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Seán Dwyer

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It’s 6pm in Bellingham. Off we go! Except someone comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that a bit of engine maintenance must be done, so we will leave at 7. Losing this hour will not affect our arrival time in Ketchikan, the voice tells us. I believe him, because there has to be room for error built into a ferry schedule, just as with flying.

The dining room opens at 6pm, but that is Alaska Daylight Time, so we will get dinner right when we leave port. I’m really hungry, so to no one’s surprise, I head over to the dining room at a quarter before the hour. (I don’t know which hour to call it at this point.) It was a good call on my part, as the line gets long pretty fast.

At 7:02 Pacific/6:02 Alaska, the door opens, and the hostess seats me. Behind me, another guest asks the other hostess for a window seat. I look back and see the hostess raise her eyebrows. Every seat is a window seat.

As I sit, the Voice comes on and tells us the repair is taking a bit longer than expected, so we will dine in still waters. Now I begin to wonder if we’ll dock at 7:00 Sunday morning, or perhaps be delayed until 7:10. I forget the topic when a woman wearing a light-blue AMHS Oxford drops off water, bread, and butter and tells me my server will be Andrea. Signs all over the place tell me I cannot tip anyone on this ferry. I wonder how motivated my server will be.

Andrea shows up moments later. I already have inspected the menu, so I know I am ordering grilled salmon. I look at the wine list and request Moscato. Andrea informs me that the Moscato is no longer available, so I opt for Merlot. I request to have my salmon cooked medium-rare, and she says that’s a good idea, because the kitchen tends to send salmon to the table well-done.

Andrea returns moments later not with my wine, but with the news that the ferry has no Washington liquor license, which means I can’t have wine until we pull away from the dock. The situation reminds me of the floating casinos in Gary, Indiana, which had to cast off in order to allow gambling. People could probably jump to shore, but the law is the law.

I didn’t need the wine anyway. I decided to buy it because I’m over 21.

The salmon arrives. It’s perfect. The vegetable of the day is corn on the cob. I’m skeptical of restaurant corn after dozens of experiences with the stuff in the Indiana University cafeterias, but this ear is perfect. I don’t ask its provenance. I can tell you, though, that the wine in the little plastic bottle called itself a 2014 vintage.

Yes, I got my wine, because we left port:

We chug toward Vancouver, and I can’t help but think that the trip is very similar to riding the Anacortes ferry to Friday Harbor. We glide between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the water like glass, a few bits of land dotting our path.

I have lost contact with the outside world. Sorry, Outside Worlders, but it’s not a bad thing to take a break from you for 36 hours. I can keep track of my progress, because my phone’s GPS will work under almost all conditions. That’s so the FBI can find me if they want to. And so I know where I am.

When I lie down to sleep, I feel the throbbing engines like the old-time vibrating beds in 1960s motels. If those beds cost a quarter then, what would they cost now? If the price rise matched a quarter haircut, you’d be talking $25 to get your bed to shake. The ferry gives you this perk for free.

Since I didn’t take pics of the cabin, here is a four-berth cabin from another vessel in the AMHS fleet. (Sorry about that.)

I awoke early, and I jumped out of bed to look at the view.


A glimpse of West Cracroft Island:


And here’s proof that I wasn’t looking through a steamed-up window.

Backtracking to last night’s dinner, I have to say that Andrea turned out to be a particularly gifted server. The bit of back story I got on her made me decide to include a “Ferry People” feature in these posts. And so, I present to you Andrea Gibson, whom you can follow on Instagram @nature.iz.the.cure Have a look at our interview:

RATS, I’ll have to post the video on YouTube and link it here. Update later. Sorry!

Up next: Big animals, open sea, and fjords.

What have you written today? Talk to you soon!

One comment on “Hail, Columbia!

  1. racheal sliter says:

    glad youre having fun

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