- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

24 July 2014; Sitka, Alaska.

A little delay in posting this blog. Yesterday the Amsterdam was on a Southerly course and that means that the funnel blocks the sat dish.

We are not having much luck with the weather this cruise. Although on the second day it looked like as if the clouds would break, but it did not turn out that way. Today we had another real Alaska Day, with overcast skies and the occasional drop of rain coming down. Nothing to upset the proceedings of having a great cruise but it could have been better. For those guests who packed for a sunny – warm weather – cruise, and we have a few on board, it must be a disappointment. For the rest it does not really matter, they all brought their rain coats, back packs and boots and they all went off happily exploring Sitka.

Sitka is of course a bit of an anomaly compared to the other Alaskan Ports, cities and towns in as far as the history is more Russian than American. Although in the current way of life nothing feels Russian or International anymore but the history is still there in the buildings.

What amazes me most is the lack of Russian names among the local population. One would expect that given the presence of them for such a time, there would be some other traces left apart from the architecture. But in my dealings with the port of the last 30 years I have never have come across anybody who said that he/she was from a family from that period. It looks as if the Russians packed up lock stock and barrel after the handover of Alaska.

So what is left are the geographical names, the architecture and some cultural influences which the local population tries to keep alive. Many tours are available and one of them is the option to see Russian dances being performed. Another one, which has a Holland America connection, is a visit to the Raptor center. Here wounded birds of prey are nursed back to health. Holland America provided the grants that made the opening of the centre possible and has been sponsoring ever since. Either with more money or with trying to get as many tourists to visit the center.

Sitka is also a base for the United States Coast Guard who has stationed several helicopters there. Those are well known to us as we sometimes request their services to air lift patients from the ship, if somebody needs acute treatment that goes beyond the capabilities of the onboard Medical Department.

I visited the base long time ago, when I was sailing with a captain whose hobby this sort of thing was and one item I found there on display was the stern of one of the Prinsendam (I) tenders when the Prinsendam sank in 1980 in the Gulf of Alaska. Sitka airbase had been involved in that rescue due to proximity.  A rescue which I still consider a remarkable feat as in quite bad Gulf of Alaska weather they managed to launch all lifeboats, filled with rather mature citizens, without any injuries and they were all safely picked up by helicopters and a tanker.

The Amsterdam left on time as everybody had returned early. Every captain loves a bit of rain, an hour before departure. Tomorrow will be Ketchikan and we are expecting that the town will offer us one of those 332 days of the year that it rains.

2 Comments

  1. I think it would be great to hear about your medical facilities if you get a chance in the future. My husband worked in the power plant at the Air Force Academy and enjoys reading about the fuel and power on the ship.

  2. Dear Captain Albert,

    I am very much enjoying your blog posts from your new perspective of things. Something you said caught my attention – about the funnel blocking the satellite signal. As someone who is sometimes frustrated when trying to post a blog from a ship, I would be interested if you could elaborate and talk some more about the satellite signal and which way the ship is heading…

    Thanks

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