My inter island ferry day in the San Juan Islands

I spent a warm and happy time with friends using the inter island ferry of the San Juan Islands as our gathering place. It was my first experience on the inter island ferry even though I’ve lived in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island for years, and have taken the larger ferryboats from Anacortes many times before. (This photo is of a shot from the ferryboat -- not of the ferry itself).

Here’s what happened and how it worked:

First off, I live on Fidalgo Island -- that’s the island where Anacortes, Washington is. Because it’s a drive-on island, many people think it’s still part of the mainland.

People the world over come to Anacortes to hop on the state ferryboats that take them to the main San Juan Islands: and those islands are Lopez Island, Shaw Island, Orcas Island, and the island that’s actually also named San Juan Island (even though we call all the islands in the area by that name when describing them collectively). There’s also a ferryboat from Anacortes that takes folks all the way through Canada’s Gulf Islands and on to Sidney, British Columbia.

People pay a fee to drive, walk or take their bikes onto the ferries from Anacortes to one of the above destinations. They only pay once upfront for the rides through the San Juans -- it’s free to come back.

However, there’s also an inter island ferry serving the San Juan Islands. It doesn’t come to Anacortes or Fidalgo Island, but it bounces around between Orcas, Lopez, Shaw and San Juan Island. It’s smaller than the ferries that serve the population coming from Anacortes, and it’s free. But in order to board it you have to be on one of the said islands already and eventually get off onto one of those as well.

A few friends from the mainland, from Anacortes, as well as out on the further San Juan Islands all wanted to gather on December 22nd to spend time together sharing, snacking and singing. The idea was implemented by a lovely lady who lives on Orcas Island. So we used the inter island ferry as our gathering place.

In my case, and the case of those coming from the mainland, we paid the fee to take the larger ferry to San Juan Island, about an hour’s nice cruise through the Salish Sea. Once there, I got off, did a bit of shopping, then boarded the inter island ferry that showed up about 45 mintues later.

Once on the smaller inter island ferry, snacks and interesting reading materials were set out to enjoy as people waited for everyone to eventually be together all at the same time on this smaller boat (some had gotten on this ferry earlier from other islands, others had to leave earlier to return to their destinations.)

We then gathered in a circle area -- even one of the members of the ferry crew hung out the best he could -- the crew and regular islanders know each other pretty well. We shared stories, dreams, and sang songs together. One person had a guitar and one an accordion. The snacks they shared included apple juice, brownies, chips, carrots and other holiday-oriented treats.

My route home ended up being to get off the inter island ferry at its 1:30 p.m. Orcas stop, because a larger ferry back to Anacortes was arriving at 2:00. A new friend I met at the gathering was taking that same route, so we chatted in the waiting room on Orcas, and all during our trip back on the larger ferry to Anacortes.

It was one of the shortest days of the year, and sun peaked out from under the cloud cover bringing a sort of illuminated blue-silver look to the Salish Sea -- which is what we call our area of the Puget Sound saltwater that surrounds our islands. It was an all around fun excursion reminding me how fun it is to live on an island and be part of an island community.

Return from Inter Island Ferry of the San Juan Islands to Living in Anacortes, WA