It was somehow fitting that the Victoria Clipper, the high-speed catamaran that plies the waters between Seattle and Victoria, B.C., turned 26 years old on Canada Day this year.
More than a quarter century
after its maiden voyage, “The Clipper” has become the term for a fleet of three
twin-hulled catamarans that ferry passengers between Seattle and Victoria, the
San Juan Islands, and on whale-watching excursions.
In 1986, the company started
with a single vessel it had built to fill a niche that was being created.
was an elegant, if time-consuming, way to travel between the two countries; her
maximum speed of 23 knots meant a four-hour trip each way between Seattle and
In 1985, a hydrofoil built
by the Boeing Marine Company called The Sprit of Friendship, made its
appearance. With a top speed of 50 knots and an interior more like an airliner
than a sailing ship, it offered a dramatically shorter travel time.
It was not to last.
On Sept. 18, little more
than three months after its debut, Federal marshals seized the vessel upon its
return from Canada for what Boeing called operator Island Jetfoil’s “failure to
meet its contractual obligations.”
a window of opportunity, Clipper Navigation was formed.
company contacted with Fjellstrand AS of Omastrand, Norway to construct the
first Victoria Clipper, and the single catamaran began passenger-only
operations between Pier 69 in Seattle and Victoria’s Inner Harbour on July 1,
remember exactly when I took my first trip on the original Clipper, but it was
early in its existence and I fell in love with it immediately. How civilized to
be able to sit back, relax, read, have a little something to eat and drink, and
arrive in Victoria early enough to enjoy a full day ashore!
the Clippers’ interiors resemble an airplane more than a cruise ship, there are
far fewer restrictions on movement within the cabin than in an airplane (at
least when the seas aren’t an issue), so it’s no problem to walk about, stretch
your legs, and even get some fresh air on the outside deck.
addition, the Clippers’ terminal at the Inner Harbour is steps away from the
heart of the action, making it unnecessary to rent – or buy fuel for, or park –
extra bonus, the Clipper offers a range of duty-free items. On our most recent trip, we purchased
1-liter bottles of Maker’s Mark and, being summer, Jose Cuervo Gold for
margaritas. At $22.50, the Maker’s Mark was about half the price I’d pay at
retail in Washington state, so it represented a substantial savings.
trips are easy via the Clipper. A 7:30 a.m. departure coupled with a 6:45 p.m.
return gives travelers about eight hours to enjoy the city, while getting back
to Seattle at the reasonable hour of about 10:00 p.m., including the time
necessary to clear U.S. Customs.
parking garages near Pier 69 provide parking to Clipper passengers for $10 per
calendar day, so for a convenient, quick, and economical trip to Victoria,
B.C., I heartily recommend the Victoria Clipper.
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Photo by Carl Dombek
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