A stunner off Seattle

Bainbridge Island

A stunner off Seattle

Known for its unpredictable weather, Seattle can make you feel a little underprepared when it comes to planning an outing. But this city on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, has lots to offer. Although it’s a dull day outside, we decide to explore beyond the main city of Seattle. Armed with a ferry schedule, we take a relaxed walk to the jetty, experiencing Seattle’s slopes. Our destination is the beautiful Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County, Washington.

Once at the jetty, the scene is spectacular. A heavy grey sky covers the Pacific Ocean, and a light drizzle reminds you that you are in Seattle — where the weather can change any minute.

Seattle looks grey and cold, with rain hitting hard on the Space Needle. In itself, the Seattle Waterfront is a beautiful stretch of boardwalk built on the edge of Puget Sound. Just standing here, you see  what most of the touristy postcards have  — some of the best views from anywhere in the city. Though not for us that day. On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier to the south and the Olympic Mountains to the west.

On-board experience

As the ferry — M V Wenatchee — pulls in, the passengers who are waiting to board soak in the moment. A little research will tell you that, launched in 1998, the M V Wenatchee is a Jumbo Mark II Class ferry that is operated by Washington State Ferries. There are two ferries on this route — M V Wenatchee and M V Tacoma. Tourists and daily commuters alike stop to watch the crew pull in and lay out the bridges as they begin the movement of passengers entering on foot or driving in.

As the ferry pulls out of Seattle, our attempts to be out on the deck are quickly thrashed. But there is ample space as we settle into the warm cabin designed like a diner. The ferry carries up to 2,500 passengers and 202 vehicles, and is one of the second-longest, double-ended ferries in the world. It has a full galley service and a ‘quiet room’ upstairs. Once inside, and protected from the bitter cold, passengers take up a variety of activities like reading, working on their computers, or visiting the eatery.

On both sides of the 35-minute ferry drive out of Seattle to Bainbridge is sheer beauty. As the ocean opens out, through the ride you also see some spectacular ocean-fronting houses on smaller islands. Just about halfway through the journey, the grey sky gives way to bright sunshine, and a rainbow guides you to Bainbridge.

Displayed reminders

Stepping off the ferry, the island welcomes you with its history written briefly on small wooden plaques along the pier — about the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, the Hall Brothers Shipyard, the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, the Ambrose Grow House, ‘Aunt’ Bert Start House and many more — reminding us that trying to get back to Seattle on the last ferry will not allow us to cover much!

This island has a lot of historical significance. The first generation of Japanese immigrants, the Issei, came here in 1883. During World War II, Japanese-American residents of Bainbridge Island were the first to be sent to internment camps. They were held by the US government through the duration of the war for fear of espionage. Many Filipinos who assisted the Japanese farmers were left to operate the strawberry fields, which they did successfully. Only recently, in 2011, did the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial open.

History apart, the walk into Bainbridge Island is akin to stepping into a picture postcard. It’s green, well-planned  and tranquil.

The walk to the City Dock & Waterfront Park looks out to the dock with a packed jetty of boats and ships of all sizes. It’s pretty easy to get around here — with trail tracks, directions and information boards for help. At the dock, still waters reflect a clear blue sky that mirrors the boats and yachts that are moored, and have us linger around for longer.

As people on the island go about their routine, including running and walking their pets, we feel we are a part of their humdrum. Given all that we have seen and experienced, we are not surprised that, in July 2005, the CNNMoney magazine named Bainbridge Island as the second-best place to live in the United States.

After walking through the island, we settle down for a warm meal at the Bluebird Bakery, where employees wear black T-shirts emblazoned with ‘I like my toast’. After a quiet meal and a walk back to the jetty, we board the ferry. Happy with the trip, yet a tad tired, the ride back seems way faster than the arrival.

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