The state ferry LeConte ran into high winds and rough seas north of Juneau this morning (Friday) that forced it to turn around and head back to the Auke Bay ferry terminal.
Today’s sailings to Haines and Skagway were cancelled.
State marine highway chief, Captain Mike Neussl, says the LeConte was in a narrow channel when the decision was made to head back. So instead of turning around in the channel, the master decided to do it in Berners Bay.
“After they made the decision, hey we’re going back, they did intentionally have to steam further north in order to get to a wider part of the channel to make the turn around to come back south,” Neussl says. “They didn’t want to do that in a narrow channel.”
The LeConte was back in Juneau by 12:30 this afternoon.
Neussl says the captain reported 75 knot winds and 12 foot seas. The National Weather Service had issued a high wind warning for Juneau and Lynn Canal through 5 o’ clock tomorrow morning (Saturday). Neussl says it’s up to individual ferry captains to decide when to brave rough seas.
“Really it’s the master’s discretion. I know we have limits on our fast vehicle ferries, because they’re a little more weather sensitive than the larger steel-hulled displacement ships, which are little bit more tolerant of the weather,” he says. “But as usual, safety dictates first and if the master determines it’s not safe to continue, he has my full backing to turn around and come back.”
Neussl says all passengers on today’s northbound trip will be rebooked for Sunday, which is the next scheduled departure for Haines and Skagway.