ship.”

As the ship-of-the-year award winner, Hamma said, the Coho will be featured in the fall edition of the society's quarterly magazine, PowerShips, copies of which have been mailed to Black Ball Ferry Line.

Malane said copies of the fall issue will available for sale for $3.95 in the Coho's onboard gift shop, with all proceeds being donated back to the Steamship Historical Society of America.

The society, founded in 1935, is a nonprofit organization that maintains a collection of hundreds of thousands of images, artifacts, periodicals and other historical material telling the history of engine-powered vessels, their passengers and crew, Hamma said.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at

Last modified: August 01. 2013 6:26PM
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