Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, Smooth Sailing{21}

Washington State Ferry magic portal (photo: my talented friend Sam Spencer)

When you live on an island, and your only way off the island is by ferry, rider opinions arise as frequently as exhaust fumes from a ship’s funnel.  Some islanders have a contentious relationship with the ferry system, its policies, its fares, its maintenance delays. (They usually don’t last long here—the people, not the issues.) But anyone who has walked on a westbound ferry at sunset, or stood on the bow when the full moon floats over Puget Sound, or hunkered down in a car while whitecaps whale broadside, or stood on the car deck when Puget Sound shines like a looking glass, there is no better means of transportation with one exception: having wings.

Winter sunsets fall south of the Olympic Mountains; summer sunsets, far north.

And for every stunning moment, there is likely a regrettable bookend of events that challenges one’s humanity: line cutters, lengthy backups, vessels down, summer delays. And wedged in-between it all, you’ll find the ferry crew. I have my favorites: the ones who always smile, give me a nod and Buddy a treat; the laughing mate who regularly asks me when I’m going to get a new truck and how’s my day going; and all the crews who direct my vehicle onto the vessel with authority, clarity and confidence.

Rainer View: The south-end ferry from Vashon to Tacoma

Of course there are some who load a boat like its a game of charades, using hand gestures and signals that seem to spell out “movie: two words, eight syllables” rather than merge to the lane port-side and stop. I’m sure it can be a thankless job, loading and offloading a good number of cranky commuters and impatient visitors, so I tip my hat to all the wonderful crew members of the Washington State Ferries, and thank them for bringing me home safely and without incident throughout the year.

Ready to dock in West Seattle, near Lincoln Park.

And just this last week, I was reminded that riding a ferry is a two-way street—make that shipping lane. As I approached the dock to park and wait for the ferry on a freezing cold day (by Pacific Northwest standards), the ticket taker, cheeks as red as a blush of cherries, scanned my pass, and ask “How are you today?” I answered, “Freezing my be-jeebers off.” Of course the minute those whiney words left my chapped lips from inside a heated car with seat warmers, I winced, and tried to cover my clueless tracks with, “Forget about me, how are you faring in this cold snap! Bet you’re chilled to the bone.” She smiled, and said, “Thanks for asking, I’m good and bundled up, and besides a passenger just dropped off a box of hand warmers for us. Wasn’t that nice.”

I replied, “Dang, all I have for you is a big old thank you.” To which she replied, “You know, that is plenty good and most appreciated.” We both laughed as she directed me to lane one. Sometimes an unexpected acknowledgment, a simple thank you, is all someone needs to make their day, and warm their heart (even without the benefit of hand warmers.)

Heading home, and waiting for the ferry on the West Seattle dock: quite a show.

Well wishes to you and yours for the coming year, and thank you for your readership, kind persence and heartfelt comments here on Tall Clover Farm.