Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands

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“Friday Harbor…please return to your vehicles at this time…”

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For those of you savvy with boats, you’re aware that they don’t have brakes. There are two ways to arrest forward motion; run into the dock, or, the preferred method, put them in reverse. This turns the propellers in the in opposite direction, in essence trying to pull the ferry backwards. That causes the froth you see in the large photo.

“All foot passengers will disembark the vessel from the car deck…Friday Harbor.” I’ve heard that announcement seemingly uncountable times, and yet I went one period of time of four years without leaving the island. Not a record for someone’s hermit-like habits as mine I’m sure, but I still get raised eyebrows when I recount that tale. Most islanders end up going offisland often for shopping, doctor’s appointments, or just to relieve their cabin fever.

Frankly, due to my simplicity lifestyle, the thought of going offisland first brings anxiety at the dollar cost of returning home again via the return ferry which these days doesn’t come cheap! In the old days when I first moved here you had to pay each way, which on the ‘red eye’, the first ferry of the morning usually around 6am, meant you had to leave your warm car and trudge down to the ticket office in rain, sleet, snow, etc. to purchase a ticket to the mainland, either forgetting your wallet or some other “oops” that required going back to the car and then back to the ticket office! Eventually, someone came up with the brilliant idea of an early morning cafe for the breakfast you didn’t want to take time for or you might miss the ferry because of over-loading. That’s when the stress started, when to leave the house so you were early enough to get on the boat. No, I take it back, the stress started some time during the night when you were worried about missing the alarm and sleeping past the “up=and-at-em” time. So, you started a long day on the mainland with not enough sleep, and it generally went downhill from there.

Now you purchase a round trip ticket in Anacortes and that gets you back to the mainland, a well thought out improvement in logistics. I gleefully took advantage of that when I arranged to haul a 60 foot mobile home to the mainland that had been here for years. Of course, someone paid the round trip ticket, but it wasn’t me!

Many islanders, especially on the red eye, will try to catch a few winks during the voyage. Many’s the time I could, in half-asleep mode, sense what island we were stopping at when I felt the vessel shudder as the helmsman put’er in back-up. Speaking of sleeping on the ferry, one could often tell the residents from the tourists by who is catching a nap, and who is out on the wings taking pictures and taking in the view.

I can, however, recall coming back to Friday Harbor on a late boat, tired of traveling, the mainland, and the whole day. Sometimes the water is glass smooth in the evenings, and on those ferry rides, I’d often go out in the dark alone on the wings (those viewing platforms at each end of the boat above the car deck where the public is allowed) and recharge my internal batteries looking at the twinkling lights ashore, perhaps a piece of sunset still lingering in the west, and glory at the sight of sparkling Friday Harbor, both the lights and their reflections in the calm bay as the boat rounded corner by the Labs. It was good to be back in the islands!

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