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Travel: Cross-border docking on the M.V. Coho

A 90-minute trip between Victoria and Port Angeles provides a panorama of convergences



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Otherwise, travel as a foot passenger. For a small fee, bring along a bike to explore the waterfront trails - including the 45-kilometre Olympic Discovery Trail - which fan out from the ferry slip. Unlike B.C. Ferries, where cyclists must park bikes on the lower car deck, passengers push their bikes aboard the Coho's top deck to handily-placed racks.

The two ports share much in common. A wealth of public art is displayed on city streets, such as Port Angeles' Avenue of the Peoples and Victoria's Signs of Lekwungen interpretive walkway. As well, murals soar on the walls of historic brick buildings. Both harbours feature hands-on displays of marine life. In particular, the volunteer-run Fiero Marine Life Center, a public aquarium on Port Angeles's City Pier, is a must-see.

No matter which harbour you frequent, a potent combination of salt air and stimulating exercise will have you searching out places to placate your appetite. If you want to dine with the locals, try the First Street Haven Restaurant in Port Angeles, a classic slice of Americana whose menu complements but in no way mirrors Victoria's grass-roofed, outdoors Red Fish, Blue Fish.

If you visited Victoria on the B.C. Day long weekend, you might have heard the M.V. Coho's distinctive B flat ship's horn to sound the note that anchored the Victoria Symphony Splash performance on Aug. 2. A throng of 40,000 spectators converged on the inner harbour - where plaques honour distinguished ships and sailors who have made Victoria a port of call - to catch North America's largest annual symphony event.

On the summer breeze, Captain Grasser could be heard offering the classic mariners toast, "Clear horizons."

Access: Crossing time between Victoria and Port Angeles is 90 minutes. For information on the Black Ball Ferry Line's Victoria-Port Angeles route, including sailing times and fares, visit www.cohoferry.com. Until Dec. 31, complimentary fares are offered those who travel on their birthdays. In addition, the Black Ball Ferry Line's online contest awards a free Vancouver Island or Olympic Peninsula getaway every month during 2009, including round-trip transportation on the M.V. Coho and overnight accommodation.

The First Street Haven (107 East First Street; 360-457-0352) lies just uphill from the Black Ball ferry slip. Red Fish, Blue Fish (250-298-6877; www.redfish-bluefish.com) lies at the foot of Broughton Street adjacent the Victoria seaplane base.

For information on the Fiero Marine Life Center, call 360-417-6254 or visit www.olypen.com/fierolab/. Note: The centre is closed on Mondays.

In Port Angeles, Sound Bikes and Kayaks (120 East Front Street; 360-457-1240; www.soundbikeskayaks.com/) offers tours and rentals.

Tourism information is available from the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce (121 E. Railroad; 360-452-2363; www.portangeles.org/) and from Tourism Victoria (812 Wharf Street; 1-800-663-3883; www.tourismvictoria.com/).