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Old 02-23-2013, 11:08 AM   #16
Back in Alaska!
THogland's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Wasilla-ish, Alaska
Oddometer: 53
Ferry adventure info

Originally Posted by Steve907AK View Post
Does anyone have any recommendations regarding the quickest ferry to the lower 48? I've looked at the schedule online and it seems a bit confusing. Looking to go this summer but I want to get down there as quickly as possible on the ferry. Any recommendations? Thanks
Having done all this research over multiple days earlier this month, I've got some info I can share.

I was planning a RT, starting in Wasilla and ending in Salmon, ID (just south of Missoula, MT), so my route was biased towards driving the eastern side of the Alcan. The assumptions I used were that I could ride 500 miles per day and spend $100/day on hotels, meals, etc. on average. (Round numbers are nice for planning ) Leaving July 1st, coming back the 21st (i,.e. either get on a ferry or it the Alcan heading home, vacation over).

Whittier-WA is a twice-per-month deal, on one ferry (and it isn't a fast ferry). Leaves Whittier on the 1st, arrives in WA the 6th; leaves WA the 7th, arrives Whittier the 14th is roughly the schedule. (2nd half of the month, add 15 days to those dates. Results left as an exercise for the reader ) Stops in Yakutat, Juneau and Ketchikan, nowhere else. (So, if you try to add a fast ferry leg, you'll probably end up waiting someplace for a connection.) If you're going round-trip, you pay the vehicle fee and no rider fee, so about $750 each way. (Cabins were another $500-ish.) One way travel adds about $700 to that as well, since you lose the rider discount.

Ferry left late on the 1st and got into WA about 9am the 6th, with ~800 miles to get to Salmon, so I still had two days to go, and would get to Salmon early the 8th; assuming my 500-mile riding average held up, I was leaving Great Falls, MT the morning of the 6th with about 350 miles to go, so would arrive early the 7th.

Total cost (using the numbers above, plus 40mpg and $5/gal average for gas) was about $1100 Wasilla-Salmon on the ferry+interstate, and about $850 riding the whole way (plus one less travel day).

Now, I'm sure *everyone* is yelling at their screens about "unrealistic estimates", and you're correct - guessing you'll be able to ride 500 miles per day on the Alcan with zero problems or delays is slightly optimistic. One day of muddy construction, or a flat that you can't repair, or shitty weather, or whatever, and that extra day is gone, plus it adds $100 to the cost of riding (at my also-slightly-optimistic $100/day average for meals/hotel). Or make it 400 miles/day, and you've added a day to it as well. The ferry is more money, and a bit slower, but it's GOING to arrive at 9 that morning, rain or shine. No flats, no construction, just plugging along at 13 knots. Oh, and you arrive rested and ready to ride. On the other hand, you can start your Alcan ride any day you want, not when the ferry schedule dictates.

I tried shuffling departures, connections, etc. and all I seemed to do was add long delays in the middle of the ferry trip. Didn't manage to change the length of the trip. If you're willing to ride to Haines, you can shorten it a day, assuming you can leave this morning and catch the ferry tomorrow morning, 750 miles away. Optimistic, again, and it didn't save much $$...

If you're trying to end up in Seattle (or close), then the ferry and Alcan are almost identical in time and cost. But, I wasn't trying to get to Seattle, so I didn't do any hard-core number crunching for that route, just some quick estimating.

Hope that helps. If you've got any questions feel free to PM me.

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Old 03-14-2013, 11:13 PM   #17
Some Fear is Good
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Joined: Jan 2007
Location: 45 minutes-North-of-Los Anchorage
Oddometer: 1,087
Bringing four wheels north in June on Ferry

Doing the family adventure in June. Flying to Kansas to pick up my new 4x4 cage (long story, special order). Driving west via Moab, GSL, Bonnie Salt Flats, Bend, OR, and a few other stops. Heading to Bellingham to catch the ferry north. Due to my current employment, I'll get to ride for free, to include up to 19' of vehicle (perks, people, perks!). The bride and Jr have to pay their own way. We'll hop off in Haines and finish the drive from there to see a bit of the highway.

When we figured in costs of driving the Cassier vs Ferry (to include my freebie ride), it damn near equaled out! Oh well, we'll bring our new DSLR and a couple good books.

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