A trip on the Mosquito Fleet

Back for a few decades on either side of the turn of the last century, a flotilla of little ships used to travel Puget Sound, carrying passengers and freight, stopping at every settlement along the hundreds of miles of waterfront along Puget Sound. This was, of course, back when water was the easiest and fastest mode of transport in the region, before roads were built and the cars to run on them became ubiquitous. These little ships were so ubiquitous themselves that some wag dubbed them the Mosquito Fleet. And the name stuck.

Almost all of them are gone now, but Kitsap County Transit still operates one of the little ships as part of the foot ferry service between Port Orchard and Bremerton, Washington, along with two larger and slightly newer foot (as opposed to automobile) ferries. Unfortunately, the Mosquito Fleet boat, which purportedly has an onboard exhibit about the fleet, was down for service the day I took my trip, but I did get to ride one of the other boats, which mostly carries people who live in Port Orchard, but work in the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard, among other places, in Bremerton, back and forth on what has to be one of the more unusual commutes around.

One of the two Port Orchard - Bremerton foot ferry boats.
One of the two Port Orchard – Bremerton foot ferry boats operating the day of my trip.
The foot ferry boat I rode on, the Admiral Pete.
The foot ferry boat I rode on, the Admiral Pete.
The inside of the Admiral Pete.
The inside of the Admiral Pete.
Looking towards the pilothouse of the Admiral Pete.
Looking towards the pilothouse of the Admiral Pete.
Looking towards Bremerton from the Port Orchard dock.
Looking towards Bremerton from the Port Orchard dock.
Looking back towards Port Orchard.
Looking back towards Port Orchard.
The Admiral Pete's wake.  It's a catamaran.
The Admiral Pete’s wake. It’s a catamaran.
The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from the ferry.
The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from the ferry.

Once I arrived in Bremerton, I headed for the Kitsap County Historical Museum, which I’d heard had an exhibit on the Mosquito Fleet. Which it did, including an interesting historical map, and profiles of some of the boats.

Part of the Mosquito Fleet exhibit at the Kitsap County Historical Museum.
Part of the Mosquito Fleet exhibit at the Kitsap County Historical Museum.
A map of Mosquito Fleet routes at the Kitsap County Historical Museum.
A map of Mosquito Fleet routes at the Kitsap County Historical Museum.  That big gray thing on the right that looks sort of like Pac-Man is Seattle, and the smaller square below it is Tacoma.

The museum also had very good exhibits on the history of the Kitsap Peninsula (the west side of the Sound), and some fun stuff about life in the early days on “stump farms” (the kind of farm you have when you try to grow crops on logged-over land).

The Bremerton pier attracted my interest next. It’s designed for strolling, and the views were lovely. This statue was nifty, too.

A sculpture on the Bremerton pier.
A sculpture on the Bremerton pier.

Once I was back on the other side of the ferry terminal, I took a gander at the Puget Sound Navy Museum, full of the history of the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard next door. It also housed several mockups of various parts of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier. I think the part that impressed me the most was how cramped the bunks were, barely 18 inches vertically between mattress top and the bottom of the bunk above. If I didn’t already have claustrophobia, I’m afraid trying to sleep in a bunk on the Stennis would have given it to me.

My last stop of the day was at Fountain Park, located between the shipyard and the ferry terminal, which doesn’t sound like much of a location until you realize just how far out over the water you can see. All the way to the southern end of the Olympics.

And the fountain? Is just the coolest thing I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s actually half a dozen fountains, each designed to look like a submarine coming up out of the water. The fountains shoot water out of the tops randomly. The only warning you get is water starting to pour down the sides, more and more, and then all of a sudden water just shoots out of the top, about, oh, I don’t know, twenty feet high or more. And they go off one after another after another, in a completely random order. It was all I could do to drag myself back to the ferry terminal, even though I was looking forward to the ride back.

The fountains at Fountain Park.
The fountains at Fountain Park.
One of the fountains erupts (like a geyser ).
One of the fountains erupts (like a geyser!).  The large boat to the left in the back is the ferry that goes from Bremerton to Seattle.
Another erupting fountain.
Another erupting fountain.

Anyway, if you ever get to go to the Kitsap Peninsula on Puget Sound, I highly recommend the foot ferry from Port Orchard to Bremerton. And go watch the fountains for me!