Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Women's choir rallies for ferries


May 9, 2019

Marian Carlson, Teresa Hura, Heather Lende, Nelle Jurgeleit-Greene, Jan Hill, Nancy Nash and Kristy Legassie sang as the Tazlina docked.

Eight members of the Haines A Cappella Women's Choir donned sailors' caps and belted out "Ferryboat Serenade" Tuesday, welcoming the new Tazlina ferry to Haines for the first time. For some of the choristers, the performance was a demonstration. But for all it was a show of support for the ferry system.

Haines Borough Mayor Jan Hill and assembly member Heather Lende were among the chorus. "We were there to support the Tazlina and the Alaska Marine Highway," said Lende.

Choir director Nancy Nash said the group was there in spirit with the 800 people who toured the Tazlina in Juneau on Sunday, displaying popular support for the Alaska Marine Highway System as it faces an uncertain future.

Governor Dunleavy's proposed budget cuts would almost eliminate the current ferry system, reducing its budget by 75 percent. Last week, the Alaska Marine Highway System's director, Shirley Marquardt, left and there are no plans to replace her. Alaska Department of Transportation Officials did not comment on Marquardt's departure, except to say that it was not an "at fault" issue.

So, the women sang louder than they needed to when they came to the lyrics, "I will take the ferry boat all the time," and "I love to ride the ferry!"

"There was sarcasm," admitted Nash, laughing as she said so.

"It's sort of an Italian song. It lends itself to a little bit of gesticulating and shouting," said Lende. "Making joyful sounds to something that we all love is, I think, a more effective way sometimes than writing letters to stop these ridiculous cuts. I think it's very heartfelt. The people in Haines do love the ferry," she said.

The a cappella group said that they even love the Tazlina, a boat that significantly reduces ferry service between Lynn Canal and Juneau, or at least that they prefer it to the alternative: no ferry service. Unlike the other three ferries-the LeConte , the Columbia, and the Malaspina-the Tazlina cannot make the loop between Lynn Canal and Juneau in less than two days, because it does not have crew quarters.

U.S. Coast Guard and work agreements limit the amount of time that ferry crews can work to 12 hours in a day. That means that the Tazlina crew will make overnight stops in Haines throughout the summer at the Aspen Hotel.

Because the Tazlina is used more than any other boat in the Lynn Canal to Juneau summer sailing schedule (for 16 days in May, 20 in June, 19 in July, and 23 in August), residents may be forced to spend extra nights in Juneau.

"The big difference is-with the summer ferries we've been used to almost a daily boat," said Lende. The Tazlina will provide every other day service between Lynn Canal and Juneau.

Nash found this out while trying to book her doctors' appointments in Juneau next week: one for her dermatologist who is only in town a few days a month, and an eye appointment for her glaucoma.

"I wanted to do those together, because even on the ferry, as a senior citizen it's expensive," she said.

Nash went back and forth between her providers and the ferry schedule, trying to make both of her appointments on the same day to avoid spending a third night in Juneau.

"It took me so long and it was also mentally exhausting. It took a lot of phone calls," said Nash, "And I still have to have two nights in Juneau, coming and going. I think it's going to take a lot of education for people to even know that."

In April, the Anchorage Daily News reported that DOT imagined the ships as having a similar level of service to its predecessor, the F/V Fairweather. DOT's response has softened since then: "The Marine Highway is providing the best possible service with the vessels we have," said DOT's Public Information Officer, Aurah Landau.

When the Tazlina finally arrived in Haines, Lende said she was just pleased that it looked like a ferry. "This doesn't look all that different from the LeConte, except it's pretty small. It looks pretty small," she said.

Lende said she loves the Tazlina, especially if the alternative is not having ferry service.

"I just think it would be a complete disaster (without the ferries) on many levels," she said, and worried about how Haines School would facilitate extracurricular activities, how the tourism economy would be impacted, and how the overall quality of life would change in Southeast.

"So many of us rely on the ferry for doctors' appointments, vets, friends and families," said Lende, "I think it would set back the communities in Southeast decades."


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