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Being folk who prefer the countryside to the city, instead of heading to Seattle’s great museums and galleries we spent our second day in the area taking a ferry across Puget Sound to the Kitsap Peninsular. There were several ferries to choose from, but we chose to head to Bremerton, mainly because the route looked interesting, zig-zagging between Bainbridge Island and the mainland. All went according to plan, except the promised clear skies turned into a complete day of rain, drizzle, lousy visibility and a cloud-base below the level of Seattle high-rises.
The Seattle Ferry Terminal, through still undergoing a major upgrade, worked well and the crossing was very smooth. It should have been a good opportunity to see whales, but with the visibility so bad the only marine mammals we sighted were some seals on rocks near Bainbridge Island. What we did see were plenty of other ferries, connecting Seattle with about 6 other locations. At first glance all the Washington State Ferries (WSF) looked identical, as if they came out of the same mould. In fact they range greatly in size and age, but all the WSF do strongly follow a fleet pattern.
Our arrival at SeaTac airport a couple of days earlier was delayed and the small SUV we’d booked ended up being a hulking great Ford Expeditionperfect for some needs, but not for the two us touring around. It also cost extra not only in fuel bills but also in ferry fares due to its length. Once the ferry was under way we hit another problemthe car alarm kept going off due to the motion of the boat. At first we thought it was some other yo-yo who didn’t know how to use his car. When we realised, to our great embarrassment, that it was ours we tried in vain to turn it off. Settings for these things are buried deep on a modern car, and it took us three more days and two more ferry crossings to figure out!
The Bremerton ferry terminal is quite modest compared with Seattle, but just beyond is a large US Navy shipyard. And just a few miles the other side of the peninsular is the Bangor Trident Missile base. So there’s plenty of military activity around here.
Back on the road we meandered in our car, trying to find the less travelled roads, and eventually happened across Big Beef Creek where it emptied into the Hood Canal. The road signs warned of wildlife observation ahead and we stopped with a dozen other cars beside the road. The tide was out and there were about 30 bald eagles, occasionally in flight, but mainly scavenging around the water’s edge. The long-lens brigade was lining the roadside and I joined them with my more modest telephoto, although I never did get the shot I would have liked. Great to watch though, even if you’re not a twitcher.
The miserable day stopped us doing much more than drive around looking for whatever was interesting, and these meanderings took us across the Hood Canal Floating Bridge. The Hood Canal is a long, natural (despite its name) channel that separates the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, and opens into Puget Sound just past the bridge. The bridge is nearly a mile and a half long, most of it supported on pontoons. A section in the middle opens to allow boat traffic through, notably the nuclear submarines based along the canal at Bangor. A fascinating piece of engineering, and a story that includes a partial sinking in 1979.
We had made the crossing enticed by the snow-capped mountains we’d seen from the Seattle shore. But those mountains were a fair way further into the Olympic Peninsular, and the weather stopped any further views. The day didn’t pan out the way we’d expected and so we returned early to Seattle by the Bainbridge Island Ferry. But like all good unscripted travels we made some fun discoveries that day.
The crossing
Runs about every 1-2 from 5 to midnight year-round
Crossing distance 15, in 60
The boat
This was the boat we crossed on; other boats from the WSF fleet also operate on this route.
US$14.10 for a car and driver, US$9.85 for a passenger. (Passenger is free in the direction Bremerton to Seattle) (2024)
Washington State Ferries
When I used the ferry
June 2023

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