May 16, 2015

Catching the Ferry to Ketchikan

Since our ferry departure was moved back four-and-a-half hours, we were able to get a good night’s sleep and awake at 6:30 am, instead of the dreaded 2:00 am.  Although 6:30 am is still a bit early for us, it sure beat the alternative!  We drove all of five minutes to the ferry terminal at Prince Rupert and pulled the RV into line before our 8:00 am check-in time.  We weren’t sure what to expect, so we just stood around for a bit and waited for instruction.

The first order of business was having the RV measured.  Ferry rates are based in part on the length of the vehicle, and we had paid for 24 feet.  It turns out that we are 23 feet-6 inches.  No refund however, as lengths are broken down only by feet!  The agent also noted that we had propane on board, as well as a cat.

We were instructed to walk down to the Alaska Marine Highway System terminal to pick up our tickets and check in.  That was easy, and we were able to get our tickets for most of the remaining segments of the trip.  It was then back to the RV to wait for the signal to drive forward.

Tickets in Hand, Ready to Sail

Another agent verified that we had shut off our propane tank and taped the door shut.  Because we knew ahead of time that we would not have propane to run the refrigerator, we had consumed all of our frozen foods and had placed the refrigerated items in a cooler with ice.  We thought of trying to run the refrigerator on battery power, but figured we’d try that on a shorter sailing.  Even small refrigerators are such battery hogs.

Next it was time for U.S. Customs, which was a relatively painless process.  The agent looked at our passports and Kitty’s health certificate and asked us a few questions.  Poultry and poultry products are the big no-no right now, but we had none on board, and we were cleared to go.

Next we were assigned to a lane to wait our turn to board the ferry.  It was interesting to witness the actual loading process and guess who would be loaded next.  Length appeared to be the deciding factor, and vehicles seemed to be picked at random from the various lanes.  When we were directed to move forward, it was just for us to get out of the way while other vehicles drove on board.  It was finally our turn, and we easily made our way to our spot on the car deck.  We had to leave Kitty behind in the RV, as we headed out to explore the ship.  Passengers are not permitted to remain in their vehicles while the ship is underway.

Boarding the Ferry

Snug on the Car Deck

Cars, trucks and truck campers were well-represented on the ferry, and many had either Alaska or British Columbia license plates.  There were only a handful of RVs on our sailing.  We learned that many of the young people heading to Alaska were on their way to summer jobs.  The season is just getting started.

Although it was cloudy when we left Prince Rupert, the sun came out for much of the day, and it was smooth sailing all the way.  Once again, we lucked out with a beautiful day.

M/V Matanuska

Smooth Sailing

Watching the Scenery

Approaching Ketchikan

Ketchikan Harbor

We docked in Ketchikan and watched as the vehicles in front of us make a right turn to exit on the side of the ferry.  Since it was already after 4:00 pm, we decided to stop for a few groceries and head directly to the campground.

After we had booked our ferry reservations in January, I went ahead and made campground reservations for all of the cities where we would be stopping.  I usually don’t make reservations, especially that far in advance, but there are only a handful of campgrounds available, plus we had a fixed schedule that was not likely to change.

For Ketchikan, I booked us into the Clover Pass Resort, which is located about 14 miles from the downtown area and is the only commercial campground in Ketchikan.  In January, we had no idea that we would have solar panels and a lithium battery and figured that hookups would be the way to go.  

Another selling point for Clover Pass Resort is that it is located directly on the water.  We splurged for a waterfront site, and I’m so glad that we did.  Our view is fabulous, and we enjoyed a relaxing evening gazing out at the water.  A beautiful sunset was a fitting end to this great day.  Welcome to Alaska!

A Waterfront Site

The View Outside Our Window

I Am a Happy Camper

Alaskan Sunset


  1. Beautiful sunset! Just started reading your blog. We plan to get up to AK in our motorhome in a few years and any tips we get from your blog will be useful in our planning. Have a wonderful time ... we love AK.

    1. Thank you and welcome to the blog. Alaska is such an amazing place, and so unlike any other I've visited. I'll make sure to include any tips that might be helpful for others who will be making the journey at a later date.

  2. Have bookmarked your blog so I can follow your Alaska trip. Great recaps. One off subject question though. We also have a sprinter van and our manual indicates the propane should be off while driving. You mentioned you mostly emptied your fridge knowing your propane would be off. Now to my question. Do you typically turn off your propane while driving and how do you keep your food cold.

    1. Thanks for following along with us. I hope you enjoy the ride! That's a very good question about turning the propane off while driving. There is a great debate among all RVers about the subject. To be very safe, propane should be shut off. However, many folks leave it on, and that's what we've been doing for years. We try to remember to turn it off while filling up at gas stations, however.

      Many people who do turn off propane run their refrigerators on battery power while driving, since the alternator is charging the batteries. That's an alternative, but we would often forget to switch to propane when we stopped for sightseeing, etc. That can drain your batteries quickly. You might want to test out this option and hang some kind of reminder to yourself to make the switch.

      We will continue to leave the propane on, although we just found out that our new lithium batteries can run the refrigerator for a very long time.

  3. Beautiful campground. I haven't seen a sunset yet - they are happening at 11:30 or so now. Sunrise is around 5AM - when do birds sleep?

  4. The campground was nice, but the best thing about it was the view from the waterfront sites. Your sunsets are occurring much later than the ones in Southeast Alaska. But, the light wakes me up at 4:00 am. Good question about the birds!


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