Alaska State Ferry Experience - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 11-04-2016, 10:46 PM   #1
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Alaska State Ferry Experience

Has anyone ever used the Alaska State Ferry system to visit Alaska with an Escape?

What was your experience like? Where did you go? Would you do it again?
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:56 PM   #2
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We left the Escape rally in 2015 and drove up to Dawson Creek, the official start of the Alaska Hwy. We saw a lot, fabulous experience. The route was quite efficient. We did very little backtracking. At the end we took the Alaska State Ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert. Pricey but a good way to see all the places that aren't accessible by road.

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Old 11-05-2016, 02:11 AM   #3
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That sounds like a great trip.
Was the ferry roll on - roll off, or did you have to back on?
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Old 11-05-2016, 02:30 AM   #4
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One was ro-ro and one was a side enter and turn 90*. Despite us being first at the terminal we were loaded last All I can say that having to back up the trailer around a 90* corner and putting the back end of the trailer out over a drop to the water was an experience. But it was worth it to get to the places not accessible by road.

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Old 11-05-2016, 11:03 AM   #5
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We did the trip from Skagway to Bellingham with our Casita. Overnights at Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau (two weeks). They were all straight drive except one where I had to back the full length of the ship into a 90 degree turn to get off. Fortunately we were about the last ones off so there wasn't any traffic to work with. One of the deck hands walked in front of me as I backed and told me which way to turn the wheel. I did not have to look back through the entire operation. The trip cost about $3000 in 2007. I think I enjoyed that trip more than a cruise.
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Old 11-05-2016, 11:40 AM   #6
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Man, I would love to do that with my trailer but it scares me to death!

Some years ago we wimped out with a cruise ship package up the inside passage, but it included a flight to Prudhoe Bay, a bus ride south along the pipeline, and a train ride out of Denali. Total Awesome doesn't begin to describe it.
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Old 11-05-2016, 02:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmchamplin View Post
Was the ferry roll on - roll off, or did you have to back on?
Ferries are all roll-on/roll-off vessels, but not all are double-ended to allow you to drive nearly straight on and off.

The side entrance seems like the worst for a trailer, but if you're lucky you're one of the last few vehicles and loaded across the deck, so you don't have to turn. I haven't been on one of those (only double-ended), and don't know if any of the west coast ferries with a side entrance are operated that way.
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Old 11-05-2016, 02:24 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post

The side entrance seems like the worst for a trailer, but if you're lucky you're one of the last few vehicles and loaded across the deck, so you don't have to turn..
Well, that was the theory. The ferry was full and we were told that we'd drive straight on and then later straight ahead and out the door on the other side. It didn't turn out that way because the area was too crowded hence having to squeeze in by turning 90* and parking with the trailer still at 90* to the truck.

When exiting I had to back up and of course there wasn't anyway to change the direction the trailer was pointed so the back end went out over the drop off to the water. Added a bit of excitement to the day.

Ron
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Old 11-06-2016, 01:31 AM   #9
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I can't speak about experiences on the Alaska Ferries with my trailer.... but as a 35 year resident of Juneau, Alaska, I can talk about the Alaska Ferry system both as a passenger and a passenger with a vehicle on board. I have made more than a dozen round trips... Juneau to Bellingham and reverse.


Heading North in the spring / summer on the ferry: Get a reservation early! Our Alaskan budget has been really suffering as a result of low oil prices. Oil funded a huge percentage (perhaps 90%) of our state budget ... as oil prices have dropped our ferry system, and a very expensive system to operate, has taken a big hit. Resulting in ferries being laid up, and routes shortened with less frequent landings.


To see as much of Alaska as you can by road, I suggest you drive the AlCan (Alaska) Highway one way and ferry the other. It doesn't matter which way you choose. Assuming you are heading up to Alaska in the late Spring, I like to leave Washington State late April or early May ... end of May is good too as that way you can come to the Rally. That early you will find snow mostly but not always on the side of the road. This is good as when it melts off the shoulder, green grass sprouts soon after and that brings game to the side of the road for viewing ..... think moose, caribou, deer, brown and black bears, lynx, fox, coyotes, wolfs, bison and lots more. Drive carefully!!!


The drive from say Bellingham to Skagway is about 2300 miles give or take a 100 miles. The road surface is good all the way, fuel available - however if you have traveled up here much, you try not to let your tank get below 1/2. Restaurants and gas stations with convenience stores can supply your food needs but super markets ... not so much.


If you are taking the Ferry North .... get a reservation as early as you can. Especially for vehicles with trailers. There is a penalty for changing reservation at the last minute but it isn't as severe as airline reservations (yet) ... and not much if you are just changing dates rather than asking for a refund. However, vehicle space may not be available for the new date. Arriving early at the terminal is important but when you arrive has little to do as to who gets loaded first. Its where you are getting off that determines loading order and even as to if you must back on. That is determined as to facilities in your destination dockage and which ferry you get on.


The ferries are expensive yes. If you consider the length of the drive, wear and tear on vehicle and you and (hopefully not) a new windshield... then the price is pretty fair. Each Southeast Alaska town ... they are all pretty small, there will be a 45 minute to 1 hour stop. That gives you enough time to zip around on your mountain bike, grab a burger / milkshake and get back on.... don't miss the boat.


There are comfortable staterooms on board for a price but usually I'm too cheap. I like the sun deck that is 1/2 covered from rain with heaters in the ceiling. I sleep on the lounge chairs .... camp pad, 1 sleeping bag below and another bag to sleep in = comfy and its free. Some people pitch free standing dome tents out from under the ceiling and heaters (fire danger) and gain a bit of privacy. Bathrooms and showers are free and near by. Heading north in the spring there are lots of young people heading up for seasonal jobs ... typically many bring guitars and other instruments - you'll be treated to some great music. If you are traveling as a couple, while you are waiting to load send your partner up to the sun deck as soon as passengers can get on , to stake out your lounge chair campsite. For a couple - one lounge chair each and between the two another to put your stuff on.


To shave costs, I frequently bring a stewardess style hand truck and a cooler that will hold breakfast and lunch plus snacks. The restaurant has access to a microwave that you can use ... for me instant oatmeal and yogurt typical for breakfast. You tend to eat for recreation. The restaurants are variable - depends on who is cooking. You can get full on dinners and everything in between. The Alaska Ferries are not cruise ships ...


The trip from Bellingham to Juneau takes 3 days and nights ... either Skagway or Haines takes an additional 6 hours or 4 respectively. These are towns with access to the Alaska Highway. Bring reading material, binoculars and cameras.


You cannot stay in your trailer while traveling. They have a "pet call" about every 4 hours where you can walk Fido on the car deck weather permitting.


This is getting long. If you want to ask more questions, I'll try to get back on this thread.


Hope this helps,


Tom
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Old 11-06-2016, 01:07 AM   #10
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Good read.
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