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Return from the Garden City

May 28, 2011
The M.V. Coho

The M.V. Coho runs between Victoria and Port Angeles, Wash. (Orin O'Neill photos)

The best weather of the weekend was Friday going to Victoria, and Monday leaving Victoria. Which is totally okay with me… each day’s ride was much longer than the ones in the rally.

Safety Ed and I had met up with Randito at dinner Sunday night, and we were at the dock along with Allstate Bill waiting to board the M.V. Coho to Port Angeles. Randito’s Aprilia Mojito was having electrical issues, so he wasn’t sure it would start. In addition, he discovered its rear tire had picked up a screw somewhere on the road, which caused a slow leak. Sounds like the kind of luck I usually have.

There are three ways to get to Victoria if you’re bringing a vehicle: the BC Ferries ship from Tsawwassen, which Safety Ed and I had done; the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Sidney; and the Coho.

The Coho unloading

The Coho docks in the Inner Harbour, just steps from the Causeway. And while not as close to home as the WSF boat, I’d wanted to swing through Port Townsend on the way home, having never been there. And I wanted to ride on the Chetzemoka, the first of the new 64-car ferries that run between Port Townsend and Keystone, er, Coupeville.

Note to self: Next time I make this trip have enough U.S. currency to pay the fare ($32, U.S. or CDN); my debit card would be processed in Canadian funds, with the attendant Currency Conversion Fee. 😦

Once you buy your ticket, you go through U.S. Customs on the spot. At that point, you’re stuck there until it’s time to board.

The morning cloud cover was burning off as we waited, the sun out once we were under way. The Inner Harbour is quite scenic.

The Inner Harbour

Rounding the corner at the Canadian Coast Guard station puts you into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s not particularly scenic, but the Coho can move around a lot, so bring Dramamine if you’re prone to seasickness.

The Inner Harbour

The pilot boat in the above picture was on its way to meet a tanker in the middle of the strait. Ships have to take a local pilot on board if the passage is tricky, but I didn’t know that was an issue here.

Port Angeles in sight, we went below to untie our scooters and get ready to disembark. You get to talk to another CBP officer on the way out, though I believe any declarations and other procedural stuff gets taken care of in Victoria. I had nothing to declare.

Randito’s Mojito started up, so he was able to ride it off the boat. We said our goodbyes and I headed east on US 101.

The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and I wasn’t the least bit worried about being squished by a logging truck, unlike the time I was on the PX. There was a fair amount of traffic, and a fair number of drivers who didn’t understand my attempts to wave them past on the passing lanes. *Sigh!*

You make a left turn just past the casino to get on WA 20. Much less traffic, and much more of a view as it climbs into the hills on the way to Port Townsend. Nice.

Descending the hill into Beautiful Downtown Port Townsend, I could see the Chetzemoka in the slip. I didn’t want to risk missing the sailing, so I didn’t stop to take my own picture.

MV Chetzemoka

The M/V Chetzemoka (Photo courtesy WSDOT)

The Chetzemoka and its soon-to-arrive sister ship the Salish replace the WSF’s 80-year-old Steel Electric boats, which were abruptly pulled from service after a Coast Guard inspection revealed severe hull corrosion. The WSF has had to deal with reduced tax revenue brought on by the cancellation of its primary funding source in the late 1990s. The Chetzemoka is the first new ferry in the system in over a decade. Most of the boats are old, and some are really old. When they’ll be replaced (and how they’ll be paid for) is anyone’s guess.

It’s a short ride to Keystone, uh, Coupeville. WA 20 continues on a tide flat dotted with houses that might make you think of Cape Cod or Nantucket, before rising up into the hills of Whidbey Island. Again, not much traffic and enjoyable curves.

You cross Deception Pass at the top of the island, and before you know it you’re on the quasi-freeway that is WA 20 in Skagit County. Farm to Market Road is not far, but I needed a snack, so I pulled into the Shell mini-mart near the casino.

The GTS at the Shell station

It was nice being back in Victoria. It will be nice to be sleeping in my own bed, too. Favicon

  1. May 28, 2011 9:03 pm

    These pictures remind me of when I went to Norway! We crossed many a fjord on a ferry!

  2. Jack Riepe permalink
    May 29, 2011 3:09 pm

    Dear Orin:

    I have been following this four-part Odyssey with great interest. But I really liked the conclusion the best. Why? Because I love ferries almost as much as I love trains. I have only taken Fireballs over two ferries (Cape May, NJ), but I enjoyed the experience so much, I would go out of my way to repeat it. And there is something imprssive about ferry construction too. The Coho didn’t look like a vehicle ferry to me and I was surprised to see the hatch in the side of the hull.

    Good story…
    Welcome back.

    Twisted Roads

  3. May 29, 2011 3:13 pm

    Jack, the Coho is a rather old vessel, having been built in 1959 and refurbished at least once (maybe twice?) since then. And shortly after I took the pic of the cars disembarking, a tractor-semitrailer rig pulled off… and another got on after we did!

  4. Ken permalink
    June 10, 2011 2:46 am

    Dear Orin,

    The MV Coho (Black Ball Ferries if memory serves me) had been in service for quite a time when I arrived to live in Victoria forty years ago, so I was surprised to find her still going during my visit in 2008. And she is still doing that run! But, then, you mention the age of the WSF vessels….(!!)
    Great to see all the familiar places in your account.

    Best wishes,

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