Features Nov 20, 2019 at 4:00 am

The working-class town across Puget Sound is attracting Seattleites priced out of the city. Like me.

The 30-minute fast ferry between Seattle and Bremerton bounces like a plane in a lightning storm. I take the 60-minute ferry, which I’ve nicknamed the “slowpoke.” Lovatto



Wow, this is the 2nd article in as many days lauding life in the rural areas; where people can live the slow life, rather than the fast-paced, frentic life in the city.

I wonder, if there's something in the air? Giving writers the yen for greenery?


Bremerton is great. There's a lot going on in terms of new restaurants, support for the arts, and construction. It's hardly "rural". Bremerton is an urban center. Neighboring communities like Port Orchard and Silverdale are more suburban. The major employer is the military and the shipyard and that generates plenty of traffic but at pretty predictable times.

I think in terms of being a real estate tip you're about a decade late. If you're looking for affordable right now look to Pierce County.


Katie, the New York Times said you were driven to Kitsap County while fleeing vengeful Stranger readers! Were you actually just an economic refugee not an asylum seeker?


I recently jumped across the pond to Bremerton due to the favorable cost of living compared to Seattle. It's been a great 'life hack' and do feel a much stronger sense of community. Nice article! :)


bremerton is definitely the opposite of great. I grew up blue collar/poor in bremerton and will never go back. barely graduated from the horrible public school system there, realized I wanted to be more than a grocery store checker, busted my ass thru olympic college (a third-rate community college, mind you), transferred to UW and never looked back. working hard to find a way to make it in Seattle >>>>> accepting a mediocre approach to life in a persistently economically depressed military town full of conservatives.

and in case it's not clear from my comments above, renting in Seattle >>>>> owning in bremerton.


One of my favorite memories is riding the ferry to Bremerton with a friend where we checked out the Puget Sound Navy Museum, got a bite to eat, and saw a movie at the SEEfilm cinemas (all without a car). It's one of the longer ferry rides (if not THE longest) around. Without that ferry it may as well be in eastern Washington though, which is a concern when the majority of the state opposes funding that type of transit.


Following up on riding a boat into and out of the city, suppose I want to see a band at Nuemos, or Sunset Tavern, or El Corazon or the Belltown Yacht Club. How am I supposed to get back home to Bremerton if the Ferry stops running in the late evening when the bands finish up at like 1-1:30am. If one doesn't have any use for nightlife culture, maybe one can get with living in Bremerton?


It's fun to be neighborly with the people who haven't been economically displaced, sure. Easier to acknowledge gentrification than to counteract it. I'm not pointing fingers, I don't have answers besides trying to get people like me taxed.


Almost moved there, opted to move to Bellingham instead. The ability to sell my home in the Seattle area and use the proceeds to buy something outright in a less expensive market made an extremely strong argument for leaving the big, expensive city. Being the kind of person who, if compelled to choose, prefers outdoor activities to big-city cultural ones helped make the decision easy as well.


"If one doesn't have any use for nightlife culture, maybe one can get with living in Bremerton?"

Not everyone has the same tastes and priorities. A city that's a good match for one person can be a horrible mismatch for another. If Seattle works well for you, you are free to remain there.


Yes, but why are we subsidizing people to have long commutes, when we know that's bad for the planet?

Are these all-electric fast ferries, like the ones in Norway and Denmark and Sweden and Finland and B.C., or are these planet-destroying diesel ferries?


Oh, and I used to commute by fast ferry from East Vancouver and later Burnaby as part of my commute to Capilano University. Personally, I loved it, and you can see me as one of the bus passengers in Jackie Chan's movie filmed there.

Ferries are fun, but we need to all be thinking about the consequences of our personal decisions.


@13, The first new hybrid ferry (battery-powered, but with diesel as a back up to power the batteries if needed) is supposed to launch in 2022. Seattle City Light, SnoPUD and PSE are all putting in the infrastructure to charge the ferries around Puget Sound.

WS Ferries expects 85% of its fleet to be electric by 2040.


Taking the ferry is nice... until you miss one by a few minutes, and have to wait at least a half hour for the next one.



Kind of like the bus.


Five years from now: Bremerton is too crowded and overpriced!


How do Bremerton prices compare to Lake City, the deep RV, or West Seattle?


Overall this is a great article. Katie, I wish you would have reached out for a long-timer's perspective. You missed some background that a number of us would have loved to provide.

There are two things that really rubbed me the wrong way about this article:

First, the food co-op has been a huge labor of love for many of us and needs continued support. Suggesting that it only sells expensive or boutique items could easily kill the growth it needs to survive. We shop there for a lot of bulk items on a strict budget and are able to drastically reduse our use of single use plastic.

Second, although we don't have a giant library that attracts tourists, we do have a fantastic system of small libraries and hands down the most dedicated librarians. They do so much for our community from supporting seniors with technology, to putting on concerts, to supporting small grassroots events like our local story telling event in addition to providing books to borrow.


Yep, and now this Olympic College adjunct can't afford the rent in Bremerton, and my students all have experienced and permanently hover around homelessness.


A fun read. Speaking of neighborliness, make sure to introduce yourself to the crews on the ferry. Manny is a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer. Victor is a former (five time?) world kickboxing champion. Jamee has sailed around the world, working on oil tankers, tug boats, and even paddle wheelers. As the chief mate, I navigate during your 7:20 commuter run on mondays and tuesdays. Look up at the wheelhouse window during the landing in Seattle and wave good morning. I’ll wave back!


I guess despite the Stanger's constant hostility towards gentrification, it's ok if it's one of you that's "invading", you feel sufficiently guilty, and you try to be "nice". This is a story that has been around for a long time. I'm sure the Duwamish didn't like being pushed out. Nor the original blue collar families of Capitol Hill, nor the current LGBTQ residents of Capitol Hill in the Amazon era, nor African American people of the CD etc etc...

I'm not saying I have the answer other than redistribution of wealth in the form of single payer healthcare, better public schools etc... that provide everyone with a safety net and a fighting chance if they put in the work. But I'm glad you published something that examines the complexities of the issue rather than the usual column proclaiming that anyone that moves into a historically-whatever neighborhood is a dick.


Just wanted to thank everyone moving from Seattle for driving up the price of rent for everyone who already lives here.

And thanks for inviting more by writing this article, Katie.


Stop getting all the city folk over here. You dont need to make this peninsula more populated than it already is. I've seen more clear cutted land (thats not for tree farms) in five years than I have my whole life. Not to mention its making it more expensive and impossible to buy a home. And I'd be nice to buy a home where my family has been for four generations.
Just ruining it for everybody that's already here.


I like the ferry. I like Bremerton. Katie Herzog, not so much. Somewhat odd perspective. I have lived on Capitol Hill for past almost 30 years. I know my neighbors and am very grateful to have them. There are maybe a thousand reasons you might want to leave Seattle (crappy city council anyone?) but you dont have to leave Seattle to get to know your neighbors!


I lived in Capitol Hill during college and now reside in Kitsap County. I agree with a lot of what you said about feeling like you reached an oasis and enjoying the newfound and pervasive sense of community here in Bremerton. I did notice some inaccuracies that you may have avoided if you fact-checked the article with individuals who have lived here longer, and things you'll learn after more time here. I like how others mentioned Port Orchard and Silverdale in the comments because they have their own attractive qualities and vibe while being close to Bremerton and part of the ferry system (in the case of PO).




We know where the good pizza is and we aren’t telling you. DO NOT MOVE TO BREMERTON. Gentrify elsewhere.


@28 Southworth, although more rural, actually has a lot more convenient ferry connection to Seattle in many ways. The boats run later into the night so there's no danger of being caught on the Seattle side after hours. But it does require a RapidRide or Lyft out to Fauntleroy. Plus, there's already a fast ferry from Vashon direct downtown but only during commuter hours and new commuter service from Southworth direct downtown starting soon.


Kingston is definitely awful. Not even worth a mention in the article, thank god. Do not approach - there be monsters here!!!


As much as the current population is against a mass movement of Seattelites, the growth and change of Bremerton is inevitable. Same goes for all smaller communities within commuting distance to Seattle. Bremerton has an opportunity to learn from Seattle’s housing misfortunes. My hope is that growth in population and prices will be met with policy that provides increased funding for in situ affordable housing, and that the relatively inexpensive costs will fuel small business growth and therefor jobs. New people also provide new client bases for existing small business growth. If the city provides better incentive to first time homebuyers, small business, and those looking to restore historic homes instead of the way developers raze-and-cheaply-rebuild, the outcome will be an even stronger community. I myself grew up in Bremerton, was priced out of Seattle recently, and have moved home. It’s unsettling to be someone who has been gentrified out only to then gentrify, but I must say I’m glad to be back and excited to see Bremerton’s unique culture has not been lost. It’s not a suburb, folks. It’s a beautifully blue collar city with amazing folks who call you “sweetheart” and “darlin’” without being pretentious, say hello to each other when passing on the street, fun bars and venues, and beautiful parks. It can be maintained for all with proper local government handling. And as for my own guilt: volunteering locally soothes that a bit.


You're gonna get tired of that commute, Katie. Having to be a slave to those ferry times is an enormous drag. And just wait for the first bad snowstorm. The transportation system in the Puget Sound area goes into hibernation. When is the bus, train, ferry coming? It could be in the next five minutes or nine hours from now. But good luck. I can't afford downtown anymore either.


When liberal policies fail and the cities they run become overpriced because of these policies, then move to Kitsap County and destroy that small community. So that's how it works?


@34 I have commuted for 15 years via ferry, as a walk-on. I cannot imagine how much less pleasant those years would've been on a bus instead -- or as some schmuck stuck on I-5. Yeesh.
As for service disruptions - like, where it's closed down due to weather - I think the Edmonds-Kingston ferry has shut down just once in those 15 years, and due to wind. Yeah, occasionally it's late - but the pub is open, or I need a little stroll anyways. Ferries are simply not impacted by snow, downed trees, icy hills.

As long as you're walking aboard, ferries are a breeze. Most peoples' impressions of the ferry system are formed by driving aboard - either during a summer weekend or during a holiday - and waiting for hours to board, and cannot fathom doing it daily. The critical step is to ditch the fuckin' car - and there are plenty of other fine reasons for that.

I have a big garden, keep animals, and shoot deer in my yard (legally, and for the freezer), while keeping a big city job on the east side of Puget Sound. I listen to owls and coyotes at night. It's a pretty good setup for what I want in life.


So, the Stranger rails against gentrification and driving cars. Then their staffers move to a new city and gentrify out the locals, likely drive a lot (Kitsap Transit does not run the hours that Metro does) and also write an article telling people to go gentrify what was a low income area.

This is pretty rich of the Stranger. I guess if gentrification happens outside of Seattle it's ok?


Please move to Bremerton! Bring us your gays, progressive values and tax dollars!

Also...push out the red cap wearing Trump Supporters!

But seriously...bring us your gays. There is no gay bar or dancing in this town.


25 years ago, I looked at Bremerton as an alternative to Seattle. It was charming, quiet, beautiful and separated from my downtown Seattle job by a large body of water that required 2 hours per day of ferry time. But a pleasant 2 hours on a ferry isn't the problem - you have to add in the time getting from home to the terminal. Unless you're lucky enough to "work from home", you simply can't live your charming, quiet, beautiful Bremerton life without facing the daily grinding reality of dependence on the state ferry system. Instead I bought a dumpy fixer-upper condo in NE Seattle. Now that retirement is only a couple of years away, I'm looking at Bremerton again. I just wish there was a PCC there.


Lived in Port Orchard for 5 years. Be grateful you aren't taking the Southworth Ferry with its long stopover on Vashon Island. The commute was what finally did me in but I was working a 9 to 5 in Seattle so I had to commute by Ferry five days a week. I made more lasting friends in Kitsap County than I did when I moved to Seattle. Good luck.


Ahhh... it's so cute. People moving rural destroyed SE King County in the past decade. I knew Kitsap was next about 5 years ago when friends started moving to there, from SE KC.
Then people complain they don't have amenities like they did in urban land. They bring change: corporate stores, food delivery, higher taxes.
I see it all the time on south Whidbey where thankfully we don't have corporate change with the massive influx of Boomers buying up homes. It's actually great here for commuting to Seattle, if you beat investment home buyers who rent them out to tourists.




Great article, congrats on your new city and your house.


@40 - "PCC"? I thought the whole point of this article was that living in Bremerton was affordable.

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