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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

14 June 2012; Juneau, Alaska.

 Juneau had today its own micro climate courtesy of being wedged in between the mountains flanking Gastineau channel. In Auke Bay to the North West and in Taku Lodge to the South East the sun was shining and we had rain. Even the chief officer, always a fan of rain to wash the salt off the ship, is complaining as his sailors cannot paint. At least the guests cannot say they did not see the real Alaska. It is almost getting too much of a REAL Alaska. Maybe Ketchikan will be better tomorrow. I pulled four different forecasts off of the computer this morning and that indicates that they do not have a clue what the weather will be there. A good indication that it might not rain there for a change. We were bright and early in our approach to Juneau dock. All the other ships were behind us and thus we could sail unhindered towards our dock in the corner and the closest one into town. By 06.10 we were docked and 30 minutes later the Celebrity Century started her approach, followed 30 minutes later by the Ocean Princess.

 It is easier to dock if there is no other ship around not just because of the space but because you can use less power to get the ship in. Instead of sailing past the other ship and having to thruster sideways to the berth, you can now let the ship float in with minimal corrections on an approach course that would normally be blocked by that other ship. The name of the game here is gently, gently, to avoid smoke plumes. Juneau is sharply divided in two groups. Those in favor of cruise ships, as they understand the benefit towards the economy and a group who is very much against. That latter group complains a lot. About smoke, about noise, about too many people in town etc. etc. As Juneau is the capital of Alaska, a large group of the population is not involved in tourism but in government functions and I think that this is one of the reasons why there is a certain animosity towards us. Everybody has their own vote but if you see that a company such as Holland America alone already pumps 145 mln dollars into the Alaskan economy, then I think we do some good here. Still there are complaints sometimes and thus I approach with the gentle touch. The other option would be to use as much power as possible. Then you have not much smoke either as you bring more load on the engines. Same as your car with higher speeds is showing a cleaner exhaust. But I do not like this rough stuff with the ship, so we go slow and gentle.

web vent shaft

Goldmine Ventilation shafts, on Douglas Beach. Stock Foto.

With announcements I have to be creative as well. While alongside we try to minimize them, except for drills and so I make my sail-away announcements after we have sailed away already. Sailing in and out of Juneau is interesting as there is so much to see. I described the gold mine against the hill before in a previous blog and the village of Lucky Me. The mine influence can be seen everywhere, even on the Douglas side, the city across from Juneau. When they dug the mine tunnels, they eventually ended up under Gastineau Channel and also at the other side. To help with the ventilation of the mine, they built ventilation shafts that come up from below at the Douglas beach. Two of them are still visible and in a reasonably good shape but I have been told that there were more in the past. If you do not know what they are, you might miss the significance and thus I point them out.

Another feature is Dupont Dock at the beginning of Gastineau Channel. Named after the chemical company that provided the dynamite for the mine. When the mine was started the dynamite arrived at the Alaska Steamship dock, where we are now, but I have been told that there was an oop-sie with a loud bang and thus a dedicated unloading dock was built far away from civilization. Built very well, as now over a 100 years later, the dock is still there, although not complete anymore and no longer used.

We pulled out by 17.45 and then sailed down Stephens Passage for Ketchikan. This is the only really high speed run on this cruise so we put the pedal to the metal to meet the schedule. I am really wondering what the weather will be tomorrow in Ketchikan.


  1. My wife was born in Juneau and raised there and the interior of the Great State. She always says about Alaska seasons, June is mosquitos, July and early August is summer. So you still have Hope.

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