Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 April 15:

  

      An update on our travel plans is in order.  I finished my contract in Juneau on April 15th.  But rather than jump on the next plane to fly home, we decided to take the next ferry back to Seattle.  The State of Alaska runs the Alaska Marine Highway to ferry people, vehicles, and cargo to places like Juneau that have no road access to the outside world.  The two and a half day trip runs through the beautiful and mostly protected channels of the inside passage of the northwest coast.   We have really fallen for the wild beauty of the coast up here, so it should be great to kick back, unwind, and watch this amazing scenery drift by on the ferry ride.

      More than once in the first month or two after arriving in Juneau, we told each other, "It would be neat to see this place in the summer."  Juneau was just starting to come alive as we leave.  The fishing boats are out working again, and the tourism industry is hard at work preparing for the deluge of cruise ships that moor at the dock in front of town all summer long.  So when the clinic I'm working at here invited me back to work for a month this summer, it didn't take too long for us to agree.

      So rather than rushing back to Uliad to sail off as quickly as possible, this year we have some time to kill.  I couldn't imagine being away from the boat the whole time, so I'm still going to fly back for a while in the interim.  But not before taking our time to do a little exploring and visiting here as well. 

 

 

 April  19:

 

 

      We ended up packing up 6 large boxes of stuff and shipping it back to the family warehouse, AKA, my brother's basement.  How in the world to we accumulate so much stuff so quickly?  In fairness, we were making an effort to travel light for the next few weeks. 

     We gave the house and cars a thorough cleaning, packed our bags, and took a taxi to the ferry terminal in time to watch the "Malaspina" come steaming around the corner.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the back and forth tweaking of lines, engines, and thrusters that it took for the ferry captain to get her lined up just right so a ramp could come down for vehicles to board through a door in the side of the bow.  I enjoyed this mostly so I could point out to Kathleen that Uliad is not the only ship on the sea that has to do a little back and forth sometimes to get herself docked properly.

     Finally we were allowed to walk down the ramp to the properly aligned ferry.  We then followed the signs to the pursers office and collected the keys to the port side cabin that would be our home for the voyage.  It didn't take long for us to explore the layout of the 400 foot long vessel.  To the front is a glassed in observation lounge filled with soft chairs and perfect for viewing the scenery that goes by.  We settled in here as we steamed out of Juneau at sunset, enjoying a picnic of baguette, brie, Alaskan smoked sablefish, and a nice red wine to wash it down.  And maybe it was only the wine, but as soon as we were feeling that gentle motion of water beneath us again, Kath & I both commented on the immediate, relaxed sense of being home again.

 

 

April 20:

 

      By the light of day, I noticed that there are signs saying "No food or beverages" in the forward observation lounge.  Then I read through the ferry boat rules which included one that alcoholic beverages can be consumed only in the bar or one's cabin, and anyone breaking this rule will be escorted off the boat at the next port.  So I guess we won't be having anymore sunset picnics on this trip.

      Reserving a cabin is optional when travelling the Marine Highway.  The alternative is to commandeer some floor space in the middle observation lounge (sleeping is also forbidden in the upscale foreward lounge) or to bring your sleeping bag and enjoy the brisk Alaska night air on your own plastic deck lounger at the stern of the boat.  A surprising number of people choose to save a few hundred bucks and do exactly that.  They're easy to spot in the mornings.  They are the ones pacing the decks trying to warm up and looking like grim death.  I couldn't help feeling a bit guilty this morning--all washed and refreshed as we strolled past the huddled masses in steerage class. 

riding the Alaska Marine Highway

      We awoke in time to watch the ship dock at the town of Wrangell.  We surveyed the town from deck and decided to stay on board.  One thing I've decided:  I'm sure glad to leave the driving to someone else up here.  There are logs floating all over in the waters up here and many look plenty large to punch a hole in the hull of an unmindful skipper.  Throughout the day I've watched the ferry carefully weave a path around logs.  I've decided to stay up late to see what they do in the darkness.  Do they shine a spotlight on the water or just plow ahead blindly and hope for the best?  And if the steel hull is rugged enough for that, they why bother to steer around them so carefully in the day? 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                   

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