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Our visit to the Kitsap Peninsular that started with the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton was cut short by some very wet north-west coastal weather and we decided to head back to Seattle earlier than planned. But, no point in going back on the same ferry we came on, so we headed to the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island for the busiest crossing in the Washinton State Ferry (WSF) system.
One thing that really struck us driving around Kitsap was that everywhere seemed to be inhabited. Outside of the towns, although we felt we were driving through forest, there always seemed to be a driveway and a house every few yards, with frequently heavy traffic to match. It seems that the wealth of Seattle has spilled across Puget Sound and everyone with enough cash has built a house there. Whether they commute daily or weekly the ferry system has grown to (almost) accommodate all these people and cars. As we approached the ferry terminal, from a distance away the road split into “ferry queue” and “through traffic” lanes. I’ve seen this on plenty of other ferries, but usually where the geography is too tight to allow a proper waiting area for a few cars. In this case when we got to the terminal there was still a large array of queuing lanes for maybe 300 cars, plus a large car park and a big bus terminal for passenger traffic. I hate to think how busy the area and the ferry get at rush hours.
The ferries here have a huge capacity, I’m sure the biggest I’ve been on. And there is major infrastructure improvements being made at the Bainbridge Island terminal as well as at Seattle. As an outsider I look at this and see a system where ever more people choose to live the other side of the water, which causes ever more development of the ferry system, which in turn encourages yet more people to move over there. A cycle which looks to have no endand which likely gets lots of attention in the local politics.
Despite being one of hundreds we had no problem boarding the first boat. Looking back as we cast off there were several other ferries docked at the Washington State Ferry Maintenance Facility next door to the terminal, all different sizes, but all looking much the same.
Walking around Seattle the day before, we could clearly see over to Bainbridge Island, but on the ferry back we could see nothing to start with. Slowly the skyline of Seattle became visible, bit by bit changing from fuzziness to ever sharper outlines, but still just in shades of grey.
Watching cities from the ocean always seems the best way to view them. I had stood on the stern of the ferry coming over and watched as Seattle receded. But somehow standing on the bow and watching as the city got ever closer and clearer was much more powerful. Arriving is always better than leaving.


The crossing
Runs about every 45 from 5:30 to 1:00 year-round
Crossing distance 8.6, in 30
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 Bainbridge to Seattle) (2024)
Washington State Ferries
When I used the ferry
June 2023

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