Advice on Crossing Ferry Lanes?

penorman

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Aug 17, 2020
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3
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Thewestcoastinspain1
We have paddled several times from Washington Park near Anacortes up to Cypress Island, which requires crossing a busy ferry lane. We watch the ferry schedule and have not had a problem but out in the middle of the 3-mile crossing I always wonder where we are relative to the actual ferry lane. The chart shows a ferry lane and I can see my location relative to that line on GPS. But is the line on the chart accurate or just a rough location? And how wide a path on either side of that line do the ferries use? Thanks for any insights.
 

AM

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Jan 30, 2006
Messages
965
Location
Vancouver
Ferries are definitely the biggest hazard in certain parts of the Canadian Gulf Islands and Washington San Juans. My strategy is like yours (familiarize myself with routes and schedules) PLUS carry a VHF. In the Gulf Islands, we can listen in to Channel 11 (VIctoria VTS) as the ferries hit their call-in points. That gives you a very clear picture of who is where.

Also, in a pinch you can contact VTS yourself or the ferry directly. I’ve done both: once during a very foggy crossing from Portland Island to Saltspring when I was guiding a small school group, I let VTS know our location and route and they passed that info along to all ferries. Another time, crossing from Lighthouse Park to Bowen Island, a ferry changed course directly toward me, so I hailed him on VFH 16 to let him know I was there.

VHF is a key piece of safety equipment, IMHO.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

kayakwriter

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Feb 27, 2006
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Seconding the VHF. I've used it both passively to listen in as BC ferries call in their check points, and once actively when I was sheparding a group of begineer kayakers in the Gulf Islands. If you are more than one, keep yourself in a tight group, because you don't want a ferry suddenly trying to play slalom with your kayaks as the posts!
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
Messages
469
Location
Seattle WA
About ten years ago in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, I hailed a ferry by VHF to ask if our kayaks had time to cross in front of the boat while it was loading cars. No one answered the hail, so we just went for it. That was the first and only time I ever bothered hailing a ferry.

Alex
 

dvfrggr

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Joined
Apr 4, 2005
Messages
422
Location
Seattle,Wa
One foggy crossing from James Island to Washington Park we were chased down by the "old man in sea" 1+ miles from Washington park and he sternly warned us we were in the ferry lanes. I replied my GPS showed we were 1mile south of the lanes ? He replied that ferries had been known to travel that far from the lane on days like this. We thanked him and headed south for a while and then finally broke out of the fog. First and last time I paddled with that individual, he didn't want to wait for the fog to clear..... my pleading to wait. .... was left to him paddling away blowing his whistle ever 15 seconds, crazy to follow him but couldn't let the idiot whistle blower go alone.
Pretty quite ride home ....haven't seen him again . I choose my paddling partners pretty closely any more. Watching ferry traffic here in Elliott Bay it seems Captains do have latitude to move from designated lanes so stay alert and don't be a whistle blower:)
 
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JKA

Paddler
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
189
Location
Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
I've downloaded an iPhone app from MyShipTracking.com

I used it recently on a trip to ascertain ferry locations here in NZ (trip report being written)

I've just checked it and it's showing WSF Yakima east of Humphrey Head, Lopez Island, doing 14.7kts on a course of 140.5 degrees, destination Anacortes!

Assuming cell coverage, could this be a useful tool in your waters?
 
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Joined
May 27, 2019
Messages
23
Location
Seattle
I made the crossing from WA Park to Cypress Head in early July. While loading our kayaks, we spent time observing the ferry boats. Heading to Anacortes, the ferry boat was on one side of the ferry lane and leaving Anacortes, the ferry boat was on the other side of the ferry lane. Not sure how wide the path is - 1/8th of a mile, 1/4 of a mile maybe? - hard for me to visually judge the distance, but the ferries did use different sides of the path.

One thing that helped me decide when to launch was to print the ferry schedule and look at wsdot "vessel watch" (all one word) which gives
real time positions of the ferries, what ferry is late, how fast they are moving. Using this tool, you can look at the ferries on the water and know
"oh, that's the Samish ferry vehicle heading to Friday Harbor out of Anacortes and it's 10 minutes late in departure", for example. Useful for finding a window to depart. Helped, of course, that is wasn't foggy and I could see the ferry traffic.
 

penorman

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Aug 17, 2020
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Location
Thewestcoastinspain1
We did this trip again recently and some observations re ferries:
  • The track that ferries actually follow as shown on Marine Traffic website and its sister app Vessel Watch usually sticks very close to the ferry lane shown on most maps. No doubt there are exceptions to this, but that's what we saw in several days of periodically looking at the Vessel Watch app.
  • Ironically, the exception is the ferry lane shown on the NOAA chart, which is very rough and inaccurate.
  • We found it super useful to follow our path on GPS (we were using Gaia, but even Google Maps works for this purpose) relative to the ferry lane. Otherwise it is very hard to tell where you are relative to the curving ferry lane when you are partway across the 3-mile crossing.
  • Ferries were coming by roughly every 40 minutes. We found using the ferry schedule to time a crossing wasn't very useful because they were not on schedule.
 
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