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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ferry Riding Guide - Bainbridge to Seattle run

Photo : Arriving Seattle from Winslow... I mean Bainbridge.

Photo : Bainbridge cars unloading. The ferry worker in the bright vest has the city exit lane blocked to let 3-6 end of shift employees escape from the staff parking lot. It adds 1/2 mile to 200 other cars commute, however since they are diverted south past the main city center. U-turns are not legal in this city.

Since riding these big white beasts of sea burden is a requirement to get to my job, I thought I should summarize what you may experience on the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferry Service. This edition shall focus on the Bainbridge Island - Seattle run.
1. The Bainbridge Island run used to be called the Seattle - Winslow run. Do not ask old timers about the name change. They get ruffled feathers and may start spitting when they speak vehemently. Suffice it to say Bainbridge Island is the Bellevue of Kitsap County, except without the highrise buildings. Very caucasian, very middle to upper middle class incomes with Midwest middle-class sensibilities. Many people that aren't comfortable with Seattle due to its DIVERSITY (oh do the research on this, Seattle is also very white) are fully comfortable with this island. So small town living next to the big city of Seattle.
2. The ferry ride takes about 35 minutes. To keep your transit time about 35 minutes, you want your car to be in the center lanes of the boat. Not that you get to decide this. They load the boat in order, and pay attention to weight distribution.
In general, car loading is a first on, first off philosophy. It can differ however, depending on your ferry captain and what they tell their main parking floor staff.
3. You can wave or nod at these workers when driving on or off. For the most part they are a happier bunch than Any Other Boat. I have been told by Bainbridgers that "they take care of their ferry workers" at holidays and such, so supposedly have the nicest boats, nicest employees, yada yada etc. From talking to employees I know that the Bainbridge Islanders have the most clout in the ferry system and other run ferry riders (in particular Bremerton) complain that Bainbridge gets preferential treatment. Bainbridge folks know who "know who to talk to" or they have whiny hissy fits (as only a Seattle-area person can do) about some Bainbridge ferry run issue. Consequently, you may miss that you need to get off the boat...they do not announce in person when the boat arrives at Bainbridge. Residents near the ferry dock complained of the ferry announcement as the ferry pulled into harbor. Many times you will get a recording (which my kids have memorized...)When a Bainbridge ferry breaks down, it takes a Bremerton run ferry to keep its schedule. Bremerton is then down a ferry.
4. Bainbridge comes directly out of Seattle, so can be a mightily loaded boat of walk-ons and cars. In summer it is tourist-filled. Vehicles tend to be more expensive on this run. The generic high end seattle suburb cars - volvo, lexus, acura, sport cars. You will hear the captain or whoever gets on the PA tell the mercedes owner of the blue/silver/black one to turn off their alarm. Work vehicles tend to be for bakeries or trucks that don't look like they work at all. (Unless you see our big white dirty truck on the ferry!)

5. When arriving or departing Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge... the ferry veers very close to the shore to get around some submerged rocks. Do not freak out that the boat is going in the wrong direction even if it appears to be turning away from where you think it should be going. Trust your captain. These waters have been plied by ferries for over 120 years. They know what they are doing. There is only one ferry accident with fatalities.. and that was in 1906 with a teeny commuter steamship.

6. TIP for impatient drivers : How they unload the boat (And I know this because I am one of those drivers and this made me crazy so I asked every dang ferry what their strategy is)

Center two lanes fully offloaded. Center far lanes fully unloaded.

Outside lower level lanes, except they let one car go from the inside lane for clearance issues. Can't trust people to know the size of their cars!

Inside lower level lanes.

Upper level outside lanes, then upper level inside lanes.

Keep an eye on the ferry worker, don't speed on or off the boat.
7. How to be a "Regular Commuter on the Bainbridge Ferry" :
Turn your lights off when driving on or off. Don't blind the employees.

Keep your car alarm off. The ferry movement sets them off and you will be publicly humiliated by the ferry workers over the PA.

Move your damn car as close as possible to the car in front of you. You may be smooshing enough room to fit another car on the boat.
You can open the newspaper recycle bins and take the daily paper out to read.
Coffee is $1 in your own cup any size except hondo. Even if you just have a paper cup. Otherwise $2.50.
Do Not make-out, pick your nose, change clothes, have sex, let your dog defecate or pee on the boat deck, throw things overboard, play your music loud in your car. Not only will the person sitting in the car behind, next to, or in front of you see or experience, but the ferry workers can watch on camera.
And no running upstairs, the ferry staff will get on the PA and tell you to stop.

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