Monday, December 31, 2012

All the San Juan Island Ferry Terminals

I know we've been laggin', but the day before my 65th birthday, we decided we needed an adventure.  We'd take the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island), and from there to West Sound on Orcas Island, on to Shaw Island, over to Lopez Island, then back to Anacortes.  We would need a total of three different boats to accomplish this.  We'd start with the 8:30 AM out of Anacortes, and finish around 2:15 PM.  We'd have about an hour and a half in Friday Harbor, but most of the rest of the time would be on the water...maybe a half an hour on Lopez changing boats.

It was a typical winter day in the Northwest...38F and raining...but it is always fun to be on the water.

We boarded the Elwa as the sun was coming up.

We headed out of Anacortes, across the Rosario Strait, through Thatcher Pass, up Lopez Sound, around Lopez Island, into the San Juan Chanel, and, an hour later, Friday harbor.

Us "walk ons" disembarked from the car deck.

We had enough time to tour Friday Harbor and have a latte.

My favorite boat in the harbor was this 1950's Skagit...

Our next boat, Evergreen State, arrived right on time...

...and we were off to Orcas Island.

Orcas is reached through the narrow Wasp Passage...

Big entertainment on these inter island ferries are jigsaw puzzles.  Many is some state of progress.  Mimi got sucked in...

Arrival at East Sound...Orcas Island...

Then across the Harney Channel to Shaw Island.  Three cars got off at Shaw.

Over to Lopez Island.  We had to get off here.  The Evergreen State was headed back to Friday Harbor and the Sealth would be along in about a half an hour to take us to Anacortes.

End of the day.  Anacortes.  A great adventure.  $18 total cost (plus the lattes).  Mimi kicked my butt in Shanghai on the way back.  We saw plenty of marine wildlife including some Dall's Porpoises.  We stayed warm.  The perfect birthday celebration.

CLICK HERE to see the whole day as a slide show.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trip #4 Keystone to Port Townsend

We're back at the Ferry Challenge after almost a year off.

Our good friends Mike and Sarah invited us to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. To get there we would have to take the ferry from Whidbey Island (Coupeville/Keystone). Originally I made reservations to take the car on the ferry, which of course would disqualify the trip for inclusion in the Ferry Challenge ("walk ons" only allowed). Once we learned that the ferry docks in Port Townsend within blocks of the on-no car needed!

We got to Keystone a little early to catch the 10:15 AM boat, so we took a little walk to the camp ground just north of the ferry landing. We spotted the boat coming across the main north south shipping channel and soon it was pulling into the landing.

The ferry was the brand new M.V. Salish. The Salish is much bigger than the Lummi or Guemes ferries but much smaller than the Jumbo Class ferries used on the Bainbridge (and other) runs. It is 274 feet long and can hold 64 vehicles.

We boarded and sailed right on schedule. There were many more "walk ons" than normal due to the Wooden Boat Festival.

It was a short walk through downtown Port Townsend to the Festival at the small boat harbor.

We had a great day with the McEvoys on one of the warmest days of the summer, then a nice dinner outside at a downtown restaurant on the water front, and caught the 7:00 PM ferry back to Keystone.

The ferry challenge rocks! Where else can you have this much fun on the water for $2.75??!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trip #3 Anacortes to Guemes Island

We realized we'd been lagging on the ferry challenge and Friday was predicted to be sunny and nice...a good ferry day. We decided the night before to do the Guemes Island Ferry from Anacortes. We also thought we would take our bikes this time, even though the round trip fare increased from $2 for a walk on to a whopping $3 for a bicyclist.

The Guemes Island Ferry is a Skagit County Ferry. It operates from downtown Anacortes (about 40 miles from Bellingham). The BIG ferry dock (ferries to the San Juan Islands and
Sidney, BC) is about 3 miles west of town. Guemes Island is about 8 square miles with a population of about 500. There is only the one business on the island...a general store.

I cashed in our change bin Friday morning. This is the yogurt container I keep on my dresser that I throw my change into IF I ever have any. This time...$46!

We checked out the restaurants in Anacortes for lunch and decided on the Greek Islands...the #1 rated restaurant in town...

True to form, we arrived at the ferry dock just in time to board. The ferry holds about 20 cars. It takes 8 minutes to unload and reload and 5 minutes to cross. In this case, even if we had missed this ferry, it would be back in 13 minutes.

It was a beautiful day, so we stayed on deck while the all girl crew (including the captain) finished loading.

In minutes we were off leaving Anacortes behind.

Enroute, we quizzed a local bike rider on the ferry coming back from work in Anacortes. She pulled out a map of the island and showed us all the roads...quite a few for such a little island.

We disembarked and headed east on the road/bike trail that ran along the water.

We had a short, but interesting ride. Guemes Island is primarily a "bedroom community" for Anacortes and other nearby cities as well as weekend getaway second homes for city dwellers. We did find apple orchards in our tour of the southern part of the island, however. Rural, scenic, open spaces, relatively inexpensive real estate. Pretty inviting!

We headed home through the Skagit Valley. It is a great time of the year to be in the valley. The tulips and orchards are blooming.

We took a side trip to Samish Island on the way home. As it turns out, Samish Island ISN'T an island. In the early 20th century, dikes were built on a narrow channel between the mainland and the island. During low tide, the channel was just mud, but after the dikes were built it became dry land all the time. This reclaimed land is used for dairy farming and is the way on and off the "island".

One more ferry down, about 10 more to go!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trip #2: Seattle to Bainbridge Island

Our weather has been extraordinary for January in western Washington - 50's and sunny. Not wanting to waste any of our opportunities to be outside in the sunshine, we decided early this week to spend today (Friday, January 22, 2010) riding another ferry. We left home at about 10 a.m. to be ready to catch the 1:10 p.m. ferry leaving from the Main Seattle Ferry Terminal. Dick had also scheduled to look at a car (1963 Avanti) in downtown Seattle at 12:15 p.m.. Since we arrived in Seattle at 11:30, we found the place where Dick was going to see the car and then drove to the ferry neighborhood to find a good parking lot. Parking was one of the big unknowns for this trip. The ferry terminal is in downtown Seattle and does not have its own parking lot. We found a parking lot just one block from the terminal that charged $16 for enough hours for our trip - a bargain!

We had discovered that the parking near the apartment building where Dick was going to see the car was all metered. Since we did not have parking meter coins with us, we also made a brief stop at a fairly odd candy shop for change. In that candy shop was one guy sitting behind a small counter working on his laptop and behind him were two shelves with maybe 15 smallish jars of various candies like jelly beans, gummy things, gum drops. Near the door there were two pairs of shoes for sale. The place seemed mostly empty. Even so, the fellow minding the store was willing to swap a $1 bill for 4 quarters. It was good we made that stop because while Dick looked at the car our parking meter was checked twice.

Once the car errand was complete, we parked the car in at the Trust Parking at Yesler Way and Alaska Way. It was almost time for the ferry so we jogged straight to the terminal, got our tickets for the trip ($6.90 each, round trip) and boarded the ferry. Walk-on passengers board the ferry from the second floor of the terminal and enter the ferry on the main passenger deck. Autos board the ferry from street level and are loaded onto the auto deck.

The ferry left the dock within just a couple minutes of our boarding. The view of Seattle and Mt. Rainier was spectacular.

The ferry we rode was the M/V Tacoma. It is one of the three Jumbo Mark II class ferries operated by the Washington State Ferry system. These are the largest ferries carrying passengers and vehicles from place to place on Puget Sound. This particular ferry was built in 1997. The Jumbo Mark II ships are 460’ 2” long, with a 90’ beam. They hold 2500 passengers and 202 vehicles and 60 commercial vehicles. It takes power to carry that kind of load! The Tacoma has 4 diesel/electric engines with 16,000 horsepower that can propel the ship at 18 knots. The travel time from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is 35 minutes. If you are hungry you can buy packaged food on the boat. If you are sleepy, there are long bench style seats in one of the cabins where you can stretch out to take a nap (many people nap on the ferry!). Lots of the seating comes with a table so you can work, play games, or simply lean while you ride. We walked all over the ship (never did find the swimming pool, though) and made sure we saw everything.

At Bainbridge Island, we landed at Winslow. Just like we boarded the ferry right onto the passenger deck, so we disembarked from the passenger deck onto a passenger gangway that led directly into the terminal. We were, at all times, kept well away from the cars. At Winslow there is a large parking lot connected to the ferry terminal. Our introduction to Bainbridge Island was a walk through the parking lot. Once we got to the road, we walked all around the town, from the small boat harbor, to the museum, the length of the main street and then back to the ferry terminal. We saw lots of cute stores and plenty of condos. My friend Laurie had recommended the Lavender cookies at the Blackbird Bakery so we stopped in there. Sadly, they were out of cookies and too well stocked with customers. We set out at 2:40 to catch the 2:55 p.m. ferry back to Seattle. The prospect of driving in Seattle/Everett rush hour traffic was a powerful incentive to be on the 2:55 sailing! We got back to the Bainbridge Island terminal in plenty of time to get on the ferry for Seattle. When they made the boarding announcement they called the sailing “the late boarding 2:55 ferry." We were indeed boarding 5 minutes late - so honest! The passengers just line up along a long hallway and walk on. All the tickets sold are round-trip tickets so there is no ticket taking or checking on the Bainbridge to Seattle leg of the trip.

The Bainbridge Island terminal is in a cove, so the ferry maneuvered out of the cove and into the main channel between the island and Seattle. To get to the channel, we had to cross a big patch of logs and other flotsam. We both commented that we would never take our little boat through an obstacle like that. The ferry went through as if there were nothing in the water at all. The trip back to Seattle was just as scenic and beautiful as the trip to Bainbridge Island.

And we beat the traffic on the way home.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

All the Ferries!

Here's the list of upcoming trips:

State Ferries

  • Anacortes to Lopez Island to Shaw Island to Orcas Island to Friday Harbor to Anacortes
  • Anacortes to Sidney, BC, to Anacortes
  • Keystone to Port Townsend to Keystone
  • Mukilteo to Clinton to Mukiliteo
  • Edmonds to Kingston to Edmonds
  • Seattle to Bainbridge Island to Seattle (1/22/2010)
  • Seattle to Bremerton to Seattle
  • Fauntleroy to Southworth to Vashon to Fauntleroy
  • Point Defiance to Tahlequah to Point Defiance

County Ferries

  • Gooseberry Point to Lummi Island to Gooseberry Point (1/17/2010)

  • Steilacoom to Ketron Island to Anderson Island to Steilacoom


  • Anacortes to Guemes Island to Anacortes (4/16/10)

The Challenge Begins

Today, Dick proposed that we ride every Puget Sound Ferry as walk-on passengers. We love to take the ferry so we didn't think long before deciding to get started. We put on our shoes, jumped in the car and headed for the Lummi Island Ferry. Last night, there was a very high tide and lots of wind. Marine Drive, the normal route to the ferry, was closed - read that "underwater". The ferry we were hoping to catch was scheduled to leave at 2:10 p.m.. After the long detour, we parked the car across from the ferry landing at 2:09 p.m..

The Lummi Island Ferry, the "Whatcom Chief", holds 20 cars and 100 passengers and operates
365 days a year. The Whatcom Chief, built in 1962, is 93.5 feet long with a beam of 44.1 feet and a displacement of 78 tons. This ferry is the only way to get cars to and from Lummi Island. The ferry ride is a trip of 0.8 miles and takes about 5 minutes, not including loading and unloading times. Most people who live on Lummi Island rely on the ferry as their link to the mainland.

This is a small ferry! We left our car, walked briskly across the road, waited with a few other foot passengers and walked right on. Where else can you show up 1 minute in advance of departure and still get to ride?

The ferry was filled to capacity with cars this afternoon. On the way to Lummi Island there were 8 walk-on passengers, including us. We paid $4 each for a round-trip ride. On the way home there were 4 walk on passengers.

We had a mostly cloudy day today with some patches of blue sky (always welcome here!). The mountains were often bright with sunlight. Mount Baker, though, was cloud colored. It was only visible because of the rocks that show through the snow this time of year.

There was enough wind that the water was a bit choppy but not crazy. We saw only one other boat - a Coast Guard inflatable boat just flying along the shore near the Lummi Reservation. With the super high tide, Portage Island was truly an island today. We could easily have taken our little boat through the passage between the mainland and the island. Normally, even small boats would run aground crossing that passage.

When we got to Lummi Island, we watched the water for a few minutes from the view point across the road from the Beach Store Cafe. Not for long though, it's winter here. When we were cold enough we headed to the cafe for a cup of coffee. They brewed us a fresh pot of decaf, poured us two tall cups, and we headed to the Island Market to stretch our legs before we got back on the ferry for the 3:00 p.m. return trip.

We were gone from home for a total of about 3 hours. Our next trip will no doubt be longer. All the other ferries are farther away and most of the rides are longer.