ANCHORAGE - The Bartlett was transferred Friday to its new owner, a longtime Alaskan and Seattle businessman who bought the 34-year-old state ferry in the last 10 minutes of bidding on eBay.
The buyer, who went by the username of Salmon Man 1953 during the online auction that ended Aug. 10, is Lloyd Cannon, the 73-year-old CEO and president of All Alaskan Seafoods, a company he founded in 1975.
Even though Cannon now lives in Washington, he grew up in Kodiak and fished Alaska waters for decades. He recently sold his home on the island but keeps an eye an all things Alaska, including the online bidding for the Bartlett, he said.
Cannon isn't sure what he will do with the 193-foot ferry now that it's his.
"We already have about five people with ideas. We just got to figure out if they have any money," he said, laughing.
Money and government regulation are what eventually forced the Bartlett from service in Alaska. Even though the ferry was in good shape for her age, new regulations made her obsolete for passenger service, said Phil Grasser, marine engineering manager for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
"She's gone," he said, after the vessel was transferred. "We weren't sad to see her go."
It would have cost between $5 million and $6 million to outfit the ferry to satisfy new federal safety regulations that took effect Oct. 1. Those requirements included providing evacuation chutes similar to those on airplanes and with motorized rescue boats.
"Hers were operated with oars," Grasser said.
The Bartlett is a good boat, and he got it for the right price, Cannon said. He paid $389,500. The ferry cost $3.25 million new in 1969.
Faced with a limited market to unload the ship, state property managers turned to eBay to find a buyer, figuring the Internet auction site would provide worldwide visibility and they would get more money for the ferry. The bidding began at $100,000, and at least two dozen bids were posted.
Cannon sent one of his representatives, Rollin "Tiny" Crump, to Cordova to take ownership of the 1,500-ton ferry at 8 a.m. Friday. Seven people were helping to bring the Bartlett south, Cannon said.
During the Bartlett's years of service, its primary ports were Valdez, Whittier, Tatitlek and Cordova. The ferry could carry 29 cars and 236 passengers.
Grasser said two new fast ferries, at a combined cost of $68.9 million, are being built at the Derecktor Shipyard in Bridgeport, Conn. The Fairweather, which is expected to operate out of Juneau, is 85 percent complete and due for delivery in January. The Chenega is about 25 percent complete and should be ready for service in Prince William Sound in 2005.
The ferries are 235-foot catamarans with a faster service speed of 35.8 mph. They should last about 30 years, Grasser said.
The marine highway system expects to send the Aurora from Ketchikan next summer to temporarily provide service to the sound.
Cannon said two ideas have risen to the top for the Bartlett. One is for Alaska cruises. The other is to flag it outside the United States and have it provide ferry service for Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East.