Our RV Floats

Taking our RV on the ferry, our RV Floats

I am very happy to announce that our RV floats. Not that our RV floats by itself, but rather our RV floats just fine on a ferry. It is not that I had any doubts, but this is the first time floating our RV. Last year, when we were on the east coast, in Virginia, we had a chance to find out that our RV floats by taking our RV on the ferry — but we didn’t do it.

Last year, back east

The Jamestown/Scotland ferry crosses the James River between Jamestown and a farm village called Scotland. We were southbound and had just visited Mount Vernon. Taking our RV on the ferry would have been the more direct route. After crossing the York River, we would have driven through Williamsburg and Jamestown to get to the ferry. So last year we could have found out that our RV floats by taking the ferry across the James River.

From our place in the cue, this was what the boarding ramp looked like before the ferry arrived.
From our place in the cue, this was what the boarding ramp looked like before the ferry arrived. We were going to drive right down the center of this yellow line and onto the ferry (of course we would have had to wait for the ferry before doing so).

Driving through Williamsburg and Jamestown in our RV was a little scary. We have a big RV and these were unknown roads. Had we decided then to find out if our RV floats then we would have had to drive through Williamsburg and Jamestown. Then we would have crossed the Jamestown/Scotland ferry to our next campsite at Chippokes State Park. Chippokes State Park was part of the original Jamestown settlement in 1607 across the James River. Here is the link to our stay at Chippokes State Park and visit. Roanoke and Jamestown

Tami took this picture of our RV in the cue all lined up to board the ferry.
Tami took this picture of our RV in the cue all lined up to board the ferry. We were the biggest vehicle on the ferry that day for our ride.

Above I mentioned that we bypassed the ferry across the James River but instead made a slightly longer trip from West Point (the town, not the military academy). Then, rather than driving our RV through Williamsburg, and Jamestown, we crossed the James River closer to Richmond on a bridge.

From Whidbey

There are two ways to get on and off Whidbey Island. The first is the bridge over Deception Pass. Here is a link to our fun at Deception Pass. Deception Pass

This is what it looked like when we were driving onto the ferry.
This is what it looked like when we were driving onto the ferry. Even though we were first in line and first in our row in the cue they let the motorcycles and two large vehicles go in front of us. By this time I was a little disappointed, would we get our front-row seat?

The second way to get on and off Whidbey Island is by taking our RV on the ferry. Our destination was Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula and if you don’t use the ferry, you are in for a long drive. To get to the Olympic Peninsula from Whidbey Island, without taking the ferry, would mean driving through Seattle and Tacoma. The total distance would have been more than two hundred miles. Including the ferry ride, our total distance traveled that day was about 20 miles.

Our RV Floats

Of course, we arrived early, early enough to see the previous ferry depart. This made us one of the first loaded on the next ferry after sitting at the front of our row in the cue. By now we were hoping to be the first onboard. We were longer and taller than anyone else in the cue. Would we get a front-row position during boarding?

Tami was driving as we loaded our RV on the ferry. I was watching to make sure our mirror were not going to tag the mirrors on the truck next to us, and taking pictures.
Tami was driving as we loaded our RV on the ferry. I was watching to make sure our mirrors were not going to tag the mirrors on the truck next to us, and taking pictures.

Loading up

Three weeks prior to making our ferry ride we drove down to the launch (about ten miles) in our car to find out how things would all line up. Then I got a reservation for the Monday of our crossing.

We also signed up for Washington ferry alerts and monitored the ferry status reports daily leading up to our boarding. What if we showed up and the boat wasn’t running? My plan was to stay there in the cue until the boat was running. We can camp anywhere for about two weeks.

As we arrive in Port Townsend you can see the lower section of the city and the Government building uptown.
As we arrive in Port Townsend you can see the lower section of the city (downtown) and the Jefferson County Courthouse building uptown.

Front row seat

We weren’t the first to board, just the biggest, and my front-row wishes came true. There was nothing to obstruct our view. As the ferry pulled away, we had a view of nothing but water and the Olympic mountains.

Here is a picture as we approached the dock. The big building on the hill is the post office.
Here is a picture as we approached the dock. The big building on the hill is the post office.

Battleship

The chatter outside the window from the people who departed their cars to stand in front of our RV was about the battleship. We didn’t have to get out of the RV and could easily see over their heads. We couldn’t see the “battleship” right away, because the ferry structure blocked the view. A Navy destroyer was going to cross in front of our path across the channel. Then the ferry made a slight turn and we could see the destroyer. I was thinking that this was going to make a fine picture.

CBDR

Then the destroyer made a small turn and I didn’t like what I saw. All my pilot and ship-driving friends already know what I saw and why I didn’t like it. Collision at sea while taking our RV on the ferry was not in my plans. The destroyer was no longer passing in front of the ferry, instead, it was maintaining the same bearing, and gradually getting bigger. This is the meaning of CBDR. Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range. Without a change, either by our ferry or the destroyer, we would impact. Collision at sea, and we had a front-row seat, right on the bow.

Gotta do some of that black shoe stuff

In the Navy, there is a constant rivalry between black shoes (ship drivers) and brown shoes (us aviators). This is an example of a black shoe dilemma. Having spent lots of time on Navy ships, including the bridge I started hearing voices in my head. First, the starboard lookout would call CBDR referring to the location and closure of the ferry. Then the Officer of the Deck (OOD) would ask the Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) for a solution to the problem. This was a training opportunity.

Sea and Anchor Detail

From looking at the picture of the ship at the top, you can see the anchor dangling from the chain rather than securely braced against the side. Thus I knew that the Captain was on the bridge and the ship was at sea and anchor detail. The anchor is hanging by the chain just in case they need to drop it for something like an engine failure. By now, the Captian and OOD already had the answer and they were challenging the JOOD decision-making.

This was our view of the destroyer as it passed in front of us.
This was our view of the destroyer as it passed in front of us.

To a brand new JOOD, the answer isn’t so obvious. In ship driving school one of the first rules they learn is that the vessel on the right has the right away. Thus the destroyer had to fix the problem. Do they slow down, stop, turn or increase speed?

Slow down, stop, turn or increase speed?

Slowing down may or may not work, ships don’t have brakes (unless they reverse thrust, which is never done at high speed) they just glide across the water. Besides slowing down also restricts the energy they have to maneuver. (I have never met a black shoe that seemed to appreciate energy management. I have never met an aviator that didn’t think about it nearly all the time.) Ships can’t stop. Ships don’t have brakes. They can’t turn because the maneuvering room for the ship is restricted to the channel and the only answer was to increase speed. I hope the JOOD had the right answer. Anyway, the destroyer increased speed and crossed in front of us.

I zoomed in a little on this picture so you could see the rooster tail churned up behind the destroyer after he increased speed.
I zoomed in a little on this picture so you could see the anchor on the bow and rooster tail churned up behind the destroyer after he increased speed. You can also see that the destroyer is causing quite a bow wave after increasing speed. Eventually, our ferry crossed the waves and I was surprised at how much the wave bounced the ferry.

The ferry didn’t alter course or speed even a little bit which is exactly what he should have done.

Finding out that our RV floats aren’t something that we were looking forward to doing. But it was way better than driving an extra two hundred miles. So that is it, we found out that our RV floats by taking our RV on the ferry between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend.

Links

Washinton State Ferry System

4 thoughts on “Taking our RV on the ferry, our RV Floats”

  1. Wait, so what happened? You left me with a cliffhanger! Obviously, I know you didn’t hit the ship, but what was the final outcome/decision/explanation for us landlubbers? (Well written, my heart rate was going up with each paragraph!)

    1. The destroyer increased speed and crossed in front of us.

      Really reading the description that I wrote took more time than the decision-making on the destroyer.

      Things like this happen all the time on a ship. Near Singapore, the strait is so crowded that almost the only thing you can do is avoid hitting a big ship. Stay in your lane and follow the ship in front of you. Small ships and boats dart everywhere, from all sides.

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