aboard the MV Taku, on the Alaska Marine Highway between Haines and Juneau, Alaska
Tuesday, July 24, 1973
“On the ferry, headed for home.” Which sounds rather like we were all glad to be on our way. As my diary says, “we didn’t do a thing all day except wait for the ferry,” which didn’t leave until 10 pm.
I don’t think I was terribly impressed with the ferry, even though the ships of the Alaska Marine Highway are large, almost cruise-ship-sized vessels, and on my 1995 trip, I rather enjoyed riding on them. On that trip, however, it was just me, I was prepared to camp on board (which we decidedly were not in 1973), and I got off the ferry and spent several days in three different places along the way instead of staying on for a straight shot through.
The real problem is that there are far fewer staterooms than there is room for passengers, and if you think getting reservations for our car and trailer was hard, getting a room was impossible. You’re not allowed on the car deck while the ship is underway, so sleeping in the trailer, which otherwise would have solved the problem easily, was right out.
It only takes a bit less than 30 hours to sail from Haines to Prince Rupert, but because of the schedule, we had to spend two nights on board. We moved from the observation lounge to the outdoor deck in back, and back. As I recall, I got the most sleep of the three of us, and I remember getting about five hours total for both nights. A story my mother still tells about being awake all night on the ferry was how foggy it was in the wee hours, and how she heard someone on the loudspeaker ask in a whisper that carried all over the ship (obviously whoever it was hadn’t realized the speaker was on), “Where are we?” Not terribly reassuring [g].
Still, the ferry was an adventure — the only other time I can remember riding one before this was going from the town of Tsawassen, near Vancouver, BC, to Vancouver Island, then from Victoria, BC, to Port Angeles, Washington, on a trip we’d taken several years before. When I made my Alaska ferry trip in 1995, one of the best parts of the trip was seeing what we’d missed on this trip in 1973. It was something I’d always wanted to do, get off and explore those little towns we’d stopped in just long enough to whet my curiosity because we couldn’t get off and see what was really there.
Now I’d like to go back again someday and see everything again in terms of what Karin saw. Except, of course, that she made most of the trip stuck in the hold of a grungy old steamer…