As an islander who has been riding the ferries in sickness and in health ever since I first came to San Juan Island on one in 1977, I have developed a few attitudes about etiquette regarding the ferry. So, here goes with my pet peeves for your enlightenment!
1. Turn off your car alarm for gosh sakes. The rolling of the ferry will start the alarm sounding if someone doesn’t actually have to carefully brush by your car when getting out of their own. This usually happens, setting up a loud and obnoxious repeated alarm until the ferry workers come and get the car information and then announce over the loudspeaker that the owner of the car has to turn off their alarm. If this is you, sneak down the stairs and pretend you left something in the car.
2. Go upstairs and enjoy the comradeship and great views unless you are lucky enough to get your car right at the front of the boat and want to pretend like you are the skipper. There are nice tables and benches up there and there is enough seating for all. Wait! Note where your car is in relation to the boat – middle lane, inside aisle, etc. When you go up the nearest stairs, pay attention to which direction the boat is going as you face the stairs. Then when you get to the top of the stairs look at what is just inside the door to the deck. That way you will remember which of the stairs to go down and where to turn. For example: “Looking forward as the boat docks, my car is in the middle row on the left side, about half way down the line. I should go down by the stairs next to the Purser’s office, etc.” It sounds silly but someone always “loses” their car. You may see them squeezing between vehicles as they peer over truck tops trying to locate their vehicle in a last minute frantic search…not the best way to arrive.
3. Sleeping people and noisy kids. Let’s face it, kids love to make noise on the ferry. And, also, some people need to sleep on the ferry for various reasons. You will see their feet hanging over the benches as you walk by. If your kids want to play around, try to avoid the sleepers and go to another part of the boat. If your kids run on the boat, the captain will ask them to stop over the speakerphone. It’s very embarrassing.
4. If you have some mobility problems, then try to leave the upper deck to get down to the car deck before the announcement sends everyone scurrying to the stairs to get down to the cars. It’s just much nicer to take your time. I do this. If I wait until the last minute, my pace will hold up a bunch of anxious people, which is not nice.
5. You are in the port and cars are disembarking. It seems like everyone should start their engines, but don’t! Cars can go off the boat one, maybe two cars at a time. Everyone takes signals from the ferry workers on when to go. So, do not start your car up and poison the air for everyone just because you hear someone else start their car. In fact, the true islander will wait until the supreme last minute to turn the motor over. Ultimate coolness.
Living in the San Juan Islands means that sooner or later you will come in contact with our local wildlife. The islands and their surrounding