Monday, June 14, 2010

Ketchikan-A Gash in a Fjord

Today is June 13th. We were rousted at 6:30AM by the loudspeaker announcing our arrival at Ketchikan. It had been a short night, with sleep disturbed by one of the open ocean crossings. (This means rock and roll for the uninitiated) Ketchikan is a surprise, just a little dock space and marina for containers and small boats, and a sprinkling of buildings halfway up the hill fronting the fjord. The airport sits across the channel from town and a small ferry brings people across. Four large cruise ships were packed into moorage at the far end of town. There is a very active sea plane service right next to the ferry boat landing. Heavy, windy squalls came through every ten minutes or so, and the temperature didn't get above fifty degrees


Still, we took advantage of the short stay (one hour) to get our electronic doper fix of email and New York Times downloads to the PC and Kindle. Ketchikan's Best Western staff was kind enough to let us onto their wifi. Good smells of fried eggs and sizzling bacon came from around the corner, but there was no time. Nick downloaded two oatmeal cookies from a vending machine for later consumption. Mary met a young woman who had just graduated from college in Arcata, CA. She and a friend are bicycling forty nine states for a year. They rode from northern California to Bellingham and got on the ship. They will get off at Haines, to ride the Alcan back to Montana. They have panniers for their gear. Maybe in a year the economy will recover enough so that they can get jobs. Back on board the M/V Columbia, Nick found good cell phone reception and called and left VM's for our daughters. Even the Spot Messenger (portable GPS) worked, most likely because it is easier to find the satellite when sitting still. Nick had tried to connect the Spot en route yesterday and was unable to get a fix.


We have less than twenty four hours to Haines; with intermediate stops at Wrangell, Petersburg, and Juneau (we'll skip that one, given the 3:15AM arrival). Nick hopes to be allowed to get off at Wrangell. Who in his right mind would miss an opportunity to say he spent time in Wrangell? Hopefully, a few months from now everyone will forget that the stop-over lasts less than an hour, giving Nick the opportunity to talk about all of the salmon he caught and logs he skidded during the journey. (Addendum) Wrangell is one of the sweetest smelling places in the north. Pine resin and sea remind us of what the environment used to be like generally along the west coast. Wrangell was founded as a Russian fort in 1834 to restrain the expansion of the British. That didn't work out so well. Later, Wrangell was an outfitter for both the Cassiar and Klondike gold rushes, as miners headed up the Stikine. Today this is a peaceful town, loaded with wooden churches and, hopefully, an equal number of bars.


Mary has been completely relaxed. "There is nothing I have to do, so I am comfortable doing nothing." She is racing through the first Stieg Larson book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, having read the second novel first. The two of us roll around the ship like marbles, running into each other every hour or two. We hang together and tell tales of people met and things seen then go off again. We still have some food from the camper, and the leftover cheese, salami and crackers are better than anything sold on the ship. The cook and wait staff are all State of Alaska employees and, due to state law, cannot accept gratuities. The result is the expected in both the cooking and the serving.


It will be great to drive off at Haines tomorrow morning. The ship is comfortable and convenient, but cabin fever is creeping in. Problem number one is lack of exercise. Problem number two is the tantalizing scenery rushing by, but with no way to get out into it. The routine onboard is reading, looking out the window, going on deck for photos and binocular searches (a few porpoises and an occasional partial whale viewing, plus two bald eagles), listening to mediocre Forest Service lectures, chatting up the crew, dining on bad food, and sleeping.

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