how to get to the island

Convenience is not a reason anyone would choose to live on an island. Especially not San Juan Island. Convenient it is not. There is no bridge connecting us to the mainland. No chunnel. No. To travel back and forth from the island to the mainland, we are at the mercy of the ferry schedule.

The ferry takes an hour and five minutes if you are traveling direct from Friday Harbor to Anacortes. However, Bob and I once spent over 5 hours in one day on the ferry. How?

Well, it was a Saturday and we were trying to get on the 8:05 ferry. We arrived to line up at 7:15 only to find out that it was already full. We were turned away and told to return for the next ferry… which wasn’t until 11:15. But that ferry stops at Orcas, Lopez and Shaw before going to Anacortes. We could have waited for a later, direct ferry but didn’t want to run the chance that we would miss it. So we got on this incredibly indirect route.

We didn’t make it back until the last ferry of the day… which is also a “local” as opposed to direct. It took even longer than usual because just as we were finally heading to Friday Harbor from Orcas Island, the captain got on the loudspeaker to tell us that a couple of passengers had failed to disembark at Orcas and we were going to turn around to let them off. But first we had to wait for another ferry to unload their passengers. And that’s how we ended up spending over 5 hours in one day on the ferry.

So… all of this is to demonstrate how challenging it can be to get to our little island. Usually we just pass the time on the ferry by either reading or playing games. Our new favorite is Bananagrams. Do you know this game? It’s so much fun and really easy to carry around. Seriously, check it out. Especially if you’re a Scrabble or Crosswords fan.

Anyway, the ferry terminal in Anacortes is a 1.5 to 2 hour (depending on traffic) drive from Seatac (the Seattle airport) and the ferry ride (if direct) is an hour and five minutes after that. Don’t forget the wait time. You generally need to arrive about an hour ahead of schedule this time of year to be sure you make it. It’s apparently ungodly longer in the summer.

Now, we recently returned from a two-week vacation in Los Angeles. My new play “American Home” was being workshopped at The Blank Theatre in Hollywood. So we went for that and to see friends. We drove down so that we could return our leased vehicle. And we flew back. The plan had been to leave our “new” car (a 1995 Volvo wagon with 195,000 miles on it) at friends house in Seattle so that we had a way back to the island. That plan went out the window Day 1 of our drive down when the car sputtered and quit. We called AAA and had them tow it back to Friday Harbor to our mechanic who had just done a bunch of work on it.

Our mechanic felt so bad that this happened to us that he offered to pick us up in his Cessna from the airport so that we would have a way back to the island. And that’s what he did! On Saturday we landed in Seattle and found our way over to Boeing Field where he said he would meet us. He arrived just after we did and forty minutes later we were landing in Friday Harbor. Amazing! It was such a thrill. We were so lucky to have clear skies and a pristine view. It was totally exhilarating. And so much better than taking the ferry. We have the best mechanic ever!

But I don’t know how we’ll ever travel by ferry again.

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5 Responses

  1. Love the new blog Steph!!!


  2. Wonderful! So glad I’ll be able to keep up with The Life of the Walkers! (like I live 3,000 miles away) And that’s some mechanic. If we need one, I’ll know who to call. Congratulations on your new blog. I’m Number One Fan!

  3. wow what an ordeal to get home. i dont want to hear anyone in chicago complain about their commute now! haha. Hope you car is okay.

    • We just got the car back today and so far so good. I am just keeping my fingers crossed. We will have to replace the tires soon. But it’s nice to not have a car payment anymore. As long as we’re not constantly putting money into the Volvo. Should be good to go for now, though.

  4. You know, if you wanted to keep the Volvo as strictly an “island car”, any longer road trips on the mainland could be accomplished by renting a car from M & W. Maybe? It would be cheaper in the long run than a car payment. Just a thought since it’s been done in NYC forever!

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