Category Archives: Alaska

10th September

Am I bad.  I started writing this 4 days ago and what with one thing and another, as we lie berthed in Victoria BC, I have some time to continue.

Well, what a few days thus far; we’ve had quite a time of it and I write from Homer, having docked here 2 hours ago.  When we left Seattle on the 28th, the sun gloriously shone, however as we made our way north towards south-east Alaska, the clouds and rain closed in.  

On the morning of our arrival, Ketchikan had just broken its record for ‘summertime’ rainfall, a whopping 45″ (1.143m) since June 1st and the grand total at this stage was 104″ (2.64m); well, Ketchikan lies in a temperate rain forest and its living up to that.   :-).  Juneau was wet too, however Icy Strait Point was lovely, sun and blue sky.  

I had been looking at weather forecasts all week.  We had to cross the Gulf of Alaska on our way to Anchorage and the portent did not appear to be favourable.  Deep depressions were rolling across the North Pacific, remnants of Tropical storms which spawned in Asia and, if I was to get to Anchorage, we had to go through it all.  

After leaving Icy Strait Point, we ‘battened down the hatches’ as the seamen of past would phrase it (battens are wooden wedges, which are hammered into guides and hold the canvas over the hatches, done it too many times in the past); going to our ultimate securing matrix and preparing for a ‘ride’. Sure enough, halfway across the Gulf, 60 knots (66 mph, 105 kph) and a 16 feet swell, (5m), fortunately we were ‘running’ with it.  We rode it well, the weather was coming from the east, so from behind us.  The best was yet to come, (unfortunately), the forecast was for a maximum of 60 knots, however by late afternoon we found ourselves in 80 knots and 7m swells, still riding it well, the stabilisers working overtime.  

Early afternoon and the seas slowly building

Having reached the Kennedy Entrance and having to round the Kenai Peninsula to enter Cook Inlet, we now had to try to turn, the wind was going to be on our starboard side.  We had ballasted water into tanks to try and negate the wind’s expected effect and all was going well; turning slowly, changing course by 5° each time, literally ‘testing the waters’. As we were doing so, the wind howling and spume blasting across the water, ahead of us a strip of white water appeared, spray whirling, a wind blast. On hand-steering, (no computers in this weather), an order to alter rapidly to port, however before it could be completed we were blasted by a gust of wind which we estimated at 120 knots, 192 kph.  Our anemometer was jammed at 100 knots, (the highest it will read and stayed there).  The alteration to put the wind away from the beam completed a few seconds later (it seemed like an age) and we straightened up again.  As we made our way further north, towards the pilot station off Homer, we gradually began to get into the lee (shelter) of the high mountains of the Kenai Peninsula and the wind eased considerably; some respite after over 24 hours of extreme weather.  We berthed in Anchorage the following morning and sailed for Homer that night, arriving there on the following morning.  

It is Autumn and we are far north; as the storm we had experienced made its way further east, another depression followed, this one less intense, however it meant that our next port, Kodiak, would be experiencing strong winds.  There is a narrow entrance through a reef before one reaches the relative shelter of harbour and the berth itself.  I wasn’t prepared to risk an entry and reluctantly cancelled.

Across the Gulf once more, thankfully ‘calmer’ although the seas and swell remained rough, our destination being Hubbard glacier.  What magnificent sight, plenty of calving,  the Gulf a distant memory.  Back into the rain of Sitka and now Victoria.  Tomorrow, (Monday) we start our last voyage of the Alaska season and me?  I disembark for a rest, before rejoining for the Grand World Voyage.

This calve was done in ‘sports’ mode; many single photos, merged together.  The camera lens was ‘hunting’, hence the zoom in/out.  Not my best……………

The first time, this season, we have seen the magnificent Fairweather mountain range. (An NCL ship on her way to Seward in the foreground)

A humpback whale breaches, Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Turning in the Kennedy entrance, the Kenai peninsula in the background. Wind 80 knots.