By Gretchen Wehmhoff
In a weather driven event of “Who’s on First,” Skagway’s school superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran had to find a way to get the basketball teams back from Haines, and over 80 robotics participants back to the hub of Juneau after the scheduled Sunday ferry canceled it’s hour-long trip to Skagway from Haines due to strong winds.
Driving to or from Haines wasn’t an option as the road from the US Canada border to Haines Junction has been and continued to be closed.
Coughran arranged with Allen Marine out of Juneau to make the trip stopping in Haines both ways.
The Hubbard had been canceled twice due to weather earlier in the week, leaving a backlog of Skagway and Haines residents stuck in Juneau.
On Friday, Dec. 15, the Hubbard was able to sail up northern Lynn Canal.
“It was packed,” said Skagway bookstore owner, Jeff Brady.
Brady had been in Juneau for medical appointments and had planned on flying back, but the weather wasn’t looking good there either.
The ferry carried high school wrestlers to Haines and over 80 students and coaches headed to a robotics tournament in Skagway.
Brady took it all in stride.
“It’s part of living here,” he said.
Brady said even with the cancellations due to weather, the ferry service has improved.
“The ferry schedule right now is good. It’s the best we’ve had in the winter in years, but these weather issues are messing with it,” he said.
Two days later when everyone needed to go home, the weather was still uncooperative.
The Allen Marine vessel came in on Monday to get everyone back to the right place. Justin Jarvis of Allen Marine said they would not have ventured out on Sunday.
“We were able to do it because we had an available crew during the winter, and it was good weather on Monday,” said Jarvis.
Coughran put a notice out to the community Sunday afternoon letting them know they could get on the boat if they needed, but priority would be for the students headed home. His note also asked for donations to assist in the cost of the charter. He was on the phone with coaches, the Haines superintendent and the marine company.
Public Information Officer for Alaska DOT&PF Sam Dapcevich doesn’t believe it’s likely that AMHS will be picking up any costs. AMHS has a contract with Goldbelt Transportation for the northern Lynn Canal and with Allen Marine for other areas such as Pelican.
Dapcevich said that communities can contact AMHS and request a charter, then AMHS checks with the company to see if it’s available, and if so, the reservation and booking process goes through the AMHS site.
Choosing to sail in certain weather conditions is usually left to the captain of the vessel. The winds in Skagway can make docking difficult, said Dapcevich.
Jarvis, who was on the Allen Marine boat said they took eight passengers to Haines, 44 to Skagway and brought 82 back from Skagway to Juneau.
Later in the week robotics coaches Andy and Mindy Miller along with their daughter, Chloe, drove vehicles onto the Hubbard that had been left behind by the robotics teams. They would be driven off the ferry by the owners in Juneau.
In the end, the bases were empty and all the teams were on Home.