The Alaskan Coast - Phil & Shirley - 2014

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May 23, 2014

At noon we headed for the Ferry Terminal. By 1:30 the weather cleared up. At 3 we got on and got our inside room. Then we walked and explored the ship, on this beautiful day. At 6:10 we were off. We went around Lummi and by Clark, Matia and Sucia Islands. The ferry uses Alaskan Time on all its trips so we won't have to change our watches. We had a fine dinner of beef brisket for $28 total. Then we sat in the front viewing deck all the rest of the evening, using the tablet to watch our progress on the Offline Maps, and read. (2:00 passed Campbell River)


May 24
Up at 7:30 (just leaving the shelter of Vancouver Island), with breakfast of rolls and coffee in the rear lower lounge. Talked with a family for awhile, and then I move to the Front Viewing deck. Later I worked on the computer on this journal. By this time I have talked fairly extensively with 5 different couples. Dinner while watching Bella Bella narrows at 1:30. The weather has turned bad with constant rain and rather cold. We spent a lot of the afternoon in the front viewing deck. In spite of the cool weather, most of the ship is 75-80 degrees. Dinner was of roast turkey with all the trimmings for $28 total for both of us, very good. We spent the evening talking to people in many areas. Read from my tablet.

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May 25

Up with a quick breakfast and off to walk Ketchikan. I walked all the way downtown with a well traveled lady from Spokane. We talked photography. The weather is beginning to get better. Back on board, lunch is in the front viewing deck. By now it is really clearing up.

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We sit watching this gorgeous scenery and Hump Back whales several times.



The Stikine river flows into the sea near Wrangell causing milky water and interesting wave patterns.


At 5:45, we stop at Wrangell for 20 min. while we view this village bathed in warm sum.
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Later we float our way up the very narrow Petersburg Channel at sunset. After all the rain, this warm, calm, evening is a real treat.

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At 10:15 we arrive at Petersburg for a short stop.
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May 26

Up at 6 to pack up and disembark at Juneau. The day is cloudless and warm. Taxi takes us to the airport for $18. I hike around there to a mall. 
At 1pm we get on the plane and fly west. I see probably 30 glaciers, and Mt. McKinley.
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We are in Anchorage at 2:30 to warm smoky weather. We get our hotel and car. Then we are off to do some shopping for the next leg of our trip. That evening the smoke comes over us and it is very cold as we eat dinner at a park. It is light enough to see clearly at 10:56 pm

 May 27

Up at 6:30 for shower and breakfast. Shopped at Carrs and then off for the ferry. There is a great fire down on the Kenai Peninsula and we wonder if we can get thru, but as it turned out, it rained and we were fine. Lunch was by the Kenai River in a pretty camp ground.
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We got to Homer at 2:30 and checked in at the ferry terminal. He said come back at 11 and we can start loading, so we go shopping and eat at Caribou Family Restaurant (great). Then after touring Homer for awhile, we drive out on the spit. The tide was very low and many people are fishing. I walked down and joined a family from Wisconsin and watch. People are catching fish every few minutes, they were big pollock (3 lbs), but someone says they are wormy. Sunset was at 11 pm, but it stayed light until 12. It gets light again about 4 with sunrise at 5. At 11, we went into the ferry terminal, and at 1:15 we finally got on the 290 ft Tustemena, the oldest of  the Alaskan State Ferry fleet, but the only one allowed to go offshore.

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This vessel has an elevator to remove cars so they can stop at any dock regardless of the tide height.
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May 28

Up at 8:30 to rain and cold. But by 11 it was looking better, and as we approach Kodiak it clears and warms to 60. We see several whales swimming ahead of us. We got off and walked the town. We see the Orthodox church, eat lunch there in the sun. Next, we hike the docks of large fishing boats, and see the Wildlife Museum.
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At 4 we got back on and took a nap until 5 when the boat departed. We had dinner of Salisbury Steak for $14. Then we went to the front deck to watch sea otters. By 9 it was cloudy again, but I sat in the solarium and watched Kodiak Island go by. It is well over 100 miles long with high snow capped peaks in most areas.

May 29

Up at 8. Not feeling well and the pitching didn't help,  after breakfast it was much better. We are out from land between Kodiak Island and The Alaskan Peninsula. At 11 we arrive at Chignik and unload 100 people. We are repopulating Chignik for the summer. They are all young families of fisherman, salmon season will start soon. People here order food from Costco in Seattle and it is delivered 5 days later for $1.50 per pound.
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Then we head out and west along the Alaskan Peninsula. Later we see more whales. This time they are Fin Whales and they come somewhat closer. I talk to the only family left on the boat and they are headed for Sand Point where his boat is. They will spend the summer salmon fishing and he expects to get 50,000 lbs at $2 per lb. As for expenses, his fuel is 40% of his cost, bait 25%, food 20%. Of the profit, he gets 40% and the crew of 3 to 5 get the rest. Fall will bring Cod or Halibut. Winter will bring King Crab. Any extra time he has, he will hire divers and dredge for gold under 50 ft of water. He says you can make good money up here, but it is a lot of work and he is at sea most of the time. He has two cute little kids who don't see him much.

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It is a nice evening now and we are getting into calmer water. So our arrival at Sand Point is pleasant and plenty light at 10:15. Unlike last night, it was very smooth all night.

May 30

We are up at 7:30 to a beautiful clear morning in King Cove. Breakfast of rolls and coffee (as always) and met a family of natives here who have caught the ferry to go to Cold Bay. They have not left King Cove for years, so this is a great experience; their two little girls are really looking forward to a fish derby there. The wind is now howling at 30 mph +. We come into Cold Bay at 10. Cold Bay is an old Army/Air force base with a very long landing strip. It is well maintained and used by any aircraft in that part of the world that get into trouble. Even the space Shuttle could have landed there. Every so often a major airliner has to land there and the 80 people of Cold Bay have to take care of the 200-300 stranded folks. The wind is 35-45 out of the north and the temp is in the 40s, BUT it is sunny! We are treated by the US Government to a tour of the Izembek Wildlife Refuge here. They take us by bus 15 miles over to the Bering Sea. The wind is howling (which they say it never stops), but with the sun and warm clothes, I really enjoy it. I walk in the arctic tundra, seeing many nice wild flowers and sedge. From Kodiak Island west, there are no trees on any of the Aleutian Islands, only Alder bushes and grass. I guess the trees can't take the wind.
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Here at Cold Bay the town has come out to the ferry to eat in our cafeteria. Today they said they served 150 hamburgers to the town’s people.
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After they are finished, we have fish and chips for $14. That evening we watch a movie about how WW2 was fought in Dutch Harbor. At one point in the show the Aleutians were described as some place no one would ever vacation, which brought a roar from our group. We are now heading west and facing a fairly wild sea. This vessel is equipped with stabilizer fins that are driven by a gyro. So the roll is nicely corrected, but the pitch can't really be corrected. We, since we are onboard longer than most others, got a room that is amidships near the center of the pitch. Next, we headed for False Bay where the Alaskan Peninsula ends and the Aleutians start. I look out at a nice bench onshore and decide to climb to it. Well, the Alaskan Alder Brush is something else to get through. I did not make it in the 45 min I had.

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May 31

We are up at 8 for breakfast and get ready for a day in Dutch Harbor. Unfortunately it is cold and cloudy, but not too windy. We get off at 9:45 and find that there is a tour for $75. Shirley is interested, but I decide to walk instead. She gets to drive up on Ballyhoo, a high hill above the harbor. She sees bunkers and the like left over from WW2. Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, and the Japanese took over two of the Aleutian Islands. We both saw several museums showing the histories of Dutch Harbor (or Unalaska as some call it). We also visited the very old Russian Orthodox church with eagles on each cross. Shirley gets to tour it which is a real treat for her. Then we went shopping, she for souvenirs and I for food. There is a well stocked Safeway there with most anything you would find in the lower 48. However, the prices were about 50% higher on packaged foods and 2 to 3 times higher on fresh foods. Gas is close to $5 a gallon. I bought a fresh supply of sweet rolls, cheese, potato chips, but Coke was $14 a 12 pack. In all I hiked 11 miles as Shirley toured 5 hours. It was a good day in spite of being the cold blustery weather.
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We cast off at 5pm and within an hour the weather has cleared and calmed. We have dinner of burgers and fish and sit and talk to our friends for a while. About 7 we run into a pod of whales that really put on a show. They flopped on the water and breached and waved their tails at us, and everyone gets many pictures.
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At Akutan, AK we let off 60 workers who will be working the fish cannery for 6 months. They work 7, 12s and can put away $800 a week if they don’t blow it. In this tiny town of only a few hundred permanent residents, this huge cannery (one of the biggest in the world) puts out over (some say) a million pounds of fish a day.
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The wind has dropped and the sky is clear and we have a great night.


I took a picture at exactly midnight and you can see everything clearly.

Jun 1

After a very calm night, we awake to sun, but cold. We stop at Cold Bay and our friends with the little girls come on and we visit for several hours. Later we see more whales and sea otters. There are also Bald Eagles at every stop, usually overlooking the canneries which sometimes dump fish scraps. Dinner is shrimp salad and burgers for $22. We stop back at Sand Point and walk for 45 min. Finally, we just sit and watch the islands go by on this gorgeous evening.
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Mt Pavlof, 8260 ft, is erupting and we watch the ash cloud drifting south. The official sunset is 11:23. We are so far west that we are west of Hawaii, but have not changed a time zone since Ketchikan.

Jun 2

Today we will go nearly 400 miles and the only stops are at night, so it is a good time to relax and read. At 1:30 those of us that have taken the entire voyage are invited to tour the bridge. It is a quite time for them and we stay for almost an hour asking many questions. There is no autopilot, they steer all the way, and this forces them to “keep a watch”. They have several radars and GPS driven charts. They do have and use a sextant just to keep proficient, just in case. The two engines run at 820 rpm and each take 88 gal/hour.