Tuesday, June 28, Wednesday, to Saturday, July 2 – to Juneau
The morning brought high clouds and the crabber was already gone. After leaving the dock and for the next 2-1/2 hours, more boats were seen on the water than the previous 2 weeks. Juneau is up the Gustineau Channel that separates Douglas Island from Juneau and the mainland. When Tribute entered the eight mile long channel, Laurie said, “It's a cruise ship, it must be Juneau."
Old Juneau has the historic downtown, the government offices, the capital building, the berths for 4 cruise ships and the bridge to Douglas Island. Development is limited in old Juneau because of the steep slops of Mount Roberts. On the other side of the bridge, on Douglas Island, a wide swath of multi-family housing units speaks of a middle class in a community that half of the employment is government jobs. Juneau has seems to have two types of jobs: tourism and government. Ten miles to the north at Auke Bay is the Juneau Airport and the retail center with Costco and Fred Meyer Stores.
Tribute’s first stop was fuel. 1,000 miles used 402 gallons and though 1/3 of the capacity remained, it was time to fuel up. Afterwards, the harbormaster put us in Harris Harbor Marina, one of four that they manage and one of two that is near downtown. Tribute was in a slip that is vacant but the owner could return at any time with 24 hours notice. Shipperly found space on the transient dock and told us when a space became available for the Kadey Krogen. Tribute had traveled 21 miles. The afternoon was spent doing laundry, cleaning, and planning the shopping list. Then, the bikes took us to the IGA store that was 10 minutes away where Laurie purchased a record amount of volume for the bikes to carry. A backpack was filled, both saddle bags and the rest was strapped on. The continuing hunt for a re-arming kit for our Stearns auto-inflate PFD’s sent us to Harri’s Heating and Plumbing Store where 80% of the store was marine supplies and 20% was plumbing and heating. We have seen this kind of adaptation before where a business will expand to fit a need, even though it is not related to their core business. But the Stearns part could not be found.
After dock-tails on the flybridge with Ken and Pauline, we all walked to The Hanger for an excellent dinner of pub food. The next day, we had completely relapsed into the addiction to the Internet and instant information. Tribute’s alternator was researched and respect was earned for the trawler’s prior owners who spared no funds in upgrading to the Balmar Alternator and raising the capacity of the house batteries to 1680 amp hours. Concerned that the alternator might be failing because small amounts of dust continues to be found, so a re-build kit was found at Fisheries Supply in Seattle. But, those concerns faded when it was learned that alternators suddenly die; they do not fade out. Also, Fisheries Supply had the Stearns PFD re-arming kit in stock and because our daughter Karen was flying up for the weekend and she could deliver the items.
The crew of Shipperly and Tribute walked to downtown, past the three cruise ships at their berths and to the tram that went up the side of Mt. Roberts. Several hours were enjoyed with a great lunch, programs, a loop trail and some light shopping. After the ride down, more of the historic downtown was explored. By the end of the day, over 5 miles was walked.
Then, the only mistake of the day was made by watching the network television news. The program gave no context and little substance but conveyed a lot of emotion and left us with anxiety about our world.
Thursday brought rain in the morning and the logistics of getting the items ordered from Seattle was finished. Tribute has a monthly list of maintenance items to complete that the iPhone provides the reminder. The large set of house flooded house batteries are easily watered by using a golf cart battery watering system, the hydronic system’s coolant is checked and filled, the recharge-able batteries in the spotlight and the headsets are charged, and the hydraulic steering and throttle controls are checked. The afternoon was spent at the Alaska State Museum that opened only days before and is so new, there was not a sign on the building. It told many stories quite well and two stood out: how Native Alaskans created kayaks, the associated tools and clothing to slay huge animals and a “battle” in the Aleutian Islands to re-take one island from the Japanese. Unbeknownst to the allies, the Japanese had abandoned the island and escaped and during the invasion, to many soldiers were killed by each other by mistake.
Friday was cloudy with some occasional light rain in the early morning. Karen arrived by taxi at the Harris Harbor Marina. Most of the morning was spent catching up and after discussing options and desires for the weekend and the weather and current predictions, She wanted to see the wildness of Southeast Alaska and experience the flavor of Juneau. Tribute’s lines were cast off at 1115 with the destination of Tracy Arm that was 44 miles away.
The water was flat and calm the clouds were nearly on the water and rain, heavy at times, would last through the afternoon and into the evening. But the wind remained calm. Two humpback whales were seen on the way. The entrance to Tracy Arm was shrouded in a low fog bank that was only about 50 feet high. The green buoy came into view but the red buoy was gone, probably destroyed by an ice berg. The anchor was dropped in No Name Cove at 5 PM with 6 other boats. Lots of talk over beer and a dinner of grilled burgers and the evening was closed with a movie.
The next day, the predicted moderate winds from the south did not materialize. The low clouds from yesterday had become high ones that were scattered and revealed patches of blue. Tribute took us 13 miles up Tracy Arm and back and there was talk about why some icebergs were only white while others were a blue-white color. We would learn later that the blue-white ones were recently calved into the water while the white ones had been released from the glacier for some time. Games were played with trying to match an iceberg to an object or animal. One looked like a mermaid and another looked like an igloo.
By 1 PM, Tracy Arm was behind us and Tribute took us the 20 miles to Taku Harbor. The floating dock was nearly full of local boaters who were spending their holiday away from Juneau. More boats arrived and the other floating dock that was not attached to land would take them and the late arrivals anchored out. We walked the short trails and Karen saw the muddy foot print of a bear that probably fed on the blueberries. We had dock-tails up on the flybridge, told stories, grilled chicken kabobs and watched a movie.
Sunday, July 3 – Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier
At the very lowest of a minus tide with more acres of land revealed, Tribute was eased away from the dock at 0730 hours while Karen was still asleep. The morning was calm, still and cool. During the three-hour trip to Juneau, showers were taken and breakfast was served. There was a concern about dock space being available on a holiday weekend but that was eased when the exodus of fishing boats were seen because the state had opened a salmon fisheries for a limited season.
Ken and Pauline were on-hand to catch Tribute’s lines and we were back with Shipperly. Researched showed it was more cost effective to get a taxi, $30 for five people than to use a shuttle bus, $15 per person, to take us to Mendenhall Glacier that was about 12 miles away. Going to the glacier is what tourists do and because there were 4 cruise ships in Juneau, the parking lot was jammed with buses, the visitor center was packed with people and short trails were heavily used.
Laurie and I had been to Juneau in 1983 via the Alaska State Ferry system and our bicycles. We had heard that the glacier had receded over the years but the difference was more dramatic and it was sad to see. What would our grandchildren see? We walked to the photo overview and the ¾ mile walk to the falls near the foot of the glacier. The program at the visitor center was enjoyed.
Then, the taxi took us to downtown Juneau where a beer and a snack was enjoyed at the Red Dog Saloon where an elderly piano player entertained to a full house with some inappropriate songs but it was still funny. After doing some shopping with Karen, we all had dinner at the Twisted Fish and enjoyed great seafood. After a walk back to the marina, Laurie had walked 7 miles for the day. Millie was anxious to get off the boat and explore and several local residents visited with us as they were at their boats to see the fireworks that would going off nearby at midnight. The fireworks show did not disappoint because Tribute was about a ½ mile away, the colors were fabulous and the show lasted nearly 30 minutes.
Monday, July 4 – Holiday in Juneau Laurie and Karen slept late and the morning was slow and easy under nearly clear skies, calm winds, a warming thermometer and three cups of coffee of talking. The parade started at 1100 hours and we stood with the other 34,000 residents, four deep on each side of the route and enjoyed the hour long parade of the clubs, organizations and service groups that make a community. The most courageous group was the gay community and their Pride 2016 demonstration because Alaska is one of the bedrock states of ultra-conservatism. The community’s reception to this ranged from overt support to stoic observation. All demonstrations of courage and resolve bring hope and optimism. The parade and the audience, as a package, provided a glimpse of this community and their values and their support for one another,
After the parade, we walked the short distance to the IGA store to finish the provisioning for the next leg of this adventure. Karen was able to catch her flight to Seattle and she left Alaska with great memories. The afternoon was spent doing the heavy cleaning of the interior, Rain-Xing the windows,and filling the water tank as part of re-setting Tribute. Ken and Pauline came over for dock-tails and dinner.
The plan for the tomorrow emerged after looking at the tides, currents and wind. Tides play a role because of the extreme highs and lows that are caused by the current phase of the moon. The low tides are a minus 4-foot and the highs are nearly 18 feet. Tribute’s place in the marina against the shore requires at least a 10-foot tide to turn around and exit the marina. The Navionics app on the iPhone showed that a 10 foot tide should be at about 0500 and 1200 hours. Traveling in the morning is preferred to traveling in the afternoon when the winds are typically higher. We agreed to look at the conditions at 0430 hours, just after sunrise, and see if the predicted fog will be a redlight to leaving. The vessels should be able to ride the currents and the wind is expected to be light to moderate. The destination is Hoonah, about 70 miles away and is the launching step to Glacier Bay National Park if we can get one of the few short-notice permits to enter the park.
Tuesday, July 5 and Wednesday, July 6 – Hoonah, AK
The alarm went off at 0415, the sun was already up, and there was no fog. After feeding Millie and making coffee, the lines were cast off and Shipperly and Tribute left Harris Harbor at 0500 hours. Juneau was still sleeping but the maritime traffic was already with busy with three cruise ships approaching the harbor, fishing boats working and the VHF radio was busy with tug captains reporting their positions to make a smooth trip.
The route would take us around Douglas Island and we would spend 4 hours going the long way to Auke Bay because the three-mile long channel from Juneau to Auke Bay is not dredged and dries except at the highest tide. Just north of Auke Bay, the tour boats were stopped and clustered together, a sure sign of humpback whales. We would see the first of 8 eight whales that would be seen throughout the journey to Hoonah.
At the junction with the Lynn Canal, the nearly flat water and the light winds would become a moderate breeze of 15 knots on the bow. The wind would run the long length of the canal and cause a two-foot chop that would occasionally spray Tribute’s pilothouse. We crossed the 4-mile wide canal diagonally to even out the ride and 90 minutes later reached the junction with Icy Strait that was named by Captain George Vancouver in the 1700’s because the water was choked with ice, now it is ice-free.
Hoonah is tucked in an inlet that is on the south side of Icy Strait and is south and east of Glacier Bay National Park and is the common staging destination for pleasure boats waiting to enter the national park. A cruise ship was at the new cruise ship dock that is at the head of the inlet. Tour boats that had taken passengers for whale watching trips were returning. Tribute arrived at the city-operated marina at 2:30 PM and had traveled 69 miles.
The first slip that was assigned was in poor condition and the cleats had been ripped out. The harbormaster was there and immediately gave us another slip on the newer docks. The long cruise and the early departure had worn us out so the afternoon was spent resting. Laurie called Glacier Bay National Park and was able to secure a short-notice permit that started in two days and would last seven days.
Glacier Bay is the only national park that highly regulates the number of boats and people coming into the park and does not have an entrance fee. 25 boats and two cruise ships are allowed each day plus the one-day tour boats. The issue is over-use of the park that can hinder the endangered humpback whales and degrade the resource. Boaters can reserve a permit months in advance or can try to get a short notice permit. We decided early on to follow Rich’s advice and get a short notice permit because getting a reserved spot meant having a schedule which is the formula for taking risks with weather and sea conditions. Tribute would need to be at the park’s dock to receive a mandatory orientation and briefing of the current rules and restrictions before going farther into the park.
In the late afternoon, a walk around the immediate area revealed a working-class small town that had swapped an economy based on timber to one based on cruise ships. In a tackle shop, the store clerk told me her story that she grew up in Hoonah, studied to be a teacher in Juneau, and was hired 18 years ago to teach 4th grade in Hoonah. During the summers, she works a day or two a week at the tackle shop and helps her father fish for salmon. She repeatedly said that she absolutely loves Hoonah.
Over the next two days, this town of 750 would be walked and biked. Hoonah is a Native Alaskan village that had a cannery when the salmon were plentiful. Today, the fish runs are low and commercial fishing is struggling. Half of the population is Native Alaskan. The cruise ships came in 2004 when the tribe entered into a business arrangement to build the terminal that included a museum, performing arts, restaurants, and shops.
The residential area in downtown is a cluster of poorly built and neglected buildings that are all the same age. In 1944, a fire that started under a home when smoking salmon quickly and thoroughly devastated the entire residential area because it was accelerated by gas cans that were stored under the homes. The interesting side story is the chief of the clan whose members started the fire, gave away all of his possessions and killed himself as an act of accepting responsibility for what his clan had done.
Though the buildings are classic remote Alaskan, the community shows a pride that is consistent with the other towns. Simply, people love their community and they show it by supporting the schools, and being friendly to the outsiders. Community bulletin boards at the post office, the grocery store and the liquor store announce the meetings, the job openings and the 11 year old who is looking for summer work. She will watch the kids, do light yard work, and take care of the pets.
The prices at the grocery story are about 1/3 more than in Washington State. Gas is about 40 cents more per gallon and electricity is twice as expensive. Four television stations are re-broadcasted in Hoonah and the local transmitter shuts down at 10 PM. Satellite TV and radio is intermittent because those satellites are very low on the southern horizon and a mountain can block their signals. Some businesses will offer Wi-Fi for customers for an additional fee; free Wi-Fi does not exist.
The bikes took us out to the cruise ship terminal and the cannery museum and it seemed longer than the 1.5 miles as advertised. Hoonah, like all cruise-ship destinations, changes its mood and rhythm when the ship is in town. Suddenly, there are groups of strangers walking the streets and businesses will open and lengthen their hours. The only police officer on duty will be visible to the tourists. Laurie baked, laundry was done, shopping was done in preparation for the three to four days in Glacier Bay, a canvas bike bag was repaired, and part of the hull under the waterline was brushed to remove a persistent growth of grass. We talked with locals and visiting boaters and had shared drinks and dessert with Ken and Pauline. We tried to watch the news but gave up after 10 minutes because it felt meaningless. Both evenings with closed with watching DVD’s on the entertainment system.
Just for Fun - sometimes signs will say more than they intended
Sometimes, the signs will say more about the setting than anything else.
This sign was on a tattoo parlor in Juneau - says it all.
Maybe it is just me, but I was amused rather than offended.
A celebration in Hoonah and a way to involve the visitors.
A different style to address a chronic problem.
Is this the ideal neighbor?
Looks like Shipperly is David and the cruise ship is Goliath
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