In 1948, a brave endeavor of three visionary men spawned marine transportation between Alaska's coastal towns. Struggling, after only a couple of years, their company was thrown a life raft and was scooped up by the Territorial Government in 1951 to create the Alaska Marine Highway.
After statehood in 1959, bonds provided $18 million in funding to expand the fleet to include the Malispina and the Tustumena. This new and exciting Alaska's Marine Highway System expanded quickly and brought Alaskans' dreams to life.
Alaska's small Coastal Communities
Access for Alaskans to travel 'Outside' to the lower 48 states was realized in 1967, with a connection to Seattle, WA and in 1968, the ferry system began working hand-in-hand with the rail system. Transportation was flourishing.
The 1970s and '80s brought more funding and increased expansion of both vessels and ports. In 1989, the southernmost port of Seattle was changed to Bellingham, WA.
AMHS Port in Bellingham, WA
' Sail Mail '
The multi-functional MV Kennicott was added with service from Valdez and had enhanced features allowing it to respond to oil spills.
Within it's first 50 years, the AMHS was servicing thirty-five communities and continues to grow. With cross-Gulf ( of Alaska ) services as well as day services, via smaller vessels, the ability to move people and vehicles couldn't be any more convenient. Depending on the vessel, there are many creature comforts such as cabins, restaurants, movie theatres, showers, laundry facilities and more.
The Car Deck
AMHS Vessels Hubbard and Columbia docked
When we originally moved to Alaska from the Lower 48, we opted to put our vehicles and household goods on the TOTE Maritime cargo ferry system which services Alaska, the U.S. Virgin Island and Puerto Rico.
We couldn't have been more pleased with their service.
After dropping off our cars and U-haul with them, we stayed the night in WA and flew out the next day. After just a couple of days or hanging out and seeing the sights, we met up with our valuables in the port of Anchorage.
The process was seamless and we highly recommend their services.
When travelling again years later, we opted to sail , along with our vehicle, via AMHS on a cross-gulf sailing
from Whittier, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington on the
AMHS's MV Kennicott
The AMHS's website was easy to navigate.
After viewing schedules, routes, rates and more, you can book your reservation right there online.
We chose to stay the night before in Whittier, in order to have a more leisurely trip.
***NOTE: When travelling from Anchorage to the Whittier docks, you must pass through the
Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
( 'Whittier Tunnel' )
which accommodates both vehicles and the Alaska Railroad.
Automobile access to the tunnel alternates directions on the half hour.
Therefore, always consult their schedule in order to afford yourself enough travel time.
Likewise, there are fees and vehicle size restrictions to consider.
So do your homework.
Boarding was seamless and the staff, friendly.
And the five-day voyage was breathtaking.
The intercom informed us that the staff conducts regular drills that happened to fall on the date we were sailing.
The evacuation horn blew!
Staff put on their gear and went through the manuvers of letting down the life rafts to practice their drills.
Since internet was often unavailable -- a very welcome reprieve for many -- it was difficult to know your location at any given moment. So many people could be found consulting this wall of 'Old School' maps, combined with current tech, which kept passengers informed of the ship's real time location as they crawl down the coast.
South Central Alaska
Dutch Harbor / Unalaska
Eagle and Seagull
soaring over the port
Pulling into ports, passengers have the option to disembark the vessel or stay aboard.
The hustle bustle was picture-worthy:
Pulling in to the port in Juneau -- the state capital
The Life of Boats and Barges
Staff person goes fishing for the rope to tie the ship to the dock
By far, our most prized moments were at dawn and dusk.
Views that fill the mind with awe and wonder...
Alaska Marine Highway System
7559 N. Tongass Highway
Ketchikan, Alaska 99901