Travel writers of the U.S. and Canada have come up with a list of the world's top 10 ferry rides, and you don't necessarily want to argue with people who travel for a living. (But of course you can, if you want.)
Can't say I've ever seen a poll ranking ferries. But I like this list. And, I was glad I'd ridden two out of the 10: the British Columbia ferry system and the Staten Island ferry (I grew up in New York). Seems, however, I've got a ways to go.
The number one ferry, by vote of the Society of American Travel Writers members, is the Star Ferry in Hong Kong, "crammed with views and people to create the cheapest multi-cultural, multi-sensory cruise experience in the world," writes travel journalist Chris McBeath.
Number two are the ferries from Sausalito to San Francisco, California.
I loved the sound of this one: "The Alaska State Ferry system's 'blue canoes' allow overnight passengers to pitch their tents on deck, surely one of the most unusual camping experiences," according to journalist Janet Fullwood.
I want to do this! Tell me, solo travelers, you wouldn't end up talking to people "camped" around you? Of course, you would. (But how do you bang your tent pegs into the deck??)
Interestingly, ferries ply the waters of the most urban landscapes and the seemingly most out of the way places. They can be high speed or lumbering giants. And they can be a great, often inexpensive and sometimes downright dirt cheap way to tour cities and vast and beautiful wilderness areas.
My most memorable ferry ride was somewhere in the waters of the Inside Passage on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. I'd finished a sea kayaking trip that I'd joined as a solo traveler (had a fantastic time and a great tent mate) and had a couple of days to explore the area on my own.
I took the ferry that plied the vast waters up there, to an island famous for its totem poles. On the way back, I dozed off and awoke to someone pulling gently on my sleeve. "Is this your stop?" Oh lordy, thank goodness she'd heard me ask someone if I was on the right boat back to Vancouver Island. She did me a real favor waking me up.
I had visions of ending up on some outer island with no way to get back until morning. But you know what? That could have been the adventure of a lifetime and a great story to tell. I don't go anywhere without a credit card, so someone, somewhere would have put me up.
Still, I was grateful for her watchful eye and it once again reminded me that in general, people watch out for one another. Especially when they see you're on your own.
Photo: Ellen Perlman. The clipper ferry from Seattle to Vancouver Island.