Friday, June 24, 2011

Ferry Tales

The two-day ride from Anchorage to Haines, sans girls, on Friday and Saturday 6/17-18 was relatively uneventful. After clearing the super-rough section south of the Alaska line down to Destruction Bay, it was smooth sailing except for a cold rainy section over the high-altitude pass between Haines Junction and Haines. The annual Haines Junction to Haines bicycle race was in progress on Saturday and we passed hundreds of cyclists on the road. I decided the only thing worse than riding a motorcycle in cold, rainy conditions would be having to do it on a bicycle.

The scenery on both days was beautiful. Here is yet another glacier along Rte 1.

This snow-covered mountain was very impressive.

We spotted this big guy on Friday a bit west of Delta Junction.

He was feeding on something on the bottom of the pond.

We spent Saturday night in Haines at A Sheltered Harbor B&B, and caught the 9 am ferry to Juneau, arriving there about 1:30 in the afternoon to rendezvous with the girls once again. This waterfall is right in town.

On Saturday, while we were en-route to Haines, the girls amused themselves with a tour of Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier six miles north of town.

After lunch on Sunday, we headed back out to the ferry terminal to board the good ship Mantuska that would be our home for the next three days and would take us to Prince Rupert, BC. The big purple bus was a Nagel Tours bus. A large percentage of the ferry passengers were wearing Nagel name badges. This photo is a study in contrasts between transportation modes, although I would have to say that we were probably each carrying as much luggage as any passenger on that bus.

The Matanuska is one of the “slow” ships of the Alaska Marine Highway System. She cruised at 16.5 knots compared to 32 knots for the “fast” ferries.

You need to bring your own tie-down straps to secure your bike or, alternatively, the crew will be happy to secure it for you using heavy chains.

The Matanuska was built the year Penny graduated high school. Like her, it has aged well.

I found this bit of safety information very reassuring. In case the boat sank we would not have to worry about the survival of the life rafts…they would be just fine.

There was a surprising degree of cell coverage as we traversed the Alaskan Inner Passage. Inspector and Mrs. Gadget enjoyed widespread use of their I-phones.

Little Buddy met two new friends on this trip…Chucky and Chewy. Little Buddy flew to Anchorage with Penny and has been enjoying the ride ever since. I found Chucky and Chewy hanging out in Bemidji looking for a new riding adventure. When I told them where we were going, they signed on for the duration. All three are enjoying the ferry leg of this journey almost as much as us humans.

Little Buddy enjoyed a latte while Chucky and Chewy remained in the cabin feeling a little queezy from the motion.
Inspector G proclaimed he was just going to have a light snack for lunch, given the prodigious breakfast we had just recently consumed. Here is his “snack”, consisting of goulash, green beans, split pea soup with croutons, roll, and blackberry pie.

Our voyage from Juneau to Prince Rupert included stops at Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan. We were delayed in Petersburg for over three hours due to a problem with the electronic navigation system. The local Coast Guard unit would not let the boat proceed until the problem was fixed. This was particularly important because the Wrangell Narrows begins right after Petersburg. This 22 mile long shortcut between Mitkoff and Kupreanof Islands is extremely narrow, being only 100 yd wide from bank-to-bank in some places. There are a large number of navigation buoys marking the channel through the narrows, spaced about 100 yards apart in many sections. We had to negotiate the Narrows in the dark due to the delay in Petersburg. The channel was lit up like a Christmas tree by the red and green markers. It was a sight to see as the Captain zig-zagged his way through the narrow, dangerous channel with the red markers close by our port side and the green ones close to starboard. Despite the late hour, the forward lounge was full of folks watching the ship maneuver its way up the channel, and it was spookily quiet the entire time. Tulin was prompted to ask, "are these people all dead?"

As we were boarding the Matanuska and tying down our bikes, we met a French couple, Laurent and Carole. They live in the medieval town of Tours, France, where Laurent works as a regional manager for a group of hotels. He somehow talked his employer into granting him a one-year leave of absence to go on a motorcycle trip covering most of North, Central, and South America. We thought we were on an adventurous ride, but their epic journey makes ours look pretty wimpy. They shipped their BMW GS1200 to Montreal and are one month in to a twelve-month ride, having so far covered the bulk of Canada and Alaska. They are heading down to the lower 48 with plans to see most of the states that they didn’t visit on an earlier ride in the US. After spending some time in Florida, they will enter Mexico by way of Texas, ride down to Panama, catch a boat to Columbia (since there is no road connection) and ride the length of South America before shipping the bike back to France. They are chronicling their travels on their website .

While we were spending the two nights of the voyage in warm and comfortable staterooms, they were sleeping in deck chairs on the stern solarium deck. We had several bottles of wine stored away in our converted emergency gasoline holders. So we broke out the wine and had an impromptu party in the solarium while we waited for the repairs to be made to the ship in Petersburg.

Here we are, drinking wine from paper coffee cups with new French friends beneath the POSITIVELY NO ALCOHOL sign on the aft solarium deck. Those things on the ceiling that look like light fixtures are actually infrared heaters that make this open area comfortable enough to spend the night.

The young lady on the left in this shot is Rebecca, an exchange student from Germany who just completed a year of study at the University of Montreal.

We have invited Laurent and Carole to come spend a night or two with us in Lake Lure when they are on their way to Florida, so we look forward to seeing them again in late July. I copied this photo from their website . It was taken by Carole as we were preparing to disembark the ferry in Prince Rupert.


  1. Dave, this has truly been a trip of a lifetime for all of you! I have enjoyed your pictures and comments.

  2. Awesome wildlife pictures. Looks like you guys are having a blast! Love you all!