It is three days since we set sail from Vancouver to cruise the Inside Passage, that maze of straits, and channels along the Canadian and Alaskan coastlines through the myriad of offshore islands.
The towns in Alaska that we visited are all about their waterways, snow and ice, mountains and glaciers, wildlife, the native peoples and just a small population in this the largest state in the Union.
We made two stops in Alaska at Ketchikan and the capital, Juneau, as well as cruising Glacier Bay.
We continue to be astounded by our good fortune with the weather. This is the last cruise of this season before their winter break in this part of the world, and we have had good to perfect weather almost every day.
A cute town that is supposedly the wettest place in Alaska with up the 300 days of rain a year resulting in several feet of rainfall.
Our excursion into the Misty Fjords showed us how steeply the mountains fall into the sea and here we had many waterfalls dropping down from the heights delivering the rain.
Although the state capital it is isolated, without any roads in or out, and we have been told a few times that there are only three to get to Juneau:
- by water
- by float plane
- by the birth canal
Tourism is very important here, and it is possible that up to seven cruise ships will berth some days in peak season. As the last cruise of the season we had the place to ourselves and quite a few of the gift shops had already closed down.
On our Juneau excursion we were guaranteed whale sightings (or money back) and we were not disappointed. Taken to the humpback whales regular summer feeding waters we saw at least half a dozen of them. Within the next few weeks they would be starting their annual migration to Hawaiian waters for calving and mating before returning in May. This excursion also took us to the Mendenhall glacier before returning to town where some opted for the cable car ride to the top of the mountain behind the town, and of course there was the mandatory visit to the famous Red Dog Saloon.
We took in all the important sights…
The next morning after leaving Juneau, at about 9am we cruised into the spectacular Glacier Bay under cloudless blue skies. The weather gods are still with us and we have a perfect day. The ship’s crew suggested it was one of the best, if not the best, day of the season to view the wonders of the glaciers.
We spent several hours getting up close and personal to a couple of glaciers, most notably the John Hopkins glacier and the Margerie glacier and, in almost complete awed silence, listening to the noises produced as the ice moved and cracked under the pressure of the weight of miles of glacier from up the mountain. The Margerie glacier is said to move up to six feet a day.
Our next stop was to be two days hence at Dutch Harbour, but the weather gods must have decided that we had had our share of good weather. Three low pressure systems were forecast in the area over the next couple of days, making the cruise both uncomfortable and the tender berthing at Dutch Harbour not possible. Instead of continuing northwards, we turned west on the sea journey Across the North Pacific.