Kevin Kircher is living the dream.
Rain, sleet or snow Kircher is the first person off and the last one on the HMC Charlie Wells — a privately owned ferry and the smallest car and passenger ferry in operation in the Puget Sound. It means having to guide cars and trucks on and off the ferry to Herron Island no matter what the conditions are.
But it also means living on a beautiful wooded island on the Puget Sound with his wife and three boys to enjoy the views of the Olympics mountain range, Case Inlet and the Key Peninsula mainland. The people he guides on and off the ferry are his neighbors and their guests. The ferry is also his ride home.
“I love what I do,” said Kircher. ” It is a slower life. Nothing like having to sit in traffic for hours. I used to drive a truck in Tacoma for The News Tribune. I also drove a truck in Federal Way for many years.”
“This job is great. Rain, cold and all. That is why I wear Gore-Tex,” he adds
Kircher, 54, is one of a crew of two for every crossing that operates the 65-foot ferry that is the only access to Herron Island.
“I am on the weekend crew. I am part-time fulltime,” he says.
When asked what his day job was, he quickly responds that “this is my day job. I also work on the boat during the week.”
The Charlie Wells, built in 1989 and originally named the Herron Islander, can carry up to 12 cars and 42 passengers. It makes between 16-18 crossings a day, seven days a week and on holidays. The crossings take the diesel-powered boat 7-10 minutes to complete. It costs $16 a car and guests need a pass to board the ferry to the island. The cost of operating the boat is paid for by special assessments to property owners on the island and the fee islanders and their guests pay to use the service.
Herron Island is a privately-owned island that sits in the middle of Case Inlet about a mile and a half across the water from the western shore of the Key Peninsula. It is 1.25 miles long and a half mile wide. According to the 2000 census, Herron Island has a population of 152 and a total land area of 305 acres. But this picturesque island, incorporated on April 30, 1958, as Herron Maintenance Co. (HMC), is not for everyone.
“You don’t have too many older, retired people on the island,” Kircher explains. A big reason is getting medical help to the island. Getting an ambulance on the island takes time. “We do have a small baseball field in the middle of the island that a helicopter can land on,” he adds.
Kircher says he has lived around Western Washington — Federal Way, Gig Harbor and on a beach house in Lakebay. But living on the island is what he says he has always wanted to do. He moved to Herron Island in 2004.
“The sunsets are amazing,” he says of the island. “The view of the Olympics on a clear winter day ” makes living on the island worth it, he adds.
For the ferry HMC Charlie Wells’ schedule go here: http://www.herronisland.org/home/sked/ferry.html
For information on the Herron Management Co. go here: http://www.herronisland.org