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On time or not, the ferry schedule drives life in Bremerton

Two Kitsap County Fast Ferry vessels traverse the waters near the ferry terminal in Bremerton
Emil Moffatt
The Kitsap County Fast Ferry has helped fill the transportation void with Washington State Ferry runs limited between Seattle and Bremerton.

The Fraiche Cup Coffee is located in the heart of Bremerton, near the U.S. Navy shipyard and the ferry terminal.

Tammy Rasmussen recently started working as a barista here, after working for Home Depot for 25 years.

"So generally, we're really busy in the morning when people are going to the shipyard. And then every time there's a ferry either coming in or going out. The ferry and the shipyard really drive this business," Rasmussen said.

Bremeton is a ferry ride away from Seattle. An hour on the state ferry, or a 30-minute ride on Kitsap County's 30-minute passenger-only fast ferry. The sailing schedule to-and-fro set the rhythm of life here in motion.

Daniel Walkup relies on the ferries to get to and from work in downtown Seattle. In an interview one morning on his way in, Walkup said his commute use to take up to one and a half hours when he lived north of Seattle in Bothell. Now, he said, he can relax on the boat and enjoy the scenery.

"Who has this? Who has this commute? I mean, it's way better than I-5," Walkup said.

He even has a favorite spot to sit.

"I always like looking out at the north — The north end and see Mount Baker, see the different boats from Bainbridge," Walkup said.

Walkup is on advisory committees for both the state and Kitsap Transit ferries. He thinks there should be better cell service on the boat, and better communication when there are last minute changes to the schedule. He said the changes force him to pay close attention to notifications, and when big events happen in Seattle.

"When Beyoncé came to town a couple months ago, you know, it affected us over here, too," he said. "And also Taylor Swift. I was on the Taylor Swift boat and I've never seen so many sequins in my life."

There were about 1.5 million rides between Seattle and Bremerton last year on the state ferry and Kitsap County fast ferry combined.

Back at the busy café, Rasmussen said she loves chatting with customers and offering tasty treats like cookies baked fresh at the shop.

"I like to hear where they're going, if they're having a good day. If someone is upset, I like a personal challenge of making them smile before they leave," she said.

One thing that really upsets customers? Late ferries.

There’s only one state boat taking Rasmussen’s customers to and from Seattle, and ridership has dipped. Meanwhile, Kitsap County fast ferry has seen a jump in the number of trips on board.

Mayor Greg Wheeler said the ferry keeps Bremerton alive. The city is working on ways to improve bus routes to the fast ferry terminal.

Freddy Monares has covered politics, housing inequalities and Native American communities for a newspaper and a public radio station in Montana. He grew up in East Los Angeles, California, and moved to Missoula, Montana, in 2015 with the goal of growing in his career.