Boarding in Ketchikan
Geo: 47.6353, -122.302
The three full days we spent on the ferry was relaxing and very enjoyable. It was a welcome change to the 24 days we spent "in the saddle." The varying views and scenery have been wonderful. At some points in the trip the shoreline was less than 100 yards away. Other times, the waterways were very wide as we cruised through the archipelagos of islands near and far along the Inside Passage.
Our ship, the Columbia, is the largest in the Alaska Marine Highway fleet. Built in 1972, the ship is 418 feet long, with a beam of 85 feet. She can carry 499 passengers and 140 vehicles. In addition to the vehicle deck, there are four upper decks. The ship is like a cross between a hostel, an Amtrak train and a large ferry. There are 104 cabins that sleep 2 to 4, all with bunk beds and private baths. Except for the size of the bed, our room was very comfortable; about twice the size of an Amtrak sleeper compartment. Campers can sleep in deck chairs under heat lamps or pitch tents on aft sections of two of the upper decks. There are two large indoor
Das boat cabin
Our humble cabin
sitting areas with comfortable chairs and tables. The facilities include showers, rest rooms, and laundry as well as a coffee shop, cocktail lounge, movie theatre (showing four different movies a day) and a dining room, serving nice meals at reasonable prices, with no tipping allowed!
Our first full day on-board found us sleeping in past the early morning stop in Juneau. We had somewhat clear, sunny skies, and spent hours watching the passing terrain. We had several whale and otter sightings, plus some black bears along the shore. On our first afternoon, we left the ship to see the village of Sitka for a few hours. The Russians founded Sitka and it was the capital of Alaska before Juneau. It is still a small town with prominent Russian and native Alaskan heritage.
On our second day we stopped in Ketchikan for a few hours. Ketchikan gets 250 days of rain a year, so needless to say, we had rain showers most of the afternoon. It was an interesting town with its native totem poles and fishing canneries, however, it is more of a tourist town than Sitka. We saw three large cruise ships docked during our visit there.
last day, we didn't make any port stops, as we were passing along the Canada coast. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we spent a lot of time on the outside decks – spotting whales and other marine life while soaking in the sunshine. About mid-day, we picked up Vancouver Island for the final leg of our trip. Later that evening we enjoyed one last meal in the dining room with a great view of the beautiful sky at sunset from the rear upper deck.
We arrived in Bellingham, Washington this morning at 7:00 a.m. to clear, sunny skies. After a stop at the mechanic's to check our shocks, we continued to Seattle for the the weekend, visiting daughter, Ali, and sister and brother-in-law, Becki and Michael. Janet flies home to Sacramento on Sunday, and Dave plans to continue on to Montana to visit daughter, Megan.
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