Tuesday 12th May
Today we arrived at Icy Strait Point a few Klms from the small town of Hoonah on the island of Chickagof.
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.
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.
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.
Not being a local she commented how many of the locals are superstitious Tlingits and defer to the local shaman who is always watching.
She offered to take us on a sail around the island if we could get her starter motor working.
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.
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.
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.