My adventures over Memorial Day weekend started with a ferry ride. I’d never been on a drive-on ferry. I didn’t shoot for any particular time, since ferries left once an hour and they were advising to get there 30-45 minutes in advance. Also, the ferry terminal in Seattle has lots of restaurants, so I figured I’d kill any time I had by having brunch. I ended up arriving at the terminal right at 45 minutes before the ferry and was guided into the queue. There was a Subway nearby, so that was a tasty lunch option while I relaxed in the nice-ish weather with Victory’s windows rolled down.
Riding the ferry was pretty exciting. Since I found very little in terms of operational details on the internet before I got there, here’s a breakdown of the procedure:
- Drive to the ferry terminal. There will be a gate, and a person at the gate will take your fare and point you to where to go next.
- In Seattle, there’s the Bainbridge Island ferry and the Bremerton ferry. On the day I was there (and I think this is normal/standard), you drove to the right for Bainbridge Island and to the left for Bremerton. The signs were clear and easy to spot.
- Once you get to the loading queue, a person will direct you to a line to park while you wait to load. Once you’re behind the car in front of you, you can turn off your engine, and once the cars near you are parked and stopped, you can get out and wander.
- About 15-20 minutes before your departure time, be back at your car and ready to go. But, don’t turn on your engine until the lines of cars ahead of you have gone. If you car starts up pretty fast, you can even wait until the person in front of you starts rolling. Make sure to leave your headlights off so you aren’t blinding the workers as you head down the ramp.
- Follow the car in front of you (or the worker’s directions if you’re in front) to drive onto the ship. If you’re the front car in a line, the crew will put blocks under your tires. You can turn your engine off once you’re stopped, but stay at your car until your “line” of cars has finished loading in case they need you to move forward more.
- Set your parking brake and make sure you have your keys and lock your car before you go but don’t set your alarm. (For modern cars, this usually means using the door lock button inside the car instead of the one on your keyfob.) Reason being, the rocking of the boat can trigger your car alarm, and you don’t want to be that guy.
- Then, you can stay in your car for the whole ride if you want, or you can go up the stairs (or elevators at the center of the ship) to the passenger and sun decks. There’s a snack bar that is overpriced but very friendly as well as vending machines. There’s also some racks of brochures about the places that the WSDOT ferries visit.
- Wi-Fi – The ferry terminal in Seattle and the ships that leave from there have wi-fi provided by Boingo. It isn’t free, and I didn’t use it. I have no idea how fast or slow it is.
- The passenger area has lots of bench-style seats with and without tables, at windows and interior, as well as lounge style seats and bucket seats with window views.
- The sun deck is just an open deck that you can walk around on. There’s no seating outside.
- There will be an announcement over the intercom when the ferry is approaching the next terminal, and this is when you should go downstairs and get back in your car if you’re not already there. Just like before, don’t turn on your engine until you’re ready to roll. Otherwise, it’s loud and you’re breathing fumes.
- You’ll follow the car in front of you out, and then you’re off. (If you’re the front car, a bunch of bicycles will leave before you do. The worker will wave when you’re supposed to turn on your engine and go.)
While I was on the ferry, I visited all the decks, read about the boat (ship? I never know), used the restroom, and took some photos of the shorelines. I didn’t see any particularly interesting wildlife. I did see lots of happy dogs on the sun deck enjoying the breeze (they’re allowed there, but not the passenger deck).
Coming home after the trip, I was the front car, which was particularly cool. I ended up staying in my car for that ride, since I had a perfect view of the trip from the privacy of Victory PT! If you want to see more pictures of my ferry ride (although they’re admittedly kind of boring), the full gallery is here.