Tag Archives: Inside Passage

Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Fourth Post

Skagway is accessible by car and draws a great many recreational vehicles. My brothers-of-the-road represented Harley-Davidson with motorcycles from Florida and Kentucky. Two or three of the Harleys had couples riding. The women had to be good sports. Some off brand two wheeled vehicles were allowed in town. I saw five BMWs from the Canadian Province of Quebec.

Cathy and Princess

Cathy in front of the Grand Princess tied up in Skagway.

It was overcast and chilly when we disembarked for the morning. It warmed up and was great weather all day.

Once again we opted out of any organized tours. Shuttles run from the docks to Skagway and beyond from early morning until the last cruise ship departs. We got one of the good drivers who gave us a running talk about the town.

One pays when exiting the bus. The shuttles have two options, two dollars for each trip or five for unlimited rides. I found it surprising the number of people who took the two dollar choice. I got a better deal. Our driver announced, “I refuse to charge veterans. If you’re a vet let me know.” When I reached him I Said, “U.S. Navy” and rattled off my serial number. He stamped my hand for unlimited rides.

The man behind me wore a submarine service cap. As he handed over his money, the driver said, “No sir” and reached to stamp his hand. The man said, “It’s my son’s, he serves. I didn’t.” Two men, both class acts.

Harley Davidson

None of the Harley-Davidson stores we visited sold motorcycles or parts.

This outlet did not have an authorized Harley-Davidson sign visible on the outside. I have a feeling it’s the result of some local ordinance because none of the franchised stores in town had a company logo visible.

I splurged and bought two T-Shirts. In addition to the usual pocket T-Shirt, I saw a great looking design on a bright yellow T-Shirt. She-who-must-be-obeyed was not happy. Oh well, once in a while one must show a little rebellious behavior.

Back on the shuttle, we rode out to one of the must see destinations. We glanced at each other. “Nope, it’s a tourist trap.” We stayed on the bus. The next attraction received the same response. Riding back to town gave us an opportunity to interrogate the driver.

We stopped at the local museum. Cathy and I have travelled to Europe and Asia. We always make it a point to visit hardware and grocery stores. The ones in Skagway are nowhere as interesting as those in Japan, but the items they stock, are different enough to make it worth ones time. Over at the IGA Grocery store, apples were almost three dollars apiece.

Homes sell from $25,000 up to $400,000. All are small. Building materials must be brought in from great distances and there are no local construction companies. Our driver told us about a house built by a man and his family. Construction of a single room and bathroom was accomplished one summer, over the next four or five years the home was completed. The family now lives in a seven-hundred square foot house.

Here is an interesting story, “We don’t get much snow here. We have sustained winds of 50 MPH up the channel. The snow is dumped in the ocean. What we get comes in horizontally. We get two or three inches of ice sheets dropped here.”

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Looking down the main street one can see another Princess cruise ship docked at the end. Parking is limited to fifteen minutes with a threat of towing. Oddly, an Ultra Classic Harley Davidson, Kentucky license plate, was parked on the street for at least five hours. It was not cited, nor was it towed. But then we never saw a single police officer or cop car.

When it came time to return to the ship, I bought three bags of popcorn and hopped on a shuttle. As I should have expected, she dumped me. “I’ll walk. It’s only a mile or so.” Thirty years of marriage and she still has the energy of a teenager.

While I was writing, a choral group of Grand Princess Passengers put on a show in a nearby lounge. The sound was outstanding. They finished up with Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Their rendition brought tears to the beast’s eyes.

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We cruised past this small glacier high in the mountains around 10:00 p.m. It was so beautiful, I had to get up and take this picture. The last time we traversed this channel to the sea, it was afternoon. I spent hours looking through my binoculars while wrapped in a blanket with a good cigar and a glass of Jack Daniels. It was a great experience.

Times have changed. I gave up cigars, rarely drink, and forgot my binoculars. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was getting old. Nah!

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Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Third Post

Wednesday, July 24th found us in Juneau, Alaska. Layered fog surrounded the town.

Layered Fog 2

We saw our first bald eagles as we came into the harbor. A pair sat on a jetty watching the surface of the water, fishing.

The Grand Princess was the third ship in, two others arrived later. The Princess was too large to tie up at the wharf so we anchored and went ashore by tender.

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Our goal, visit the Mendenhall Glacier, but not on one of the ships expensive tours. Princess tours run on a time-table that leaves one at the glacier for three hours. We found a local service that ran every half hour. We could spend as much or as little time as we wished.

Our driver was a vivacious fifty-something named Mariam. From Iowa she is a part-time teacher and a part-time school bus driver. “We live on my husband’s salary and play on mine. I found this summer job on Craig’s List. I love it here. My husband doesn’t so he visits.” Mariam gave us an interesting commentary about Juneau. Her enthusiasm was catching. She got tipped by everyone on the bus.

I don’t think the sourpuss who drove us back got a single tip.

Bear eating salmon

When we got off the bus, we walked out over to the Mendenhall Creek and watched this black bear feasting on a salmon.

Mendenhall

Mendenhall Glacier.

Juneau is landlocked and everything is brought in by plane or ship. The cruise ship crews get a few hours off to do their shopping. At the wharf half a dozen vans marked “Crew Service” sat. For a small fee crew members or anyone else can get a ride to Costco, Wal-Mart, or McDonalds. There are four fast food outlets in Juneau, one McDonalds, and three Subway Sandwich stores.

Beauty and the Beast

It drizzled most of the time as we wandered about the park. I used my National Parks Senior Pass to get us in for free.

When we returned to town, I was ready for a nap. As usual, Cathy was raring to go. I went back onboard. After a bag of popcorn and a diet soda pop I perked up and spent the afternoon reading Green Ice, by I.C. Enger.

Cathy took the tram and shot a few pictures.

At anchor

I especially like this one of our cruise ship the Grand Princess

Eagle at Tram

This shot of a Bald Eagle could be a post card.

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Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess – Second Post

We spent Tuesday, the 23rd in Ketchikan. We decided against organized tours opting instead to walk the town. Ketchikan is three blocks wide and three miles long.

Creek Street

Creek Street is a creek with buildings along both sides. In the early 1800s the occupants were brothels and a shingle factory. At the bottom of Creek Street a bridge links the road that runs through the city. About a half dozen people were fishing from it. All but one was local. He was off the Grand Princess. As we walked up he caught a salmon. One of the kids scrambled down the rocks and retrieved the fish. The man told the kid, “Keep it. I’m off the ship and I just want to catch fish.”

We chatted with this same man three days later after he took our picture at the Tracy Arm Glacier. He didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars and rush to and from a fishing boat. He started to rent a pole for thirty dollars an hour plus all kinds of add-ons. Instead he went to a local hardware store where he got a 3-Day license, pole, line, and half a dozen jigs for $105.00. He caught thirteen salmon and gave them all to the locals. As he later told us, “It was a great day of fishing, and a third the cost of a tour boat.” Not only did he catch a passel of fish, he used a light line and got to play the fish. On the boats they use fifty-pound test and yank the fish out of the water.

I know what I’m doing the next time I visit Ketchikan.

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One of the local kids bringing up his catch.

Fish Creek Salmon

Salmon at the upper end of Creek Street.

My dad used to tell us how as a kid on Moffett Creek, near Fort Jones, California he and his dad used pitchforks to harvest salmon. I had my doubts; after all he was a teller of tall tales. Now I believe him.

We walked to the outskirts of town. At a Salvation Army Thrift Store I found a rack of tourist T-Shirts on the front porch. They were all new and priced at $2.00 a bargain. There must have been twenty. I figured on buying a couple. My plans were thwarted. A woman, a fellow ship passenger, stepped between me and the shirts. She literally pushed me away without a word of apology. Cathy pulled a shirt from the back of the rack, “Hold on to this.” Before I could turn back, the woman had taken every shirt. I half expected the “B” to take the one I held.

We continued on to the edge of town were the IGA grocery store is owned by a Japanese family. The original owners came to Ketchikan in the early thirties. They built a hotel and store, ultimately closing the hotel. At the beginning of World War II they were forced into one of Roosevelt’s Internment Camps as enemy aliens. While they were interned, friends ran the store. When the family returned, the friends gave back the store and all the profits. The great grandchildren now own the store. The owner has a sign on her office door, Fish Fear Me. You think she likes to fish?

Liquor Store

Next to the grocery is a state liquor store. This is the inside of the door.

Heading back downtown it began to rain. By the time we got back onboard the ship we were soaked.

At 7:00 p.m. we entered the Snow Straits. They are five-hundred meters wide, not much wider than the length of the Grand Princess. We saw several dolphin and whales.

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Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Grand Princess

Friday, July 19, 2013 we boarded the Grand Princess at Pier 35, San Francisco. We chose this cruise because of its proximity to our home, only thirty-five miles. The last time we cruised to Alaska we flew to Vancouver, Canada, spent the night, and boarded the ship the next day. We enjoyed it, but it was a bit of a hassle and expensive.

If we board the ship in San Francisco, we won’t have any hassles. Nothing is hassle free. The first thirty-three miles took a half-hour. The mile or so along the Embarcadero took an hour.

The weather in Dublin was great. I dressed in proper tourist attire, shorts and Aloha shirt. San Francisco was cold and windy. It got worse.

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Don’t you just love Cathy’s latest hair style?

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Notice the lack of California sunshine?

It got worse, much worse. The winds continued to increase throughout the night.

Saturday morning the captain came on the P.A. System with this announcement. “No Cause for Concern.”

Instantly alert, I turned to Cathy. “What the hell?”

The captain continued. “The winds coming across the bow are running at 40 knots.” Looking out our balcony window we could see that seas were running deep with more white caps showing than dark gray water. Wanting us to feel better and I assume to appreciate the mere forty knot wind, he continued. “Throughout the night we had sustained winds of sixty knots with gusts of eighty knots.” He had our attention. It got better, or maybe worse. It depends on your point of view. “Eighty knot wind is just shy of hurricane conditions.” Oh, Boy. “Although we have closed several areas of the ship for safety, there is no cause for concern.”

According to disastercenter.com, 80 knots equates to 92.2 miles per hour. Above 73 mph hurricane devastation occurs.

Saturday was spent at sea. Heavy seas kept everyone indoors. I didn’t even write. I spent the day eating and reading a novel by recently published author, I.C. Enger. I met her at the Public Safety Writers Conference in Las Vegas. Her book, Blue Ice, is the first in a series. I found the story very interesting, a page turner. Later in the week, I read her second book, Green Ice. The third in the series, Black Ice, is due out shortly.

Sunday we docked in Victoria, B.C. just as the weather broke. It was a beautiful day. We’ve been to Victoria several times and have seen most of the sights. It’s a good thing. Victoria was hosting a Good Guys type car show. The theme was Deuce Coupe. We learned that more than a thousand 1932 Ford Deuce Coupes were entered along with another thousand or so vintage cars and hot rods. Several locals told us, “This is the largest event ever held in Victoria.” I believed them. Most of the downtown streets were closed down. Almost all tours in town were cancelled. The open streets were worse than San Francisco.

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This was the only car not sporting a DO NOT TOUCH sign.

Every car entered in the show, and all the ones parked around town were brought in by ship and ferry.

We spent Monday at sea. It was a productive day. There is a library and game area on the ship. Just like at my home office, I couldn’t write in our room. Even though kids and adults play a variety of board games, it didn’t bother me. I rarely hear them, it is a pleasant distraction. Occasionally a group of adults will take over a couple of tables and each tries to outdo the other in volume. These are interruptions and they do bother me.

Cathy dragged me away for lunch. I returned in the afternoon. While A Tale of Robbers and Cops is out to an editor, I’m concentrating on my second novel. The story is about police officers working Anti-Gang Enforcement in the fictional city of Liberty, Arizona.

It was a good day. I wrote 3700 words.

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