Tacoma Quirk: Anchored in Tacoma, bound for Anchorage

Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE to its pals) runs its roll-on-roll-off (RO/RO to its pals) shipping trade between the ports of Tacoma and Anchorage.

The containers on its two Orca Class ships sail stuffed with everything from sofas to steaks to shoes. Built to brave the ice and storms off Alaska, the M.V. Midnight Sun and M.V. North Star are diesel electric powered.

When oil brought the boom to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 1975, Sun Company of Philadelphia established a RO/RO trade route between Seattle and Anchorage with one ship. The next year, company leaders awoke to their senses, moved to Tacoma and added another ship.

Business was good, and they upgraded to a $10 million facility on the Blair Waterway in 1984. They added a third ship to their fleet the same year.

All three of TOTE’s steamships were Ponce class vessels that thrived on hard duty. One broke from its regular route to carry heavy farm equipment to Russia. Another served during Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom in 2003, carrying Marine Corps rolling stock to and from the war. That same year, TOTE took delivery of the North Star and Midnight Sun.

The anchors at the company gates were spares for the three Ponce Class vessels. One would be lowered on the port side, the other starboard. The anchors weigh 24,000 pounds each and catch the sea bed when their flukes dig into the bottom.

Here’s your Tacoma Quirk question: What were the names of TOTE’s three Ponce Class steamships? You won’t get extra goodies if you name them in the order they were acquired, but you will impress the heck out of us.

Be the first to e-mail the correct answer to kathleen@tacomaweekly, and you will win four fabulous tickets to a Tacoma Rainiers game at Cheney Stadium, a pack of sidewalk chalk and a map to Frost Park. Those baseball tickets include parking, pop, peanuts and beer.

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