Once you have located the ferry schedule online and looked at your options and chosen a boat, you are ready to head off to the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Here’s a hint: pack some food or stop in Anacortes and get some. The food, if available on the ferry, will be limited and spendy. Riding the ferry will make you hungry, even if you have eaten. Another hint: take a good book or some knitting. Yes, the scenery is beautiful and you will most likely have a window seat on the boat. The waiting at the terminal or for the ferry to load on passengers on another island will have you relaxing and looking for some quiet work. If not, it is always fun to people watch.
At the terminal
Cars line up at one main window toll booth to purchase a ticket or have one electronically scanned. After getting a ticket you go to another little close-by shed where someone tells you which lane to get into so that you end up on the correct island. The numbers are painted onto the ferry lanes. Once you are in the ferry line you are free to wander around, visit the restrooms, walk your dog, etc. When it is time to get back to the car you will hear the announcement and likely hear the ferry come in and unload people returning to the mainland.
If you were a little late and the ferry was already full, the person at the shed may tell you with a frown, “Sorry, you are on overload.” She will be putting a little tab under your windshield wiper that says what number you are in the overload line. You can ask her the number; it usually isn’t too much hope if you are over number ten. And, of course, it all depends upon the length of the cars ahead of you. It is amazing how many cars they can squeeze on that ferry, so don’t give up hope until you see it leave the dock without you!
If you are on foot or have a bicycle, then you need to go to the main terminal down by the water. You can get your ticket there and then if you are walking go right from the waiting room onto the upper level of the boat via an overhead walkway. Be warned, though, that when you get to any of the islands, the way off will be from the car deck, not the top level.
In installment III we will discuss my own personal views about ferry etiquette.