With no road system connecting many coastal communities in the Last Frontier, the Alaska Marine Highway is the unusual roadway of the North. This fleet of ferries begins in Bellingham, Washington, and serves 30 communities between Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and the Aleutian Chain. The marine road stretches 3,500 miles, traveling through the Inside Passage and Prince Williams Sound and reaching as far out as Unalaska. It’s even considered part of the national highway system.
The Alaska Marine Highway has nine vessels—four mainline ferries and five day boats or shuttles. Mainline ships cruise the extended voyages and have cabins with full bathrooms, recliner lounges, and solariums. The day boats or shuttles run shorter routes. Each mainline ferry and most of the day ferries include cafeterias, viewing rooms, and movie areas.
Alaska glaciers inspired the names of all the ships. During our 20 years in Alaska, we traveled on the Malaspina, Columbia, Matanuska, Kennicott, Aurora, and Taku.
Vessels also include a car deck to haul cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles, and freight. Ferry workers direct traffic entering and exiting the vessel. Periodically, the car deck is open for a short time on the mainline voyages for passengers to retrieve items from their vehicles and care for pets.
Now, for the rest of the Alaskan story.
I write stories for Alaska Bush Life based on my experiences living in remote Alaska. To read my entire story, check out my memoir, The Call of the Last Frontier: The True Story of a Woman’s Twenty-Year Alaska Adventure. Autographed copies are available on my author website at www.MelissaCook.us.
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