Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Harrowing Trip

Shaun had the swim test for his lifeguard certification in Anacortes yesterday, and I unexpectedly had a babysitting-free day, so Emma and I went off island too, to get the last of the railing posts for the deck. Our local hardware store/lumber supplier can get them, but they are $36 each, while Home Depot in Burlington has them for $12. That's a no-brainer.

Anyway we all went, leaving on the 6:00 am ferry (ugh) so that Shaun could get the test done and be back in time to work in the afternoon. He rode back with the other swimmers on the 11:00 ferry, but Emma and I stayed longer to do the Home Depot, Costco, etc shopping.

When we were on the this ride it was somewhat windy and wavy, but not really rough. I felt the waviness, but I'm more susceptible to motion sickness than a lot of people, and it wasn't enough to bother even me much.

So Emma and I went along our merry way and did our shopping. Uneventful, except that Emma had a little "accident" in the middle of the aisle at Wal-Mart. The very nice young man who brought the mop and bucket to clean up the puddle said that it was the third time this month he had to clean up something of the sort. We then proceeded to the shoe area to find a dry pair of sneakers, and to the toddler clothes area to get dry underwear and socks. (Luckily, she had a spare pair of pants in the car.) I guess if she was going to have a major public accident, Wal-Mart was a good place for it to happen. I purposely got sneakers and socks that were too big so she can grow into them, and she had fun stomping around in her giant clown shoes for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the harrowing part.

We planned to take the 2:30 ferry home. We got to the dock at 1:30, and Emma settled in for a nap in her carseat. By 2:15, the ferry still hadn't arrived, and the announcer came on the PA system to say it would be about half an hour late due to windy conditions. OK, fine, that happens sometimes. Emma's still asleep, I have a book, no problem. I notice in passing that the winds are in fact quite stong, and the trees and light poles are bending a lot. Oh well, Anacortes is usually windy.

When the boat finally arrives, unloads, and we can drive on, it's about 3:20. The winds have picked up significantly, and I'm glad to be getting on the boat so that the rain doesn't pound on the windows so loudly. It might wake up Emma.

We leave the dock about 3:30, and it happened that because we got to the ferry terminal early, I was the first car in my lane when they loaded the ferry. At the very front, with an unpleasantly clear view out the front of the boat. As soon as we get out of the harbor, I see Rosario Strait. I immediately wished that I had stayed in Anacortes. The waves were HUGE. I also wished that I had woken Emma and gone to a higher deck of the ferry. Emma was still asleep when we drove onto the ferry, and rather than wake a sleeping toddler (a cardinal sin), I decided that we could just stay in the car until she woke. As it was, by the time I wanted to leave the car, it was too late.

The crash from the first giant wave woke Emma up, and the second set her shrieking. The ferry was rocking sideways as well as front and back. I wasn't too scared until waves started breaking ONTO my car. As the ferry crashed down into the waves, the water surged up over the car deck. My car was probably a good 20 feet back from the edge of the deck, and I had green water- not spray, not foam, but actual solid WAVES- flying toward me and breaking onto my car roof. The deck had at least 6" of water sloshing around after each wave, and a couple times I felt the car shift forward or back as the water rushed around and the boat rode up or down a wave swell.

It was mondo scary. The very serious faces of the ferry workers dashing around as they reset the tire chocks and added new ones to my car didn't reassure me at all. Every time we rocked and hit another wave, Emma would scream "No more wave Mama! No more wave!" Then the water would hit the windshield and she would scream again. No mother ever wants to hear her child cry like that. I was shaking and gripping the steering wheel very hard, and wondering how fast I could get to Emma and unclip her seatbelt if the car went over the edge.

It was AWFUL. I was so scared I didn't even feel seasick. It probably wasn't quite as dangerous as I felt it was, but still.... I kept telling myself that the Captain knew what he was doing, a Washington State ferry has never sunk, and things like that. Thankfully, after we got past Rosario Strait and Thatcher Pass and were in among the islands, the waves settled down. When we were getting ready to drive off the ferry, I asked one of the deckhands how high the waves were in Rosario Straight, and he said "Probably 10-12 feet." And this morning, I looked online to see how hard the winds were blowing, and found this:

Approximately 30-40 knots (35-46 miles per hour), gusting higher. Crazy. I hope to never have another ferry ride like this again.


Liz said...

Yikes. If that isn't a reason never to be early, I don't know what is. Glad you and Emma are ok.

waterlilysage said...

oh my goodness. i'm shaking for you. small pirate niece in her seat!

Maryellen said...

I'm glad your home safe. SOunds scary to me too.

PJ said...

Oh had me on the edge of my seat! SCARY!!!!! Glad you made it and I'm sorry your little girl had to go through just wonder (and hope) she doesn't have a fear from something like this! (it's amazing what kids remember, and DON"T remember, thankfully sometimes!)

Gina said...


As someone who used to "commute" to work via boat on Lake Superior (record wave: 30 ft), I can relate a little bit... but I can't imagine green water on my windshield!! Yikes. Do cars work Ok after something like that? Granted, a small concern after the safety of you and daughter, but salt water is nasty... Will your new home have such a commute?