Woe is we: Ferry riders face long lines

Ferry travelers faced a grueling two-hour wait as visitors left Whidbey Island Wednesday after the Fourth of July holiday.

It was one of the worst waits in recent memory. In Clinton the long line of cars waiting for the ferry snaked up Highway 525 past the end of the ferry holding lane. At times vehicles were stopped beyond Campbell Road, almost to Ken’s Korner shopping mall.

Susan Huether Harris, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries said there was a lot of traffic all over the ferry system Wednesday.

“We had more traffic throughout the system this year than last year,” Huether Harris said.

“In Clinton there was a 90-minute wait all morning and most of the afternoon, which is significant,” she said.

On Wednesday 4,004 vehicles traveled from Clinton to Mukilteo, compared with 3,632 the day before. Huether Harris said she believes the weather had a lot to do with the increased traffic.

“Although it didn’t turn out as nice as was forecast, I think people wanted to add an extra day to the holiday,” she said.

To some people who had never traveled to Whidbey Island on a holiday, the wait was a surprise. Regular visitors and residents seemed to take it in stride, however. To many regulars, waiting for the ferry is part of the island experience.

Veteran ferry travelers know that having a good book along is a necessity. Some people were more creative. One man strummed a ukulele while he waited in line, others slept or listened to music. Some uninitiated ferry travelers could be seen standing outside their cars, staring at the long line in front of them, almost willing it to move.

Carol Miles and her teen daughter, Hannah, first timers to the ferry line, decided to start walking to the dock from where they were stopped opposite Dalton Reality on Highway 525.

The pair from Gresham, Ore. said they were feeling impatient just sitting in the car.

“This was our first time on Whidbey Island. We certainly didn’t expect this,” Carol Miles said.

“We were just tired of sitting in the car, so we left my husband to drive it down to the dock,” she said.

“We talked about driving around. But whether we wait for the ferry or drive around, it’s a long trip,” Miles said.

She said they were visiting family on the island.

“We will remember to plan differently when we come back on other holidays,” Miles added.

Lachlan and Rebecca Pope are no strangers to the ferry. The couple has a vacation cabin at Lagoon Point. On Wednesday they were returning to their Bothell home with their five cats and one dog inside their SUV.

“We purposely took an extra day off after holiday to avoid the holiday rush. We were surprised to find such a long line,” Lachlan Pope said.

Their five cats — wandering around inside the car — didn’t seen to mind the wait.

“We always take them with us,” Rebecca Pope said.

One South Whidbey couple discovered that the day after a holiday is not a good day to move.

Lilly Leitermann and Brian Hoeh chose Wednesday to leave the island permanently. They were moving to a new home in Michigan.

“We purposely waited until today to move. We didn’t expect a ferry wait,” Leitermann said.

“I won’t miss ferry lines,” she added.

Another family came prepared for the wait.

Robbie Bell and his two daughters, Samantha and Mikayla of Bothell, are frequent Whidbey Island visitors. Bell was reading a book and Samantha was in the backseat watching a movie on a DVD player.

“We were expecting a ferry line,” Robbie Bell said.

Mikayla Bell was more impatient and decided to hoof it to Dairy Queen and catch up with her dad and sister on the dock.

A Portland woman found the ferry line so daunting at 10:30 a.m. she returned to her friend’s home in Freeland.

“I was hoping it would improve, but when I came back three hours later, the line was worse,” Catherine Brittingham said.

Two men from Victoria, B.C. didn’t mind the ferry line because they were bicycling their way around northwest Puget Sound. On Wednesday, they rode two ferries, the Port Townsend/Keystone and the Clinton/Mukilteo route. They were headed for their third crossing the next day at Kingston in Edmonds.

They were halfway through a seven-day, 400-mile bicycle trip.

“We didn’t find the lines long at all,” Tom Watson joked.

“We pedal right to the front of the line. It’s a great way to travel,” Warren Hamm said.

Drivers of commercial vehicles seemed to hunker down for the wait.

Two UPS truck drivers pulled into line near Campbell Road about 3:30 p.m. They hoped to be back at their office by quitting time.

The eatery on the Clinton dock, Shirley’s Kitchen, was doing a brisk walk-up business. As cars pulled onto the dock to wait for the next ferry, those weary from the wait piled out of their cars to order snacks from the snack bar.

Top sellers for the day, according to employee Dani Caulkins, were ice cream cones, fries and smoothies. By 3 p.m., the stand had run out of strawberry flavoring.

“Strawberry has been the most popular flavor today for smoothies and shakes,” Caulkins said.

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