My pal Larry has realistic goals. Sure, he might want to bicycle across Turkey or see the Great Wall on his bicycle, but right now, he really just wants to get his bike into the San Juans. And no wonder, it’s often listed as one of the best places for bicycling in the country. Lovely summer weather, no bugs like Maine, and many small islands to explore connected by scenic ferry rides.
But you have to know how to get on a ferry…and Larry didn’t!
So we fixed that yesterday by taking him on one of my favorite loops out of Seattle, the Port Gamble Ramble! It’s a 50-miler with two ferries, an island, a peninsula and urban, suburban and country biking all in the mix. It’s easily the best local ride I can think of to expose someone to what traveling by bicycle is can be like. I’ve posted about this loop before, so I won’t add much to it here, but instead thought I’d add a bit about how to get on and off the ferry on your bike.
Here are the Washington State Ferry guidelines.
Typically, on your bike, you will go through the car payment booth to pay for your ticket. Ferries will only charge you heading West with the return trip free. Our recent trip to Bainbridge cost $8.10. Once through the toll booth, you’ll find a spot near the front of the ramp marked as a waiting area for bicycles and there is usually a ferry employee standing near by watching the pier and directing traffic who will point you to the right place if you don’t see it. And then you’ll wait. On the car ferries, they will try to load you first by yelling “Bicycles!” After the bicycles, come the motorcycles, and then the cars. If you arrive after the cars have started loading, you’ll wait until all the cars are on and go in last, which also means you’ll come off the ferry last.
For some of the smaller ferries, such as the one that crosses to Port Townsend from Ebey’s Landing or the walk-on ferry on Vashon, you’ll buy your ticket from inside the passenger waiting area and you’ll walk your bike on with the foot passengers.
Once on the ferry, you’ll find ropes to tie your bike up securely and that’s all there is to it. Find a place to relax, remember that exposed cleats aren’t allowed in the cabin so you’ll want to have socks without holes on, and then listen for the signal for passengers to return to their cars. That’s your signal that it’s time to get ready to go!