For residents of Southeast Alaska, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities’ Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is the road that connects communities to life’s necessities, providing access to groceries, health care and many forms of commerce.
The M/V Matanuska is a mainline ferry, serving communities on the Alaskan Panhandle and the inside passage, often beginning in Prince Rupert, British Columbia or Bellingham, Washington and traveling north to Skagway. During the summer months, residents and tourists mix aboard the ship with many locals assuming the role of unofficial tour guides while creating personalized experiences for visitors.
Throughout its long history, the Matanuska has carried countless students to and from events around Southeast Alaska. When sports tournaments and music festivals need attendees, the four hundred foot long blue canoe delivers – literally. Basketball teams may be competitors on Friday, but Thursday they’re sprawled out together in Matanuska’s solarium, sharing stories and experiences while the beauty of Alaska rolls by. Conversations along these slow-paced voyages frequently grow into long-term connections. So by transporting strangers and facilitating new friendships, Matanuska brings communities together for both the short-term and long-term.
Constructed in 1963, the Matanuska is one of three sister ships that make up the original AMHS fleet. The vessel is designed to carry 450 passengers and 83 twenty-foot vehicles. There are passenger cabins, observation lounges, a heated solarium, cafeteria-style restaurant, movie lounge, showers, lockers, and a child’s play area.
After 55 years in service, the Matanuska required major upgrades. The $47 million Matanuska Re-Power and Major Conversion project started in 2017 and included replacement of vital parts including engines and gears, electrical, steering and lighting upgrades. Beginning this week, the Matanuska will be back on the job. Because of the major upgrades, the vessel is now ready for years of future service.