Alaska Marine Highway and Bikes

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by Scoutman, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Scoutman

    Scoutman Master of Ale

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    The tail end of our AK run this summer will include some time on the ferry out of Haines. Having never done any boat travel with the bike, I am curious how it works. Do they load the motorcycles first so they are first off? Can you get your bike off at any port along the way, or are you stuck on the boat the whole time? For instance, if you buy passage all the way to Bellingham, can you get your bike off at Prince Rupert if you change your mind and decide to ride the rest of the way south? Any firsthand experience would be greatly appreciated!
    #1
  2. KHuddy

    KHuddy Big Sky Country

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    When we took the ferry from Bellingham to Haines they loaded the bikes last. I've heard others say they went on first. We were the first off at Haines. The stops we made were in the 2-3 hour time-frame. Not enough time to get the bike off; I doubt they will let you do so in any case. Except for the stop in Juneau the ferry stops close enough to the towns to allow you a quick walk around. These are small places and some stops may be in the wee hours of the night, so you may not have much to see. We enjoyed the trip, but were we to do it again I would limit the trip to sailing from Haines to just Prince Rupert. I would not risk on being able to change your mind about your point of disembarkation without having a talk with the ferry folks. My guess is you can get off wherever you like, but getting a refund is a different story.

    There is a good thread about the Marine Highway on this sub-forum. I can't find the address, but will look for it: someone will provide it I'm sure.

    EDIT: Here it is: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=306558

    You'll love the ride and will get a glimpse of a part of Alaska that is beautiful and difficult to see in any other way.
    #2
  3. friar mike

    friar mike IronButtGruver

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    from what I have experience the Alaska ferry system is not that bike friendly or cheep no discounts at all. Unlike England when I lived there the ferry system is bike friendly and half price fairs same for toll bridges and parking. Iam not saying the people aren't friendly just the cost and the way things are done.
    #3
  4. KHuddy

    KHuddy Big Sky Country

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    Yup, they charged us the same for a bike as a car and then put several bikes in a space that was unusable for a car..... :huh Still it was worth doing once.
    #4
  5. Scoutman

    Scoutman Master of Ale

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    I am definitely going to put in a call to the ferry folks to get the skinny, but this info helps alot. Thanks a bunch for the link!!! I searched in the AK sub forumn, but didn't think to search elsewhere. I assume that bikes are charged the 10' and under rate, which is quite expensive. That being said, the difference in the cost of sailing to Bellingham vs Prince Rupert is only a couple hundred dollars. The boat to B-ham leaves on Monday night vs a Thursday afternoon departure to P.R, so if they will let us off someplace along the way, it would be worth a couple of hundred to get 3 more days in AK.
    #5
  6. RUOK

    RUOK no, no I guess not

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    Yes they do charge the car rate for bikes. It cost me $815.00 for me and my bike to go from Haines to Bellingham in 2010, that's not including a room. I put my sleeping bag on a deck chair in the solarium. It's not cheap but I thought it was a neat experience, the solarium is heated and has glass all around you and is open to the back of the boat. You get to see a lot of wildlife, and scenery, plus you'll meet a lot of interesting people. I had a couple of cold wet days of riding to get to the ferry and really enjoyed relaxing under the heaters and enjoying the sights. Bringing your own tie-downs would be good idea, they have some, but there in pretty rough shape, they really jam bikes into a tight space close to each other, but they all seemed to ride well. Your only allowed access to your vehicle at certain times so it's good to bring up all the gear your going to need early on. As was mentioned earlier the port stops were short, usually just enough time to get off and look around town for awhile, and some are at night, I don't think the let you take off your vehicle and bring it back on. Overall I enjoyed it, it was a nice way to wrap the Alaska experience.
    #6
  7. Scoutman

    Scoutman Master of Ale

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    After talking with the ferry lady this morning, I found out the See AK special will run again this summer. Basically, If you sail out of Haines southbound, or Prince Rupert northbound, you are allowed 3 stops along the way for $160 bucks!

    https://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/specials_summer.shtml

    She advised that it is better to utilize this package, which gives you lots of different options, rather than booking for the trip all the way to Bellingham and trying to con your bike off the boat along the way. She also recommended that your tie downs be at least 12 feet in length and that three straps are better than two. Very nice people!
    #7
  8. vtbob

    vtbob wanderer

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    I guess things have changed on the Alaska Marine Highway....Bike are cheaper than cars

    Here are the cost for my reservation between Haines and Bellingham in June

    Me...over 65 $325
    Bike (under 10 feet) $462
    2 berth room $393


    They say you have to bring your own tied downs...may be true for alaska, but on other ferry's across the St Larwrence, to PEI and both ferry to NFL they had plenty of ropes you could borrow.

    NOTE most do NOT let you get back to you bike after leaving port. On the 20hr plus NFL they did have 30 minute group access at one point.

    hope this helps
    #8
  9. Gezerbike

    Gezerbike Hey Rocky...........

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    Since you're going up there anyway, why not get a copy of the Milepost. It has a ferry schedule and has a rate chart and you can use both to plan your trip.
    #9
  10. jjewell

    jjewell GrizzledDuc

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    For real world information call Denny at the skagway ferry terminal .
    He is a fellow inmate. 907-983-2941
    #10
  11. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

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    Thanks Kevin for linking to this thread a few of us locals wrote, including an inmate who works on the ferries: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=306558

    The above link to the ferry thread has a lot of good info about riding our ferry system. The first post of the thread strongly encourages people to NOT go all the way in or out of Bellingham but rather go in or out of Prince Rupert BC instead. Also recommended is NOT paying for a berth but instead just camping up on the Solarium on fully reclining lounge chairs under radiant heaters in the ceiling.

    Mark H.
    #11
  12. Kul Mom

    Kul Mom aka sKul Marm

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    Scoutman-
    Over the last 10 years or so I have had the great fortune of taking the Alaska Ferry almost every year. (I LOVE the ferry!) Here are some random shots:
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Waiting in line in Haines on my way to Mt. Rushmore last summer.
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    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>

    Tied down on the Columbia.
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    Tied down on the Columbia on the return trip home.
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    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>

    NorthernBoxer’s new GS and my R1200R tied down on the Columbia summer before last on our way to Redmond for the Rally.
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    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>

    I always carry my own tie downs. Sometimes they load the bikes first, sometimes last. It just depends on the crew. Sometimes they put all the bikes in the bow and sometimes interspersed with the cars and trucks.
    -KM<o:p></o:p>
    #12
  13. NorthernBoxer

    NorthernBoxer Fükengrüven

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    #13
  14. gharnden

    gharnden Been here awhile

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    The ferry from Haines to Prince Rupert is great. I did it in 2009 and again in 2011. Yes, take straps, long straps (tie-downs). If possible get off and spend the night or two in one of the small towns and catch another ferry on the day you want to continue. The Fast Ferries are well worth the money. For example, take the fast ferry from Juneau to Sitka, spend a night or two in Sitka and continue on with another ferry. Sitka is a wonderful small town. The ferry was an added bonus to our trip. We loved it, especially after riding from south central US to Fairbanks and down to Haines. It was a great break with beautiful scenery. Haines and Sitka were our two favorite towns, especially since the large cruise ships do not go there.
    #14
  15. legion

    legion Spider Bark

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    Last time I rode onto the fairy in Valdez the deck hand tossed me a section of what looked like clothesline that was about 12' long. She said "tie up"... and walked off.

    Bringing your own tie downs is critical.
    #15
  16. Baja1k4life

    Baja1k4life Never Stop Exploring

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    Several of the ferry's have a small side "tunnel" area that they like to put very small cars in or often times, bikes. But as you have already probably seen, it depends on the amount of bikes traveling.

    Also, it is crucial you carry your own straps!!

    Lastly, make sure you grab a burger at 33 mile cafe/grill just outside of Haines. Just ask where 33 mile is.
    Their double 33 miler I believe it is called is GREAT!

    And make sure you go see the bears out by Chilkoot lake! (Also in Haines)
    #16
  17. twinotterdriver

    twinotterdriver n00b

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    In 09 and coming up this summer I rode the ferry a lot with my 79 BMW. One thing that I found out was that people on the telephone gave the strictest answer or interpretation of rules concerning bikes. 09 was a slow year for tourism so there was gobs of room on the car decks and PAX decks.

    The deck hands were handing out ferry owned ratchet straps like candy; sounds like that may have changed. Deck hands said there is always room for one more bike so if you can buy passage they will get your bike on. The people on the telephone will not tell you that. People at the ferry office at the departure dock will sort of confirm this.

    The only way to get off the ferry with you bike is to have a layover and boat change or to book the SAP and plan to spend some real time in the SE communities. Towns like Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and to a bit lesser degree Sitka suffer from the cruise boat plegue where up to 12,000 people a day can decend upon a town.......hard to see or feel the "fabric" of the local culture. On the other hand Haines, Petersburg and Wrangell have few if any cruise boats and are true Alaskan communities. Almost no one from the cruise boats overnights on land so most of the towns have an evening respite.

    A great ferry trip is the North Gulf ferry that goes from Prince Rupert to Whittier. It has it all plus you "get" to travel through the Whittier railroad tunnel to Portage a not soon to be forgotten experience. It's pricey but it can mean you don't have to do the Alcan both ways. The ferry is more like a mix of a Hostel and a Greyhound Bus on the water than a cruise ship.

    Twinotterdriver
    79 R100s
    06 V-Strom 1000
    #17
  18. gharnden

    gharnden Been here awhile

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    I went to the Alaska Ferry site and could not find a schedule called the North Gulf Ferry that goes from Prince Rupert to Whittier as talked about in the post above this? I assume this would be a combination of Ferries, is that correct.
    #18
  19. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

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    Click on 'Cross Gulf Schedules' here: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/schedule_pdf.shtml

    I, for one, don't recommend this sailing unless you really want to just hang out on a boat for 4 1/2 days. IMO long trip, expensive, and it's aboard a ferry with the least amount of passenger convenience.

    Good luck and have fun, Mark H.
    #19
  20. Glacier Pilot

    Glacier Pilot Been here awhile

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    I just took the Columbia from Juneau to Ketchikan, with a full car deck and there was lots of space for bike up in the bow section were it curves in. I was the forward car and there was lots of room left in front. The bull rail is the tie down point on this side.

    [​IMG]


    The orange circle is the tie down on the other side. The chains in the picture are for lashing down semi trailers.
    [​IMG]

    My bike tied down.... to my car.
    [​IMG]


    The cross gulf ferries the Tustumena and the Kenicott that due the cross gulf have a rail system welded to the deck that cars straddle and EVERTHING is tied down with 4 chains to the deck.
    #20