ALASKA! Sitka, Day 6

“What is this place?”

Hello from day six and our last port of call. *sniff* This town was different than the last three because it wasn’t big enough to have a pier or maybe deep enough, but whatever reason we had to anchor off shore and motor in by smaller boat (tender. Basically, they lowered down four of the life boats and use them to putter people ashore). We pulled in at 6am (again) so it was quite a surprise when at 9, and lounging/reading in our cabin, TheMan looked up and said “Oh, we’re moving.” Nawww, couldn’t be. We pulled in three hours ago but wait, gees, the coast is just whipping by isn’t it? Evidently, the first…moorage? Anchor spot anyway became incredibly windy so the captain hauled boat over to the calm side of the bay.

Here is the ship and tenders floating about in the new spot. Oh, funny side note about this. When TheMan and I eventually got to shore (close to noon) we ran into another family who had come ashore much earlier when the boat was anchored at the one end of the bay. I suppose they were getting ready to come back on board when the dad casually looked out to sea and then stopped dead. His face got all panicky as he looked unbelievingly at the empty bay and he started to mumble “The…boat. It’s gone! They wouldn’t have left us? But…the boat…where? The boat…” Hee! THAT was worth the wait to get onto a tender after they had moved clear across the other side of the bay.

But I get ahead of myself. This was the day of ‘sperimentin! Hey, they had left all these free tiny samples in a nice little basket in the bathroom so I partook of the generosity. There was a packet of Physique shampoo, one of Physique conditioner and some sort of Physique hair goo that I never use. The conditioner still had its line of glue snot so I stuck it to the shower wall (Hee!) because those ship showers have zero to no shelf space. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay, so one mark against it. The shampoo did its shampoo function well enough but it made my head smell like a fruit cup. One’s head should not smell like a fruit cup. The conditioner made my head smell musky, which is also not right and neither one worked any better than any other shampoo or conditioner either. Five thumbs down for Physique if I can borrow a thumb or two.

Also shower gel? Not so much about that either. They had a pump tube thing of shower gel in the shower (as well as some shampoo which worked adequately) and in a word: suck. How do you get a good lather in a shower without the stuff going off somewhere or being rinsed down your hands before you can suds it up? Maybe I’m shower gel inept or something but ick! I finagled a delicate balancing “shelf” for the one bar of soap in the sink bar soap holder while in the shower because gel? No thanks. The Crest whitening tooth paste, on the other hand, was the BOMB. I don’t know if it worked to get my teeth any whiter but it had little sparkly bits in it and you all know what sparkly bits count for in my book. It came in cinnamon (tasty), mint (meh, mint) and orange, which was like chewing on gritty children’s aspirin but not as pleasant.

After the morning’s adventures in the bathroom (sounds like a porn flick no?) we went on the galley tour. There were about 300 of us and they trooped us down to the bottom of the boat where the food is prepped, cooked and assembled. We saw a shove through fridge where the prep chef (who had a work station behind the unit) could make his prep chef stuff and put it in the fridge and whoever took it out after that could just open the door on the main side and get the thing, rather than walking around to the prep chef area. There were also giant grills (and a fish grill! A grill for just fish!) and ovens and all sorts of cool stuff but the very best thing in the whole galley were the gimbal pots. SQUEEE! They made soup in these gyroscopically balanced pots so when the ship rocked, the pot tilted with the motion rather than spilling the soup out everywhere with the motion. I want one! Alas, TheMan told me I couldn’t have one because out kitchen didn’t rock. But…but…GIMBAL POTS!

They spilled us out into a lower lobby where they had a table set up with books of recipes and things you could buy. They had an awesome “garnishes and other things” that went step by step through making all sorts of critter garnishes and ice sculptures and this and that (plus tasty recipes!) and another book with recipes for all the tasty food we had been served (and then some) and a mixed drink bartender’s guide. Individually, they were $13ish, $17ish and $3ish but you could buy all three for $25. But of COURSE we bought them. You never know when you might want to make a sea horse watermelon sculpture!

After that, we tendered out to Sitka for a look see. Another interesting side note: Sitka was originally the Russian capital of Russian held north America and was called Archangel St. Michael. Then the Russians went away and the native tribes pulled the fort down and burned it to the ground. When the Russians came back, the built a better stronger fort town and called it (with much flair and originality) NEW Archangel St. Michael. Then Mr. Seward bought up all the real estate and it became American territory, which couldn’t have such a kludgy (or Russian no doubt) name as New Archangel St. Michael so they decided to go back to the native name for the area. They asked the local Tlinget people “What is this place in your language?” to which they replied “Sitka”, which is literally “This Place” Hee!

Thus concludeth your history lesson for today. We didn’t get to see much of Sitka since we had a shore excursion planned but we did get to see all sorts of cool critters while out and about boating.

Awww…sea otters! This one is a female, not that you can tell by the picture but I can tell by the order it was in. We ran across a bunch of female sea otters with pups riding around on their chests. Too cute! Interesting sea otter factoid number 1: Sea otter pups fur is so buoyant their first month or so that you can push them under water and they will pop right back up like ping pong balls! Bloop. I’m not sure how they know that, actually.

These are the males all rafted together. They were much more mellow than the females because they didn’t have pups to tend. All of these fellas were lazing about totally oblivious to the sight seeing boat. Yeah, boat whatever, pass me the abalone mann. OH! Interesting sea otter factoid number 2: Sea otters, being the largest of the weasel family, are the only marine mammals that do not have a layer of blubber to keep them warm. Instead they have super insulated fur (the guide quoted something in the ballpark of 300,000 hairs per square inch) and they eat all the time to maintain their temperature. The only place they do not have fur is their nose and the pads of their front paws so that is why they are always floating on their backs with their paws to their nose…they are blowing warm air onto their unprotected parts (and muttering “holy WAH it’s nippy out here! Why couldn’t our ancestors Darwin themselves some blubber eh?).

Some Harbor Seals. These guys are pretty skittish so it’s a bit of a long shot. There are a couple different colors of them on the rock and the guide said that they are the same species that haunt the coast of California (which are all pretty much dark brown to blend into the sand and rock coast) and the ones that haunt the northern coast of Alaska (which are pretty much all white or light to blend into the snowy coast) but Sitka and the surrounding area are at the midway point of brown coast and white snow so the seals are multi hued. I thought it was pretty cool.

More bald eagles. Before this trip I had seen exactly two bald eagles ever (in a zoo in Arizona) and this one and its mate brings the total up to eleven! I ninetupled my bald eagle sighting in one trip. They were everywhere. This one is particularly cool because it’s a nesting pair and it was feeding its chick. The nest is in the biggest tree about halfway down (just above and to the left of the top of the dead stump. The nest is a sort of smudgy not tree dark area but the bald of the eagles head is probably the best thing to look for. Wow, I saw a bald eagle feeding its young in the wild! How many people can say that? (other than the hundred or so that were on this particular wild life tour)

However, I was all about the whales…otters, seals and nesting bald eagles nice and all (you understand) but whales were one thing on my list of “That which I must see while in Alaska” and the small bit from the cruise ship just wasn’t the cake.

Whales! This is, I think, the best shot of them all. The whales don’t breach much at all in Alaska and rarely spy hop so most of the whale sightings were blows and dives.

The classic.

Here is Mt. Edgecomb, which is right down the way from Sitka. I show you this because (for one) it’s pretty cool and because I have a really funny story about it. Mt. Edgecomb is a dormant volcano that hasn’t erupted in 8000 years so geologically speaking, it’s due. Back in the day, when the owner of the sight seeing tour was a wild reckless rogue, he and his buddies hired a helicopter pilot to take some tires into the cauldron of the volcano where they proceeded to light them on fire. That morning, the town of Sitka woke up to find its dormant volcano spewing forth thick, black, rolling smoke and mass panic ensued. People ran here and there and OHMIGOD!!! THEVOLCANO!!!! until some geological society peoples hauled up to the cauldron to take a look see. There they found the tires arranged to spell “Happy April Fools”, since it was indeed the first of April. Said ruffians were apprehended and paid a mighty fine (for, among other things, burning tires in a national forest) but they agreed that it was the best $3000 they had ever paid. HA!

We returned to the ship, caught some dinner at the dining room and I legitimately used ALL MY SILVERWARE! I made a special effort to get soup (for one of the spoons) gravlax (which are mighty tasty, by the way) for the fork and almost panicked when I realized I had an extra spoon unaccounted for. Fortunately, the relish that came with the gravlax was spoonable (and also mighty tasty) so there you go. I am the mighty silverware user! Or something. We headed back to the room to discover this fella waiting for us.

Towel Seal! Or eagle if you want. Unfortunately I sat on him so he was pretty much towel mush after that.

One last note, incase you are curious, I woke up at 5am to discover it was morning functional light out so I set out to see exactly when the sun rises. At 1:30 am it is dark with an orange glow on the horizon and by 2am the sky is lightening up. I went to bed at 4am, never having seen the sun come up exactly but figuring that since the sky was so damned light, it must therefore be up. Somewhere. Where ever, I was going to bed.

Last year at the booniverse: I am not sure which was worse, the sporadic shift from full screen to multiple split screen for…ummm…you know, I really never figured out why we were shown some scenes in multiple and some not. It was that bad. It was so bad, I can’t even remember what I was going to say that was worse than that.

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