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Between friends: Islanders and mainlanders celebrate 50 years of Anacortes-Islands-Sidney ferry run

Top photo: Sidney, B.C. Mayor Larry Cross, back to camera, and Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell chat Sunday at the ferry landing in Sidney. A small event was held to celebrate the first run of the season and the 50th anniversary of the international route, which serves the San Juan Islands. Middle photo: Duty Free retail assistant Phyllis Martino sorts out orders before the ferry docks at Sidney. Bottom photo: Lea Devere, center, waves flags at the Sidney ferry landing while talking to a friend.  - Jane K. Fox
Top photo: Sidney, B.C. Mayor Larry Cross, back to camera, and Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell chat Sunday at the ferry landing in Sidney. A small event was held to celebrate the first run of the season and the 50th anniversary of the international route, which serves the San Juan Islands. Middle photo: Duty Free retail assistant Phyllis Martino sorts out orders before the ferry docks at Sidney. Bottom photo: Lea Devere, center, waves flags at the Sidney ferry landing while talking to a friend.
— image credit: Jane K. Fox

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 Sidney run.

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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