Life at 15 Knots: Coming of Age Aboard a Ferry

Growing up, Rosin Saez took the ferry to get away. Now it brings her home.

By Rosin Saez April 23, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Seattle Met

The author at age three, with her mother circa 1993 on a ferry bound for Seattle.

My earliest ferry memory isn't peering into dark blue water or up at a long, white ship. It is, quite simply, the wind. The way those gracing gusts whooshed my two-year-old body around the stern's deck—I was a seagull flapping my jacket-wings. Ever since my family moved to Bremerton in the early '90s, ferries have not only shuttled me between the town where I was raised and Seattle, where I live today. They've propelled me through life.

As a driver's license-less teenager, hopping a boat to the city was the greatest escape. My friends and I would wander around downtown by day, do nothing in Seattle Center in the afternoon, go to shows at the Crocodile by night, and without fail, wait until the very last moment—but the band's gonna do an encore!—to start sprinting back to the terminal to catch the midnight sailing. When we finally procured licenses, we'd drive onto the boat all adult-like, a whole carload of us. Anyone in the back seat would get buried under clothes, bags, hoodies, and any other detritus lurking on the floor to avoid paying a couple extra passenger fares.

Ferries lost their novelty, that certain magical maritime quality, in college, when weekends meant hauling laundry and textbooks back home. I've heard people snore, dig into homemade casserole, clip their toenails, make out (for almost the entirety of the near hour-long ride!), argue—loudly. The ferry is an inescapable look at humanity moving at 15 knots. But this cruise across Puget Sound is an indelible part of who I am.

One recent weekend afternoon, I walked onto the Bremerton-bound Kaleetan as briskly as a stressed college student in search of a quiet seat. (Old habits die never.) We surged into the Sound, the Seattle skyline in our wake, and skirred past sun-drunk seals on bright orange buoys. Now the route is reversed—escape means leaving the city, not fleeing to it. These days, I'm more likely to grab a beer in the galley than play seagull on the sundeck. But the view, and that whipping wind, remain ever the same.

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