Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry) with Dog - Fiberglass RV
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Old 01-11-2021, 10:08 AM   #1
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Alaska Marine Highway (Ferry) with Dog

Covid & an open Canadian border permitting, we're planning to take our Escape 19'er up to and tour Alaska this upcoming summer season. We've driven both routes (the Alaskan Hiway & Cassiar) as far as Whitehorse in the past, so to maximize our time in Alaska proper, we're thinking of taking the Alaska Marine Highway ferry either up from Bellingham to Haines, or down from Haines to Bellingham.

I understand that our 14-1/2 yr old Shar-Pei would have to stay in the camper and only be allowed to walk on the vehicle deck at certain times. Also, no doubt get off the ferry during its brief stops in the southeastern Alaskan towns.

If you've taken your trailer & dog on the ferry, I'd like to hear about your experience doing that.

Thank you, in advance for your thoughts.
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Old 01-12-2021, 01:14 PM   #2
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Alaska Marine Highway

Hi Greg,

Lots of "ifs" here! The biggest is of course if Canada opens their borders. Aside from that... In a normal year, you need to book very early to get a place on the longer-distance ferries. And the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system is under-funded and neglected; most of the ferries are 50 years old and are sometimes unexpectedly sidelined for repairs, causing cancellations or delays.

We haven't taken our Scamp on the Alaska ferry, but we did take our truck from Prince Rupert to Haines a couple of years ago, and we regularly take our cat in the car on the ferry from Homer to Seldovia. Typically you're only allowed on the car deck while the ferry is in port. My wife tells me they did allow access a couple of times while we were underway from Prince Rupert, but I don't know if you can count on it. On the trip from Prince Rupert, we got off in several towns for a walk; in Sitka we had enough time to catch a shuttle into town for a couple of hours. You might book your trip with a stopover or two for a couple of days. I'd consider Sitka, maybe Wrangell or Ketchikan.

Ken Morton, Anchorage
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Old 01-12-2021, 01:44 PM   #3
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Depending on your driving style, you really won't save a lot of time. We personally found travel times on the Alcan, both the Cassiar and the main highway, to be surprisingly good. In addition, much like the airlines, you have to adhere to their schedule, reducing departure options. Finally, although it is considered to traverse the inland waterway, there are a few spots where you will be "introduced" to open sea travel. Depending on your tendency for sea sickness, it could ruin your trip. Did it once, never again.

While everyone else was amazed by the scenery, since we lived in Western WA for many, many years, the scenery was nice but not unusual. My sea sickness made it memorable.
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Old 01-12-2021, 01:53 PM   #4
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Alaska Marine Highway

Bill is correct on a couple of points. You probably won't get there quicker on the ferry, but I don't think that's the point. I assume you want to see some new territory. You might consider driving to or from Prince Rupert as we did. You'll save some money on the cost of the ferry, and you'll avoid the big stretch of open ocean north of Vancouver Island.
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Old 01-12-2021, 02:15 PM   #5
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I looked into it but too cost prohibitive for us.
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Old 01-12-2021, 05:17 PM   #6
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Dogs on Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

On the longer runs between ports, sometimes you are allowed to take your dog for a walk on the vehicle deck. They have an area with artificial carpet for you dog to do it's duty, and you have to clean up. BUT, if the weather is bad and the ship is rocking, they may not allow you on the vehicle deck. Can you dog hold everything for 24 hours or more? If not get prepared to possible have to clean up inside you trailer.



I've made the inside passage trip several times, and on sunny days the scenery is beautiful, and a good change of see various whale species. But it often rains, so bring your heavy rain gear, and towels to dry off your dog when you have been walking the dog in port.


You must be able to accurately drive your TV and trailer in a very confined space, including backing up. If very bad weather is expected, the ferry crew will chain down all vehicles to reduce their bouncing around. Think ahead of time how you want chains on your tow vehicle and trailer to you can tell the crew what are good hard points for the chain and binders. If the weather is forecast as only a little choppy or nice they do not chain down the vehicles, and only ask that you set the emergency brakes.


Be sure to disconnect the trailer's electric plug on the TV. Depends on the ferry route you take, it maybe parked there a few days. Put a sticky note on your steering wheel to remind you to reconnect before getting ready to drive off. You do not want a dead TV battery when you are directed to start the TV to drive off.


The ferry price for TV, trailer, state room and meals exceed the cost of driving either the Cassiar or the Alcan, but with nice weather the trip will be memorable. Another reply mentioned to make reservations months in advance so you will not have a choice on weather. I have found it easier to get shorter trip reservations and spend a few days in the towns along the way. Most of the towns have campgrounds nearby so you can use your trailer, but some of the smaller towns do not. I have easily spent several days each in Juneau, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Ketchikan. I last took the ferry in 2017, and since then our Alaskan governor has vetoed much of the ferry operating budgets. Some towns have lost ferry service for over 6 months. If you are visiting some of the towns, check before you get off a ferry that the next ferry is still scheduled to take you away. Many people have been stranded, had to fly out and leave their vehicles behind. If you have a dog, will a plane be able to take a kennel, and at what cost? Some people have had to charter float planes to leave a town as not all towns have run ways for wheeled airplanes.


This reply is getting long, so I'll quit for now.
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Old 01-12-2021, 09:09 PM   #7
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Wow,, a person has to REALLY want it!!
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Old 01-12-2021, 10:03 PM   #8
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Thank you for all the information, gentlemen.

By the way... I'm not a "virgin" traveler to Alaska, I've actually been up 10 times. The first time up in 1979, I rode (camped) in the solarium on the Columbia. A wonderful trip. I've canoed / kayaked multi-week trips in the Brooks Range, Katmai, Wood River Tikchik, Prince of Wales Is. All trips planned & executed my/ourselves. No guides. Friends and I bare boat charted Nordic Tugs in SE Alaska several times. I've flown to and in Alaska in commercial & spent two weeks flying up around and back in a private aircraft too.

But even with all that, or maybe because of all that, I know there's still a lot to learn.

I know the ferry's expensive as I had made ferry reservations last year for the Haines / Bellingham route (yes, super early right after they posted their summer schedule), but of course the coronavirus got in the way. (I have the ferry bookmarked and check for its calendar daily to catch the summer schedule early.)

I'll have to look at the Prince Rupert - Alaska option. Thank you. I hadn't thought of that, haven't been in Prince Rupert, though I've seen it off in the distance from the air. I doubt our dog would "appreciate" being stuck in the trailer for 24 hrs, so that could be the non-starter. And of course, I hadn't thought about chaining down the vehicles, but that makes sense at least for the Dixson Sound crossing. I'll have to investigate how long the crossing would be from Prince Rupert.

Thank you, again. Your comments & thoughts are much appreciated.

Oh... And you might ask... Why's does a guy who's boated, kayaked, flown, & hiked Alaska from the north to the southwest to the southeast want to drive... Well... Because I haven't done that yet! :-)
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Old 01-13-2021, 09:28 AM   #9
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In that case, do it without a dog, and go as passengers, fly home, and you've done it. Or round trip it from Prince Rupert, leave your vehicle there, board your dog at kennel.

You will have the same experience without the issues. My dog would not enjoy living in the car for many hours each day, alone. Dogs tend to be pack animals and want to be with their pack. My dog would be miserable with this situation.
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:48 PM   #10
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Alaska Marine Highway

Regarding Prince Rupert and the time for crossing Dixon Entrance, I looked at the time stamps on my photos. We checked in at the Prince Rupert ferry terminal about 5:00 AM and had the truck on board by 7:00 AM. Looks like we were underway by about 7:30. We were off the ferry - on foot - in Ketchikan a little past noon. So that's a fairly short leg. We were underway north from Ketchikan by 3:30 PM. There was a nighttime stop in Wrangell, we could have got off but stayed aboard, and we arrived in Sitka about 1:00 PM the following day.

The Dixon Entrance crossing is much shorter than the Queen Charlotte Strait crossing south of Prince Rupert if you were to depart from Bellingham. Queen Charlotte was pretty gnarly when I came up from Seattle many years ago. And if you depart from Bellingham, Ketchikan is still your first stop. I think you could plan multiple stops through SE Alaska to keep time aboard manageable.
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Old 01-14-2021, 10:10 AM   #11
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Excellent information. That's what I'm looking for. Thank you Mr Morton.
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Old 01-14-2021, 10:45 AM   #12
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Alaska Marine Highway

One of the most useful planning tools on the Alaska Marine Highway website is the Sailing Calendar. You can pick a month and a port, and it will give you all the sailings to and from that port. It's bit cumbersome but very complete. Unfortunately, at this time it only goes as far as April which makes summer planning difficult. And for some reason, there seems to be no schedule for Prince Rupert yet. Also as I mentioned in my first reply, the ferry schedules are always subject to change! Here's a link to the Ketchikan page for April to give you an idea of how it works. There's a note at the bottom of the page about the abbreviations.

And about traveling with pets; there isn't an extra charge for pets, but they do want to know that you have one when you make your reservation, I assume for the animal's safety. The website treats pets like a kayak or bike and did ask us once for the extra length of our vehicle due to the pet!

https://www.dot.alaska.gov/oars/rese...n=Get+Schedule
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Old 01-15-2021, 10:35 AM   #13
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Thank you again, Ken.
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Old 01-15-2021, 12:01 PM   #14
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You're most welcome. I hope you're able to put your trip together!
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Old 01-16-2021, 12:51 PM   #15
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Lots. of good tips here from experienced travelers on ferry. I live in Haines, and we have taken our 13’ outback down to Bellingham once. Hated to have the dog in confinement for. the 3-1/2 days, but he survived.
One point not mentioned so far is that the canadian border is closed to the rest of alaska and they are kinda pickey about who gets through. You should call them before completing your plans and get that clarified. We went to Anchorage last year for medical and it was ok, but we couldn’t stop anywhere in canada except for gas, and then they want you to use a card operated pump so you have no contact with the locals. Their phone is: 907-767-5540
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Old 01-16-2021, 01:11 PM   #16
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Dogs on the Ferry

We did this in 2006 with 2 dogs in our Casita. Skagway to Bellingham with stops in Juneau (2 weeks), Ketchikan, and Sitka. One hour dog breaks every 8 hours on the long legs. We reserved staterooms in advance, but they were offering on-board half price rates once we left the dock. All but one were drive throughs. The one back up, the deck hand told me to watch him and not the mirrors. With his direction I was able to back the entire length of the ship and stay in my lane. I thought for the price it was a better deal than one of the cruise ships. We had reservations, but I noticed that the space available lanes were always empty when we pulled out. Can't help you with ship reliability, but if you have time to kill the stops are all worth the visit.
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Old 01-17-2021, 08:32 AM   #17
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Hit and miss

We took the ferry from Bellingham to Skagway in July 2015 for our honeymoon, and then drove around Alaska and yukon and then back down over 3 weeks. This was before we had our trailer. The ferry was relaxing but we had terrible weather (especially for July) - it was packed in and rained the whole time with daytime highs around 10-12 deg C (around 50F). And this was when the west of the west coast and north was having super hot drought weather. Wed definitely do it again though. We stayed a night in Juneau and hoped on the next ferry, which was nice.
Not much to add to this string otherwise - lots of great advice!
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Old 01-17-2021, 04:29 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Ak Ron View Post
Lots. of good tips here from experienced travelers on ferry. I live in Haines, and we have taken our 13 outback down to Bellingham once. Hated to have the dog in confinement for. the 3-1/2 days, but he survived.
One point not mentioned so far is that the canadian border is closed to the rest of alaska and they are kinda pickey about who gets through. You should call them before completing your plans and get that clarified. We went to Anchorage last year for medical and it was ok, but we couldnt stop anywhere in canada except for gas, and then they want you to use a card operated pump so you have no contact with the locals. Their phone is: 907-767-5540
Edit: I remembered that you would have to get BACK from Alaska to home! Entering the border again coming back. That could be the more difficult entry to Canada.
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Old 01-18-2021, 08:41 PM   #19
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Dog on ferry

Our Marine Highway experience; Not being able to take our dog on deck we left him in the car instead of the trailer because he really liked sleeping on our bed. Anyway we came back after the over night on the ferry to find he had eaten the two rear seat belts of the car. He pooped seat belt for a couple of days but otherwise seemed to like the seatbelts.
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Old 01-19-2021, 08:10 AM   #20
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I am gladly taking this all in.

About 5 years ago we flew to Juneau where we spent a bunch of days, then the 8 of us got on a large private yacht and took a most interesting, beautiful and fun trip to Sitka, where we spent another week.

That has been my only trip to Alaska and I definitely plan to do a long trailer trip up to Yukon and Alaska in the future, and would love to do the Marine Highway on the trip back, spending time camping at many stops. I know I won't be able to see all we did from our private yacht trip where we selected our cruise with advice and descriptions from our captain, but I would love to see more of this whole SE Alaska area. Really looking forward to the much of the rest of Alaska too.
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