It was difficult to not get jealous this week when seeing photos of the former Alaska ferries Fairweather and Chenega being offloaded under brilliantly blue skies at Sant Antoni in Ibiza, Spain.
It doesn’t matter so much that the beautiful Balearic island off the coast from Valencia was the pre-pandemic party capital of the world — a title the Ibiza likely will resume in a post-pandemic future. What’s cool is that the ferries are likely to see some use after their very star-crossed tenure in Alaska, which concluded with the 235-foot ships being moored in Ketchikan’s Ward Cove for many months while the Alaska Marine Highway System scoured the world for a buyer.
That buyer was the Ibiza-based Servicios y Concesiones Maritimas Ibicenca, which operates between the island and the Spanish mainland under the trade name Trasmapi. The company in March paid about $5.17 million for the two ferries, which orignally cost a total of $68 million when constructed in the mid-2000s.
Even then, it seemed liked the ferries were fated to sit dockside in Ketchikan for, well, maybe forever. The community looked on as the heavy-lift ship Red Zed I appeared out of an early April fog and proceeded to ride at anchor outside of Ward Cove for nearly two months. Finally, the ferries were loaded onto the back deck of the Red Zed I on June 25, but didn’t actually depart Ketchikan until July 4.
Curious locals kept track of the Red Zed and its cargo as it sailed down to and through the Panama Canal and then across the Atlantic and into the Alboran Sea.
After arriving at Ibiza on Aug. 31, the Red Zed I offloaded the ferries earlier this week. That’s according to Diario de Ibiza. The news outlet also reports that Trasmapi plans to condition the ferries to start operating soon.
That’s the nice part about all of this. The ferries proved a poor fit for Alaska, with operational, economic and mechanical issues prompting the state to pull them from service. Perhaps good fortune will smile on the vessels now as they start to provide service in a different type of marine environment. We certainly hope so.
Here’s wishing fair winds to the Fairweather and Chenega. And, to any Ketchikan resident who finds themselves aboard one of these ferries en route to Ibiza, please send a photo of the ship in its new home!