Ferry reservations withOUT a car

Some ferry trips fill up far in advance, necessitating reservations if you are driving a car onto it.

The standard advice is that you can usually “walk on” if you don’t have a car–this includes bringing a bike or sea kayak with you.

What I’d like to know is, “Has anybody ever been shut out by showing up with their kayak and no reservation?” And on which ferry routes?

I want to put together some kayak-camping trips in the PNW that include legs where taking the ferry would be Plan B or C (or D…you get the idea). Therefore, making reservations isn’t likely to happen.

From the materials I have, it appears that a huge range of trips will be possible without having to drive a car at all, just some kayak-carting on the first and last days. Short to long, sheltered to exposed, urban to wilderness–the limits are set by my available time (and money) and skills.

This is very, very different from the range of local possibilities I’ve had since starting to kayak. In other words, it will be easy to bite off more than I can chew, like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. As such, I’m going to be conservative about having Plans B and C prepared, and using ferries if conditions go downhill might be one way of increasing my safety margin.

(Yeah, yeah, the main way of increasing safety will be to continue learning and working on applied skills, and keeping my usual good common sense.)

Bring wheels…
…I’ve never heard of anybody being shut out but to walk on with a kayak you must have a cart.

The cart dilemma
The light-duty one that’s good for only unloaded boats on paved surfaces or the big hauler that’s stable and sturdy but too big to fit in the hatch?

I figured I’d use the big hauler to start and end trips. But thanks for the reminder that if I need to use ferries in between, then I will need to bring the light-duty, packable one with me. If worse goes to worst, I can partly unload the boat and stuff gear into a giant gear pack that goes on my back.

The other kind of rolling
I made a fun trip a few years ago and the canoe dolly was integral to the trip. I rolled on the Ferry in Wellington, NZ, rolled off in Picton, kayaked across Queen Charlotte Sound, rolled the kayak over the saddle road across the QC Penninsula, and put in again on Kennepuro Sound, reversing the trip to conclude this short (three days) but spectacular kayak trip.

I loaded all the food and gear into duffels at the hotel in Wellington and took a cab to the waterfront where I rented a 17’ kayak. I loaded the gear into the kayak and reassembled my cart, a Paddleboy Mighty Mite. I’d taken the wheels off to get it into my suitcase. I rolled the loaded boat about a kilometer to the Ferry dock where I paid my fare for the Ferry, and to answer your question, I did not have reservations. I felt a little funny getting in line with all the cars and lorries to board the ferry, but had no problem with it.

Want to know what kind of humor the Kiwis have? Onboard the ship, on the vehicle deck, I asked one of the crew where to “park” the kayak she told me, with a straight face, “use those stairs over there. Kayaks go on the eighth deck.” She had me going for a minute. They lashed the kayak into an out of the way corner.

In Picton, I rolled the kayak to the town beach, where I launched. The wheels went into a hatch and the folded frame went on the stern deck. It was out of the way and no problem while paddling.

All told, I think I rolled that kayak 6 – 8 miles, all of that with the boat loaded with gear. The Mighty Mite doesn’t have wheel bearings. The wheels are plastic and fit onto the aluminum frame/axle. It surprised me that pulling a loaded kayak for miles didn’t cause any apparent wear of the wheel hubs. The kayak was a plastic, Shearwater. I might not want so much weight on the hull contact points if it was a lightweight composite.


PNW ferries
I’ve done several walk-on trips in the San Juan islands in Wa state. One of my favorite trips is to paddle out to the islands and take the ferry back. Makes for a great one way 25nm trip and the ferry ride back is free.

It’s never been a problem in the San Juans. With a really full boat they put up front of where the cars go or squeeze in next to a wall. A couple of the northern BC ferries will even let you off mid-channel with advanced OK from the capt. The main logistical point with ferry-kayak travel is finding if and where you can land/launch relative to the ferry dock. And finding a set of wheels that doesn’t take up too much space.

Thanks for that info
The San Juan routes were some of the ones I had in mind. Hadn’t really thought about doing a one-way paddle (“shuttle” back on the ferry), but actually that’s a good option. The one long trip I did, we shuttled back from Skagway to Ketchikan via ferry. Normally, that long a ride would make me antsy, but after paddling so much I enjoyed snoozing while the big boat kept a-going night and day.

Ferries are great.

Sounds like a fun trip
The worst part would be the really long flights! Being able to take a winter trip where it’s summer would make up for that, though.

If you are looking at the SJ Islands

– Last Updated: Dec-08-11 6:07 PM EST –

some things you might like to keep in mind are.
At this point there are not reservations of any kind avail (car or walk on).
Make sure you can launch at a point by the ferry landing.
Depending on when you are here (I suppose summer?) tidal differences will have an impact on where you paddle. Example-last june highs to lows differed by about 10 feet for 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The low being between 11 and noon. On the dates of june 22, 23,24 the tide changes were only about 3 feet during the middle of the day. If you plan the trip with smaller tide changes the wind will not be as much of a factor. You might not be willing to paddle a certain area if the wind is 15kn with a 10 foot change but would have no problem with the same wind on a 4 foot change. The faster currents can help you get to where you want to go but also can cause problems if there is more wind than expected. Smaller tide change might let you keep closer to the route you intend to paddle. Sept can be a wonderful time with more moderate changes than may -aug and the weather is often better than in june and early july.
If you have a chart some friends did a nice trip last sat from north beach to doe bay ending the day with a nice sauna. We laet n beach about noon to try to use the ebb (about 5 feet) to help us to doe bay.
Have a safe trip

Not in winter
The trips will occur after moving to WA, which won’t happen till (hopefully no later than) summer next year.

I understand about the tidal streams and other environmental factors; got the Capt. Jack’s almanac but need to buy the 2012 edition. Also have the Sea Trails map-charts but will check govt. charts as well. Been plugging away for years to be able to plan and paddle these kinds of trips without a “leader” and I’ll be cautious. I only wish we could’ve found our ideal place this summer so we’d already be there. Oh, well.