Delays in bringing a highway vessel back to service could prevent communities in southeast Alaska from without ferries for several weeks after New Year’s Eve. The Matanuska was due to resume service in late December, but state officials now say they don’t know when it will be ready.
The Matanuska was initially due to start sailing later this month after coming out of her regular overhaul. Now, local ferry booking offices are advising travelers that their crossings have been canceled. And the AMHS ticketing website does not list any crossings to Lynn’s Upper Canal for all of January and most of February, while its other main vessel, the LeConte, is undergoing overhaul.
Alaska Marine Highway System spokesman Sam Dapcevich told KHNS in an email that additional steel work must be done on the Matanuska before it can be returned to service. But he didn’t say when it would be done.
Meanwhile, ticket agents have phoned passengers to reschedule their trips. Liz Lavoie had booked a new vehicle to ship to Skagway from Bellingham on December 22. But on Friday morning, she got a call from a reservation agent.
“She said, well, I’m sorry to, you know, give you bad news, but the Matanuska was held up longer in the shipyard.” And so the 22nd crossing for which you had a reservation is now canceled. But we’re just going to move you around January 8, which is the next available navigation. And it only goes as far as Haines, but you’ll get a refund of $ 14, ”Lavoie said.
Meanwhile, in Haines, Matt Jillson says he had booked a vacation trip down south. He planned to take the ferry from Haines to Auke Bay and take off from Juneau the same day. But about three weeks ago, he got a call from the Haines ferry terminal telling him his trip had to be rescheduled.
“Since taking our dogs on board in Juneau, seaplanes were not a very good option. So we decided to take the LaConte, which means we’ll have to get off two days before our flight, pay for two hotel nights, and all of the meals and extras you get when you need to spend time in Juneau. , Jillson said.
Jillson seems lucky to be able to travel at all this winter. Other residents of the Upper Lynn Canal, such as Skagway’s Melinda Munson, found out Thursday that trips on the Matanuska had been canceled for January. It was around this time that she planned to take the ferry to Juneau for visits to her children’s dentist and doctor. But without a ferry, she will have to cancel these meetings.
“I have a kid who can’t get on a small plane because he’s autistic, and he rocks back and forth. It is therefore a matter of safety for him and for everyone on the plane. And we were going to make doctor’s appointments. And so that won’t happen either, ”Munson said.
As of Friday afternoon, there was still no official word from the state Department of Transportation regarding the cancellations. Questions to Governor Dunleavy’s office asking why there is no backup in place for Lynn’s Upper Channel went unanswered on Friday afternoon.
Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata said he had been in contact with his counterpart in Haines to see if the boroughs could work together to charter private vessels, especially for traveling high school sports teams. But he says communities in Lynn’s Upper Canal have already been set ablaze. Last year Skagway chartered a private catamaran with the understanding that the state would help pay, but they haven’t received anything yet.
“So, you know, we’re in a situation where we literally find ourselves sticking the bill for something that has been promised to us to be reimbursed by the state,” Cremata said.
Meanwhile, the Tazlina, one of the newer ships on the Alaska Sea Route built to service the Upper Lynn Canal, remains moored in Juneau. CoastAlaska reported earlier this week that the Alaska Marine Highway announced it will not activate the $ 60 million ferry for a short-term replacement.
So, for now, confusion is the only answer offered by the Alaska Sea Route system, giving Upper Lynn Canal residents more anxiety about vacation travel plans.