A ferry-tale wedding: It’s never too late to find true love



What do seedless watermelon and cottage cheese have in common?

Well, Alan Johanson and Carol Heimgartner, of course. It’s one of the more nuanced connections in their relationship, but telling nonetheless.

With past relationships informing what they wanted in their futures, both had signed up on the matchmaking site Silver Singles last November, ready for love.

And they found it.

On Thursday, Sept. 9, nearly 10 months and over 60 ferry rides later, they walked on the ferry together, riding from Port Townsend to Coupeville as singles, and back to Port Townsend as a married couple.


For Heimgartner, who lives in Coupeville, it was just a single day after posting her profile that Johanson, who lives on Middlepoint Road, sent her a message. Within the week, she made the bold step of deactivating her dating account, feeling confident about their connection. She loved how he’d inquired on where her profile photos were taken, not just how she appeared in them.   

And Johanson was relived to see a woman situated in multiple landscapes, from the desert of the Southwest to Rome to the Grand Canyon. Their common love of travel pulled them toward each other, first via text message and email, and then literally, via the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry to meet each other face-to-face.

“The only single thing that allowed us to have a relationship was the ferry,” Heimgartner said.

Eventually, they’d decide that there was no more appropriate place to tie the knot.


When Johanson picked Heimgartner up at the ferry terminal for their first masked face-to-masked-face moment, it immediately felt comfortable to both of them.

Johanson, whose personal motto is “Silliness is next to godliness,” made a quirky joke about checking for COVID fever with a rectal thermometer, and it didn’t phase her a bit.

She wrote in her notes to their wedding officant, “We were probably a couple from that first meeting.”

Both individuals have been married before, and each have children from past relationships.

This time around, they feel the peripheral issues that may have stopped them from getting closer in the past just aren’t there anymore. Heimgartner credits their initial correspondence for helping them to see the similarities in each other before honing in on the differences.

So does he.

“We slipped easily into sharing what were often intensely personal aspects of our histories, but I’d felt that gentle pull of her warm presence from the first,” he penned in a questionnaire for the officiant.

“I fell in love with his words,” Heimgartner wrote in hers.

“The phrasing, the depth of sharing, the timeliness of his responses, his humor, his attachment to certain core beliefs that were similar to mine even though originating from a different religion and political stance.”


In the past, Heimgartner felt that as a woman, she was supposed to “sit around and wait for the man to make the move.”

“I want[ed] to be part of the process this time,” she said.

Perhaps to her chagrin at times, she was very much included.

Not just in the fun stuff, like mountain biking with Johanson or enjoying the scenic beauty of the outdoors together, but in the nitty-gritty of life, too.

Her first personal challenge was facing a literal lifetime of accumulation at Johanson’s house. During her first visit, she was “surrounded” by an homage to Don Quixote: A previous partner had collected Quixote art and ephemera to the tune of 500 to 600 items. Packed in alongside Johanson’s possessions, art, photography, and treasures from his international travels, were closets full of his late wife’s clothes.

Heimgartner, who considers herself a minimalist, was “appalled”at first.

But as their relationship grew closer, and it became apparent that they would marry, she pitched in to help clear out the house to put it on the market.

In the meantime, Alan injured his shoulder, and she ended up sorting an entire house, directing donations, trips to the landfill, and cleanup. Both partners decided that living in Heimgarten’s house makes the most sense for now, although they entertain the thought of building their own home someday. When asked how merging their lives together might look, she said, with love, “He tends toward collecting stuff.”

“I did,” he said, emphasizing the past tense.


After driving, walking on, and taking bicycles back and forth across the water, the couple decided after getting engaged that they would get married right on the ferry. Everything fell into place within the week leading up to Sept. 9.

While their dream officiant, a ferry captain, wasn’t permitted to marry them, they found a justice of the peace and a few witnesses.

After an atmospheric morning, with fog settled thickly in the bay, it burned off and the sun shone bright as they pulled up at the dock at 10:15 a.m.— only to realize they’d forgotten their rings and the marriage license.

But they made their boat, and the ceremony began after all.

The engine was cut just before the “I dos,” but the captain waited for that first kiss to blast the horn as the engine roared back to life.

Twenty or so people who had gathered naturally, cheered.

After returning to Port Townsend, the couple signed their marriage license and walked to the top deck of the ferry to enjoy the view and pose for photographs. They sealed the deal with lunch at Sea J’s Cafe, a local favorite.

“We felt early on that we wanted to be married,” Heimgarten had conveyed in an earlier conversation.

For the first time, she’d said, it had occurred to her “how precious” it would be to be married to this man.

“Me, too,” Johanson had replied.

He refers to their new life as “an ongoing celebration of a life together.”

“Life is full of surprises,” Heimgarten said.