Smooth Sailing Ahead

Day 3 Continued. T spent the day behind locked doors, with all visitors, except David, wearing rubber gloves.

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He is apparently immune to anything T might pass on (touch wood). T only ventured out of her isolation ward once again, at about 4.30 PM, to visit the doctor – good news: by then temperature was down, eyes had lost their red glow and the cough had started to recede. So why are we so down on the drug culture?

 

Our stateroom (not cabin or room, if you don’t mind) is on the port side and so for for most of today all we could see was the ocean, stretching to the west. T sent D out to get some exercise and to check out the starboard side. There he found that all he could see was the ocean, but stretching to the east. Looked much the same. Fortuitously, D ran across some of the other members of the touring party and, feeling the call of duty, was obliged to join them for the happy hour. Many were preparing to don their glad rags for the first of the formal dinners: as previously noted, we will unfortunately have to send our heartfelt apologies.

Otherwise, a quiet day, with all meals delivered by room service – and yes, wearing those rubber gloves. Twice during the day a team came through to disinfect the room but left D alone.

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Stepped outside onto our balcony after dinner for some very fresh air (that 30 degree temperature is well behind us) to spot lots of whale blows, but not many breaches.

 

 

 

Day 4. Monday 22 August.

Arrived in Alaska, at the small town Ketchikan which hugs the narrow finger of land in the south-east corner. IMG_5161

Once the canned salmon capital of the world and yes, the smell says it all. Nowadays, it stays alive with tourism for 6 months each year. The cruise ships come in early morning, disgorge their cargo, then leave in the afternoon. Next month the ships head for the Caribbean for the other half year. A beautiful morning, mild and fine.

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D set off for shore on a tender leaving the “isolated princess” to take in the view from her stateroom. At 10am she was summoned to the clinic and deemed no longer toxic, flu A&B (reference to swine and avian strains) have been eliminated, so “You’re free” said the nurse. Very excited to be out without the mask, princess boarded a tender and headed for shore, presuming she would find her prince among the thousands of tourists in town. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted D, sitting on the top deck of a tender heading in the opposite direction back to the ship! She could continue to shore and wander on her own or go back to the ship and search for D. No surprises in her decision.

D had searched high and low (having found the stateroom empty) and then, just as in the classic “An Affair to Remember”, he and she met up as D stepped out of the lift.

Both back on land, it was time to track down the smell and an excellent coffee. Behind the front road, the town rises into cedar forest. The only way into Ketchikan is by water or air.

IMG_5184Running through the centre is Ketchikan Creek and therein catch ye can….big, big, big salmon. They hang about in schools of hundreds, the old ones have gone grey around the gills. Having served their purpose, they come into the creek to die, while others are heading upstream to make whoopee. D said he watched a guy jag and then land a 3kg one through its t side flesh– that’s how thick they are in the water.

The town has a little totem pole museum where Margaret at the front desk asked where we were from, hoping that Canberra was near Melbourne….we might know her daughter Miriam in Melbourne. Miriam had done a gap year at Geelong Grammar, met a guy and stayed. Unlike many in the tourist industry, Margaret actually lived all year-round in Ketchikan…where else do you go when you have dogs and no money?

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The museum’s collection of authentic 19th century totem poles was gathered from several island-towns in the south east, and the textile crafts, while modern, showed beading, weaving and applique skills. A pity there were not original textiles in the collection. Margaret mentioned that she had recently come across an original, pre -woven fur blanket /cloak, literally being thrown out by a local resident who’d been sorting and downsizing!

 

 

Back on board in good time, to watch what we can only presume as a trainee have several attempts to bring the tender alongside. In the meantime at least two others just jumped the queue. When he finally succeeded, needless to say he earned a great cheer.

So, underway again. We discovered the ‘eat anytime’ restaurants, which are much more informal than our allotted dining place, the Bordeaux, so we’ll probably go there most of the time. Spent most of the afternoon lounging on the open upper deck just watching the scenery slide by at 14 knots. T remarked on the absence of birds – very few, apart from the usual ferals such as sea gulls, and not a lot of those either. But lots of jumping fish, a glimpse of some dolphins or orcas, and later some ‘ordinary’ whales, but quite small ones. The hills above the fjords are occasionally logged but T wonders how that is done, as they look too steep for machinery to move through.

We had a chat to our delightful steward this afternoon. She is from the Philippines, and has been working on cruise ships for 14 years. And like so many from her country, she leaves behind her family for extended periods – nine months at a time – to undertake these contracts in order to remit money back home. She has16 year and 8 year old children, whom her husband looks after in her absences, or when he can’t there is another arrangement. She thinks 3 months per year intensive time with her kids has serious benefits.

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But as you can see, there is more than one techno addict in this family!

 

 

 

 

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An Inauspicious Start

A delayed report, due to difficulties with internet access – with an amount of parsimony! Finally an opportunity to update, but the wifi is satellite and apparently is not always available (and is very slow, although you continue to pay while waiting) so expect some further gaps in daily updates.

Day 1 (or is it Day 0?). The 14 hour flight was preceded by a trip to Sydney that started at 10 AM the previous day, so by the time we arrived in Vancouver we’d been travelling for 38 hours – and it felt like it. Even though the journey involved an overnight stay in Sydney, it didn’t feel like it when we arrived at 7.15 AM the same day we left: our body clocks knew it was 00.15 the next day. Its possible we are getting older.

So, Day 1. Friday 19 August. The flight itself was smooth enough, and just before and afterwards we started to meet our fellow expeditioners. On first impressions this might be an ‘interesting’ experience. All but one small family group are about our vintage: there is one young couple (early/mid 30s?) with two young children. The average age hardly flickers when these four are added in!

T still has her hacking cough, but at this stage we’re optimistic that its on the mend. At the group dinner that night she was informed by a most helpful lady that she may not be allowed to board on health grounds: just what we wanted to hear. We met some more interesting characters – and will be delighted to spend some time with some of them. Disappointed with the BC Salmon – a bit bland, but suspect that is more to do with the cook than the fish.

Having packed pretty much only cold weather gear, we arrived in Vancouver to be greeted by 30 degree heat. We weren’t alone as it seems pretty much all our travelling companions were in the same boat. We saw just a little of downtown Vancouver – walked to Stanley Park on the waterfront to be greeted by Canadian geese who obviously expected to be fed, and wouldn’t be dissuaded by shoe shoo gestures. Continued on to walk along the harbor front and were captivated by the constant comings and gongs of the float planes – it seems they operate pretty much like a taxi service, and there are also some privately operated ones. Tried to find a bar to have a quenching ale, but at 4.30 PM on a Friday afternoon, there was an unacceptable wait for a table in three of them, so we gave it up as a bad joke.

IMG_4335Initial impressions of Vancouver, based on 24 hours: we may get a different impression when we spend the week or so at the end of the trip. The scenery is quite spectacular: the water reaching up to sharp jagged mountain ranges, a couple with some snow visible. On first impressions the architecture of Vancouver is bland – almost tired 60s and 70s styles. We’ve found the people polite, helpful and friendly. The traffic is calm, and drivers seem happy to give way to each other and to pedestrians – don’t think we heard any antsy horns being sounded! There are lots of bikes, and bike hire places.

Day 2. Saturday 20 August. A slow start to the day as we have a late check out and did not need to be aboard until an hour before departure. D was of course keen to be there by midday, but T wasn’t going anywhere until we’d had coffee, so we did. Joined several interminable queues (ticketing security, immigration) before we could board. T answered the health questionnaire honestly and based on the ticks and crosses didn’t need to worry about being barred. The ship is US territory, so we had to depart Canada to get on – full finger printing and photographing included.

IMG_5141 So, on board – and within a nan0 second D was fired up on a device. A safety drill at 1600, where we all (2000 or so of us) had to move in an orderly fashion to our muster stations. The three C girls would have done this in their sleep. Practiced putting on our life jackets and T didn’t pull the ‘what’s this for’ toggle, only because there wasn’t one.

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A quiet celebratory beer on the top deck as we slowly got underway. Headed to our ‘Anytime Dining’ restaurant to get a snack as we’d missed lunch, but ended up getting an early meal instead. Shared a table with four American couples: broached the Presidential election with one couple and had quite a explanation of why Trump was a less dangerous choice than the evil Clinton: America will never be the same if she gets elected, we learned.

Day 3. Sunday 21 August. Cruising all night, with some rougher weather giving the ship some bumpy motion, but not excessively. T’s cough getting worse, so a trip to Medical Centre in the morning – for her to be placed in isolation, with half a pharmacy’s worth of drugs. T does feel a bit like she’s Rapunzel, a princess confined in her stateroom on a Princess ship. D was a bit put out that isolation didn’t mean the he would be allocated a stateroom for himself – but it would be just his luck to be given a hammock on the upper deck. The medical staff were a little abrupt that T had come aboard – but she pointed out that the wording and her answers to the questionnaire did not suggest that she couldn’t. Perhaps it is not a well worded/constructed questionnaire, but that’s a different issue.

Apart from feeling rotten, not much lost as we sail all day and night before arriving for a part day stop in Ketchikan. We hadn’t pre-booked any excursions, so D may be let loose by himself to wander around the town avoiding the grizzlies. T will remain in her splendid isolation tower, regretting that she didn’t put in a knitting project (not that there was any room left in the already stuffed suitcase). Another consequence is that we will miss out on the formal dinner tonight, which is perhaps just as well as we forgot to pack our bow tie and tiara!