I left off my last post being disembarked in Ketchikan because of the Alaska Marine Highway Strike. This strike was just another part of the adventure for us, although it is a crucial means of transportation for all of Southeast Alaska. We are lucky that we are teachers and have flexibility, others don’t have that same luxury. The first half of this post will cover what Sara and I did in Ketchikan, the second half will be some links to news reports and edited posts about the importance of the ferry. We support the works in what they are trying to do despite it throwing a wrench in our plans (I mean that is what strikes and protests are meant to do, right?)
We arrived in Ketchikan in the morning and got ready to disembark. We had a room on the ferry Kennicott because we thought that were going to spend several nights there and the luggage we needed for several nights we still needed for 1 so we had a lot of stuff but we packed up and were ready to load up the car and drive off and then we waited. And we waited. And we made friends with a French and a British lady. Then we waited some more. Apparently the other ferry at the dock was too close so we had to put out to the channel again, while the other ferry was moved and the crew was going to try and dock again. So we made lunch, read, sat around for a while. Then they started attempt two. And we waited with our luggage. And waited some more. And waited more. This time the wind was too high. They say third times the charm and we finally docked and loaded up our car and drove off.
Needless to say after the stress of the morning and the waiting both Dr. N and I were ready to be off the boat. We went to the shipping companies (since calling them resulted in more confusion than help) and spoke with some wonderful workers who both reassured us and finally were able to explain everything. Then we took the car on a final drive before loading her up the next morning. We visited Totem Bight State Historical Park looking at some of the historical totem poles from the Tlingit and Haida which the CCC undertook to save in the 1930s. It is in a section of forest on the coast, which was really nice since it allowed us both to decompress from all the stress. After a failed attempt at finding a brewery (looks to be only production no tap room), we had dinner and settled in for the night.
The next morning we drove to the shipping docks, secured our luggage in the back, did our finally inspection and said “See you in a few days to our car.” We returned to downtown Ketchikan where we decided to just lean into the tourism life and walk around with 10,000 of our newest friends (i.e. cruise ship passengers). We visited Creek Street, Ray Troll’s art gallery and the dock area before lunch. Afterwards, Dr. N enjoyed a dry afternoon (by that I mean nap) in the room while I took a soaking historic walk through West Ketchikan and Newtown looking at the old canaries and working docks. Then we decided to do something totally different from our travels and watch a movie. It is not something you think to do while traveling, but you start to miss things like that when you have been on the road for 53 days. So we settled in for some popcorn and blissful movie watching (we saw Yesterday, which we both really liked). Then it was another early night in.
On the following day, I had a phone meeting so I took a stroll down to Creek Street where I saw two harbor seals hunting salmon, a good reminder that even though they look cute they could rip your face off if they wanted. Then Dr. N and I called a cab and headed to Knudsen Cove to rent a kayak for the day. We had a wonderful ride with Morgan from Louisiana, who treated us to coffee from Green Bean (either cause he is really nice, wanted a refill himself or both). Once we made it to the kayaking place we found someone to check us it and get us in our boat. They were really chill there- a stark departure from how other outfits in Alaska were- and we headed out onto the water by ourselves. We visited Clover and Betton islands were I geeked out over how many starfish were in the waters and a family of 4-6 seals said hello to us. After paddling around we docked and headed back to town where naps were in order. Then after dinner we took a casual 5 mile stroll down the shore to Saxman Totem park. We didn’t mean to do the whole 5 miles but we were enjoying each other’s company and the path was level, which made it easy to crush.
On our final day in Ketchikan, we had breakfast at Sweet Mermaid and then moseyed around the town before catching the ferry to the airport (cause there is no bridge off Ketchikan) and boarded our plane back to the lower 48, where Aunt Bliss was kind enough to pick us up from the airport.
We are in the final days of our trip now and can’t wait to share them with you in the next few posts. Now for some of the news connected with the strike.
First off, Dr. N gave a tip to Denver Channel about the strike and we got interviewed and had 5 minutes of Denver fame! Here is the link
From Dr. N:
I’m not sure that the reason we’re approaching the “stranded” part of this adventure is that it’s really just an adventure for us. Sure, it would’ve been nice to see Olivia kittyface, finally wear a different pair of pants or sleep in my own bed on schedule. But as the AMHS is the backbone of SE Alaska, we count ourselves lucky we’re not in one of these situations. I read that 12 people from Ketchikan had to be flown to Sitka to receive chemo this week. For others, our “adventure”is life threatening especially if the ferry is still so underfunded.
Did you know that if a pregnant woman has a complication and must go to a major hospital because the clinic in her community can’t treat her and she can’t fly, she goes by ferry?
Did you know if someone has a mental break down in a small community and can’t get on a plane, they are transported by ferry?
Did you know that if someone passes away and their body needs to be transported back to their village for burial, and the planes aren’t flying they are sent by ferry!?
Did you know if you have to use oxygen and the planes won’t allow you to fly you have to go by ferry?
Did you know, that when weather is bad and small planes can’t fly (for 2 days of weather hold) into smaller communities without Alaska Airlines, the mail comes in off the ferry? This means all mail, including Rx drugs that are filled in bigger towns, for example Juneau, that are needed for people in smaller communities, like Skagway.
Did you know that to have fresh food or even canned goods brought to a lot of communities it is done by ferry?
Did you know that to get from the lower 48 to Alaska if you don’t take the ferry you must drive through a foreign country, and in doing so, you are subjected to their laws?
Did you know that if you have a DUI in the US, no matter how young you were, and you go through Canada you have to pay a fine up to $2000.00?
Did you know that if you have a felony conviction you can’t go through Canada?
Did you know that any food even canned foods are subject to being confiscated by the Canadian government if they deem it possibly unsafe in their country, and this includes dog food?
Did you know that most military personnel no matter where in Alaska they go will move to and from their assignments on the ferry?
Did you know that the dishwasher on the ferry is a trained firefighter and that every crew member is required to meet that as a pre-qualification if being hired?
Did you know that every crew member is a United States Merchant Seamen and must meet those standards, swear an oath to this country, and is subjected to being called into active duty in time of war or national emergency?
Did you know that each ferry is like a floating like community each time it leaves the dock, and those who work there and you trust to protect and provide you with service are also the ones who will run into the danger if an emergency should happen in relation to anything on board that ship?
Did you know that if you have a boating distress or a plane goes missing over water and there is a ferry near by they become part of the search and rescue team?
These are just a few things most people don’t know about the AMHS ferries. The list goes on and on. Please feel free to add to this post and share it.
Support the people who are helping to keep Alaska alive with a much needed life line – IBU, ferry workers!