Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alaska Journal

The M/V Kennicott, built in Gulfport and working its way up the Alaska Marine Highway with us aboard, is in the fishing village of Yakutat...or it was. We exited Yakutat Bay and are now on the nonstop leg of our journey to Whittier.

Dan told me Yakutat wasn't much to look at - his reaction had been along the lines of this without the blizzard. He then heard a strange announcement on the ship just before it moved away from the dock...something about asking all nonticketed passengers to leave within ten minutes, when Dan thought nonticketed passengers weren't allowed on in the first place. Turns out the Kennicott's mess had been used as a prime restaurant location by some of Yakutat's residents, who had themselves a nice brunch on the boat in the early morning while the ship was docked. That was what passed for fine dining in the village, I guess.

The name of the game for getting one's sea legs is simply to get on the boat and roll with its punches - and I do mean roll - when the ship kicks itself up to 16-plus knots on the open sea. I'm sitting by the padded kids' area of the forward lounge, looking out the windows and marveling at how much the railing at the bow of the ship is bobbing up and down.

Yesterday, the boat's slow, calm amble out of Auke Bay and through the straits of the Inside Passage, combined with the fogginess clouding the horizon, contributed greatly to my feeling that I should head on back to our roomette, set up the lower berth for sleeping and hibernate in that den for the duration - meaning, until dinner came along. The ride was so calm at the beginning, and I'm so short, that, while sitting in a forward lounge chair and taking in the panorama framed between the top rail and a lower section of the deck's barriers, I could almost fool myself into thinking I was seeing blue sky peeking through all the fog. Alas, it was only the bases of the mountains closest to us that were visible, not clear skies.

All sorts of people are traveling with us: a Russian couple; adventurous, young backpacking twentysomethings; whole families. Dan met a family from Kentucky biking their way across the country on a five person tandem bike - they've nicknamed themselves the Pedouins, complete with a website and dispatches of their travels on a radio show. A couple from Ontario is looking to put their homemade canoe into the waters of every Canadian province. A pair from Kansas City hopped the ferry at Bellingham, took a tour of the Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau for a few days, and hopped back on the Marine Highway system the same day we got on the boat. Lots of people, many stories, many travels.

So here we are, bobbing along the coast, keeping ourselves amused in any way we can. It'll be my turn to sleep on the floor tonight. There are movies playing in the theater almost all day. There's no cellular service out here. The Coast Guard requires us to hear the safety announcements every time we leave a port - the important things are to get your warmest clothes on, pull on your life jackets, and head to the designated emergency areas of the ship for further instructions by the crew. Examples of Alaskan art, awards and citations garnered by the Kennicott's crew, and blurbs on Alaska's history line much of the wall space of the boat and sun decks. It's important to remember not to take a shower until the ship is out to sea. Don't let your kids play on the outside decks or in the stairwells. You can visit your vehicle at the designated time each day.

And watch for whales.

You just never know.


Oh, and a nifty find in my online travels? Check this fan site of the Washington State ferries (and many other Pacific Northwest ferries). The supercool, now-retired art deco M/V Kalakala is prominently featured on its home page. Where is she now? Ummm, not in a good way.

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