On our way to Ketchikan we pass through Snow Passage, which is a 90 degree turn from Sumner Strait to Clarence Strait. As there is normally quite a bit of current here, this is a standby point for the captain to be on the bridge. If the current would catch the ship and the pilot does not react to it, the rocks are very close by. Thus the captain is on the bridge with the hands on the throttle and an eagle eye on the quartermaster who is steering.
It is also an excellent area for whale watching. The currents seem to churn up sufficient food for whales to feed on and normally we have a few sightings. As we only arrive at Ketchikan at 2 pm. in the afternoon I went through Snow Passage at the decent time of 8 am in the morning so the guests could be out and about. The whales were present and we were shown a number of tail flips and deep dives. The sea lions, which can be seen quite often on the rocks and on the buoys, were not there as there were Orca’s in the area. Sea lions do not like Orca’s as Orca’s enjoy eating Sea lions. We saw the Orca’s later on in the morning further to the south.
The weather forecast was not correct, again, but in this case to our advantage. The 50% rain that was forecasted was nowhere to be seen and we had a dry but over cast day, a dry day is a very good day for Ketchikan so no reason to complain. We were scheduled for a
2 pm. arrival as the Amsterdam was at our berth and had to leave first. Also the Infinity next door had a 1300 hrs. departure and wanted to get out before we arrived. Thus the plan had been drawn up that I would wait off the berth until the two ships were safely out of the way.
If this is to works schedule, depends on the fact if all the ships tours are back on time. One delayed bus and they cannot leave and I am docking late. This time it seemed that all the tours had returned early as the Amsterdam pulled out 15 minutes ahead of schedule. They have a tight schedule to make to get to Victoria so each minute helps. The Infinity left soon after and thus I could dock the Veendam on time with the gangway out at 13.50 hrs. By 14.20 hrs we had 1100 guests ashore. For the coming weeks, there will be my personal challenge to improve on that docking time of 13.50 hrs. Which, I think I can do if the other ships will continue to leave on time or early.
With the other two ships gone, the Veendam docked at berth number two, which is the most central berth in the town. The Coral Princess, which had a departure time of 15.00 hrs, was at berth number four and that is quite a walk from town. However by next year there will also be a shopping mall at that berth, so for those who only need a Ketchikan trinket to complete their journey, it is not such a bad deal. Berth nr 4 is a brand new dock and has the advantage that the gangway goes up and down with the tide, so no moving of shore gangways and platforms to adjust when the ship goes up and down. We still have to fuss around with putting a platform under the gangway and then removing it when the tide went down and vice versa. That is not much of a problem in principle but it stops the traffic over the gangway for about 10 minutes until the gangway is repositioned.
We left nicely on time and I cranked the Veendam up to full speed, as the tide at Seymour Narrows is an early one and thus I have to be on time at the Canadian Pilot Station at Pine Island. We are getting the pilots from the Seven Seas Mariner, which is northbound and will meet us at the same time at the pilot station.
It is supposed to be dry all day tomorrow with no fog predicted and thus all is well in the world.