Legislators begin arriving in Juneau

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The ferry Tustumena sidled up to the downtown dock on Tuesday for the first time in 10 years to disgorge about 25 lawmakers and staff.

The voyage marked the start of the annual pilgrimage to the capital for the legislative session, which convenes Jan. 14.

''It's better than going on Gilligan's Island - those guys are gone forever. We're only gone for 120 days,'' said Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage.

Legislative aide Richard Benavidas was relieved to put the two-day trip from Seward behind him. The ferry was pummeled by 25-foot waves in the Gulf of Alaska during the trip.

''There were pockets of agony throughout the ship. If you were sitting down, it looked like everybody was just drunkenly walking around,'' Benavidas said.

The more stable ferry Kennicott usually makes the winter crossing but it is down for winter maintenance, said Lynn Craddock-Melin, port captain.

Rep. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, stood on the dock watching the Tustumena, which delivered his car to Juneau. The move to the capital is a difficult one since his family is back in Kodiak, he said.

''I'm feeling like a gypsy moving around,'' he said.

Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, stood on the ferry clutching his baby and waving at a small crowd on the dock. Croft used to leave his wife, Joanna, behind. But after they had two children, the whole family began making the trip, he said.

''Families that travel together stay together,'' said Croft. ''We take more in bath toys now than I took in my whole luggage before.''

Leslie Ridle said the toughest thing for her was finding a suitable apartment. Ridle runs the Anchorage office of Gov. Tony Knowles. She moved here for the session.

''There's never any furnished places down here,'' Ridle said.

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