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Ferry Ride from Sitka to Petersburg, Alaska

Friday, July 27, 2007

overcast 0 °F

It's raining when the alarm rings at 5:45am, but we're getting used to the rain by now. Also, we expected rain in this part of Alaska. No need to call the ferry office today to see if the ferry's on time: we can see the ferry (Matanuska) from our campground:
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By the time we're ready to drive over to the ferry around 7:30, the rain stops....well, actually it only stops for about an hour and starts up again right before we load onto the ferry. This ferry ramp doesn't look too steep, so that is good. We wait for our turn
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and then drive onto the ferry as directed. The attendant tells us to go down the ramp, taking it slow. So we start driving slowly down the ramp.
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OOPS! The guys at the bottom of the ramp start yelling and waving at us to stop. So we stop halfway down the ramp and the engineer apologizes to us -- we need to go back...they need to get a boat on the ferry before us.
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Well, that may not be a big deal (to back up a ferry ramp) if you're a car, but we're 52 feet long and Jere can't see back past the top of the ramp AND NONE OF THE ATTENDANTS ARE HELPING HIM BACK UP THE RAMP! When I realize that no one is directing him, I ask if I should get out and he says 'yes' immediately. So I run to the back of the trailer and give him directions. He knows there's a pole on the left side near the top of the ramp, so he tries to get the 5ver to turn a little to miss the pole. Finally the attendant in the ferry office realizes that no one is helping us and runs over to help. THANK GOODNESS! Jere finally manages to get up the ramp and out of the way, with the attendant's help. This is NOT fun. This is also not typical when getting off/on a ferry. We normally get lots of help and it can be a little stressful, but not near so frustrating as this morning.

They drive the boat onto the ferry and then we get to drive down the ramp again.
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By this time we're a little stressed and concerned, but they get us on the ferry and parked. They again apologize for putting us through that. We're just glad that's over. This should have been an easy ferry load...oh well.

We "set sail" for Petersburg and I take a quick snapshot of our campground.
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It's a sportsmen club parking lot right next to the ferry. Very convenient. Not real picturesque, but we basically just slept there two nights and spent the daylight hours touring.

The day turns out pretty nice weatherwise. The rain stops soon after leaving Sitka and we enjoy the next few hours watching the view, including more jumping salmon.
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As we're traveling past some islands, the captain announces that some "rare northern flamingos" have been spotted in the tree around the next bend. His announcement sounds official, like it's a real and rare event. So we get to the end of the island and sure enough there are about a dozen plastic pink flamingoes perched in a very tall spruce tree. Someone has quite a sense of humor.
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The ferry shows several movies during the day, much to Joe's enjoyment. Joe and I watch a movie in the early afternoon; Jere watches a movie with Joe in the late afternoon. It's a 12 hour ride on the ferry today, but it goes quickly between the scenery, whale-watching and movies.

We also pass the Malaspina ferry, that we took between Haines and Juneau:
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We even have several flyovers by a Coast Guard helicopter. There are 4 "armed" U.S. Coast Guardsmen on our ferry today, so maybe the flyover is connected to them. But it gives us something else interesting to watch on the ferry. Of course we also have the ferry's "man overboard" drill to entertain us.

When we enter Frederick Sound, we see several whales. I'm looking through the binoculars and I see a group of humpbacks rise out of the water together. They are bubble net feeding! I am thrilled and quickly hand the binoculars to Joe to see. They're far away, so no pics; but being far away I can see them come up to the surface to feed several times from the ferry. An incredible site. Joe is a 'too cool' 12-year-old to be as excited as I am. I remember being the same way in my early teens. Hopefully he'll learn to appreciate the little things in life as he gets older.

We have one stop between Sitka and Petersburg. The ferry stops for about 45 minutes at the town of Take, a small tribul community on one of the islands.
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It's a small fishing village and it's claim to fame is the tallest totem pole in North America.
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Amazingly, when we dock at Take, the sun comes out for about about 15 minutes -- everyone comes out on deck to soak up the sun. I'm just happy when it's not raining; sunshine is a really special treat :-)
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As we get close to Petersburg, the captain announces that icebergs can be seen far off the port side of the ferry. They're from the LeConte Glacier, south of Petersburg. A very pretty blue color.

We dock at Petersburg around 9pm.
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We again get to back up inside the ferry in order to drive off. And again the back few feet of our trailer extend out the side of the ferry as we back up to turn. Jere goes very slowly and the attendant yells at him to keep going "I promise to not let her fall out" :-)
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The ramp is long and curved, but it is an easy drive off.
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We take off to the campground, Twin Creek RV Park. We had called yesterday to make sure they had a site available and it turns out that we are one of only 2 RVers at the campground tonight.

We set up in the dark (missing that midnight sun that we had in northern Alaska) and then check our email. We have free wifi here -- a nice surprise.

Posted by jengelman 13:09 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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