SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Queen of the Fleet
By Captain William M. Hopkins


June 06, 2006

I read Dave Kiffer's comments about the M/V Kennicott on Sitnews. Needless to say, I was disappointed by Kiffer's lack of knowledge about ships, and the Kennicott in particular.

At least he is consistent with Southeast Alaska's negativity concerning this vessel. We never hear anything approaching this when sailing in Southwest Alaska.

On the Inside Passage, where the sea is mostly flat calm, it is easy to be critical. On the Gulf of Alaska and the Kodiak Island waters, one comes away with some appreciation and a true perspective.

Having served on the Kennicott now for the past eight years as her master, I feel qualified to say that she is the best riding vessel I have ever ridden, and when we deal with the powerful storms and seas in the Gulf of Alaska and Kodiak Island area I would not want to be any place else.

The Kennicott hull design went through extensive wave testing in Norway to find the best hull form for the waters she was expected to encounter in her 62 year life span. They did admirably well. You will never see the Matanuska, Malaspina, Taku, or Columbia cross the Gulf of Alaska on a regular basis. The Kennicott has been on the cross Gulf run all year long and has not missed her schedule due to weather. And the times we have been on the Bellingham run, the Kennicott has never had to tack for the seas in Milbank Sound, Dixon Entrance or Queen Charlotte Sound.

The ship has a smooth bow and flare for wave entry, a double hull for strength, and stabilizer fins 18 feet long, 7 feet broad and with aileron flaps to greatly resist rolling. In additon to all of this, she comes with Becker rudders - an additional flap on the after edge of the rudders, much like a trim tab, to give her tremendous maneuvering capability. If you have ever taken a large ship through Wrangell Narrows you would understand the difference.

Granted she is square and boxy, without any camber to her decks, but this does not seem to matter to folks in Southwest Alaska were a rough sea and good ride mean something.

I have heard everything from Lemmon-cott, to Appricott, and now Tincan-icott. Having heard these terms from prominent citizens of Ketchikan, I have never been bashful about inviting them down to the ship for a first class tour, or even asking if they have ever ridden the ship. Nobody has yet come down for a tour, and as far as I know ever ridden the ship. Instead they elect to stay ashore and make their armchair expert analysis from the comfort of their living rooms.

In the meantime, the Kennicott continues making her rounds on schedule, unappreciated in Southeast Alaska, and greatly appreciated in Southwest Alaska, staffed by very good crews, many of whom are Ketchikan residents.

It is no secret that the Kennicott is considered to be the Queen of the Fleet by those of us who understand the sea and what it takes to travel upon it safely and regularly.

Sincerely yours,

Captain William M. Hopkins
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Captain William M. Hopkins writes, "I have sailed as a licensed deck officer for the Alaska Marine Highway System for the past 28.5 years, and as an unlimited master since 1988. I hold an unlimited master ocean license for steam and motor vessels of any gross tons upon any ocean, with First Class Pilotage for the waters of Puget Sound main ship channels from the Canadian border to Seattle, Southeastern Alaska including Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay, Kodiak Island Group, the Alaska Peninsula, and Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor/Iliuliuk Bay. I was appointed as a master on the Kennicott in January 1999."


Related Column:

letter"A Modest Proposal" By Dave Kiffer

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


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