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OK, it's actually the 50th anniversary of the current Sidney ferry landing; WSF clarifies commemoration | Video

In response to the story "Between friends: Islanders and mainlanders celebrate 50 years of Anacortes-Islands-Sidney ferry run," March 30 SanJuanJournal.com, a reader points out on Richard J. Rodriguez's Bitter End blog that Washington State Ferries has been going to Sidney for more than 50 years — at least 59, as proven by the ferry schedule posted on the blog.

WSF spokeswoman Joy Goldenberg did some research and found that this is the 50th anniversary of the current Sidney ferry landing.

The Sidney ferry landing is located at the end of Ocean Avenue. Previously, it was located four blocks north at the end of Beacon Avenue.

Keep that in mind as you read this story, updated with video:

Islanders and mainlanders crowded the ferry to Sidney, B.C., on Sunday for the kick-off to the Washington State Ferries spring schedule and the annual Sidney run.

The run was made special by the fact that this year is the 50th anniversary of the current Sidney ferry landing.

The ferry — the 124-car Chelan — left Anacortes at 8:30 a.m. and Friday Harbor at 9:30 a.m., arriving in Sidney at 11:05 a.m. for a brief international party of flag waving, food munching and speeches.

Maintaining the international sailing was a theme of the speeches given in Sidney. Sidney Mayor Larry Cross, Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell and state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, all spoke of the ongoing efforts to keep the route going.

“As long as I’m in the Legislature, I will continue to fight as hard as I can to protect this run,” Ranker said.

The international run has been threatened in the past by budget cuts. In 2009, 18,734 passengers traveled from Sidney to Friday Harbor, or from Friday Harbor to Sidney, on the international ferry, according to Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Susan Harris-Huether.

The numbers of those traveling between Anacortes and Sidney were significantly higher: 97,429.

But on this day, there was just fun and international friendship. Commemorative buttons were handed out. Anacortes and Sidney town criers joined the trip. An RCMP mountie in red surge dress welcomed the ferry.

The sailing got off to an interesting start. The ferry had just departed Friday Harbor and gotten no farther than Brown Island, when a surprise discovery forced the boat to return to the dock.

Ferry worker Luther Power said a couple of passengers from Anacortes said that they were supposed to get off at Friday Harbor. The ferry turned around and returned to the dock to drop them off. It was a quick turnaround, however, and within minutes the ferry was back on course.

The novelty of the occurrence seemed only to add to the passengers’ enjoyment of the morning.

“That was special,” said passenger Nancy Laeha of Anacortes, laughing as the ferry left the harbor for the second time.

She said she was delighted to be on board. “I love the water, and it’s such a beautiful day.”

Lea Devere of La Conner had more to say about the importance of the ferry’s 50th anniversary.

“Last year, I came to support the fact that the route had been saved from budget cuts,” she said. “This year, I’m just so excited that the ferry is saved. It is a very important route. I just spoke to a woman whose grandchild lives on Vancouver Island, and without this route she would be sort of stuck.”

Other features of the 2010 spring schedule (available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/Schedule.):

— Weekend inter-island service in the San Juan Islands resumes.

— Eight hours of midday service is restored Monday through Thursday between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands.

— Drivers who witness someone cutting into a ferry line can call 877-764-HERO (4376) and submit the cutter’s license plate number and state of origin. The violation could result in a $124 fine.

— With reporting by Jane K. Fox and Richard Walker

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