No more beer, but lots more masks – the Washington State Ferries during Covid-19

A short video exploring the changes to the WSF experience

One of the most unique features of the highway system here in the Washington is the ferry system. With over 24 million annual passengers, the system is the largest of its kind in the United States – and it’s not a luxury service. The ferries connect several different areas across the Puget Sound, and, so long as the ocean isn’t too nasty, are a great way to travel. But as with everything else, Covid-19 has forced some changes in the way they operate.

Limited service is a big part of the current ferry system. Traffic is down statewide, and since the ferries are expensive to run with no one on board, the entire schedule has been cut. The end result of this adjustment are ships that are still full when they set sail, and with the exception of outdoor areas at the bow and stern the main passenger deck is indoors. Consequently, all ferry passengers are required to wear masks on board -a rule that is followed by a majority of passengers, though certainly not everyone – and car passengers are instructed to remain in their vehicles.

During my first time back on board, a schedule 1:25 crossing from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, the announcement for passengers to remain in their vehicles came several minutes after we’d left the dock. The boat itself didn’t actually arrive till well after 1:30, but it was so nice that no one particularly cared. Once on board, we found a spot on the back deck, as far away from as people as we could successfully hide, and enjoyed the relative safety of air whipping along at 18 miles an hour.

The ferry experience, like everything else in life, has taken a bit of a hit from Covid-19, but is still incredibly enjoyable. Providing the weather’s good enough to stay outside, that is.

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