Pat. Pat. Pat.

You never know what fun things will pop up to do at home, during the off-boating season.  This year, I did have an inkling of what would be popping up, but I didn’t relish the thought, so I tried my best to keep it on the back burner of my mind.  The past two years have been filled with efforts to put off or eliminate the need for a hip replacement, surgery being one of my least favorite ways to pass the time.  The time did come, however, when I knew it had to be done.  The last little bit of cartilage in my right hip wore away, and the grinding bones made their presence known 24 hours a day.  And so, the process began:  Finding a surgeon, going to pre-op visits, having lab work, EKG, X-rays, etc.

At last, the day arrived. Having performed the antibacterial scrub routine twice, and braided my hair out of the way, I put on freshly laundered clothes, and Mike drove me the 3 hours to the hospital. Everything was ready for us. The pre-op nurses loved my braids, and were friendly as they poked, prodded, swabbed and got an IV going. There were visits from the doctor, anesthesiologist and X-ray tech. A last meaningful look and kiss with Mike, and the relaxing medication took me away before I could see the operating room.

The braids are courtesy of my friend, Sissy.

Awaking from surgery is a surreal experience, being in that twilight zone of half present, and half somewhere else. Voices floated around me, and I caught only snatches of meaning here and there. There were frequent checks on my right leg, which was totally numb from a spinal block. I was aware that every so often, ice packs were brought to place on the leg to reduce swelling. I could feel their weight on my leg, but I couldn’t feel the cold.

Later, in my room, a rotation of nurses took over my care.  Each one was kind, and I tried to be courteous even as they woke me from my healing sleep many times to collect vital signs, or monitor my pain level.  The ice packs continued to come, being changed with great regularity.  My leg was regaining feeling, so I now felt the old, cozy ice pack go, and a firmly cold replacement take its place.  And then…Pat. Pat. Pat.  The nurse would place the ice pack in place, and the pats would follow like clockwork, as if to say, “There. You. Go.”  “Oh, how sweet,” I thought.  “They love me here!”  The next icepack arrived, delivered by a different nurse.  I waited.  Sure enough, Pat. Pat. Pat.  “Keep. It. Cold.”  I don’t know how many ice pack changes I went through, but I did pay attention.  Each time without fail, there was a Pat. Pat. Pat.  “Get. Well. Soon.”  “Wow, these nurses are trained in even the tiniest detail,” I thought.  It is such a sweet, subliminal way to show you care.  A way to be able to leave the room, knowing you have figuratively put the period at the end of the sentence.

Practice walking before going home.

The next day, we journeyed home together, my new nurse and I.  Mike had cleared his schedule to take care of my every need.  He even managed the ice pack changes with great regularity.  The spinal block had worn off the day prior, and so when the first ice pack arrived, I waited with some dread.  Yes, there it was:  a new ice pack and a Pat. Pat. Pat.  “You’re. Home. Now.”  The next ice pack was the same thing:  Pat. Pat. Pat.  “I. Love. You.”  With a newly thawed, sensitive leg, it really was time to comment, as the anticipation of Pat. Pat. Pat was beginning to fill me with terror.  We had a good laugh over it, and Mike agreed to do air pats instead.  Problem solved!

It is our pleasure to watch our 2 ½ year old grandson once a week, and we had carefully coached him to approach the left side of my chair to avoid hurting my “broken leg.” To the best of his young ability, he was mindful of this. Since he loves to be a “helper,” Mike sent him over to my chair bearing the next ice pack. He gently placed it on my leg, and then… Pat. Pat. Pat.

It must be in the human DNA. -Beth

My little helper.


Hello to our friends who have followed this blog in past seasons!  We have been woefully neglectful of the blog this year.  The reason?  We have had a summer of hosting a continual string of guests.  It has been a lot of fun, but there has not been an abundance of the quiet time and reflection it takes to put words on paper.

If you’re anything like us, many friendships are catch-as-catch-can when we’re at home.  Life is busy for all of us.  We have impromptu visits in the grocery store or post office, or share an occasional evening together over a meal.  But these visits often leave us wishing for just a little more time.  In contrast, when we spend several days with friends on our 42-foot boat, there is time for an abundance of togetherness.  The first couple of days is usually filled with lots of talk and catching up on the events of life.  Then gradually, guests settle into a more relaxed rhythm, getting into the routine of life on the boat, and noticing more of what is passing by outside.  It’s as if we finally all take a deep breath and settle into a more relaxed state of being.  We love watching this process happen.  We think of it as giving our friends a chance to step back from busy life and have a “reset.”

Each set of guests brings a different chemistry to the visit.  We enjoy discovering what they like to do, because they typically arrive saying, “We just want to do what you want to do, and go wherever you want to go.”  Over time though, it becomes apparent that some people enjoy scenery and nature, some like geography or the history of the area, some people enjoy stopping at a town and eating out, others like the boat and want to learn how to help with docking and handling the lines.  We try out a variety of experiences until we discover what really engages our guests, then we try to do more of that particular thing.  In the end, we share fun and quality time, but we also really get to know each other.  It’s like opening a gift together – lots of smiles and surprises.

Even though everyone is different, we’ve found that most of our guests share a common disability. We call it BANG. Actually, it’s not a disability, but has more to do with the nature of boats versus the nature of houses on land. In a land house, you can close a door or leave it open, because you can count on the house standing still, and the door staying where you left it. But in a house on the water, there is constant movement. Sometimes the movement is gentle and subtle, and sometimes the movement is more vigorous. Even the gentle variety can cause things to move around, though, and for this reason, there are hooks and latches to hold doors in place even if they are open. If they don’t get latched every time, we have BANG! At those times, Mike and I just look at each other and say, “BANG.” The cupboard doors above the sink in the galley are particularly unforgiving if left unlatched, because they are right at head height, and perfectly situated for swinging a glancing blow to the forehead when you’re least expecting it. When that happens, we sometimes say something a little worse than “BANG.” Another frequent offender is the bathroom door. You can relate, I’m sure: You roll out of bed in the night to take care of nature’s call, then stumble back to bed never thinking to latch the bathroom door open. You guessed it, when the inevitable happens, Mike and I roll over in bed and mumble, “BANG.” BANG is a relatively minor problem, and it provides one more reason to laugh. Besides, all our guests have turned out to be quick learners, for which we are grateful.

An unlatched door: BANG in the making

We are sometimes asked, “What about time to yourselves?  Don’t you get tired of guests?”  Well, we learned during an earlier summer, that it is important to leave a few days between guests.  Part of this is practical:  We need to do laundry and change the sheets, restock food and water, empty trash, etc.  But the other part is breathing room for ourselves.  We do need time to recharge from being “on” socially, and to do some boating on our own.  We generally find a quiet cove where we can anchor away from people, kayak around, take naps, and just enjoy being by ourselves.  After a few days, we’re ready to greet more friends, and share this wonderful resource we’ve been given.

Watmough Bay – a place to relax and recharge

We now suddenly find ourselves at the one week mark before we begin the long drive home. We have much to do to unload Voyager, and prepare her for the winter months. But Home is calling… Home means loved ones to hug, a larger space to live in, a neighborhood of fine folks to connect with, and a community to participate in. We have everything we could ever wish for, and more. But we may find that we miss… BANG!



What has you bugged, bothered or just plain unsettled?

As we begin our fifth season aboard Voyager, it is time to open the blog.  But it is a season unsettled.  As in the past, I have looked forward to time on the water, away – that place of wellbeing.  Voyager provides the means for us to make this a reality. 

Always a big moment. Will she float?

I came aboard about fifteen days ago to get ready for the season.  There were a couple of projects that I developed over the off season (check out the Boat Page for the story and technical information).  It is always satisfying to complete these even when every two steps forward results in one step back.  These projects are a good example of bugged, bothered or just irritated at some detail on the boat that finally makes it to the top of the list.  Here is the back story:  Imagine being out for many days and heading in to a marina.  There are anticipated amenities here – things like water and shore power.  You tie up and plug in, only to trip the breaker.  Not a problem, you say.  But here (also in SE Alaska all last summer) they have upgraded their docks to the marine equivalent of GFI protected circuits, so the entire dock trips when Voyager shows up and plugs in.  This makes for some bugged neighbors and no shore power for us.  Boats all have an electrical ground that eventually is tied to the ground wire in the shore power receptacle.  Some boats leak some current to ground and it can even find its way through any other boat in a marina back to the shore power.  This problem is gradually being corrected as marinas upgrade their shore power.  The very sensitive GFI-like circuits will trip off when this situation is detected.  Individual boats like Voyager can trip entire docks with just a small ground fault.  The solution is an isolation transformer that – you guessed it, isolates the boat from the shore power.  I planned for the specifications, including size and capacity. I even had the wiring configured.  But what I didn’t consider was the weight.  It is a copper wound iron core that makes for a dense little package that felt like a 100 pounds.  (It turned out to be 52 pounds – I read the specifications).  When attempting the install under the vanity sink cabinet, I found out that it was beyond my ability.  How long does it take before you ask for help?  For me, it was several hours and many failed attempts to lift this heavy thing onto its bracket.  At just the right moment (when I knew it was hopeless), Angus came to my rescue.  I said that a really strong guy that is small enough to fit inside the cabinet would be what is required.  Angus is 6’2” and nearly 275 lbs.  (The word in the boatyard is that he competes in the Highland Games – you know these events where very strong Scotsmen throw boulders and telephone poles around for fun).  He just smiled and said, “Let me take a look.”   Before I could get the flashlight, he simply reached his massive right arm way into the tight space and plunked the transformer into place – under a minute.  Wow, Thanks Angus!  This one of those improvements that you don’t notice, but makes all the difference at the marina.  The neighbors are happy too.  One less buggy problem…

Yes beautiful, but I don’t want him around.

I came to the boat with a fairly high level of bothered.  I believe we all carry a certain amount of this; call it imbalance.  The world in which we find ourselves is in a state of upheaval.  Pandemics and health uncertainties that are continuing, inflation concerns and instability in general are all contributing factors. People, in general, are not doing well – myself included.  Once aboard, the influence of constant media ceases.  My world shrinks to more immediate problems.  Things like, ‘does the boat float?’ or ‘does the engine start?’ are the more pressing issues.  These are things that I am able to remedy.  I can do something to fix my smaller world.  Questions like, ‘how can we run a diesel fueled boat when the cost is nearly $7. per gallon?’  These dilemmas all around us still exist, but the cost of fuel is not within my sphere of influence and neither are many of the things that are simply not as they used to be…

These ants would fly in and immediately lose their wings. ‘Oh no, you’re not staying!’

Do you see the bugs or the bigger picture?

Many, many things remain beautiful.  Here is the view today. 

We have been able to navigate poor circumstance to arrive where we find ourselves.  I won’t try to fix what is beyond my ability – at least today, and I will enjoy the satisfaction of repairing the broken things I can fix.  Here is a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr.  Many people know the first three lines; I like the whole thing:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen”

What could go wrong? Nowadays, don’t ask.

Don’t be bugged.


Ice Fantasies

We’ve mentioned glaciers in previous posts, and we’ve mentioned icebergs. But I have a little confession: my picture taking finger is a bit trigger happy when it comes to bergs. I have taken over a thousand pictures of icebergs. Why? Because each one is unique, and I don’t want to pass one by that might just be “the picture” of the best berg. So, I keep snapping away, even though the pictures fail to capture the depth and beauty of my subject.

If I had to categorize icebergs, I’d probably sort them by color. But you could certainly sort them by size or shape, if sorting is your thing. The deadliest color for boaters is no color. Clear icebergs don’t show up well in the water, just as the ice in your soft drink lies submerged and reflects the color of your beverage. Even though we both kept a sharp lookout while navigating, we managed to run over a couple of clear icebergs. Thankfully, they were small ones, and we just heard them clunk-clunking down the length of our hull. We were doubly thankful that they managed to miss the propeller as they passed the stern. We have a healthy respect for icebergs when boating!

As clear as glass
So delicate!

Since the ice comes from the calving of glaciers, the ice is older than your average ice cube. This ice may be hundreds of years old. We felt privileged to harvest some to put in our sparkling water.

Chilled beverages!

As glaciers slowly move downhill, scraping along granite mountains, they can pick up sediment and dirt. Some bergs are quite dirty looking, and may even carry small boulders frozen into their mass.

Dirty berg

Some bergs are snowy white, which is how I imagined they would all be.

Snowy white
Fluffy like cotton balls

The loveliest icebergs, in my opinion, are the ones with aqua colored hues. It was explained to me that the more compressed the ice is, the less oxygen it contains, and the darker the color. The color can range from faint aqua to a dramatic deep teal. They appear to be illuminated from within, and they have an entrancing, almost magical quality. It’s a difficult characteristic to capture on film, but here are a few examples:

Scroll in to see the depths
Light from within
A floating jewel

Everything in creation can have a practical aspect, and icebergs are no exception. They provide a relatively safe place for seals to climb out of the water and birth their pups. The new pups can float on the ice while mom hunts for food. Birds regularly rest their wings and take a break while they float by berg. Even eagles take advantage of the ride as they keep a sharp eye out for fish to catch.

Seals and pups

The human mind loves to make sense of the shapes seen in nature. Much like gazing at clouds, or seeing a rock that reminds you of an elephant head, the shapes of icebergs can be endlessly entertaining. Do you see what I see?

Tipsy toadstool
You decide!

My favorite iceberg fantasy occurred when we were anchored near a glacier, surrounded by a variety of icebergs. Since Voyager looks a little like a child’s bathtub tugboat toy, it was easy to imagine that we were participants in a giant’s bubble bath, on a very large scale. Fanciful, I know. But as we return to our “real” lives, it’s good to carry home a bit of the magic in our imagination and memories.

Voyager’s bubble bath


Ford’s Terror

Great Weather

After Leaving the capital city of Juneau with full provisions, we journeyed to an area known for tidewater glaciers. Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm have the Sawyer and Dawes glaciers terminating at the head of respective fjords. We’d experienced some icebergs in Glacier Bay, but didn’t want to thread through the thirty-five miles of such densely packed chunks that we found in Endicott. Fortunately, there is a secondary fjord with an intimidating name – Ford’s Terror.

The name might come from an 1889 explorer from the ship Patterson who mistimed his transit. Poor Mr. Ford. Having got himself caught in the narrows while the current raged, he needed to wait six hours until the tide turned. Another possible origin of the name is a misspelling of fjord. It could be Fjord Terror. In any case, I was determined that it would not become Gaisford’s Terror! Like so many of our passages, timing is the key. At every turn of the tide there is five miles worth of water that attempts to empty at low tide only to then rush to fill the same five miles of fjord on the incoming high tide. This drama is very predictable and results in a benign or even boring event called slack. The water equalizes and transit is possible for Ford or the Gaisfords.

Magnificent Scenery Waits Beyond ‘the terror’

This passage has the added challenge of rocks and a sand bar all mixed in with a narrow turning course.  The route is supposed to turn right after you line up the stern with a waterfall.  The right turn part is easy – that’s where the water is and the rocks aren’t.  The ‘line up on the waterfall’ part is not so easy.  The waterfall has an upper part over here and a lower part over there…  Not quite in the terrifying category, but it was a thrill to watch the white water go flat, catch the last of the ebb current, find the channel and thread our way into the wonderland of Ford’s Terror.  And what a place this is…

Which Waterfall?

The pictures indicate sunshine. The weather was so good that we stayed three nights. We appreciate the clear skies. But before you start thinking about your lack of vitamin D and shed your shirt to soak up some rays, there is a hidden danger. The reason that the people here have white complexions might be that no one exposes even a little skin to the ‘Bombers’. These are B-29 sized flies. They even resemble a bee. It is said that after they bite, they lumber off and have a steak dinner courtesy of the divot you now have… If this weren’t bad enough, the worst is yet to come. What begins as a mild itch, soon escalates to an irresistible urge to scratch. No cortisone treatment helps until scratching has produced a bleeding mess. The resulting welt and scab are a lasting reminder – you have an enemy. So, whether you call them horse flies, bulldogs or bombers, war has been declared. Their heavy slow flight is no match for a lightning-fast blow from a fly swatter. It is not very consoling that I may have killed the fly when I wake up to that itch, but I’m ahead and counting.

He’s BIG
Ford’s Terror

Stay safe, and don’t let the name scare you. Get some sun and beware of the bugs.


A Fortuitous Change of Plans

We weren’t intending to go to Glacier Bay National Park.  When planning a long trip, a lot of effort goes into just getting there.  We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go, and some specific places were on our itinerary.  Then we ran across some friends in Sitka, and they told us that Glacier Bay is not to be missed.  After hearing their glowing descriptions, we revised our loosely held plans, and prepared to head further north.  Reservations are required, as the park service limits the number of boats coming in to 3 per day.  The permit lasts up to a week.  Usually, these reservations are made weeks ahead of time.  They reserve a few short notice spots, and we were hoping for one of these.  We applied online, and tried to stay in areas where we could receive confirmation by cell phone, but we heard nothing.  So, taking a leap of faith, we just headed toward the park.  The day before arriving, we finally made contact, and our application was approved!

We stopped at the Bartlett Bay ranger station to pick up our park map, and get the latest information on where we could and could not go in the park. There are protected waters for whales and other wildlife, and the boundaries sometimes change. Map in hand, we headed toward our first anchorage: North Sandy Cove. Thus began a journey we could not have imagined. We must have said the word, “beautiful” more times in this one week than we have in our whole lives.

The cozy cove where we anchored was empty of other boats, but full of wildlife. Whales swam in and out of the bay, and all around our boat as they went about their constant feeding. “Phhhhhf, Phhhhf” sounded day and night as they exhaled great gusts of air and spray. The sound was incredibly peaceful. People have asked if we were afraid, having them so near the boat. But they did not bother us even though they were close, and we did not seem to bother them. In the evening, they grew more playful, and we enjoyed watching their tail slaps on the water. When we moved on the next morning, it was with a sense of sadness at leaving our whale family behind.

A whale blows between Mike and Voyager

Throughout the park, we passed many otters, calmly resting on their backs in the water, some holding young pups. They would disappear if we got too close, so our pictures are from a distance. Also from a distance, we took pictures of puffins! These snazzy little birds captured our hearts. We saw bears regularly, in different spots, usually along the shoreline as they foraged for food at low tide.

Come relax with the otters!
Mama bear and cub

One rainy, cloudy day, we wanted to delay traveling to see the glaciers until visibility was better. Instead, we stopped along our way for Mike to try his hand at fishing. He had purchased a new line set up for halibut, and wanted to try it out. He caught two undersized halibut, which he threw back. He was on the verge of giving up when he hooked a big one! It was a 48-incher and it took him an hour to fight the fish to the boat. Then we looked at each other and said, “Now what do we do?” It took us a while, and we were messy, but we got the job done, and filled the freezer with delicious halibut. We have been enjoying it as much as the salmon we caught earlier in our trip.

Mr. Halibut

There was gorgeous scenery everywhere we went.  The woods were thick and lush with greenery.  Waterfalls trickled out of crevices and roared down granite walls.  Huge, snowcapped mountains jutted up all around us.  From our depth finder on the boat, we could see that the mountains began far beneath the surface of the water.  Use whatever superlative you wish, and it won’t be enough to convey the majesty and beauty we were surrounded with.  At the end of each day, we were in awe, and didn’t see how it could get any better.  But sure enough, the next day was even more amazing.  And who knew that glaciers could be so captivating?

There are several glaciers in the park, at the ends of long fjords. As we traveled through the steep walled canyons with the roar of waterfalls in our ears, we would round a bend to see the craggy fissures of a magical blue ice kingdom. It was breathtaking. Threading our way through icebergs that had entered the water when the glacier calved, we came as close as we could safely come to each glacier. At Marjerie Glacier, we decided to shut down the engine and just sit for a time. It was a great decision. We could hear the creaking and groaning as the slow glacial movement created huge pressures within the massive blocks of ice. Occasionally, we would hear what sounded like a distant gunshot – ice breaking apart. It was a thrill to watch the calving process whenever the face of the glacier let loose and slid to the water. The roar reached our ears after the fact. The resulting wave generated by the icefall could have been dangerous, had we been too close, but we had no problem. We decided to stay in a far nook of the bay overlooking Marjerie. We were the only boat, and the only humans present. It was amazing.

Ice wonderland
A little perspective… about 200 feet tall.
Live action calving.
Turn up sound

Too soon, our week drew to a close, and we headed back to the park entrance. On the way we passed whales, bears, more puffins, an otter convention, and mountain goats! Sorry, we have no pictures of the goats, but through our binocular lenses they were very handsome with their white beards. They were completely sure footed and comfortable on Gloomy Point, the craggy mountain where they were grazing. We will never forget our visit to this special place. We are so glad that our friends urged us to go, and if we get the chance to return someday, you can bet that we will.


Early morning serenity
Bonus video!
Turn up sound.

A week in Bear Country

From the time we entered Alaska, we have seen bears often. Sometimes a lone bear, sometimes a mother and cub, we enjoy watching them all. We have taken pictures each time, but they are usually so far away that the pictures just look faintly like bear shaped blobs. Along our journey we made friends with some fellow Krogen boat owners who had extra tickets to visit Pack Creek, a bear viewing area near Windfall Bay. They offered their extra tickets to us, and we gladly accepted. As it turned out, there were a total of 5 Krogens in the harbor, so we had a mini Krogen rendezvous. There’s nothing like comparing notes with fellow boat owners in beautiful surroundings.

Krogen Corner at Windfall Bay
So green, you’d think it was Hawaii

This remote area can only be reached by boat or floatplane. The park is administered by both the Forest Service and the Department of Fish and Game. Their goal is to keep the habitat completely natural for the bears, but to habituate them to seeing people in certain areas. Visitors are briefed on how to behave, where to walk, etc. Bears have the right of way here, so if a bear is on the path, it’s the people who need to give way or stay still, and the ranger will tell them which action is appropriate. One viewing area is delineated by a low barrier of fallen logs. The people stay inside, the bears stay on the outside. It’s almost as if the people are the ones in the cage, only there’s no cage. A ranger is present at all times. The other viewing area is a raised platform over a river where you can watch the bears hunt for salmon. This platform is reached by walking a one-mile trail through the forest, and a ranger is not present for this. In the park’s history, no people or bears have ever been harmed, so their plan seems to be working. We enjoyed being able to watch the bears do what bears do, and we witnessed some of their daily dramas. We would never have witnessed these things without spending time just sitting and waiting, because the bears aren’t there to perform, they are just living life. So we sat in rain. We sat in wind. We sat with bugs swarming and biting. We sat or stood with cameras and binoculars ready. And all that time was well worth it.

View from the platform

Bears are amazingly quick and agile for their size. They seem to be all muscle. They spend their time moving from place to place and eating along the way. They eat grass and berries. They catch and eat fish. They dig up clams when the tide is out, and crunch them up, shells and all. It’s amazing to see the ease with which they can turn over a heavy rock to look for crabs and bugs. These bears look cuddly and fluffy, but they are strong. We loved watching them as they ran through the creeks, splashing water everywhere, and then pounced on a salmon.

Splash splash, salmon dash

We loved watching the mothers with their cubs. I especially love when they stand on their hind legs and look around like giant groundhogs.

A bear outstanding in his field

Here is a bear mama drama that we witnessed: One bear had a cub that ran off both days we were there. This cub just ran willy-nilly into the forest without concern. The other cubs we saw tended to stay pretty close to their mothers. This cub’s mother eventually became concerned and we could see her standing up to look for him. Then she headed off to find him. We wanted to tell her, “Hey, he went the other way!” A bit later, she reappeared without the cub, still looking, and a bit agitated. She headed toward another mother with 2 cubs, and they became uncomfortable. The mother guided the cubs away from this other adult, looking over her shoulder, and obviously nervous. They passed quite close by our logs. The ranger instructed us to sit quietly and not move. He would redirect the bears, if needed. He said, “Try not to be nervous.” Ha! Watch the video below. In the video, when the bears are the closest to us, they are about 12 feet away.

Mama drama

Another behavior bears will exhibit is a bluff charge, meant to scare or intimidate. If another bear seems to be encroaching on its hunting ground, or threatening its cubs, a bear may bluff charge. Here is an example that we witnessed:

Conflict management

To say we enjoyed our two days of viewing would be an understatement. And thanks to the weather, we had more days of enjoyment. There were storms, with winds and big waves just outside our bay, so we stayed put for about 6 days. During this time, we were anchored in Windfall Bay, which is also home to many bears. It was not uncommon to look out our window and see 4 to 6 bears onshore at any given time. We could kayak closer, but not too close. We had lots of bear observation time. It was an absolutely beautiful place to spend a week with bears and with friends.

Salmon jumping, Windfall Bay
Digging clams at low tide



No trip to Alaska would be complete without seeing a whale or two.

Frederick Sound

We have always been excited to encounter these mysterious mammals. In Mexico we have had the chance to have short close encounters with young Grey Whales. That was thrilling, but here, there are opportunities to live with the Humpbacks in their environment. No, we haven’t been swimming with them, but we’ve ‘camped out’ for days at a time with them. They are alive and well. We see how they hunt by cooperatively creating a bubble net to surround small bait fish and then swim up through the corralled feed with mouths open.

Very close

I hope to see a full breach

No, I didn’t take this one. The visitor center…

I like to imagine what their underwater life is like: They are social since they travel in pods sometimes. They can communicate, but only the Lord knows what they are saying. What causes them to be seemingly rambunctious at the end of the day? They can flap their massive tail and create a wall of water. These are mammals with a semblance of family. And I wonder…

“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.” Psalm 104:24-26

Thankful for a brief visit – Awesome


Alaskan Towns

We have often written about the routine of stopping to reprovision, do laundry, refill water, etc. This is something we need to do every 2 weeks or so, then we’re good to go again. Each time we stop, we get to explore a different town on the water’s edge. Each town has its own characteristics – some charming, and some less so. We are always looking to experience the unique.

We enjoy the colorful seaside towns

The town of Petersburg has a Norwegian influence. The traditional Rosemaling painting appears on storefronts, signs and sidewalks. The town is clean, the people are friendly. They seem anxious for the visitor to enjoy being in their small town, which they obviously take pride in. We enjoyed our stay there, and found provisions with ease. One thing I noticed in Petersburg, is that the ravens (which were featured in an earlier blog post) have a different dialect. Their utterances are more a clicking/rattling sound than a squawk. Their appearance though, is the same as their raven brothers we saw and heard in Wrangell.

Rooftop ravens

Sitka provided a lovely stop for resupplying. This was a larger sized town, and we enjoyed seeing the Russian influence and history there. Good shopping, nice gift shops and street vendor fish tacos made our stay pleasant.

Russian Orthodox Church with onion dome

Tanakee Springs is a town, but of a different sort. Colorfully painted homes dot this isolated coastline for about a mile. The one “road” is a dirt track traveled by ATVs. We saw no cars. We did see men getting dropped off after work by helicopter, their lunch pails in hand. We spoke with them as they stopped by the store to pick up supplies for dinner. The “downtown” area also features a floatplane dock, so people can travel to this remote town by air. Another item of interest is a communal hot spring bath. There are separate hours for men and women, and the large, sunken tub is designed for group soaking. Perhaps the most unique thing we saw was the combination community greenhouse/self-serve restaurant. Community members plant, tend, and harvest from the small greenhouse. Just adjacent to that is a tiny café with 4 stools at a counter. Someone makes coffee; someone had made enchiladas, which were in the refrigerator; someone had made cookies and displayed them in a jar. A local informed us that the procedure is: Go in, drink coffee, warm up the food and serve it on the plates. Eat your food, wash your dishes and put them away, leave some money in the jar. What a concept! Unique and wonderful! Again, there were friendly people, eager to share their way of life with us.

This fish scale has seen better days
4 wheeler Main Street
(the only street)
The self serve cafe

On to the Native Tlingit village of Hoonah. In normal tourist seasons, cruise ships stop at a huge dock north of Hoonah, called The Cannery. We suspect it was built on the site of an original cannery, but it definitely has a “new-built-to-look-old” appearance. It has an upscale cruise ship passenger appeal. In this year of Covid closures, The Cannery was not open, and we did not stop there. Instead, we docked at the town itself, and walked around. It was a Sunday, and pretty much everything was closed. A young Native girl on a pink bicycle stopped and said, “You’re not from here, are you?” It was apparent that we stood out. We said, “What should we see here?” She pointed to a small store specializing in Doritos and other snack foods. Once again, a friendly, helpful individual seeking to share the things she values.

A real highlight was our stop at Warm Springs. This community can’t really be called a town. There are no stores. There are a small number of homes along the shore, and tucked back into a hill. A lot of the residents seem to come seasonally, but there are a hearty few who stay year round. Boat and floatplane provide the only access. There is a natural hot spring that has been developed very nicely. Soaking provides a great source of Ahhhhhh….. for a weary traveler. One way to soak, is to follow a boardwalk up into the woods. There are natural rock pools beside a roaring waterfall, into which some hot springs water feeds through a pipe. I don’t know which is more enjoyable – the hot pool or the waterfall. It definitely is an outdoor, rough luxury experience. We enjoyed this on the first day.

The boardwalk
See the waterfall next to the pool?
Ok, here’s a better look

The second day, we resolved to use the beachside “bath house.” The community has built and maintains three 8 foot oblong tubs (about 3 feet deep). Each tub is in a 10 x 10 foot wooden room with a door on one side and a curtain on the other (for privacy). The 3 rooms are connected. There is generous room for 2 people in each tub. There are pegs for hanging your clothes, a plug for the tub, 2 hoses: one for cold water, and one for HOT! You plug the tub and fill it to your desired temperature, climb in with your sweetie, and open the curtain. No one can see in because you are above water level. But you can see out to the bay, and a view of the waterfall. Wonderful! I don’t know which soaking experience we enjoyed more. We might have to return and try it all again to determine the answer.

The bath house
Inside looking out.
The tub is filled and ready!

There is no charge for using the rock pools or the tubs. There is a donation box to help the community continue to provide this wonderful resource. There is a spray bottle of disinfectant and a brush for scrubbing your own tub when you finish. We love the generosity and common sense of the Alaskan culture we have encountered. People truly want to share the good things they enjoy, and not for their own profit. It’s a fine way to live.


When In Alaska…

There are some things you just have to get used to when visiting Alaska.  One of those things is rain and drizzle – lots of it.  A positive result of all that rain is the lush rainforest and abundance of green meadow grasses which cover the land.  After experiencing drought in California for years, the abundant shades of green are a refreshing sight for sore eyes.  Oh, to export some of this water to that thirsty southern land!  There is a downside to lots of water, though:  Mud.  Sticky, slippery, messy mud.  The hearty Alaska dwellers have come up with a solution to the problem by adopting an almost universal uniform for the feet.  This uniform is the Xtra Tuf boot.  The boots come in a few different styles:  Short tops for puddles and boat decks, and taller boots for fishermen and those wading through deeper muck.  I call it a uniform because you see these boots worn everywhere, even when it isn’t raining.  Because, you know, it WILL rain eventually, and you wouldn’t want to get caught out without your Xtra Tufs.

Here’s Mike, modeling the short top version. These definitely have house slippers beat, especially when you’re engaged in pulling up the anchor, or hosing down the deck.

Raising the anchor
Do the boots make the man? No!
The man makes the boots.

And here’s my pair. I like the higher boot, because I’m the one who jumps into the shallows from the dinghy and drags it to shore, while Mike is dealing with the motor at the stern.

Ready for action!

We are right at the height of fashion in Alaska. Or at the very least we don’t stand out too badly as outsiders. We love our boots, and we think these Alaskans are Extra Smart.

Tuf love!