Tuesday, March 22, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 266: Take the kids on the Mobile Bay Ferry

View from the Mobile Bay Ferry observation deck.
About the best that I can remember, I was in the fourth or fifth grade the first (and only) time I rode the Mobile Bay Ferry. My family had taken a short day trip to Dauphin Island, Ala., and we rode the ferry across to Fort Morgan on our way home. That ferry ride made quite an impression on me, and I can remember it reasonably well.

For several years, I’ve wanted to share this experience with my own children, which is why I put “Take the kids on the Mobile Bay Ferry” on my “bucket list” several years ago. On Saturday, we visited Dauphin Island to tour Fort Gaines, and after we toured the fort, we caught a ride on the ferry over to Fort Morgan. It’s my hope that memories of the trip will stick with my kids for as long as memories of my first trip have stuck with me.

We caught the ferry from the Fort Gaines side by getting in line with all the rest of the cars and trucks that planned to cross at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. It’s recommended that you get in line 30 minutes to an hour before the ferry’s departure, so there is some waiting involved. While in line, an attendant comes along to collect the fare and to place a ticket under your windshield wiper to show you’ve paid.

Once the ferry is ready to depart, vehicles are directed onto the ferry. You drive up onto the boat on a ramp and then follow the directions of attendants who show you where to park. The ferry is basically three vehicles wide, so conditions can be somewhat cramped. Once you’ve set your parking break and switched off your motor, you’re ready to enjoy the ride.

The trip across Mobile Bay takes about 40 minutes on the ferry and once you depart you’re free to get out of your vehicle to walk around or go up on the observation deck. Most folks go up on the observations deck, which is on the starboard side of the vessel, opposite the ferry’s control deck. We spent most of our trip across on the observation deck.

I vaguely recall seeing dolphins on my first ferry ride years ago, but we didn’t see any dolphins or other big fish on Saturday. We did see a lot of seabirds, oil rigs and other vessels. The most prominent landmark we saw from the ferry was the Sand Island Lighthouse, a 132-foot-tall lighthouse that sits in the mouth of Mobile Bay at the southernmost point of Alabama.

The closer we came to the eastern shore, the more clearly Fort Morgan came into view. With just a few minutes left in the ride, ferry operators told passengers to return to their vehicles and to prepare to drive off the ferry. It just so happened that we were the second vehicle off the ferry, so we didn’t have to wait long to get back on solid ground.

In the end, how many of you have ridden the Mobile Bay Ferry? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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