The Alaska Marine Highway System will inaugurate its fast vehicle ferry service three days per week between Juneau-Petersburg-Wrangell-Ketchikan on Thursday, November 3. The M/V Fairweather will depart Juneau at 8 a.m. on each of its runs and the M/V Chenega will depart Ketchikan at 7:15 a.m. on two of its service days, and 8:15 a.m. on the third. The ferries will meet in Petersburg to trade passengers and vehicles at mid-day. Each ferry will return to its homeport by early evening.
“The basic idea of arranging our fast ferry routes to form a ‘couplet’ that connects at Petersburg is to provide a one-day, express ferry ride between Ketchikan and Juneau,” said Robin Taylor, the state’s director of marine transportation. “We believe this will give much-needed scheduling options to a number of organizations, businesses, schools, and southeast residents.”
The Chenega will stop at Wrangell northbound on its first and third voyages each week and southbound on its second voyage. The Fairweather, in addition to the Juneau-Petersburg schedule, will continue to serve Lynn Canal on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Sitka on Wednesdays.
For the first two weeks
of November, the Juneau-Ketchikan “couplet” will operate on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before shifting to Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting on November 18 and continuing through the end of the winter schedule. The reason for this is that the Fairweather is covering a portion of the M/V LeConte’s Sunday schedule while it is in the shipyard for annual maintenance.
Taylor said that, in addition to trying a new way of deploying the fast vehicle ferries in a more convenient schedule, the ferry system also wants to know exactly how the ferries will handle the notoriously rough wintertime seas of Clarence Strait and Stephens Passage. “The Southeast Alaska Transportation
Plan calls for the use of a total of three fast vehicle ferries, and we need to know if they will work as planned before we buy anymore of them,” Taylor said.