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Alaska Log #7

Juneau, Alaska
July 22, 1999

(Click on each photo to see it full size)

Well, we're back 'in town' again, this time for repairs (more about that later). Meanwhile, we've had a great trip out to Glacier Bay National Park for several days, taking along some friends from the East Coast. The weather was perfect, sunny for four days straight, which absolutely never happens here in Southeast Alaska. We figure we paid our dues earlier in the trip!

Humpback whale's tail in Glacier Bay (22K)On the first day, after anchoring at the park headquarters in Bartlett Cove, all six of us (yes, it was a bit snug aboard Raven, but fun) boarded the 20-knot catamaran tour boat for a nine hour tour of the glaciers and wildlife. Turned out to be the best way to see the vastness of the park, which is as large as all of Puget Sound. The nearest glacier is well over 40 miles from Bartlett Cove, which takes a long time at our usual 9 knots. There were about a hundred other tourists on the cat, most of them having flown in for a day or two. (Wouldn't you know it, but one of them was the Princeton fundraising director, who wasted no time in getting to work on me. Those guys are merciless.)

Anyway, before the cat even left Bartlett Cove, the park ranger aboard made sure we all spotted a black bear, a marmot, and a moose on the beach. Great start. The Japanese guide translated for her small group, and we were pleased to learn that 'moose' in Japanese is 'moose-o.' Then off to the South Marble Island bird and seal colony, followed by dropping off some kayakers on a nearby beach. That's part of the boat's job, dropping off and picking up campers and kayakers all over the park. The ones boarding somehow always seemed a lot wearier and grubbier than the ones who were getting off, and we figured the big smiles were for the showers they were anticipating. The Raven crew decided we preferred having hot showers available at all times.

The glaciers were, as you might expect, magnificent close up. It was always noisy, as the meltwater streams rushed out from underneath and the ice cracked continuously. We saw some calving, as big chunks of ice collapsed into the tidewater. The 'glacier blue' color was less in evidence than at Tracy Arm, probably because we had such a clear sunny day. One of the three glaciers we saw has a full-blown river boiling out of a huge cave in the middle.

Craig's coho salmon (68K)Next day, we took Raven 'up-bay' as the local jargon goes, to Blue Mouse Cove (no, we don't know why). On the way, we saw the best humpback whale display of the trip. One whale breached a couple of times, and then another one hung around smacking the water with his fins and tail. (Gathering krill into bunches so they can scoop them up?) It was quite a show, and we sat and watched for over an hour. It was an R&R afternoon in the cove, with various crewmembers going off in our little red kayaks, setting out the crab pots, or going fishing. No luck that day, following Jan's confusing instructions on trolling versus jigging. (Troll for salmon, jig for halibut. Craig trolled for halibut, which are bottom fish. Didn't work! The next day Craig used his own methods and caught a dinner-worthy salmon 30 feet from the boat.)

Raven sailing in Glacier Bay (51K)Next day, the sails went up for the first time in weeks and we sailed (yes!) part of the way to North Sandy Cove. Our hearts sunk when we got there, though, as we spotted 'Sea Sedan', a 200-foot powerboat with a helicopter on top and generators going, was anchored already. It kind of reduced the "wilderness experience" as the rangers call it. Happily, they left in the early evening so we shared the cove with just one other boat, a wonderful family of 5 Kiwis who sailed across the North Pacific from Japan (4,500 miles and 32 days at sea!!). The Park Service limits the number of boats in the Bay at any one time to 25, including cruise ships, and the park is so vast that we rarely saw anyone else. Even the cruise ships seemed lost in the vastness of it all.

At this point, the absolute very highest north latitude and west longitude of our trip, in the remotest cove, Murphy's Law of Cruising struck: we had a serious breakdown. The universal joint connecting the engine to the propshaft broke a seal and started spewing grease all over the engine room. The Iridium satellite phone proved its worth, though, as Jan phoned the manufacturer on the east coast, diagnosed the problem as big but not grave, and had the replacement shipped to Juneau. The guy said we'd be OK to run for a few hours, but to temporarily seal up the break with — you guessed it — duct tape, a.k.a. Polish Welding Rod. Worked great, too.

Totem pole carvers in Sitka (42K)So we dropped off our guests the next day as scheduled and headed back to Juneau. As we sit here at the dock, our part has arrived and we'll install it today and be off again. The delay means we can't take the boat out to Sitka, so we flew there yesterday and had a great time playing tourist in a neat town. It's the original, Russian capital of Alaska and has some fascinating history and buildings.

Not sure where we're headed next, but generally south. We are in full cruiser mode now. What day is it, anyway?

Regards . . . Jan & Signe

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