Archive for May, 2015

430. Sunday 24th May 2015. Seattle, Vancouver Island and local exploring…

27/05/2015

Monday 18th May
Throat and cough are worse.

Gulp!
Today we all piled into Jessica’s car, including baby Jaxson and went to Port Orchard where we caught up with a friend from my CMCA days. Claude met us at a chain restaurant known as Shari’s which specializes in pies. Fruit pies of course. Not a meat or savory pie was on the menu. Alecia had the strangest apple pie I have ever seen. It was an apple pie, broken up into a parfait glass and smothered with cream. After an hour with Claude we moved on to a driving tour around the bays then home for dinner.

Claude and Frank at Shari's Pie Place.

Claude and Frank at Shari’s Pie Place.

Linda Alecia Jessica with Jaxson and Doug

Linda Alecia Jessica with Jaxson and Doug

Something I have noticed here in the USA and Canada as well. Individual letter boxes are a thing of the past. Now they have a box or a wall of letterboxes the same as in say a gated community. It makes an economic sort of sense. The postman only has to go to a central letter box location. The mail is already sorted so all he has to do is ensure it is delivered to the correct box. One stop, one location, one drop and he moves on to the next drop. He no longer has to go house to house.

Group letterboxes

Group letterboxes

Tuesday 19th May.
Donnis and I took the car for a look at the quaint seaside village of Poulsbo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poulsbo,_Washington

Viking Mural at Poulsbo

Viking Mural at Poulsbo

Lutheran Church at Poulsbo.

Lutheran Church at Poulsbo.

The area was settled by families who petitioned to have a Post Office located in the village way back in 1907 although the village was settled by Norwegians in 1880. The original submission had the name of Paulsbo (in Norwegian which means Paul’s Place) probably due to poor handwriting the post office registered the name as Poulsbo and so it has been ever since. There is no record if there was a protest over the name. Until World War II most locals spoke Norwegian.

Marina’s are popular in Canada and the States and most of them are in need of repair and maintenance. Poulsbo is no exception.

Poulsb Marina

Poulsb Marina

Marina with covered berths.

Marina with covered berths.

They are often delightful to look at and have a wonderful variety of boats. Also due to cold conditions they often have a section of covered marina berths.

Interesting small ship at Poulsbo

Interesting small ship at Poulsbo

In the afternoon we called at a few seaside locations with the inevitable marina and funky little stores including food outlets. Most of those seem to be closed as it is not yet officially summer.

Restaurant not yet open for the summer season.

Restaurant not yet open for the summer season.

Lord knows how the owners of these businesses survive if they can only operate for a few months of the year.

Small village of Seabeck has a general store. a  booze outlet, a general electronics handyman and several eating house mostly built out over a wharf.

Small village of Seabeck has a general store. a booze outlet, a general electronics handyman and several eating house mostly built out over a wharf.

Long Jetty

Long Jetty

Starfish

Starfish

At one seaside town I was surprised to sea four outrigger canoes.

Outigger Canoes

Outigger Canoes

WOT THE! Usually outrigger canoe racing is a sport in temperate to tropical climates. These canoes can be rigged to keep spray out of the canoe but it would be mighty cold on the water at the moment. On reflection I now recall seeing two outrigger canoes being paddled as we entered Victoria Harbour in Canada on Saturday.

The family, apart from John who had to work, went out for dinner.

The family, apart from John who had to work, went out for dinner.

In the evening, Donnis, Jessica and I visited a Costco store which has amazing products with amazing prices. Except for laptops and mobile phones. They appear no cheaper than Australian prices, particularly Apple products. However to obtain cheaper prices you need to be a registered member which cots $60 per year or buy some products in bulk.

Wednesday 20th May
John began his fist day of 6 days leave. We took a ferry from Bainsbridge Island to Seattle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle

Distant view of  Seattle

Distant view of Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle, has similarities to Sydney Australia. Both are built on beautiful harbours and many buildings had underground shops, arcades and businesses. Part of our trip today, besides wandering the hillside streets was to look at the fresh food and original art and creative local products in the Pikes Markets on the hill above the harbour and above the elevated railway and roadway.

One of many entrances to the Pikes Place Markets

One of many entrances to the Pikes Place Markets

We waited for the fish markets to show their famous throwing the fish to each otherrroutine but it did not happen.

We waited for the fish markets to show their famous throwing the fish to each other routine but it did not happen.

It was across the street from the Pike Place Markets where we found the original Starbucks store which created an empire. The building looks plain and does not reflect what lies beyond. I have never had a coffee from Starbucks. http://www.starbucks.com/coffeehouse/store-design/1st-and-pike

Original Starbucks

Original Starbucks

Again Sydney Australia has the elevated roadway and railway along with the homeless and destitute. Some streets still show the heavy glass panels set into the footpaths to allow natural light into the underground malls. As well some streets have brick paving, almost worn down to a cobblestone from a century ago. Seattle was established around 1852 and in some places in underground shops you can still see the stone, rock and brick used to create the buildings.

Paved Seattle street

Paved Seattle street

Mounted armed Police were everywhere.

Mounted armed Police were everywhere.

We had no time to visit as many sites as we would have liked. As we got started late we were forced to catch a late commuter ferry back to Bainsbridge Island. A US Coastguard Boat complete with a marine in full battle gear and standing threateningly behind a 30 calibre machine gun accompanied our ferry part way to our destination.

Why???

Coast Guard

Coast Guard

Mean looking defence. Enlarge the photo and you can see this gunner is harnessed to the machine gun.

Mean looking defence. Enlarge the photo and you can see this gunner is harnessed to the machine gun.

Thursday 21st May

Today was a long long day.

We got off to a late start but managed to get to the ferry port only 90 minutes later than planned. Considering there were 5 of us travelling in Doug’s Cadillac, loaded with all our luggage it was not a bad bit of organisational effort. We were heading back across the border to Canada. We caught the car ferry at Kingston and arrived on time at Edmonds north of Seattle. The plan was to avoid the Seattle traffic. More on that in a moment. First we had to get off the ferry. It seems that just outside the ferry terminal is a railway line! Can you imagine that? A railway line crosses the on off road to the ferry terminal? Work was being carried out on the line. Due to an error of some sort the boom gates came crashing down, locked closed and alarm lights flashing and bells were clanging. Donnis and I were due to catch a ferry from Tsawwassen Canada to Duke Point Vancouver Island at 5.15pm and we barely had enough time to travel the 124 Miles in the two hours left to us. We were stuck on the ferry. Eventually the Stop/Slow miracle workers found a way for traffic to be moved off the ferry. Once on land we then encountered the afternoon school traffic and the beginnings of the rush hour. Sigh! So much for avoiding the Seattle traffic!

Somewhere south of Bellingham with three lanes of traffic travelling at 80 MPH, a car in the middle lane beside us suddenly swerved out of control and crossed in the path of other cars, who braked violently to avoid a collision. The car speared off the road and disappeared down a steep embankment, crashing into a stand of trees at the bottom. We simply could not stop but cars behind were able to do so. That shook us up somewhat. At Bellingham we left the highway to buy fuel.

Sigh!

Then after a few wrong turns were back on the highway until we reached the long queue of cars waiting to cross the border. Another delay but we were on our way after a 20 minute delay and somehow arrived at the wharf only an hour late. The next ferry was not until 8.15 and was a two hour crossing.

Donnis holding setting sun.

Donnis holding setting sun.

Thank goodness Joan was waiting for us.

We were ready for bed.

Friday 22nd May

Today was almost what can only be described as a lay day. Joan went to work, I caught up with editing photos and preparing blog entries for our Alaska Cruise and Donnis visited with her mum.

Saturday 23rd May
In the afternoon Joan and I went for a drive to one of my favourite locations on Vancouver Island… Cowichan Bay. It has many funky stores and eateries

Funky cafe front at Cowichan Bay.

Funky cafe front at Cowichan Bay.

and has the feel of an old fishing village from another century…which it was.

Whale watching wet gear at Cowichan Bay

Whale watching wet gear at Cowichan Bay

Floating houses and covered marina berths draws tourists and locals all year round.

Another liovely floating house.

Another lovely floating house.

Lovely floating house at Cowichan Bay.

Lovely floating house at Cowichan Bay.

Sunday 24th May

The cough has descended to my lungs but all in all not feeling too bad.

We visited the small coastal town of Crofton.

Like most towns scattered around the bays and inlets on Vancouver Island it has a certain charm and appeal while at the same time a certain air of decreptitude. Lovely old homes lovingingly maintained and cared for alongside houses which have not seen a paintbrush for a long long time and where old cars and other junk adorn the yard.

Crofton has an interesting history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crofton,_British_Columbia It was founded by Henry Croft in 1902 who had a copper mine at Mt Sickler and built a smelter on the coast and exported the refined copper. Unfortunately the residue blackened the nearby beaches and are still black to this day.

Dark sand on the beacch at Crofton

Dark sand on the beacch at Crofton

Lumps of material, once molten, can also be found on the beaches. A small causeway is almost entirely made from material from the smelter which closed in 1908.

Causeway made from old copper smelter residue.

Causeway made from old copper smelter residue.

Jetty which starts at end of causeway but with no easy way to get on the jetty.

Jetty which starts at end of causeway but with no easy way to get on the jetty.

Suspended jetty

Suspended jetty

An old marina pontoon, rotting and a menace to navigation.

An old marina pontoon, rotting and a menace to navigation.

Next came a pulp and paper mill in 1956 which operates to this day. The smell from the mill often pervades the air for many kilometres. The pulp from the mill is stored on barges floating in the bay. Their colourful orange base and cream coloured pulp almost perfectly finished in a roof like shape appear as so many identical floating houses.

From a distance these woodpulp barges look like houses.

From a distance these wood pulp barges look like houses.

A community group commenced a seawalk project some years ago and the final stage was completed in 2014. The kilometre long boardwalk along the foreshore is a delight and is suitable even for wheelchairs. While on the boardwalk we could hear the barking of sea lions nearby but could not find them.

Cowichan Bay Lighthouse

Cowichan Bay Lighthouse


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429. Sunday 17th May 2015. The end of our cruise at Seattle USA…

26/05/2015

Sunday 17th May
Woke early.

Not feeling 100%. Although I am rugged against the cold I can feel the cold through to my bones.
Hmmm!
No land in sight.

Gradually as the early morning lightens a little we are entering Seattle harbour. I can see the Washington State Ferries scuttling across the harbour with people and cars going about their Sunday activities.

In the dim overcast early morning light I can see many of these Washington State Ferries with cheerful lights moving about the harbour.

In the dim overcast early morning light I can see many of these Washington State Ferries with cheerful lights moving about the harbour.

The city is waking from sleep.

Another cruise ship, the Ruby Princess which reportedly carries 6,000 passengers is heading towards the cruise terminal the same time as us.

The giant cruise ship, RUBY PRINCESS racing us to a berth in Seattle.

The giant cruise ship, RUBY PRINCESS racing us to a berth in Seattle.

At 7.30 am passengers with just carry off bags were due to leave the ship. That did not happen as it took another two hours for the ship to be cleared. The original disembarkation plan was for carry on luggage passengers to leave first followed by passengers in a colour coded time sequence. Due to the delay, that plan was abandoned and all passengers disembarked in a disorderly mob. Us included.

Seattle Skyline.

Seattle Skyline.

Seattle Skyline.

Seattle Skyline.

Seattle skyline.

Seattle skyline.

The last few days aboard ship we were asked to wash our hands more often and instead of collecting our own food it was passed to us by serving staff. Even things like tomato sauce and mustard and pepper and salt shakers were removed from the tables. It seems there has been an outbreak of Norovirus which is a severe GI infection. We had noticed the crew cleaning tables, railings, walls and even floor more assiduously and more often. Up to 40 passengers have been taken off the ship by ambulance in several ports.
Belatedly the ship was cleared and we started the process of the feared US customs. The reason for the delay was never explained although a good guess would be the number of infected people on the ship.

Apart from handing in our entry declaration, which they never even looked at, they did not even ask to look at our passports, we suddenly found ourselves on the streets of Seattle and looking for a cab to take us to a ferry terminal. This is my first visit to the United States – apart from Alaska – and I had expected more security on arrival.

Two other ships arrived at roughly the same time as us, so thousands of people were looking for transport at the same time. The line for a taxi was almost a block long and we decided to walk from pier 66 to pier 52 when a taxi pulled up to drop off passengers. Donnis quickly jumped in and asked the driver to take us to pier 52. It sure beats walking and we arrived with enough time to catch our ferry. The ticket office was happy to give me a seniors discount, unlike staff at BC Ferries in Canada who will only give a discount to BC Seniors who hold a discount card.

PEARL at Seattle.

PEARL at Seattle.

We caught Washington State Ferry to Bremerton where Doug, Linda and Alecia collected us and took us to Jessica and Johns house at Poulsbo. After lunch I fell asleep on the lounge. They left me asleep and everybody went to a Viking Festival in the port of Poulsbo.
Belatedly I noticed my throat feels dry and I feel cold…even though it is cold and I am rugged in warm layers. I have a dry persistent cough.
Hmmm!

I hope I am just tired and it is nothing more serious.

So ends our 10 day cruise to Alaska on the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship THE PEARL.

Tomorrow begins the next stage of our travels within the USA and Canada.

428. Saturday 16th May 2015. Victoria, Vancouver Island….

25/05/2015

Saturday16th May

Today we arrived at the capitol of British Columbia, Victoria, on Vancouver Island.

Captain James Cook is celebrated and respected as much here in Canada as he is in Australia. Note the man with the pink mowhawk haircut.

Captain James Cook is celebrated and respected as much here in Canada as he is in Australia. Note the man with the pink mohawk haircut.

Our arrival heralds the final days of our Alaskan Cruise. The fact we are now in Canada means the Alaska part of our cruise is complete but the cruise is not. Not just yet anyway.
Yesterday was a sea day. That is, there are no towns or cities to visit. Just a cruise, at sea. We cruised along the outer passage. Nowhere could be seen any land or indeed any island. Swells were probably a bit over a meter and some small rocking was felt but other than that, cruising was just as smooth as we first experienced leaving Vancouver. We filled in our day walking the decks, talking with people, playing bingo, watching stage shows, watching movies on TV and ahem, eating.

Woke at the usual early hour to an overcast day and no land in sight. The overcast means we must be getting close to Vancouver Island.


By breakfast land was visible off the starboard bow and shortly after, land appeared on the port bow.

We had dutifully completed the Customs Declaration and held our passport in readiness to go through an expected Customs/Immigration grilling. WOT THE!!! They took the declaration and did not even look at us! Or our passports!

British settlement began here in Victoria around1843. The city is named after a long reigning British Monarch, Queen Victoria.

Known as the “The Garden City”, Victoria is an attractive city and a popular tourism destination with a thriving technology sector that has risen to be its largest revenue-generating private industry. Victoria is in the top twenty of world cities for quality-of-life.

Another interesting fact is that during the 1871 Census there was a huge population of 3,270. By 1971 the population was 67,761 and the 2011 Census has a population of 80,017.

What was pointed out by a friendly jeweller in the Hudsons Bay Store was in the streets surrounding the store are old style street light poles. Many of them have limited WiFi available. What a great idea so visitors can check their email or latest Facebook update.

WiFi is available on the streets of Victoria. The speed is a bit slow but it does work.

WiFi is available on the streets of Victoria. The speed is a bit slow but it does work.

It seemed that most of the crowds we saw walking the streets were tourists.
We had a full day of options ahead of us but chose to walk around Victoria and just soak up the atmosphere. A large number of motorcycles were parked along the waterfront.

A gathering of two wheels.

A gathering of two wheels.

We are not sure if it was a protest of some kind but the motorcycles ranged from cheap to expensive, from basic motor scooter to 1800cc and so on.
A school brass band performed on the steps of Parliament House.

A school brass band plays on the steps of Parliament House.

A school brass band plays on the steps of Parliament House.

We looked at many stores and by 4pm were weary and foot sore and walked back to PEARL for dinner.

A red passenger bus.

A red passenger bus.

PEARL awaits us at the Victoria docks.

PEARL awaits us at the Victoria docks.


We packed our main bags and put them in the companionway for collection and delivery to the dock. We suspect that during the night the bags will be sent through X-rays and scanners for US Customs and Immigration for arrival at our next destination…Seattle.

427. Thursday 14th May 2015. This is our last day in Alaskan waters. Ketchikan welcomed us…

25/05/2015

Thursday 14th May

Breakfast at Summer Palace on PEARL.

Breakfast at Summer Palace on PEARL.

Happy Birthday Alecia.
We arrived in another island town with a good local roadway system but accessible only by sea or air. The town is Ketchikan on the western coast of Revillagigedo Island.

One of several marina's along the waterfront at Ketchikan.

One of several marina’s along the waterfront at Ketchikan.

A road system called the Tongrass Highway runs north 14.6 miles to Knudson Cove. To the south of the town is a long lonely road and peters out in the south at Beaver Falls Creek in the middle of nowhere, 13.1 miles from town.

Ships dock right in the middle of the downtown area.

The International Airport is across the narrow channel on Gravina Island and passengers are ferried to and from the island.

The beginning of houses on neighbouring  Gravina Island.

The beginning of houses on neighbouring Gravina Island.

Instead of going on organized tours we decided to ride the local bus service and visit a local shopping centre to see how the locals live. Once away from the centre of town we noticed the quality of houses and indeed maintenance of houses was a lot poorer.

We then caught a bus which travelled the long way back to the downtown area where we stopped to view the tourist Mecca of jewellery stores and junk.

This is a Christian Totem explaining the story of Easter. See the accompanying photo for an explanation.

This is a Christian Totem explaining the story of Easter. See the accompanying photo for an explanation.

The totem story of Easter.

The totem story of Easter.Enlarge the photo.

We found a coffee shop which had WiFi, an hour for $5. As this was

our first chance to communicate with the world since leaving Vancouver we had a snack and coffee and used our email and Skype as wisely as an hour would allow. Interestingly, the WiFi was available free in the street and hordes of people were lined up beside the storefront with their mobile phones and iPads. Once again the locals and tourists stood out. Despite a lovely sunny day it was cold in the shade especially with a biting wind whipping through the streets. The tourists were rugged up, the locals in shorts and T-shirts.

Three cruise ships arrived this morning, all visible at the downtown docks.

PEARL is "parked" in downtown Ketchikan.

PEARL is “parked” in downtown Ketchikan.

Many stores sell local salmon, halibut and various crab products canned, dried or smoked even jerkied and all at much dearer prices than on supermarket shelves. The original Creek Street has houses and a footpath built on stilts over the creek. Some of the houses appear to be on the original rotting timbers.

Donnis at Creek Street

Donnis at Creek Street

One store which was the original brothel 100 years ago is now a museum with a couple of ladies of the night enticing tourists to enter.

Creek Street Shops on a timber boardwalk on a suspended platform. Note the madame having a cigarette and trying to entice a customer into the "brothel".

Creek Street Shops on a timber boardwalk on a suspended platform. Note the madame having a cigarette and trying to entice a customer into the “brothel”.

Most of the stores in this area were geared to tourists, naturally and did have some nice products locally made and local painters and photographers focused on local subjects such as whales, orcas, moose, elk, wolves and bald eagles. We inspected one jewelery store which advertised the best of both worlds – gold from Canada and opal from Australia. It was interesting to see opal from Lightning Ridge where Donnis worked over Christmas last year.

This store sold Alaskan Gold and Australian Opal.

This store sold Alaskan Gold and Australian Opal.

We took a funicular ( following is a list of funicular trams around the world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_funicular_railways by world standards this is a short ride) ride to the top of a steep hill. Apart from a flat area around the docks, Ketchican is comprised of steep hills. At the top of the fernicular is the entrance to a very expensive 5 star hotel.

Our first furnicular.

Our first funicular.

Hmmm. Look at the stiocker on the rear window. United States Marine Corp. Then look at the number plate which explains a great deal

Hmmm. Look at the stiocker on the rear window. United States Marine Corp. Then look at the number plate which explains a great deal

Totems on the hill  at the end of the furnicular.

Totems on the hill at the end of the furnicular.

As the afternoon wore on our resistance to the cold wind lessened so we went aboard o the warmth and food coziness of PEARL.

These beaut little electric cars were available for hire. That would have been fun...except finding parking is the same anywhere...a nightmare.

These beaut little electric cars were available for hire. That would have been fun…except finding parking is the same anywhere…a nightmare.

PEARL at Ketchikan.

PEARL at Ketchikan.

During our time on this cruise we have met a number of interesting people;

Erica and Adam from Rapid City, South Dakota who we kept bumping into, cameras drawn ready to record our trip. I am sure Erica will not mind if I mention her photography business. She has some wonderful photos and she is well travelled. Have a look at www.ericalanephotography.com

Durga and Venkat are from Perth and it seems we kept going to the same places so it was inevitable that we got to know each other and share adventures.

Reg and Ann from Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. Reg was once a General Insurance Broker but has recently retired as a Cherry Broker. Yep he found the right cherries at the right price and arranged shipments for buyers around the world. Interesting stories.

Alan and Julie live in Newcastle Australia and have Cruise and Airline help Facebook site. Hmmm. We will be talking with them before making any future major travel plans.

Tonight we begin a full day of cruising with no stops until we reach…drumroll… Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada.

We will see you in a couple of days.

426. Wednesday 13th May 2015. Glacier Bay, Alaska…

25/05/2015

Wednesday 13th May.
Woke at…you guessed it…5.30 am and found we were within the waters of Glacier Bay.

Misty early morning in glacier bay.

Misty early morning in glacier bay.

This was the beginning of a spectacular ooh and aaah day.

 

At 6am Alaskan Park Rangers arrived on their park cruiser. After matching speed with the ship three rangers climbed a rope ladder to board the ship.

Granduer of Glacier Bay.

Granduer of Glacier Bay.

From mid morning until 1pm a ranger gave a running commentary on the history of flora, fauna, native American and white arrival in the area. Importantly the talk included much information about each glacier that we saw. Much has been made in the media about the greenhouse effect and the glaciers melting and sea levels rising and how much of the planet as we know it will soon be under water. I can only say according to the maps, charts and commentary that many glaciers are in fact retreating. They have been retreating since man arrived and started to keep records. However some glaciers are constant and some are advancing.
The glaciers we saw were;

Margerie Glacier – the biggest and most spectacular and still growing- which once upon a time joined the

Grand Pacific Glacier which is receding.

Johns Hopkins Glacier
Rendou Glacier
Carroll Glacier

Margerie Glacier is calving about two metres every day.

Admiring the glacial cold.

Admiring the glacial cold.

Frank & Donnis at Margerie Glacier.

Frank & Donnis at Margerie Glacier.

Margerie Glacier.

Margerie Glacier.

Double click this photo. You can see the ie falling into the sea.

Double click this photo. You can see the ie falling into the sea.

Wow!

Wow!

Closeup of the ice atop the glacier.

Closeup of the ice atop the glacier.

It was named for the famed French geographer and geologist Emmanuel de Margeries who visited the Glacier Bay in 1913.When a section of ice and snow is about to break off there is a loud booming sound when suddenly a wall of ice will fall into the sea. With large falls an icy wave forms spreading out across the bay. Photographing a fall is an almost impossible task as you cannot know where along the 1.6 Klm face the next fall will be.  

Grand Pacific Glacier although receding may have slowed due to the rock and debris collected by the glacier in its grind towards the ocean. Where the rock debris is more than 25mm thick it has insulated the glacier ice and slowed the recession.

Grand Pacific Glacier

Grand Pacific Glacier

Johns Hopkins is another glacier considered to be advancing.

Johns Hopkins Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier

Johns Hopkins Glacier.

Johns Hopkins Glacier.

Again today I do not have enough superlative words to describe the huge mountain peaks, the snow, the ice, the glaciers and icebergs. It was awesome to be among all of that spectacle only nature can give us. Our ship which appears so large, cruised to what appeared to be a few hundred meters of Margerie Glacier but in reality was probably more like a kilometre off the glacier face. The ship was able to turn 360 degrees, twice, so everybody on each side of the ship was able to have a perfect view. Most passengers crowded the bow section to gain the longest views. By late in the afternoon we were both spectacle overloaded.

Reflection in PEARLs bridge windows.

Reflection in PEARLs bridge windows.

Seagulls on a free ride atop a melting iceberg.

Seagulls on a free ride atop a melting iceberg.

Close to the land.

Close to the land.

By 3pm the Park Rangers who had given a running commentary most of the day, handed out printed material and after lunch gave a Power Point Presentation lecture in the Stardust Theatre, left the ship as we approached the mouth of Glacier Bay. Passengers lined the rails to watch the rangers as their boat matched speed with PEARL and they clambered down a swaying ladder, boarded their boat and within minutes they were gone.

Park Rangers leaving

Park Rangers leaving

Another cruise ship entering Glacier Bay provides perspective.

Another cruise ship entering Glacier Bay provides perspective.

Wind driven snow atop the mountain. Is that really 15,000 feet?

Wind driven snow atop the mountain. Is that really 15,000 feet?

On reflection and looking at a chart of Alaska it is apparent that we saw only a small portion of the snow, ice, glaciers and vast distance of this umm err frozen land.
We still have four more days of cruising and visiting ahead of us.

Yes, they do play shuffleboard on ships.

Yes, they do play shuffleboard on ships.

 

425. Tuesday 12th May 2015. Icy Strait Point and Hoonah on the island of Chickagof, Alaska…

24/05/2015

Tuesday 12th May
Today we arrived at Icy Strait Point a few Klms from the small town of Hoonah on the island of Chickagof.

PEARL at Icy Strait Point

PEARL at Icy Strait Point

This is another Alaskan town only accessible by sea or air. In fact most Alaskan towns are only accessible by sea or air. There are about 700 year round permanent residents. As with all the other towns encountered on this trip all their supplies – including food and fuel – arrives by ship or air. As a result the food prices are expensive, add the US tax and the ever present tip and the prices escalate.
At breakfast we were fascinated to see a whale near the ship. Several whales in fact, all visible from the our on board dining room.

Icy Strait Point seen from a dining room window.

Icy Strait Point seen from a dining room window.

It was far more exciting and we saw more whales at breakfast than we saw on a paid whale watching tour at Juneau a few days ago. The cruise continues to delight us with surprises.

Most of the tourist activities are located at Icy Strait Point, a short bus ride from town. Most of the tourist shops and good eating houses are located in the old Fish House or canning factory.
In Hoonah we spent a casual hour walking around the surprisingly large marina.

Plants have started to grow on the top of the pylons at the marina.

Plants have started to grow on the top of the pylons at the marina.

Note the rotting timbers at this marina.

Note the rotting timbers at this marina.

The risk assessor part of my marine insurance background kicked into gear. Almost every marina, both here and in Canada are in fair to poor, mostly poor, condition. I wonder how they manage to get liability insurance each year especially in the litigation aware US. Rotted timber, steep slippery walkways, large protruding nails and trip hazards galore are just a few of the things I noticed. We got talking with a lone lady sailor who asked if we had any mechanical experience as her starter motor would not work and she was waiting for the only reliable mechanic on the island to arrive…sometime today…maybe, maybe not.

This is the yacht owned by the solo sailor we met. The boat is called Sherhazerade.

This is the yacht owned by the solo sailor we met. The boat is called Shehazerade.

Not being a local she commented how many of the locals are superstitious Tlingits and defer to the local shaman who is always watching.

A little island just off the Hoonah town marina is mostly used as a cemetery for the Tlingit People and as such is a sacred site...and haunted.

A little island just off the Hoonah town marina is mostly used as a cemetery for the Tlingit People and as such is a sacred site…and haunted.

She offered to take us on a sail around the island if we could get her starter motor working.

This is the main shopping centre of Hoonah.

This is the main shopping centre of Hoonah.

Staircase leading from the main street to a new house.

Staircase leading from the main street to a new house.

The island must have a good moose population as we saw many horns around town, including a set hoisted to the top of a fishing boat mast.

The island must have a good moose population as we saw many horns around town, including a set hoisted to the top of a fishing boat mast.

A local fisherman pointed out why there were curious looking folding ladders on the side of the walkways. It seems a buddy of his had been to the one and only tavern in the town two years ago. He came back to the marina late at night a bit the worse from drink. It seems he must have fallen in the water and as the walkways are raised quite high out of the water he could not lift himself onto the deck. Naturally, as the water is so cold, hypothermia sets in within a few minutes. The sailor died…not sure if he drowned or died of exposure. Either way it was a tragic death. The fold up ladders were installed to hopefully prevent future tragedies. He showed me how to use the ladders. They were complicated and even he had trouble unfolding the ladder. Hmmm. Not sure how much use they would be to a person with a few drinks under their belt, late at night and in freezing water.
We looked at a house head post and totem pole carving demonstration by local tribesmen. They gave a bit of history and one sang a family spirit song and accompanied himself on the native drum. It was a moving experience.

Back Icy Strait Point we debated going for a zip ride on the longest zip ride in the world.

The famous ZipLine.

The famous ZipLine. Double click on the image to view full size.

At $160 each plus tax etc for a 90 second ride we could not justify the cost. I could only wonder how an operation of this size could flourish on a tiny island with a limited tourist season. A 45 minute bus ride takes you to the top of the mountain to begin the adventure. Details from the web site http://www.icystraitpoint.com/General/Zipline

5,330 feet long, 1,300 foot vertical drop, 60 mph maximum speed, 300 feet highest point from ground, 1.5 minute ride time! If you are looking for true adventure then the ZipRider is for you. Unlike anything you’ve seen before the ZipRider cable ride at Icy Strait Point is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Your adventure begins when you board your bus for the ride to the top the mountain. Your driver will narrate as you pass through the village of Hoonah and then up the mountainside. Once on top you will take a short walk to the launching area. At 1,300 feet above sea level you will sit into a special harness seat and await your launch. Six guests launch at once, and it is a race to the bottom! 3, 2, 1 and you’re off, accelerating to 60 mph as you pass 300 feet above the treetops. If your eyes are still open you will see sweeping views of Port Frederick, Icy Strait and your cruise ship far below. Your ZipRide concludes with a break-activated landing on the beach back at Icy Strait Point.

Old wharf pilingfs at Icy Strait Point.

Old wharf pilinggs at Icy Strait Point.

Apart from seeing several whales, all camera shy, while waiting for the shuttle boat back to PEARL we waited in the warm sunshine discarding a layer or two of clothing.

PEARL was at anchor here rather the traditional docks at other locations. Once again we got underway at dinner time to head towards the next big adventure…Glacier Bay.

This is something we have been looking forward to.

424. Monday 11th May 2015. The port of Sitka on the island of Baranof, Alaska…

24/05/2015

Monday 11th May

Sitka, Alaska.

PEARL at Sitka

PEARL at Sitka

PEARL and Frank at Sitka. Note the French Tuk cap needed to keep my ears warm.

PEARL and Frank at Sitka. Note the French Tuk cap needed to keep my ears warm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitka,_Alaska

We woke on arrival at Sitka, an Alaskan town accessible only by sea or air. It is located on the western coast of Baranof Island. The site is old with at least 8,000 years of habitation of the Tlingit Peoples. Actually the local history claims the current native inhabitants arrived from nearby Mt Edgecumbe, an active volcano, when it errupted 8,000 years ago. (it has not errupted in recorded history)

Edgecumbe Island active volcano.

Edgecumbe Island active volcano.

There is a permanent population of 9,000 but during the tourist season the population swells with casual workers.

During World War II over 20,000 US Military Personel moved onto the island to build a Naval Air Station & Fortifications. Otherwise Sitka may have remained a quiet fishing village.

The ship was reversed into its place on the dock. Locals commented they had never seen a ship reversed into position before. I thought the skipper did an amazing job. All ships operations seem to be carried out in a very professional, smooth and no drama way.
At the dock the passengers lined up for the few shuttle buses to take us to town…4 klms away. We did think about walking but met a local woman pushing a pram who was on her way to the bus stop. So we took a local bus for $1 each and avoided the huge wait for a free bus. The local lady was very helpful giving us lots of information and tips on the best places to go. At the centre of town where all the tours commence it was chaos. We could not find a sign or a bus to take us to our first destination. None of the people had any idea of organisation but they promised they are learning. With up to 6 tourist ships to arrive each day until the end of September they will have a lot of practise to learn. They had better learn quick as we heard the same comments from every other passenger we spoke to.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

When cruise ships arrive all manner of public transport is called into active service, including school buses. Once organised a fleet of buses started a shuttle to all the tourist destinations. Apart from PEARL another smaller ship had arrived in Sitka and a third ship was already on its way. PEARL was a bit under populated on this voyage. She can carry up to 2,900 passengers and 1,000 crew. On this maiden 2015 cruise there were only 2,300 passengers aboard plus 1,000 crew. This cruise of 10 days is the only cruise of this length. All future cruises will be of 7 days duration.

We wanted a bus to the Fortress of the Bear… http://www.fortressofthebear.org/ A place where orphaned bears are kept to save them from being shot. Alaska is the only US state which will not allow orphaned cubs to be released back into the wild. The bears here are still wild but used to humans…up to a point.

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Brown Bear

Black Bear

Black Bear

Black Bears

Black Bears

Unless the operators can find a zoo to take the bears this will be their home for life or the state shoots them. While photographing the bears I thought they looked small. Up close they are taller than I care to meet on the street and the giant paws with long sharp claws are a frightening. The bear I encountered was smart enough to know the steel gate lifted up and he was trying to lift it.

Lookit the size of those claws!!! OMG! He was trying to lift a steel gate.

Lookit the size of those claws!!! OMG! He was trying to lift a steel gate.

Once upon a time the town relied on timber cutting and exporting wood pulp to Japan. The industry had built three very large concrete tanks as part of the pulp process. The pulp mill is now long closed but two of the tanks have been leased out to the fortress organisers. Apart from the bears, the centre also attracts a large contingent of Bald Eagles sitting in the trees around the tanks just waiting on a morsel of fish.

Bald Eagle in tree above Fortress of the Bear.

Bald Eagle in tree above Fortress of the Bear.

So too do the Ravens surround the tanks. Tourists can purchase large chunks of frozen Halibut to throw to the bears. Pieces break off. The birds get the pieces. The organisers also feed the bears by throwing Halibut via a slingshot into various corners or by hiding the fish or other goodies such us fruits, berries and some nuts in a frozen confection. The bears have to work to find their food.

Once the salmon begin to return to the rivers creeks and streams the eagles will leave the free lunch and work for a meal again.

On another note, wild bear, black and brown, can and do roam the streets. That is how bear cubs become orphans. The mother is usually shot when looking for food in houses or the local rubbish dump. Some people on other tours did report seeing wild bears on the road.
On our return to the centre of town it was off on a self guided totem tour at the Sitka National Historical Totem Park on Jamestown Bay. http://www.nps.gov/sitk/learn/historyculture/totem-poles.htm    The self guided walking tour is a mix of forest, totems

Entrance to self guided Totem Walk.

Entrance to self guided Totem Walk.

One of a dozen totems on the self guided walk.

One of a dozen totems on the self guided walk.

and grand views across the bay and the snow capped mountains beyond.

Yellow Dandelion at Jamestown Bay.

Yellow Dandelion at Jamestown Bay.

Catching a fish the natural way at Jamestown Bay near the Totem Centre

Catching a fish the natural way at Jamestown Bay near the Totem Centre

We ran out of time and warmth before finding a shuttle bus back to the ship. Totems are all over the island and are a fascinating visual story board but unless you can interpret what each part of the totem means it soon becomes a bit overwhelming.
Have I mentioned the cold??? Although the sun is shining and has done since we left Juneau it is still cold in the shade or in the wind. We still need to dress in layers to keep warm.
Mt Edgecumbe, an active volcano on a nearby island had the top shrouded by cloud all day. The cloud is a mixture of steam and fume. The cloud hangs around the top of the volcano forming a sort of collar.

Electric car seen at the Totem Centre.

Electric car seen at the Totem Centre.

Once again we arrived back on board in time for a welcome hot shower and a leisurely dinner.

On the subject of showers I can report that our little cabin has its own bathroom, probably twice as big as on WWWGO. It was well appointed, well lit and we always had hot water and plenty of water pressure.

Sometime while we were enjoying dinner the ship quietly left port heading to our next destination.

Wine prices are about what you would expect to pay in a quality restaurant ashore. If you do not finish a bottle it is corked, labelled and stored in a central refrigerated facility. Next time you want that bottle at any of the restaurants it will be brought to your table.

We always ate at the several complimentary restaurants. The meal portions were small so we could have an appetiser, a main and dessert and feel satisfied but not bloated. Service at all the restaurants was exceptional. There was no assigned table and no need to dress up. Dress was informal or formal according to individual tastes. The exception was the Captains Table dinners where dress was formal and dinner was $99 per head which included wine.

423. Sunday 10th May 2015. Skagway Alaska and the White Pass…

23/05/2015

Sunday 10th May
Clocks were wound back overnight due to daylight savings.
We woke to find the ship was berthed at Skagway, the starboard side of the ship faced the cliff and vegetation of a mountain beside the harbour.

Us with the PEARL in the background at Skagway.

Us with the PEARL in the background at Skagway.

Much of Skagway has timber boardwalks.

Timber boardwalk footpaths of Skagway.

Timber boardwalk footpaths of Skagway.

We both like Skagway. It is connected to other parts of Alaska, Canada and the US by a highway.

This is the Royal Enfield C5 Military motorcycle probably circa 2010 or perhaps earlier. Located in a Skagway street. Oh, and notice the small totems in the background.

This is the Royal Enfield C5 Military motorcycle probably circa 2010 or perhaps earlier. Located in a Skagway street. Oh, and notice the small totems in the background.

First up we took a walking tour with a knowledgeable park ranger…tipping permitted … who gave us interesting facts about how the town came to be. Basically the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 got the ball rolling. Prospectors arrived via ship then climbed the 37 mile snow covered White Pass and hiked a further 500 miles to the goldfields. Often by the time they arrived all available gold and claims were already taken.The numbers of gold crazy hopefuls ensured a regular shipping from Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco.

First home of prominent early settler William "Billy" Moore.

First home of prominent early settler William “Billy” Moore.

We decided to have a cup of coffee and a burger before starting on our next tour. The coffee was $2 plus tax plus tip. The standard of coffee was somewhere between instant coffee and the stuff we get on board PEARL. 

Once upon a time in a land far away I tasted peanut butter Oreos. Which are no longer available in Oz or indeed Canada, I know because I have searched for them. In a little IGA store in quiet Skagway I found the Peanut Butter Orioles.

Another interesting fact about Skagway is how the roads and airstrip came into being. During WWII the US agreed to supply Russia with fighter planes. How to get them there quickly without Germany and Japan knowing? Fly them across the Arctic Circle of course. So thousands of Service Men and machines were delivered to Skagway and work commenced on airstrips and roads with co-operation from Canada to pass through their Territories. US Womens Air Force flew the planes to Skagway and were shipped back via road to fly the next lot of planes. Russian pilots flew into Skagway and flew the fighters back to Russia.

We then boarded the White Pass & Yukon Railway with two diesel electric engines towing about a dozen railway carriages, all filled with tourists from the one ship.

The White Pass Train

The White Pass Train

I do not have enough superlative words to describe this round trip to the top of the pass.

Although the river is rushing with meltwater and the level will rise the snow and ice at the top will remain solid until the snow becomes top heavy and will tip over creating an avalanche.

Although the river is rushing with meltwater and the level will rise the snow and ice at the top will remain solid until the snow becomes top heavy and will tip over creating an avalanche.

It stops just before the Canadian border,

We have reached the top.

We have reached the top.

the engines are unhooked, sent to the rear which becomes the front, the seat backs are reversed and passengers exchange seats so we all get a chance to see the amazing views. The further up the pass the train moved the heavier became the snow cover. In places the railway line and highway parallel each other but on opposite sides of a valley. Midway to the pass we saw the border crossing which is actually nowhere near the border. The border is way at the top of the pass and in winter suffers from below zero temperatures and blizzards. Staff became stranded. The new crossing is further down the pass in Canadian Territory and can be reached, at least from Skagway, in all weather.

Although the river is rushing with meltwater and the level will rise the snow and ice at the top will remain solid until the snow becomes top heavy and will tip over creating an avalanche.

Although the river is rushing with meltwater and the level will rise the snow and ice at the top will remain solid until the snow becomes top heavy and will tip over creating an avalanche.

An the twin diesel engines just keep on cruising and pulling a huge load of carriages and passengers.

An the twin diesel engines just keep on cruising and pulling a huge load of carriages and passengers.

A trestle bridge is just before a long tunnel.

A trestle bridge is just before a long tunnel.

Spectacular Scenery on the White Pass Railway

Spectacular Scenery on the White Pass Railway

The train is winding its way towards the second tunnel. The trestle bridge in the background is no longer used. It is so unstable and ready to collapse.

The train is winding its way towards the second tunnel. The trestle bridge in the background is no longer used. It is so unstable and ready to collapse.

A bit further around the bend.

A bit further around the bend.

We are really getting up into the high snow covered country now. Not far from the top.

We are really getting up into the high snow covered country now. Not far from the top.

Now heading back down the pass.

Now heading back down the pass.

In the land of constant snow and ice.

In the land of constant snow and ice.

Even in the high country the mountain peaks can still be higher.

Even in the high country the mountain peaks can still be higher.

Donnis on the carriage platform.

Donnis on the carriage platform.

We spent almost as much time standing on the platfortm between carriages as we did sitting in our seart.

We spent almost as much time standing on the platfortm between carriages as we did sitting in our seart.

The local cemetery appears on the outskirts of town beside the railway track. There are two well marked graves with history. These graves mark the final resting place of the town hero and the town villain. The hero had called a town meeting to decide what to do about the villain and his gang of ner do wells, con-men and ruffians all. Of course the villain and his gang were not pleased having not been invited to the meeting. So they crashed the meeting and words ensued. The good guy and the bad guy drew their guns and two shots rang out. The bad guy died on the spot. The good guy survived for a few days before he died. Hmmm. Sounds like a good reason for carrying a gun. Here is more detailed description, with thank you to Wikipeadia.   Between 1897-1898, Skagway was a lawless town, described by one member of the North-West Mounted Police as “little better than a hell on earth.” Fights, prostitutes and liquor were ever-present on Skagway’s streets, and con man “Soapy” Smith, who had risen to considerable power, did little to stop it. Smith was a sophisticated swindler who liked to think of himself as a kind and generous benefactor to the needy. He was gracious to some, giving money to widows and halting lynchings, while simultaneously operating a ring of thieves who swindled prospectors with cards, dice, and the shell game. His telegraph office charged five dollars to send a message anywhere in the world. Consequently unknowing prospectors sent news to their families back home without realizing there was no telegraph service to or from Skagway until 1901.[12] Smith also controlled a comprehensive spy network, a private militia called the Skaguay Military Company, the town newspaper, the Deputy U.S. Marshall’s office and an array of thieves and con-men who roamed about the town. Smith was shot and killed by Frank Reid and Jesse Murphy on July 8, 1898, in the famed Shootout on Juneau Wharf. Smith managed to return fire — some accounts claim the two men fired their weapons simultaneously — and Frank Reid died from his wounds twelve days later. Jesse Murphy is accredited as the man responsible for killing Smith.[13] Smith and Reid are now interred at the Klondike Gold Rush Cemetery, also known as “Skagway’s Boot Hill.”[14]

Skagway, like Juneau main streets are dominated by diamond stores, jewelry and watch stores followed closely by tourist junk stores. The employees of the stores stand at the doorway asking you to come inside, look at the amazing products and offer a free piece of junk jewelry.

A couple of tips or observations are in order here. As Australians we are unused to the habit of tipping. Tipping in the US for example is almost compulsory. Every bus driver, boat crew, waitress, taxi driver, guide and so on ad infinitum expects a tip. The first bus driver at Juneau spent 5 minutes of his commentary explaining how as a native American his name means “tip big”. The next bus also had signs up about tipping and the boat went one step further and explained how a tip could be charged on a credit card…plus taxes, plus exchange rate. Tipping rules in the US and Canada expects that you will pay a 15% tip. It seems odd that these wealthy countries, leaders of the economic world, have citizens reduced to…begging for a living.
The other tip is that the cruise ships have arrangements that you can book tours in advance. These are good but of course the ship adds a percentage to the fares. Most of the tours and more, are available on shore for less.

We arrived back at the ship and within an hour it was underway to our next destination. We would be cruising overnight through the Inside Passage. The ship moves with grace and we can feel no sensation of moving or vibrations or bumps even when docking.

422. Saturday 9th May 2015. Juneau. State Capitol for Alaska…

23/05/2015

Friday 8th May

Woke at 7am and had a decadent breakfast on the rear deck.

Outer deck on PEARL. We had several breakfasts, lunches and late night snacks here. We ate here, not because it was our favourite place but because we could not find a vacant table inside. Thank goodness most of the time it was sheltered from the wind and it was sunny. Not always.

Outer deck on PEARL. We had several breakfasts, lunches and late night snacks here. We ate here, not because it was our favourite place but because we could not find a vacant table inside. Thank goodness most of the time it was sheltered from the wind and it was sunny. Not always.

We managed to fill in our day doing mostly walking from deck to deck and eating at appropriate times.

We will not starve on this trip.

The scenery changed overnight.

We were passing through the Inside Passage, the mainland and islands were often close to us and many more mountains are coated in snow. A USA Pilot Boat cruised beside us for an hour or so as we passed through the narrowest part of the passage. We sighted lots of sea birds, small dolphins and in the distance, always in the distance, whales. The sea birds seemed to be in groups of hundreds and hundreds of groups as we progressed. Always they were flying over or sitting on the water above what seemed to be something black just below the surface. Some were sitting on floating logs. I could never quite see what was below the surface. As the day ticked away and the mainland and islands receded, almost all the mountains are now covered in snow. From this latitude north we may be able to see the northern lights.

By nightfall the sky was overcast and heralding rain.

After a wonderful dinner we went to the Stardust Theatre and saw a nostalgic ” swing” musical.

Our ship continues to cruise at a leisurely 26 knots.

Bed was midnight.

Saturday 9th May

Frank…awake at 5am…again.

Heavy mist and low lying cloud obscured much of the view but we are now in a  narrower passage between mainland and islands. The sun burst through the clouds for a few minuters to brighten the snow capped mountains with rivulets running down the slopes towards the sea.

Naturally breakfast was overwhelming with the variety and volume of food choices.

There is a jogging track on deck 13 and a walking promenade on deck 7 both of which I have used to ensure at least a 2 Klm walk every day. Of course walking up and down decks and around those decks ensures some exercise

We arrived at the Alaskan State Capitol of Juneau.

Norwegian Pearl at dock in Juneau.

Norwegian Pearl at dock in Juneau.

Interestingly, the state capitol has no access by road to/from the outside world. There is a main highway covering about 45 Klms and many smaller roads but they go nowhere. All goods and tourists arrive by sea or air.

The day turned out to be a mixture of cold followed by colder with some sunshine followed by rain followed by sunshine. Mostly it rains in Juneau – the average is 322 days of rain per year. The city is a bustling mix of the usual stores…downtown there are heaps of jewellery, watch and gold stores… and schools and traffic (mostly big trucks of the Ford 150 and bigger variety) rushing around. We were surprised to see traffic lights.

Locals are distinguishable from visitors. The locals are the ones dressed in shorts n Tshirts, the tourists are dressed in layers including quilted coats. The locals soak up any chance of sunshine.

The local indian tribes are known as Tinglits and are expected to be at every destination. Their local customs, art, speech and dress are evident everywhere.

We were told our ship is the first of the summer rush lasting until September. From now on there could be as many as 6 cruise ships per day.

First up we took a bus to Mendenhall Glacier…

Mendenhall Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier.

a couple rugged up against the cold and biting wind pose before the Mendenhall Glacier.

a couple rugged up against the cold and biting wind pose before the Mendenhall Glacier.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendenhall_Glacier    … Mendenhall is known as a receding glacier, that is, its end is melting and now 1.75 miles shorter than it was in 1955. I do not know what I was expecting, a wall of sheer ice perhaps. The reality is the glacier slopes from high up in the valley peaks and slopes down to the face. From our vantage point the face looked like a wedge. However as we were probably two or more Klms from the face we were told the face is a sheer wall of ice. Recent falls of ice, called calves when they fall but icebergs when they are floating are a brilliant blue green, floating on the bay.

We had little time to explore as our bus for the next attraction was waiting for us. We found ourselves in a small marina where we boarded our boat, thankfully all seats are inside, licensed for 16 persons. Our tickets promised a 100% guarantee of seeing a whale. Of course there was no mention of a refund if a whale was not sighted.

On the way way out of the harbour we saw a Bald Eagle sitting atop a pole.

A Bald Eagle sits atop a marina pole surveying its territory.

A Bald Eagle sits atop a marina pole surveying its territory.

We saw more eagles on a rocky outcrop just a short way from the harbour.

A pair of Bald Eagles on harbour rocks.

A pair of Bald Eagles on harbour rocks.

We also saw Sea Otters and Sea Lions and a few short dolphins but no whales. Eventually we did see a spout which confirmed a whale sighting. In the distance we saw a whale but too far to be sure of what we saw except the skipper kept insisting it was a whale.  That sighting was our 100% guarantee confirmed!

Believe it or not there is a whale in this photo. Double click on the image and if you like double click again for a full image. the whale is mid frame on the left hand side.

Believe it or not there is a whale in this photo. Double click on the image and if you like double click again for a full image. the whale is mid frame on the left hand side.

A lighthouse on one of a myriad of small islands in the bay around Juneau.

A lighthouse on one of a myriad of small islands in the bay around Juneau.

On the way back to the harbour we saw a group of Sea Lions lounging in the wan sunlight on a channel marker buoy. Another Sea Lion was attempting to eject himself from the sea onto the tiny space available on the buoy while others were trying to keep him off.

Sea Lions sunning themselves on a channel marker.

Sea Lions sunning themselves on a channel marker.

Mendenhall Glacier from the bay.

Mendenhall Glacier from the bay.

Gold was found in Juneau somewhere around 1860… The actual date is a little obscure – the last of the gold was pulled out of a mine situated near the present day harbour in 1942 and the mine shut down. The only money made out of the mine now is by guided tours.

Before boarding “PEARL” we took a cable car trip up the sheer sided hill named Mt Roberts. The brooding mountain looks down on the harbour and downtown. The gold mine was situated in this steep mountain.

PEARL seen from the peak of Mt.Roberts.

PEARL seen from the peak of Mt.Roberts.

We left port at 10 pm.

 

421. Thursday 7th May 2015. Vancouver Island, Vancouver and day one of the cruise…

15/05/2015

Monday 4th May

Today was a lay day.

Yep. A real lay day not like the lay day yesterday.

The day was mostly overcast with a chill wind blowing from some Arctic region. Rain is predicted for tomorrow when we travel up island to visit Lara. The most exciting thing I did all day was go to a Salvation Army store to buy a cheap rain repellant jacket. I will need it tomorrow and perhaps when we dock at several ports in Alaska.

 

Tuesday 5th May

My, my, what a busy day.

In the morning we drove “up iskand” to Qualicum to visit Joan’s daughter, Lara.

Frank Lara and Joan outside Lara's home in Qualicum  on Vancouver Island.

Frank Lara and Joan outside Lara’s home in Qualicum on Vancouver Island.

On the way we saw some mountains were tipped with snow and a visit to the beach was cut short due to the icy wind blowing off the snow.

Afterwards we drove to Nanaimo to catch a ferry to Vancouver then two bus trips to reach Doug and Linda where we will stay for two nights before joining the cruise ship to Alaska. The ferry ride to Vancouver was smooth and scenery stunning especially with low cloud filling the spaces between islands.

On the ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Vancouver the sky greyed over and cold mist settle across the strait between the mainland and several smaller islands.

On the ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Vancouver the sky greyed over and cold mist settle across the strait between the mainland and several smaller islands.

Snow capped peaks near Vancouver Harbour added to the misty cold views.

 

Wednesday 6th May

Early morning mist settles over Vancouver.

Early morning mist settles over Vancouver.

Today Doug & Linda drove us to University of British Columbia, Jericho Beach, Kitsilano Beach, Granville Island Markets

Entrance to Granville Island.

Entrance to Granville Island.

Beside the popular and colourful Granville Island is a cement works which is unnattracrive. The works have been painted to blend in with its surroundings.

Beside the popular and colourful Granville Island is a cement works which is unnattracrive. The works have been painted to blend in with its surroundings.

 

Water taxi operate around the Vancouver Harbour.

Water taxi operate around the Vancouver Harbour.

Burrage Street Bridge seen from GRANVILLE iSLAND with cruise ship and mountains in the background.

Burrage Street Bridge seen from GRANVILLE ISLAND with cruise ship and mountains in the background.

and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Queen Elizabeth Park with glasshouse filled with tropical plants on Vancouver.

Queen Elizabeth Park with glasshouse filled with tropical plants on Vancouver.

We stopped for lunch at the markets and I had Perogies for lunch. Donnis has also spoken of this food for many years so today I finally tried them. Hmmm! These must be an acquired taste. Donnis claims they only taste good when home made. To me they taste something like a potato filled Ravioli…Without the taste.

There were great views between the two bridges, Burrard St and Granville leading into Vancouver.

Lots of little water taxis, looking like bathtubs with a canopy run up and down the river carrying passengers to riverside destinations.

Thursday 7th May

Frank was up bright and early as usual and waited patiently for the rest of the household to wake. Later in the morning after a big breakfast Doug and Linda drove us to Canada Place ion Vancouvers harbourfront to board our ship. I sort of thought passengers would arrive at various times to pass through customs and board the ship. Not so. This is the first cruise of the season for this ship, Norwegian Pearl and had only 2,300 passengers instead of the full capacity of almost 3,000. They did have a full crew of 1,000.  All those passengers all arrived at the same time expecting to board and tuck into a sumptuous lunch. There were long queues to get through US Immigration, (were were photographed and fingerprinted) US Customs and Norwegian Cruise Lines ticketing system where we were photographed again and issued an electronic room key which we then used to pass through Security to board “The Pearl”. Our cabin midships on deck 10 was ready and luggage arrived so after shucking our carry-on luggage we went in search of food.

Our cabin was mid ship. This is the hallway looking forward.

Our cabin was mid ship. This is the hallway looking forward.

Food after all is what cruising is all about. Or so I have been told. The cafeteria style Garden Cafe was open on deck 12 and looking at the variety of food was like letting a child loose in a lolly shop.

Lunch at a window seat on the NORWEGIAN PEARL.

Lunch at a window seat on the NORWEGIAN PEARL.

The choice of food was staggering and silly people could go back and refill their plates as often as they wanted. Silly us did that.

The forward deck pool and games area.

The forward deck pool and games area.

Sundeck above the pool deck

Sundeck above the pool deck

We did learn three important lessons.

  1. Take your time do not fill the plate there is plenty of food and the cafe is open most of the day and late into the night. For late night snacking the rear deck has food all night.
  2. The coffee is terrible. There is no way I can disguise my disappointment. Real espresso coffee is available from a bar on deck seven…at a price.
  3. The tea, if anything, is worse. |Even after dunking a teabag 20 times the water had not changed colour and there was no flavour. After adding sugar and milk the result tasted like sweetened hot milk. Other travellers suggested they use up to four teabags per cup to get flavour.

As we left Vancouver Harbour

Leaving Vancouver Harbour.

Leaving Vancouver Harbour.

Vancouver with Mount Fraser in the background.

Vancouver with Mount Fraser in the background.

and approached Lions Gate Bridge we were on an observation deck on deck 14. Ahead of us were two speedboats doing donuts directly in our path. The Water Police chased the boats. One would veer off with the Police in pursuit while the other stayed in our path. The Police then chased the second boat and the first boat would swing back in front of us. Eventually the Police concentrated on one boat while other stayed in our path. These boats were playing games and dicing with death. The ship skipper sounded a blast on the ships horn, apart from scaring everybody on board the small boat decided to move out of the way at the last moment.

A few of the mountains around the harbour were peppered with snow. The harbour is a delightful sight…almost as good as Sydney Australia.

Sunset as we travel north through the Inside Passage

Sunset as we travel north through the Inside Passage

More of the sunset

More of the sunset

Tonight we had a wonderful dinner at the onboard Chinese Restaurant.

Tomorrow morning we will be in Juneau, Alaska.

Because the days will be long with lots of photos I have decided to create a separate post for each day from this point until the end of the cruise.