Thank goodness it was one of the old, slow, steel-hulled ferries that went aground. There was no loss of life and likely the vessel and autos will be saved as well. Considering the hazards in our Southeast Alaska waters, the crews of our Alaska Marine Highway vessels do a remarkably fantastic job. I will let the USCG point a finger, if there is any to point. But we humans make mistakes at times, so it is best to leave some room for error. Now, if the vessel that hit the reef was the new, fast, aluminum-hulled Fairweather, the gash would have gone stem to stern, the momentum would have carried the vessel over the reef with a sinking in less than an hour. Let's hope it would be an hour. The ending would have been so very different.
As someone who has lived in Southeast Alaska for quite a while and spent considerable time on these waters, I have always had a difficult time thinking the fast ferry was the answer to our transportation needs. With a cost of nearly $70 million a copy, carrying only 35 autos and the potential for a fast catastrophe, the road from Juneau to Skagway, augmented by small, slow ferries like the LeConte connecting smaller communities, has always seemed more rational and cost effective, certainly in money and perhaps in other ways also.
Paul M. Hoffman