Stay up to date with state ferry schedules if traveling for Thanksgiving

Four-boat San Juan Islands service returns on trial basis in time for holiday

SEATTLE – Thanksgiving travelers planning a state ferry ride over the holiday weekend should prepare for busy holiday sailings and keep updated with the latest sailing schedules online. If crewing allows, more daily sailings may be added on routes operating reduced service.

Washington State Ferries temporarily switched to alternate service schedules on those runs on Oct. 16, to reduce last-minute sailing cancellations caused by crewing challenges. The severe staffing shortage is due to many variables including a global shortage of mariners that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, an aging workforce, COVID-19 cases and quarantines.

“We know and understand that our reduced schedules are causing many challenges,” said Patty Rubstello, head of WSF. “We are working hard to recruit new employees so we can restore service on a route-by-route basis. Recently, we’ve been able to add sailings nearly every day.”

Starting Friday, Nov. 19, a fourth boat will be added on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands run to operate a full fall schedule on a trial basis. New vehicle reservations for the route remain suspended until it is certain that all four vessels can be fully crewed on a regular basis. All vehicles will be loaded on a first-come, first-served basis, but people with existing reservations will be prioritized over those without one. Reservations are still available for the Port Townsend/Coupeville run. People traveling standby without a reservation may encounter delays and should get to the terminal early.

Busy travel times

Ferries are popular every holiday weekend and people boarding a ferry by vehicle should be prepared for long waits. The busiest sailings will likely be westbound (or onto an island) Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24, through Thursday morning, Nov. 25, then eastbound (or off island) Thursday afternoon through Friday, Nov. 26. To reduce or eliminate waiting, riders may consider taking an early morning or late night sailing or walking on.

Holiday schedules

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, there will be a few schedule changes for the Point Defiance/Tahlequah run, along with the Edmonds/Kingston and Mukilteo/Clinton routes if supplemental service is added. The Seattle/Bainbridge Island and Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth runs will operate on a weekend timetable that day with a few schedule changes if service is added. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedule page for each route.

Before heading to a terminal or boarding, customers are encouraged to sign up for ferry email alerts and check terminal conditions. A face covering is required in all indoor areas of vessels and terminals in compliance with the governor’s “Washington Ready” proclamation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order for public transportation.                                                                                                                                 

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan ahead for potential holiday travel backups and delays with real-time traffic information on the WSDOT traffic app for mobile devices or online using the updated WSDOT travel map feature.

WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. The system is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.

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