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What could you buy instead of the M/V Hiyu?

What would you rather have, an old house or an old ferry?

The retired ferry Hiyu found a buyer. The state’s smallest car ferry was pulled from service. The fleet needs larger boats, and it was too expensive to bring her up to modern standards.

Old boats can be romantic, and this one will be turned into a floating entertainment venue like the Skansonia that operates in the fresh waters of Lake Union. Just like old houses, maintenance on fixers can drop the price. The buyer got the boat for $150,000, down from the $300,000 the state hoped to get at auction, and down from the original $750,000 purchase price in 1967. To some, that looks like a hole in the water to pour money into; but the boat is in better repair than the Kalakala that was eventually scrapped.

Let’s look at it as if it were a house, maybe even as the basis for a houseboat. At 162 feet long and 63 feet wide, it is small as a ferry, but has almost 10,000 square feet on one deck, with a small passenger cabin upstairs, and a bridge/360 degree observation deck on top.


It may not have the romance of floating, but for $150,000 they could’ve bought a two bedroom, one bathroom, 1,030 square foot 1960 rambler only slightly older than the Hiyu. The lot in Federal Way is almost as large as the boat, at 9,583 square feet. The listing claims the property won’t be able to get financing, so they may have that in common, too.


For something in better shape, they could’ve gone to Auburn for a two bedroom, three bathroom, 1,060 square foot condo, again at $150,000. It may be smaller, but comes with far fewer caveats. The $280 monthly maintenance fee will probably be cheaper than any moorage fees for a ferry.


If water is what matters, there’s a slip on a dock in Kenmore that provides a moorage space. The price is lower, $115,000, but they would have to supply the boat. Even the tiny Hiyu won’t fit into this 51 foot opportunity.


If size matters, head out to Duvall where their $150,000 could buy five acres of land with nothing much between it and the mountains than hills and trees. At least the maintenance will be low, it won’t sink, but whatever they put there will have to deal with moss instead of rust.

Considering Seattle housing, buying a vessel with all the utilities in place for a home might be a smart move as a house instead of an entertainment venue. Renovate this. Remodel that. Restore a few things. Upgrade a lot. And end up with one of the most distinctive properties in the city. Just don’t flip it.