AMHS ferry service returns to Upper Lynn Canal after 7-week hiatus

Passengers load and unload luggage at the Haines Ferry Terminal. (Photo by Henry Leasia/KHNS)

Travelers in Haines and Skagway boarded the ferry Tazlina last Friday after almost two months without service from the Alaska Marine Highway System.

As the Tazlina made its way up Lutak Inlet, the Haines Ferry Terminal was packed with people. Some were there to pick up friends and family traveling from Juneau. Others were eagerly waiting to leave town.

Jane Pascoe was on her way to Skagway for the Buckwheat International Ski Classic. Pascoe participates in the cross country ski race every year. She said she was a bit worried about making it over from Haines this winter .

“Because we’ve had so little ferry service and this is the first ferry we’ve had in seven weeks,” Pascoe said. “So yeah, we’re excited that the boat is running.”

The Upper Lynn Canal hasn’t had ferry service since the Alaska Marine Highway System’s sole operating mainliner ferry, the Matanuska, broke down. The suspension of service for most of Southeast Alaska left people, cars and goods stranded in different communities across the region.

Haines resident Tom Binder caught the Tazlina last Friday so he could pick up a truck he left in Juneau almost a month ago. Binder had taken the ferry to the city to make a Costco run when the Matanuska broke down and ferry service was suspended. He stayed three weeks before leaving the truck with a friend and heading home.

Binder lives around 29 miles outside of Haines and has been hitchhiking to get around for the past few weeks. He’s had mixed success getting drivers to pull over for him.

“Some days good, some days not so good,” Binder laughs. “About a 20% chance of getting a ride.”

Some residents’ motivations for travelling weren’t so pressing. Haines resident Marian Carlson didn’t have any specific reason for getting out of Haines this weekend. She just needed to escape for a little while.

“I’m just going to Juneau because I can, and I’m taking my car because I can,” Carlson said. “Just hanging out. Get out of Dodge.”

Outside the terminal, people welcomed family home and lugged boxes of groceries from Juneau to their cars. A forklift loaded goods onto a semi truck bound for town.

According to the AMHS schedule, the Tazlina will sail between Juneau, Haines and Skagway twice a week for the month of March, then four times a week in April.