It's a breezy day on Puget Sound as I hurry aboard the MV Quinault for the ride from Keystone to Port Townsend, Washington. Northwesterners know that the ferry on this route can really rock and roll as it shoots across narrow Admiralty Inlet, so I expect a thrilling ride.
"Sometimes 15-foot seas will spray water into the upper deck and the pilothouse―32 feet above the waterline," says captain David Alger, looking jaunty in his crisp uniform. "I've seen winds so strong," he adds, "that passengers on the outer deck can't pull open the doors to get back inside!"
You could call this region North America's ferry capital―three of the world's largest ferry systems are here, in Washington State, Alaska, and British Columbia. And these routes aren't just scenic tourist runs―they carry millions of commuters each year.