Captain’s Log – July 19, 2010- Hoonah to Glacier Bay to Juneau
After leaving Summer Wind with the USCG, we proceeded 8 miles to Hoonah, a Tlingit Village across Icy Inlet from Glacier Bay. It was rainy and cold, and as it was now about 6 PM we were glad to reach Hoonah and tie up. The harbormaster, Paul, was very friendly directed us to what he said was the premier spot. As we walked up the dock to reconnoiter the town, a fellow boater recognized our boat name and stopped to talk with us. He said he had been listening all day to the rescue event on the VHF radio, and wanted to thank us for the amazing job we did. He said he couldn’t believe how cool and calm we were. After that nice complement, we started up the ramp to town…but what town? Hoonah was scattered down the road that lingered along the bay front. It has a population of about 1,500 people, and most of them are associated with fishing. We needed a meal and found the “Office”, the local bar. I went in and Rebecca stopped into the food store next door for some supplies. I was supposed to order dinner, but that didn’t work out to well. The place was very basic and not much on cleanliness. I sat down at the bar and noticed that I was the only man on the premises, but four ladies were there, three on bar stools and on behind the bar. The three on bar stools started looking me over and smiling, then the bar tender broke the magic by asking for my order. I was hungry. They had beer, but as for their featured items, they had run out of crab, but wait… no, I am sorry, we are out of frozen pizza too. After a beer and listening to a few songs on the Wurlitzer Juke Box, the bartender called the only cab in town and we headed off to the “lodge” a few miles down the road. The cab was an ordinary car and the driver was very distinctly a native Indian. It is interesting to me to see the features of people of different races, as it sparks my curiosity about the origins of their ancestors and the way of life that they must have pursued over the millenniums. The driver didn’t talk at all, even as I tried to elicit a weather forecast. The fee was $5 per adult to go anywhere the road went. The lodge was a very basic affair offering deep fried food, and after paying the bill I realized it was one of the most expensive meals we have had when you count in the $20 cab fare. Once back in the cab for the brief ride to the marina, the cab driver spontaneously gave me the weather forecast. He had actually looked it up somewhere. One of the greatest pleasures of our adventure is to be surprised by the random kindness of strangers and to hear the stories of their lives. The next day two Nordhavns arrived with Canadians who were on their way to Sitka. They stopped by for drinks, shared a few stories and dropped off some wonderful oatmeal cookies fresh out of the oven. Another unexpected surprise! The next morning we left about 5 AM for Glacier Bay, which was about 4.5 hours away.
Crossing Icy Inlet at dawn was a beautiful experience. As usual it was cloudy and foggy. Fishing boats were scattered about searching for salmon. The water was dead calm and you could see the currents wiggling across the sea. As we neared the park’s entry at Pt. Gustavus, we saw lots of Humpback Whales swimming about in groups: one swam right under our bow! After checking in and going through the indoctrination lecture required by the Park Service, we entered the park. It is 3.3 million acres of which 600k acres are tidal inlets. We posted a lot of pictures on the website, since they best describe our experience. We anchored out in various places for seven nights and watched whales, seals, Stellar Sea Lions and other animals in their natural environment. It was fun and entertaining to watch the sea lions bellering and fighting for space on the rocks. Since there was plenty of space to be found, we concluded all the fuss was not so much about finding a nice sunny spot, but on pushing someone else out of the way: a pecking order issue. We cruised up to the face of glaciers, and looked spellbound at the majesty of the most beautiful mountains we have ever seen. Glacier Bay is, perhaps, the most beautiful place on earth!
After leaving Glacier Bay, we made our way to Juneau, about 100 miles away. Our trip was uneventful, and again the weather was mostly clouds and rain. Since arriving in Seattle on June 2nd, we have only a few clear days, and most of the time at has been clouds, fog, and rain. We have had only one day above 60 degrees in July, and it was 61 degrees. No one in Alaska uses an umbrella, and most do not wear raincoats. One guy told me that he doesn’t consider it a serious rain unless the windshield wipers are on high!
Entering Juneau was exciting, as are all new harbor entries. We were assigned dock space between two huge cruise ships…the Osterdam and the Sapphire Princess. That was a trip in itself and a little intimidating. As we were making a difficult maneuver, I heard something strange from our stern thruster. Apparently a piece of wood had been sucked into it and broke a propeller. After we tied up, we hired a diver to look things over. We put pictures on the web. We have not yet had it repaired, but have talked with the manufacturer and parts are on the way. We are scheduled for dry dock this week, and the mechanic should be aboard today to look things over.
Juneau is a very small town of about 35,000 people. Surprisingly, there isn’t much here in the form of entertainment, restaurants, or cultural places to visit. It is mostly a government town. Down by the cruse ships there is a large complex of old buildings that have been nicely restored and house the tourist shops. There are a lot of nice things to be found there, but we are not here to shop. There are two glaciers, a fish hatchery, the Governor’s Mansion, and a Costco. We will see it all during our twelve 12 day layover, then we will begin our slow and highly anticipated trip back through the inside passage. We are expected several guests over the next few weeks, and that will be a lot of fun for everyone.