Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alaska Marine Highway (Alaska Ferry); A Class Act

Nose to nose and bumper to bumper
Monday we arrived back on land in Haines, AK after experiencing two ferries of Alaska system. Conclusion: The Alaska Ferry system is a class act. It’s functional, not plush, but very suited to the needs of the northland. The crews we encountered were friendly and good at their jobs. They arrived and departed on time. The food, cafeteria fare on the Matanuska and cafeteria or sit down dining on the Columbia, was reasonably priced and very good.
Our experience boarding the Columbia in Juneau demonstrates their efficiency.
Last cars, backing on the ferry.

The car deck was originally filled in Bellingham, Washington. Then vehicles came off and on at stops along the way. When they arrived at Juneau they needed space for vehicles with reservations from Juneau. Somehow, someway, someone had calculated the space needed, with all the departures and added vehicles since Bellingham.
At 0530 the boarding crew began studying the vehicles waiting to board—how high, how long, etc. Sitting on the dock were an array of cars, trucks, campers and semi-trailers. When the boarding began they selected vehicles from the lines, like one selects pieces for a puzzle
Our car and trailer rig, 33 feet in length, was pulled from the middle of the line and sent aboard where we ended up in a lane facing a motor home. We filled the last space in the lane perfectly. 
Near the end of the loading they began backing cars onto the boat as there would be no place to turnaround later. To fit them all this car moved a little to the left. This truck went back six inches. This camper pulled forward a smidge. In one case a young man was trapped in his car with no room to open a door. Another vehicle moved forward and an escape was executed.
In the end, the last cars in line backed down the ramp and filled the last spaces on board, the ramp raised, the door closed and we were on our way.
Clear of the yellow line the door can now close with "feet" to spare.

There should have been high fives all around for a job well done but, to the loading crew, it appeared to be just another day on the job.
I found it impressive. Alaska should be proud of their marine highway system.

Thoughtlet: Toyota Can’t Find Alaska
Our 2010 Toyota Highlander came equipped with a wonderful in-dash GPS system. It can find the smallest roads in the contiguous 48 states and Canada. But it can’t find Alaska.
Before departure I called the dealer to update the software and add Alaska. Sorry, I was told. For Toyota Alaska didn’t exist prior to 2011. If I wanted Alaska on the GPS I needed to purchase a new car.
What a conundrum—new car or new map from AAA. AAA won and now we must depend on paper rather than electronics to get around the 49th state.

1 comment:

  1. Steve & Kathy,

    Aloha from warm, sunny and dry Kauai. Looks like a very successful start to your adventure. Your blog is great! Looking for your regular updates. Enjoy your trip.