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Old 07-28-2013, 11:39 PM   #1
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Bellingham up yer inside passage

Watched a wonderful PBS documentary today on the Alaska Marine Highway System that featured the ferry out of the Port of Bellingham, Washington. Got me very interested in seeing the inside passage to Alaska once again, but this time maybe doing it much closer to the shoreline. Our last time there was many years ago on a really big cruise ship. Ah, Juneau’s bars, Homer, Sitka, the fishing port of Seward!

We will be picking up our new 19 in Chilliwack come late September. This has me pondering the possibilities of taking a side trip, perhaps a little fun ferry ride up to much closer Ketchikan.

After online searching of applicable water transportation links and resources, it turns out even the ride to Ketchikan is no little matter. Unless I read it wrong, it’s a 2 day trip for roughly $1,396.00 one way, give or take adding your dog. Then there's the matter of counting your tow vehicle as the RV, and/or describing it, and your trailer, as one thing – did I say that right?-- I get confused by their “Sailing reservations” definitions. No listing for “trailers.” They list prices for vehicles, and they list prices for “REC/VEHICLES” up to 19’. Well, the price will be the price, whatever it is.

I also wonder if you are allowed to sleep in your trailer, down in the ship’s hold. Don’t some ferry’s forbid it? A two person birth sure inflates the damage.

All that aside, has anyone done this?
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Old 07-29-2013, 07:05 AM   #2
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Yes, we did. And it was a great trip. We ferried from Bellingham to Juneau, camped there for a couple of nights, and then took another ferry from Juneau to Whittier. I think it was 3 days and 2 days. We drove back, exploring a lot of Alaska and the Yukon on the way. We had a small tent trailer at the time, not the Escape. They go by length though and the Kamparoo was about the same length, and therefore cost, as our Escape 5.0.
No - you can't stay in your camper. We got a berth and you're right - it increased the costs quite a bit. There were about 3 alternatives to a berth. The cool people set up tents on a back deck dedicated to tenting - they had to either tie them to the railings or duct tape them to the deck so they wouldn't blow away, but they seemed to have fun out there. There was another outdoor deck with lounge chairs that people seemed to be camping out on - it didn't look as comfortable though. Then the forward inside viewing area would be turned over to sleepers every night - they slept in chairs (big, comfy ones, but still just chairs) and had to pack up early in the morning so the normal people could get back in.
The only disappointment on the ferry was the food. It was cafeteria-type stuff - overpriced and not very good. We took a lot of our own, but it wasn't very exciting either since we didn't have any refrigeration and they only had a couple of microwave ovens for the passengers to share.
Plus the propane has to be off. The trailer will be on an interior deck so there's no way to run the fridge. So we had to stock up on groceries when we got there, and there isn't much in Whittier.
People with dogs had to leave them in their vehicles, and were only allowed to visit them a couple of times a day - weather permitting. Imagine trying to get your dog to eat and then poop on a steel deck with dozens of other dogs around, all in maybe 30 minutes. It didn't seem to be working real well for most of the dog owners.
We took the first ferry in the spring, and it was full of Alaskans returning from visiting the lower 48 during the winter, and students on their way home. We met a lot of very interesting people and learned a lot about Alaska before we even got there. I understand the later ferries are full of tourists so that'd be a different experience.
The scenery was beautiful, and I'd highly recommend the trip.
Regards,
John
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Old 07-29-2013, 07:17 AM   #3
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Hi, it's me again.
They charge, and reserve space for you, based on overall length with your trailer hooked up to your truck. I had to measure ours to get it just right, and remember to include things like a bike rack on the back bumper.
Our next trip is to Newfoundland and, while the ferry ride is a lot shorter and cheaper, the requirement to know the length is the same.
Have fun,
John
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Old 07-29-2013, 02:53 PM   #4
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Thanks, John,

Well now, we really really wanted to do it. Bummer. Your post has me seeing two deal-breakers: First, I could not ever deal with leaving Ben alone in the car for 48 hours, less them 30 minute potty breaks. He would tear up the upholstery overnight. Second, paying a few hundred bucks for a sleeping birth when I brought along a queen sized bed thats just two decks down rubs me very wrong. No way our back problems could survive sleeping in a chair. Them days are long gone.

Back in the 70s we took the big ferry from Sydney Mines to Port O Basque (did I spell that right?) and spent a couple weeks exploring up the St Laurence side, as far north as we could go. Absolutely marvelous. Even now, the sight of them gritty lobstermen off rowboats built by ancient mariners processing the days catch on that gravel shore, with that big rock jetty, whitecaps and stormy skies behind them, remains vividly in my memory.
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Old 07-29-2013, 03:36 PM   #5
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Great info, John. I'm planning a trip soon but won't be bringing a trailer, just a boat. So I have to measure truck front bumper to boat stern while all hooked up. And figure out whether to tent or sleep in chairs. Could I just put out an air mattress in the front lounge and sleep in the same area where the chairs are?
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Old 07-29-2013, 06:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeonardS View Post
Great info, John. I'm planning a trip soon but won't be bringing a trailer, just a boat. So I have to measure truck front bumper to boat stern while all hooked up. And figure out whether to tent or sleep in chairs. Could I just put out an air mattress in the front lounge and sleep in the same area where the chairs are?
We're not sure, but we doubt it. There were just aisles between the chairs so I'd think air mattresses would be against fire regs. I thought the tents were the coolest, but we noticed that one person stayed with the vehicle and another walked on - so they got to pick a spot earlier than if they'd loaded with their vehicle.
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Old 07-30-2013, 12:06 AM   #7
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Hi.
About 5 years ago we rode the ferry with our Casita (35 ft) from Skagway to Bellingham for about $3000 including a cabin. The dogs got a break every 8 hours on the long legs. We got off and spent at least one night at each stop (2 weeks in Juneau including a week in Glacier Bay). Compare that to a cruise for the same price (Not!) with at most one day at each stop. I agree it was not fair to my two dogs, but we had trained them to use puppy pads, so they had a familiar place to go potty.
Dick
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