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Samuel William Cook Sr., 69, died June 10, 2019, in Klawock. He was born on Feb. 6, 1950, in Celilo Falls, Oregon.
Shipyard launches new state ferry Tazlina: Vigor Alaska: Everything went smoothly
Skiff operator Jarred Brindible, in skiff, watches the bow of the Tazlina on Wednesday afternoon as the drydock takes on water to allow water tight checks on the new ferry. Photos by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

The construction of the first Alaska-built Alaska Marine Highway System ferry just reached a major milestone.

After years of construction by Vigor Alaska at the Ketchikan Shipyard, the 280-foot ferry Tazlina was lowered into the water for the first time ever Wednesday afternoon.

“Today is the big, exciting day in the shipyard that we’ve been waiting for for the past couple of years,” said Vigor Workforce Development Specialist Sierra Callis.

The ship, nearly complete, is scheduled to be christened on July 14.

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Vigor employees rolled the Tazlina from its previous position in front of the assembly hall and onto one of the shipyard’s drydocks. The process of “docking down” — slowly submerging the drydock under the water with the ferry onboard— lasted a few hours as workers performed standard checks for any possible leakage.

By around 5 p.m., the ferry was fully afloat and free of the dry dock. A tugboat towed it into the Tongass Narrows and docked it at the shipyard pier.

“Everything went really smoothly,” Callis said. “And it was a beautiful sunshiny day to do it, so there were no complaints on our end.”

Vigor began construction on the Tazlina after the fall of 2014. The company is currently building two Alaska Class ferries — the Tazlina and the Hubbard — at the shipyard.

The two ships were originally slated for an October 2018 delivery date, but Vigor doesn’t anticipate meeting that deadline for the Hubbard.

The Tazlina, however, appears to be on schedule for its July 14 christening. According to Callis, most of the remaining construction work is cosmetic. For example, in a few days, the ship will be brought back onto land so that the areas previously obstructed by supporting structures can be painted.

According to Southeast Conference Executive Director Robert Venables, the Tazlina and the Hubbard are intended to go into service in Southeast Alaska’s Lynn Canal, but their specific routes and start dates are still under discussion.