The 'Blue Canoe,' Chilkat ferry has sunk in Anacortes - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, March 5, 2021
HomeAlmanacThe ‘Blue Canoe,’ Chilkat ferry has sunk in Anacortes

The ‘Blue Canoe,’ Chilkat ferry has sunk in Anacortes

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It’s no longer part of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet and hasn’t been for generations, but the old Chilkat ferry continues its journey, for now, underwater. The vessel broke free from its moorings in Anacortes, Wash. on Tuesday during a major storm that came through the area. It drifted into the Guemes Island Ferry Dock and sank there.

A second vessel, the former U.S. Coast Guard cutter Acushnet, broke loose of its moorings but was secured at the Port of Anacortes.

The Chilkat was the first ferry built for what would later become known as the Alaska Marine Highway System. It was originally built to serve downtown Juneau to other Lynn Canal communities, and had a bow ramp allowing for 15 vehicles, which could be offloaded on undeveloped beaches or at a dock. It carried 59 passengers and frequented upper Lynn Canal communities such as Hoonah, Haines, and Skagway, but also went to Ketchikan.

Known as the “Blue Canoe,” it was sold by the State in 1988 and has been passed through a handful of owners.

In 2012, the Chilkat was purchased from a private party and incorporated into Island Scallops’ operation as a tender.

For now, the hull of the vessel is visible at low tide and appeared on a vessel radar. According to Lovric’s Sea-Craft, the vessels broke free from their moorage when half of the facility’s floating breakwater took on water and sank, sending storm waves into the sheltered area where boats were moored.

“It was one of the worst storms we’ve seen yesterday in years! We are fortunate that nobody was hurt and that no pollution has occurred. We are working on raising the vessel and getting our facility back on track,”  the company wrote on Facebook.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Actually the Chilkat did not serve downtown Juneau but came in at Tee Harbor about 18 miles north of town on a gravel beach. Many of us remember returning to Juneau on it.

  • I have some great memories of that ole boat….in 1963 she sailed from Juneau with Nena Egan and Bob Barttlet’s wife on board to help paint the car deck at it traveled to Cordova. I along with a bunch of folks from Cordova boarded for the its first trip to Valdez and what a trip that was..Don Van Brocklen drove his station wagon car on to the ferry in Cordova filled with adult beverages which we all drank up on the way to Valdez and Al Bransted did a spot on the 6 PM Anchorage news from the Prince William Sound as we crossed and when we got to Valdez they had a party going on at the Eagles where we all drank more and danced into the early hours and the ferry left back to Cordova later that morning with the new fire Truck for Cordova. Most of us got some much need rest on the return trip to Cordova…

  • I traveled a few times on the old “Chilly-Kat” we’d call it, about 40 years ago. RIP Chilkat.

  • We seriously considered purchasing her again for replacement service after the M/V LeConte grounding, but it would have taken too long and cost too much to have brought her up to passenger carrying standards again.

    • Can the Chilkat hold 60 people? Raise her and let the Alaska Legislature hold Session onboard. Or, bring in scuba gear and hold Session underwater where we can’t hear them.

  • Something that size is closer to what the Ferry system should be running for most routes.

  • That picture tugged at my heart strings! I remember a trip to Hoonah aboard the Chilkat, must have been, 69′ or 70′. It was the third of July and since there was a seine opening on the fourth the Hoonah community leaders decided to have the celebration on the third. What a great time!

  • The Chilkat traveled from Cordova to Valdez for our high school basketball games, i think it was a 10 to 12 hour trip. Needless to say we were exhausted when we got there
    Not to mention the games.
    I spent a lot of time on the Chilkat….

  • I bid on the Acushnet when it was sold by the GSA. What is it doing in Anacotes?

    • Maybe being scrapped. I remember the old coast guard cutter ironwood during the last couple of years of its service. It pulled into perryville Beach and radioed if anybody was awake early that Sunday morning. We were because the Chiefs were playing the raiders. I went down and picked them up in the school truck and the captain and some of the crew came over and we had chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate while we watch the Chiefs game. A couple years later I think it was sold to Ecuador some damn place like that.

  • Aqua-culture is one of the major industries, along with marijuana, arctic data storage, glu-lam beams, seed potatoes, rare earths, NS gas to direct current power, and the Pebble Mine that will supposedly come on stream tomorrow to allow the Alaska economy to meet its huge obligations. So turning the ferries into shrimp farms is a great idea. Every day the ferries are afloat costs the state money it doesn’t have.

  • I rode on the Chilkat into Hollis on prince of Wales island. My dad was chief engineer for Alaska marine hwys.

  • It also made voyages between Ketchikan and Hollis(POW Island). Rode on it a few times i the late 80’s. Bobbed around like the S.S. Minnow.

  • Joker brilliant idea. Legislature looking for place to meet.
    Raise the Chilkat – Bon Voyage

  • I rode the Chilkat many times as a high school student going back and forward to Cordova in the early 70’s. Can’t say I missed that ride.

    I was at the boat yard mentioned in the story in 2017 and recognized the Chilkat right away, I told the owner of the yard of my experience with the Chilkat. The yard was in the process of changing the boat so much that it was almost unrecognizable. They had cut away all the cabin except for the pilot house and much of the sides of the car deck were gone, it looked like a barge. If wasn’t for that blue paint and the shape of the pilot house you would have never guessed it was the Chilkat. That yard has very interesting features if you like boats, years and years ago they floated in a large sailing ship to act a breakwater. The boat was filled full of dirt and rocks and now there is a forest growing out of it.

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