My lockdown interest in different ferry operations continues unabated. Since I was down at Nisqually checking out the wildlife refuge, I figured I was close to Steilacoom which is the home of a ferry service provided by Pierce County. This one operates across to Anderson Island – a location where some friends of ours have a place. It occasionally stops at a smaller island too but that is not a frequent service.
There were two ferries tied up at the dock when I got there. One was the Christine Anderson and it was the one in use. The other was called Steilacoom II and I wonder whether that is an older ferry that is kept in reserve. Not long after I arrived, the ferry departed. I hadn’t positioned well to catch it but it turned immediately and headed south so was soon visible away from the other dock vessels. I got myself some lunch while I waited for it to return. The sun was out and the conditions were lovely as it made its way back to Steilacoom. However, a big cloud bank rolled in at just the wrong time and, as it got close to its destination, it was suddenly in shade that did not make for good photos. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the background was still bathed in good light though. One more ferry to add to the tally!
I have posted a couple of times with ferries at Guemes Island and Lummi Island. While I mainly was shooting stills at these locations, I did get some video too. When the boats are being tossed about, I figured that video was a better way of conveying what the conditions were like. Below are a couple of videos I edited of the two ferries.
Having made a return trip to Anacortes to check out the dilapidated ship hills on the shore, I decided to add to my ferry collection. Just beyond Bellingham is an Indian Reservation called the Lummi Nation. Just off the coast is Lummi Island and there is a little car ferry that connects the island to the Nation. The ferry is called the Whatcom Chief and it is operated by the county. It isn’t a big ferry – it looks to hold about 16 cars – but the crossing is not long and they apparently will run extra services to clear a backlog of vehicles if needed beyond the scheduled services.
It was just as windy up at Lummi as it had been in Anacortes but it lacked the sun that I had experienced down there. Rain showers were blowing through periodically and it was a lot less enjoyable to be outside! However, I’d come all that way so I wasn’t going to miss out on the shots. As I mentioned, the ferry is not large and, with the wind whipping up some waves, it was bouncing around as it made the crossing. I guess you want to hose the salt water off your car after a crossing on a day like this since the spray was going across the boat as it pitched and rolled.
There were more cars waiting to make the crossing than there was space for so they squeezed as many as they could onboard and then headed back again. Hopefully they came right back for the remainders but I had got what I needed, had a decent drive home ahead of me and wanted to warm up so it was back in the car for me.
Since aviation photography has been limited over the last year, I am finding myself photographing passenger ferries a lot. Having photographed some, I now am finding out about different ferry operations in the area and checking them out too. Anacortes is well known for the Washington State Ferries terminal that serves the San Juan Islands and Victoria (when the border is open) but it also has another ferry service. Just across the water from Anacortes is Guemes Island. The only way to get there is via a ferry.
The crossing is not a long one and you can see across to the other terminal with ease. The ferry is a basic boat with a car deck for vehicles and a small structure for the operators. I assume there is some shelter for foot passengers too but I didn’t spot it immediately. With such a short crossing, there are no special facilities.
As you come down the hill, you look along the loading ramp and straight at the other terminal. I saw a bunch of cars lined up to cross. It didn’t appear that they would all get on so I guess they shuttle back and further pretty regularly. It appeared to be half hourly. As they made the crossing, the boat seemed to roll quite a bit. It didn’t look like the smoothest of crossings. I guess the boat is designed to be sufficient for the sheltered waters but I wouldn’t like to be on it in rough weather. Then again, the crossing is short so you could suck it up if it was rolling about. Maybe I will take a trip across some time and explore the island.
The misty mornings at Orcas were not only pretty atmospheric to wake up to but they also could make for interesting shots of the ferries. As the banks of fog rolled in and out, the boats could disappear and reappear. As they backed out and spun around, they could be right on the edge of disappearing. Since we were facing south, the whole scene was backlit which made it look even more interesting.
With the ferries coming and going to the terminal at Orcas, I was able to have plenty of chances to take photos. I did get standard shots of the boats in low light conditions. They are not easy to shoot since they are constantly moving. No long exposures at low ISOs are possible so it is high ISO and the associated noise. However, I did decide to experiment with some long exposures and blending of shots. The boats make a curving approach to the terminal. I thought this might make a nice long exposure. It worked okay but the curve is a bit disguised by being too low down to really appreciate it. However, it was fun to try.
Christmas Eve and I was down by the water in Mukilteo. My timing couldn’t have been better. I made a discovery that will come as a surprise to many of you. You may have thought that Santa rode in a sleigh on Christmas Eve (at night too), flying through the air pulled by his reindeer. I have news for you all. That isn’t true! Everyone has been lying to you all these years. How do I know? Because I saw Santa.
Turns out Santa’s preferred mode of transport is a paddle board. The reindeer do pull him along on his board but they do so from a small boat and they might look a bit like people wearing reindeer antlers. Santa did spend a bit of time getting ready. I’m sure it wasn’t because he was putting on appropriate clothing for being out on the water in December. He just wanted to make sure he looked the part. A mask was also in order so he might have trimmed the beard.
He got on to the board prior to the reindeer being ready. A bit of paddling around until it was time to hook the tow line on from the boat the reindeer were using. With everyone aboard, they headed out in to the water and started motoring around near the lighthouse. The ferries were crossing in the background but Santa was not going to tangle with them. I had to head off after they made a couple of passes along the waterfront but I assume they were off around the world to start delivering presents.
The ferry to Orcas Island comes in to the town of Orcas. (I think it counts as a town but it is pretty small!). Right across from the ferry terminal is the Orcas Hotel. It is an old style hotel and has a café as well. Restrictions meant eating in the café was out of the question but we did get take out food from there one night and it was great. The south facing harbor gets some nice evening light in the winter. The first time I was out walking there, I figured I would get a shot after I visited the local shop. That was a mistake. When I came out, the lovely light was gone and everything was in shadow. I didn’t make the same mistake again.
The Washington State Ferry from Port Townsend comes into the Keystone Harbor. I figured I would await its arrival. The shallow harbor means that they have smaller ferries for this route. They were actually in the process of dredging the harbor at the time of my visit to maintain access for the ferry. Even though it is a smaller ferry, when you are standing at the water’s edge, it is definitely more imposing. They turned the ferry pretty quickly since the vehicle traffic didn’t look too heavy. I think the rougher crossing might have slowed them down so a quick turn helped keep the schedule.
I spent some time early one morning waiting for the return of a warship as covered in this post. It was dark and rainy when I first got there but then the sun snuck under the clouds and the result was some very pleasing light. I was down in Mukilteo which is the departure point for the ferry to Whidbey Island. They leave every half hour and I was able to get a few departures while I waited and after the ship has passed through. The white superstructure of the ferries glowed in the morning light with the dark background of the island behind them.