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North to the future

February 3, 2012
At the terminal

It's Friday, which means the Alaska Ferry is in port (Orin O'Neill photos)

It’s Friday. In Bellingham, that means the Alaska Ferry’s in port.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, nary a cloud in the sky, the temperature 50°F, give or take. And the sun is setting after 5:00 pm!

The new front tire has turned the GTS into a magic carpet, its engine purring contentedly on the way to the Boulevard.

The Matanuska

The sky was blue, the water was bluer. The M/V Matanuska, like all the vessels of the Alaska Marine Highway System, has a dark blue hull. FWIW.

I forget how long ago the Alaska ferry terminal moved from Seattle to Bellingham. When I most recently lived in Seattle, during my walks on the waterfront tourists would stop me and ask where to catch the ferry to Alaska. “You have to go to Bellingham,” I said, “which is about an hour and a half north.” Their faces expressed puzzlement. “I thought Alaska was only an hour or two away,” they said.

No, according to the Alaska Ferry Web site the trip from Bellingham to Ketchikan takes 38 hours. From Seattle, it took longer. I really(, really) don’t understand how anyone can look at a map and think it would only take an hour or two to get to Alaska by ship, but hey.

The Matanuska

This is where I took the picture above. It’s at the end of a long walkway that connects to a trail that runs along Bellingham Bay between Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham.

The South Bay Trail

It’s a nice view. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand why there are so many view condos and apartments.

View condos and apartments

The ferry leaves from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven.

The terminal

It’s part of a transportation hub that includes Amtrak and Greyhound stations, plus a place to catch a WTA bus downtown. It’s even played host to breakfast meetups during previous Hamster Runs.

The Zodiac

The 2-masted schooner Zodiac is on display, as are a number of artifacts curated by the Whatcom Maritime Association. You’ll notice it’s buttoned up for the winter; I would imagine the covering comes off when the weather stays nice.

Fairhaven Shipyard

Bellingham still has a working waterfront. This is part of Fairhaven Shipyard. That’s the bow of the Zodiac in the foreground. There’s a Coast Guard station nearby.

The Matanuska

The Matanuska is rather large. It carries vehicles of all sizes, and there are staterooms that are far more Spartan than you’re likely to find on most cruise ships.

The Matanuska

The vehicle holding area will fill up as the day goes on; the ship will set sail in the late afternoon.

Lots of us talk about taking our scooters on the ferry and riding in Alaska. The fare is less for a scooter than for a car. The Alaska Highway is now all paved, with services every 25-50 miles. It could be done. At the moment, however, all I can do is echo the gull’s wish for a bon voyage.

The Matanuska

As I write this, the mild temperatures and sunshine will persist in Western Washington through the weekend, and beyond. It will be fair-weather rider nirvana, for sure. My friends in Denver, OTOH, still have to deal with winter. My sympathies. Favicon

  1. February 4, 2012 1:40 am

    I can´t imagine riding my scooters in Alaska, it should be a challenge and a pleasure. Nice post !


  2. February 4, 2012 1:02 pm

    Vasco, Alaska is not a frozen wilderness year-round… at least not south of the Arctic Circle. In the summer Fairbanks can see almost 100°F, and there’s a joke about the mosquitoes being so big you can throw a saddle on them! 😉

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