Canceled ferry sailing costs tourist $1,000, says governor should support a new ship

Last year, I wanted to visit a few small towns in Alaska, traveling aboard the state ferries. I liked it very much and even though catching a ferry at 4 a.m. was inconvenient, I loved traveling with the locals. I met so many wonderful people, including a few who just helped prevent me from being a homeless tourist.

I made the decision to return to Alaska this summer without using a plane. This was quite an adventure to plan considering I live on the New Jersey shore. The summer ferry schedule was very late this year, and I could not make lodging reservations and plan my trip until I had a transportation schedule.

On March 7, I had my first major disappointment when I realized there would be no ferry service from Juneau to Yakutat to Whittier. I would not be able to visit the Hubbard Glacier, nor take the 26-glacier cruise out of Whittier nor visit towns on the Kenai Peninsula. I had hoped to ride “Rusty Tusty” (the Tustumena) to the Aleutian Islands. My dream trip was drastically changed.

Within hours I had to replan my entire trip around the Inside Passage. I made arrangements to ship my car to Bellingham, Washington, and I made an Alaska Marine Highway System reservation northbound on the Columbia for May 5. I went cross country on Amtrak.

I allocated three months for this trip, and it started very well in Sitka, Haines, Skagway and then Juneau. But then I learned that a ship had rusty pipes. My first thought was poor old Rusty Tusty, then I found out it was the Columbia. I checked the schedule for my June 27 sailing to Ketchikan from Juneau and it was missing from the calendar. My heart dropped.

I called the next morning and was told all trips were canceled for emergency repairs. The excitement and fun of my trip was gone in an instant. I knew I could get myself out of Juneau, but what about my car? I made a few calls and got prices for shipping by barge. Not only did my temperature rise, but also my trip costs-by over $1,000.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, please call an emergency meeting of the legislative finance committees and get money together for at least one more ship to be built as soon as possible. The Alaska Marine Highway System was never meant to be profitable — it’s a water highway for the residents of the Inside Passage, and an absolute necessity. It’s costly for residents to fly and then rent a vehicle to just go to a doctor’s appointment.

Don’t make us beg you to fill the potholes on the Alaska Marine Highway.

Regina Discenza

Forked River, New Jersey


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