Inside Passage Blog

By Linda Lewis



July 9, 2007 – Skagway - Part One: the Ferry Trip and the Town


I found a few minutes today after all so here is the Skagway story - in two parts. Many of you have written to say you are enjoying the pictures and stories. Please let me know if there is anyone receiving these who would rather be taken off the list.
Skagway has long held a fascination for me because of all the Gold Rush history. I have read several stories, including a book on the Women of the Klondike. David had been to Skagway many many years ago and really didn't want to do the big haul up Lynn Canal in our boat. Since I was determined to go, I followed the sage advice of some other boaters and took the fast ferry. It was a great trip.
You have seen this picture of the Fairweather passing us in Neva Straits. This is the boat I took up to Skagway.

It's my turn to get on board.

The Fairweather has really comfortable seating and I got myself right up into the first row so I could follow my chart and not miss a thing.

As it turns out, I didn't need to bring my own chart. Here is one of the monitors found all over the ship. The boat's progress was fun to watch on their electronic charting. And I discovered that the ferry cruises at about 37-38 knots. I literally felt like I was flying in a jet plane compared to our cruising speed of 7 knots.

This great deck hand caught my eye. We had a chance to talk later during the trip and she said she is going for her "AB." As in: Able Bodied Seaman rating by the U.S. Coast Guard. She was a great worker. Lots of strength and concentration and confidence.

Here is the front row view of Lynn Canal.

And this is one of the landmarks along the way: Eldred Rock

More Lynn Canal beauty.

Look at the different colors of the water in this picture below. Glacial till makes the water a milky green. It also makes the water very opaque and gives boaters like us problems with trying to see rocks or other hazards. You just cannot see through it. And when it is soupy enough the depth sounder doesn't read accurately either. Don't like that!

This is the approach to the town of Skagway after the 2-1/2 hour trip from Auke Bay (Juneau). We heard that on the 4th of July there were six cruise ships in port. On the day I visited there were only two cruise ships and one regular ferry at the docks. And us.

Here is a closer view of the harbor, with the small boat harbor at the right.

I had to check out the facilities for boaters like me. This is where we would have docked; at the small boat harbor.

The Tlingits, like this "Packer" at the left, were one of the reasons the early "Rushers" were able to make it up the Chilkoot Trail in the early days of the stampede in1898. The Tlingits lived in the area, knew the terrain, worked out the base camp locations, and did a lot of the carrying (packing).

Skagway's Historic District has lots of tourist shops, which I skipped. It also has a wonderful city museum where I learned a lot about the history of both the Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass Trail.

Julie, this one is for you.

There was a very cute musical melodrama I saw called "The Days of 98." It depicted a somewhat romanticized version of the time of Soapy Smith. He was a very low-life character whose gang of criminals basically took over the town for a period of time. But it was a very fun evening and gave a taste of what the times were like.

I am always drawn to cemeteries because of the history in the grave stones. I found that there weren't very many grave markers made of stone. However, most of the graves had wooden markers obviously put in place in the present day that continue to tell the story. The young ages and the many deaths in the years 1898 and 1899 tell their own tale.
The cemetery is called the Gold Rush Cemetery. Soapy Smith and Frank Reid were both buried here after their historic gun fight. Soapy died immediately. Frank died 12 days later.

Soapy was placed off to the side, a much despised man.

Frank Reid was the town hero for ridding Skagway of Soapy. His large marker is in the center of the cemetery. It reads: "He gave his life for the honor of Skagway."

This sign at the cemetery tells the story of the two men and their gun fight. The other parts of the sign depicted what a rough, rough town Skagway was in the "stampede" days.

This is the end of Part One. Stay tuned for the train ride up White Pass and the story of the Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass Trail that goes with it.

Linda & Dave
M/V Royal Sounder



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