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Old 01-06-2014, 04:18 PM   #1
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Travel Trailers on Alaska Ferries

I'm planning a trip from the Seattle area to Alaska next summer with my 19-foot AS Intl. One route I am considering is to drive to Skagway, AK and then take the one-hour ferry ride with my AS and TV to Haines, AK, since there are no direct roads between the two towns. I called the Alaska State Ferries for info but they did not seem to have the answers. Here in WA the ferries are drive-on and drive-off, all going forward (no backing). However, the Alaska ferries are ocean-going vessels that seem to require backing up, either on or off. My question: is there anyone out there in 'Streamland who has made this short trip?
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Old 01-17-2014, 01:35 PM   #2
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We've only made one trip on the AK Marine Highway with our coach and it was a level, drive on, drive off with no backing up. The bigger issue can be driving off at low tide, which can make the boarding ramp look nearly vertical. Because of the huge tide swings, I've seen it so steep that RV's couldn't drive off in Valdez. That said, it's an incredible trip that you definitely won't regret!
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Old 01-17-2014, 02:38 PM   #3
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I transported a 27' cabin cruiser yacht on a boat trailer from Juneau to Sitka on the AK Marine Highway ferry. Same vessels that do the Skagway-Haines run. you may or may not need to back up depending on how they load. They are not like the Puget Sound ferries where you roll on from the back of the boat and roll off from the front without turning around. On the Alaska vessels you enter from the side of the vessel.

What they did when I was loaded the boat trailer on the ferry was they loaded all the cars first and then RVs and trailers were loaded last so that drivers could take their time. We actually loaded the boat trailer on the ferry and unhooked the truck and the buyer of the boat in Sitka met the ferry with his own truck to haul it off. If I recall we did have to back it into place but there was plenty of room and it was not a problem. We didn't back it up the ramp, just inside the ferry itself. There were also shipping companies that drove truck trailers onto the ferry and unhooked and another truck met the trailer at the other end.

The crewmen and deck hands on the AK Marine Highway ferries are really quite expert at their jobs and I guarantee they have seen every type of trailer and RV under the sun including all manner of homemade garbage of the sort that seems to pop up in Alaska. If you are moderately competent at towing your airstream you should not have a problem. There are hundreds of RVers who do the exact same route as you every month.
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Old 01-17-2014, 03:31 PM   #4
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We did the same trip you're doing - but from Haines to Skagway. The ship we took loaded from the side - there was no backing up. I obviously don't know about other ships - but the dock seems set up specifically for this kind of ship.

If you are in Haines at the right time of year then make sure to give yourself enough time to get a few photos of Grizzlies - we spent three days there and got literally hundreds and hundreds of shots that were up close and personal - bring your telephoto ....

Here are a couple pictures of the boat at the Haines dock - and also an example of the kind of pictures you can get of the Grizzlies .....

Have a great trip.

Jay
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Old 01-17-2014, 06:15 PM   #5
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Ranger Jay...How long was your combo AS/TV? Do you remember what your fare was. AS looks brand new, by the way.

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Old 01-17-2014, 06:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by AlaskaSafari View Post
... The bigger issue can be driving off at low tide, which can make the boarding ramp look nearly vertical. Because of the huge tide swings, I've seen it so steep that RV's couldn't drive off in Valdez. ...

Certainly the ferry doesn't wait 6 hours for high tide so you can get your rig off? Do they recommend appropriate sailings when you make reservations so this is not an issue? Or is it up to you to consult tide charts ahead of time? I doubt this landlubber would be able to get it right the 1st time.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:07 PM   #7
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Ranger Jay...How long was your combo AS/TV? Do you remember what your fare was. AS looks brand new, by the way.

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We did the trip in 2011 and I think the fare was in the neighbourhood of $200 (memory might be a little foggy here).

The trailer is a 19 foot 2002 Bambi - the tow vehicle is a 2009 Nissan Pathfinder. Total length shakes out a little over 35 feet.

There were no issues with loading or unloading and the trip was quite pleasant - about an hour.

Skagway is kind of a neat place as well - but be warned - it can be polluted with tourists if a lot of cruise ships are in - even so - there is lots to see and do and some great eateries - what stands out most in our minds was the "Days of 98" theatre show and also hacking around the trails at the abandoned Dyea townsite (now a historic site).


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Old 01-17-2014, 08:41 PM   #8
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A couple of more questions: what time of year did you make the passage from Haines to Skagway and did you make reservations?

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Old 01-17-2014, 09:36 PM   #9
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A couple of more questions: what time of year did you make the passage from Haines to Skagway and did you make reservations?

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Things get pretty quiet up there starting mid-August. Our entire trip was planned to avoid the peak tourist season so we didn't leave home till July 15th and got back Sep 15th. Haines and Skagway were the end of August. We made the booking for the ferry the day before we took it - the ship was nowhere near full. At that time of year Skagway was very quiet - jewelry stores had signs advertising up to 75% off (still too expensive) - we ended up spending 3 nights and 2 days in Skagway - only 1 cruise ship came into town when we were there - we were told that at the height of the season the town could be visited by up to 10 ships a day.

The picture is from a lookout on the road to Dyea - the only cruise ship we saw - prior to the ship coming in the streets looked like the second picture (rain, cold and fog might have had something to do with it that day as well).

If you haven't already got them you might want to consider ordering a copy of the Milepost. Another great book is the Travellers Guide to Alaskan Camping by Mike and Terri Church. The two of them will give you pretty much everything you will need for your trip through BC, Yukon and Alaska.

You'll have a great trip.


Jay
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:55 PM   #10
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We took that same trip in '10 with a pickup truck and a 25 footer, and there was no problem. The ship is big enough to drive into, and do a U turn at the back and come out the same side. We were 44' long if I remember right and the fee was about $250 (they charge by the foot). If you have pets, they have to stay in the vehicles, and the propane system must be turned off.
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Old 01-17-2014, 11:16 PM   #11
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We took that same trip in '10 with a pickup truck and a 25 footer, and there was no problem. The ship is big enough to drive into, and do a U turn at the back and come out the same side. We were 44' long if I remember right and the fee was about $250 (they charge by the foot). If you have pets, they have to stay in the vehicles, and the propane system must be turned off.
Hi, my set-up is also 44 feet long. I talked to a person with a similar set-up and he paid about $2,500.00 for the ferry [had reservations] and we were quoted over $3,000.00 so I said, we will drive. Must have been to another destination from the same place that you mentioned.
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:18 AM   #12
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Hi, my set-up is also 44 feet long. I talked to a person with a similar set-up and he paid about $2,500.00 for the ferry [had reservations] and we were quoted over $3,000.00 so I said, we will drive. Must have been to another destination from the same place that you mentioned.
Yea, we only went from Haines to Skagway. I think the total distance by water is something like 18 miles, but there is no road between the two without going back to Haines Junction, then to Whitehorse, and down to Skagway, a distance of about 350 miles if memory serves.
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:28 AM   #13
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Hi, my set-up is also 44 feet long. I talked to a person with a similar set-up and he paid about $2,500.00 for the ferry [had reservations] and we were quoted over $3,000.00 so I said, we will drive. Must have been to another destination from the same place that you mentioned.
That doesn't sound remotely correct for the short Haines-Skagway run. That would be more like the price for the entire run from one end of the line in Bellingham WA to the other end of the line in Skagway with a stateroom included. The actual rate table is a .pdf from the Alaska Marine Highway web site:

http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/doc/..._SETariffs.pdf

And if I am reading it correctly the Haines/Skagway rate for vehicles over 21' is $3.3 per foot so your 44' rig would be $145 for the vehicle and then an additional $31 for each passenger fare.
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Old 01-19-2014, 01:26 AM   #14
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Certainly the ferry doesn't wait 6 hours for high tide so you can get your rig off? Do they recommend appropriate sailings when you make reservations so this is not an issue? Or is it up to you to consult tide charts ahead of time? I doubt this landlubber would be able to get it right the 1st time.
I doubt the reservation agent is going to offer suggestions. What you could do is ask what their procedure is to dealing with low tide arrivals. Depending on where you're headed you could also look at the estimated arrival time and the correlating tide chart to see if it's even an issue.

The couple we watched darn near high center were fortunate in that they were able to leave their coach on the ferry until morning. I have no idea what they do if your end port isn't the terminal stop and you can't get the trailer off.

There is some backing... maneuvering... inside the ferry, but there's no shortage of room. At least on our trip, you didn't have to back on or off the ship and the loading crew is great at helping folks position their rv.
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