A new ferry based in the small Southeast Alaska town of Coffman Cove will be restarting service this Friday.
The Rainforest Islander ferry started service this summer to Wrangell and southern Mitkof Island near Petersburg. The independent ferry has been sidelined in Wrangell since mid-October undergoing repairs.
North End Ferry Authority general manager Kent Miller said the board of directors voted to restart service this Friday, November 13. The vessel will be offering twice-a-week connections to Wrangell and South Mitkof, instead of the four sailings a week it had been making.
“We’re concerned about traffic of course and really needing to minimize our exposure to losses,” Miller said. “So it’s a cautious approach to providing the as we see it the most essential days of service. These are days that school trips count on, outbound Friday and back on Sunday.”
For those two days, the round-trip timing will be on the same schedule that the authority used earlier this year. Miller said the authority may bring back the four sailings a week as soon as next April.
The vessel was tied up in Wrangell in late October to repair one of the ferry’s engines and replace a transmission. That work went well and Miller said the ship performed well on its return sailing to Coffman Cove last week. The new ferry has not had the ridership that the authority had hoped for and the general manager said the board had to consider cancelling service for the winter months.
“That was the way to minimize cash flow through the winter but the board definitely did not want to do that, does not want to do that and is committed to maintaining service through the winter,” he said.
The ferry is a converted 65-foot landing craft that can take up to 28 passengers and six vehicles. The vessel has been fighting the tides at its landing spot at a boat launch ramp in downtown Wrangell. Miller said the authority has applied to the state to use the ramp near Wrangell’s airport.
“We’re hoping very soon we’ll be able to use that ramp which is available through the full range of tides. ‘Til then we’ll use the old Wrangell launch ramp, the one just below the powerhouse, and there’ll be some tide restrictions,” Miller said.
Passengers can book by calling the ferry’s toll free number 1-844-329-2031.