Rain meters  or liquid sunshine gauge. are a favorite in Ketchikan. They call themselves the rain capital of the world, but also the salmon capital of the world and The First City of Alaska.

I suppose when you are a weather forecast guru you can always hedge your bets by calling it partly cloudy or partly sunny or overcast with a chance of showers. That way you are nearly always right. So we were expecting a chance of showers and what we got in the morning was fog and a steady drizzle and that lasted to the early afternoon. Then the clouds pulled away and the sun was brightly shining in Ketchikan. There was a chance of showers and we got the constant drizzle in the morning so I suppose the weather forecast was right. In the past the weather prediction was nearly always rain or a variation of it as it did nearly always rain in Ketchikan. 332 days of the year in the 1980’s. So if you then predict rain, you do not have more than a 10% chance of being wrong. And that is not bad in the Art of Meteorology. But we have seen more and more days of sun in Alaska and that includes Ketchikan. Thus now the weather is not as predictable as it used to be and thus we had overcast with showers for today and I had to get my sunglasses out and sun block 35 to protect my brain cover. But on the other hand in August 2017 they had the highest recorded monthly rain fall since 1967 and those aberrations do not make weather predicting any easier. But the locals say on average it now does rain less.

From Juneau to Ketchikan is a tight run for the ships, so arriving anytime earlier than 09.00 hrs. is a real push and requires to race all the way down the road. That never works here as there are fishermen, tug and tows and slow down areas where the ship simply cannot keep up the speed due to the turns and also the current. The main bottle neck is Snow Passage. This is a narrow passage with an almost 90o course change and while doing so you can get 3 to 4 knots of current on the side to push you off your course line. Then there are whales, fishermen and tug and tows and they can all be in the way. Snow passage is at the south side of Zarembo Island and is the short cut. There is also a passage on the north side which is much wider and leads past St. Petersburg, the main town on the island but it is approx… 20 miles longer. You do not have to slow down but you have to burn a lot more fuel to make up for the lost time. I have sailed with captains in the grey mists of time who used to do this so that they did not have to get out of bed. Because invariably standby southbound for Snow Passage is around 04.30 in the morning, right in the middle of a captain’s beauty sleep. But nowadays the fuel budgets are so tight that there is no room to play anymore, plus we now have monitoring from afar (Seattle Fleet Operations Center) and if we would go sightseeing or deviated from the agreed passage plan, Big Brother would certainly wake up and ask for an explanation.

Snow Passage, following the Black Line. Red is much more open waters but the long way around. (Chart Courtesy NOAA)

Ketchikan had a busy day today. When we came in, the Coral Princess was on 4, The Norwegian Bliss was on 3, we were going to 2 and the Oosterdam was on 1. The Oosterdam left at 13.00 hrs. and the Norwegian Bliss at 14.00 hrs. and her place was taken by the Celebrity Eclipse who had left Juneau later than us yesterday.  For those of you who would be interested in seeing what is happening in Ketchikan (including whether it rains or not) there are four webcams in use and they are all operational. https://webcamketchikan.com/

Webcam 4 shows a beautiful day in Ketchikan. This is a screen shot from 1700 hrs. in the afternoon.

The docking scheduling for all these ships is made by the local agent Cruise Lines Agencies of Alaska who runs the show in all the ports. It is a sort of monopoly but for once, one that really works in everybody’s favor. Every winter they try to make a round egg square which of course does not work. What is the challenge, every company wants their ship at the “downtown” docks and at the time that works best for them. But with more and more ships coming, and bigger and bigger ships as well, that does not work. So compromises have to be found. If things are getting too complicated, then the agent can invoke the clause: Holland America goes first as we are the senior company in Alaska and the most loyal one. Other companies might have joined in years past and are now bringing in bigger ships but we have been attached to Alaska since 1948 and have been present with our own ships since 1975. And that counts for something. And thus the Oosterdam and Westerdam were happily docked behind each other at berth 1 and berth 2 which is the downtown dock. We do not call it berth 1 and 2 but use the old names (see yesterday) as it is the Tongass Dock as we have always done and the name comes from one of the largest, one of the most prominent and one of the oldest shops in town. When I came to Alaska for the first time, they still sold everything for survival as a general store on two levels. Now the ground floor is all tourist stuff as T-shirts sell better and in much higher quantities than lumberjack outfits.

Tomorrow we are sailing the Canadian Inside Passage as we will leave Alaska tonight around 23.00 hrs. Canada is further to the East so we will have an hour forward. Expected weather: sun, overcast and a chance of showers in the afternoon. The weather forecast is all encompassing this time. Temperatures around 66oF / 19oC.