- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

31 July 2015; Juneau, Alaska.

So bright and early we arrived in Juneau. Although bright might not be the right word as it was decidedly overcast with a lot of dripping. I really want to use the word rain but it really does not cover it. Yes it rains but it is not a constant down poor but it is also not a constant drizzle, it is something in between. Maybe I should stay with drizzle and drip. Not that it mattered, whatever it was the guests streamed ashore and it did not seem to bother anybody.

The way it was long time ago when the mine stretched down all the way to the water.

The way it was a long time ago when the mine stretched down all the way to the water.

Most of our guests went ashore but some who had been here already several times opted to stay on board.  What was interesting is that I came across a couple who had spent their honeymoon here some 40 years ago and had come up with the Alaska State Ferry when it still docked at what is now the cruise terminal. They had taken lots of photos and were now trying to match the waterfront from those days to what they saw now.  Together with my memory from the early 80’s we were able to place quite a few of the photos in there right context but it was not easy as so much had changed after the cruise boom took place.

The way we saw it in the 70's and 80's.

The way we saw it in the 70’s and 80’s.

Basically the mountain Mount Roberts was still the same, but one major landmark the gold mine had disappeared. The mine and later the defunct remnants of its entrance had long loomed over Juneau. Then a few years ago the mine was briefly reopened. Very briefly but just long enough to have all the visible ruins removed. Now when you sail in with the ship you cannot see anything of the mine any more from the water side.

Gold mine ventilation shaft. (Courtesy www. groovyoutdoors.us)

Gold mine ventilation shaft. (Courtesy www. groovyoutdoors.us)

Except when you look to the other side; the Douglas side. There at the edge of the beach and the waters of Gastineau Channel stills stands a single ventilation house, which looks a bit like an oversized outhouse. It has been standing there since the mine was in operation providing ventilation to the mine shafts running under Gastineau Channel. The peculiar thing is it does not seem to deteriorate that fast. At least I cannot see it and I get a snapshot every year. It must do so though as I do not think it is being looked after by any preservation society. Gold is still being mined in the Juneau area but at the other side of the mountain. And of course the gold mining and panning is now a tourist attraction.

We docked today at the Cruise Terminal as the Volendam who came in at noon time, was assigned to the Alaska Steam dock, which is the dock all the way in the corner, with the nose into down town.  The cruise terminal is not a bad place either as it is still connected directly with the town, and all the shops, without having to walk a long way first. It is closer to Mount Roberts Cable Car and it has a visitor’s center right in front of the ship, which I had not seen before. Another new building but at the Franklin dock is the new office from the CBP. With so much business and most of it coming from the cruise ships, they moved closer to the port. As a matter of fact so close that their office is on the dock.

I had to deal with the CBP today as I was sending off some boxes to a friend of mine. I had just discovered that the US post office has this amazing deal for shipping a medium size box for the same price regardless of the weight. So you can ship 12 full size stone bricks for 12 dollars all over the States. I was not shipping bricks but something close to it………. old cruise brochures and menus. Those things weigh nearly the same. I wish they would have a similar offer for mail to Europe…………..  But before you can take anything ashore it has to be inspected and approved by the CBP.  Thus I presented myself with open boxes and my Customs form at the appropriate time. We have currently a very friendly CBP Lady but she is also very thorough and after I solemnly declared (and had verified) that I was not importing, food, seeds, wood and a whole list of other things that might threaten the USA, I could close my boxes and carry them ashore.  The US mail has a substation right in down town which is heavily frequented by crew members (maybe they opened it there for that reason) and stops us from having to make the 20 minute hike to the Federal Building at the outskirts where the main post office is located.

Tomorrow we are not going to Icy Strait Point, but to Glacier Bay. Holland America managed to get an extra Permit for the Statendam and that is a chance we do not let go. So on this cruise the guests get the chance to see Tracy Arm, Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. Three glacial highlights in one cruise …………… …………….Only with Holland America.


  1. I was wondering what becomes of all the ship’s log books. Are they stored in warehouses or what? There must be billions of them as there as so many ships.
    I wish I still had my daily log from the good old Rotterdam from September 1992. It was our first cruise and we met you when we were invited to dine with you for dinner. We also ran into you again in ’96 on the Ryndam where you made time to come and chat with us in the evening.
    Happy sailing,

    • Good morning,

      Thank you for reading my blog. All the ships logbooks are saved in a ware house in Seattle. For those from before 1973 they are all in the archives in Rotterdam. They do not get thrown away. We used one logbook for every 100 days, so roughly 4 a year and gives an idea how many there are in the HAL archives. Nowadays we have electronic logbooks which are automatically stored on a server owned by HAL.

      Thank you for remembering me from all those years ago.

      Best regards

      Capt. Albert

  2. Missed Career at Sea

    August 4, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    You’ve gone home again, Captain! Does time fly … I will miss you on the Alaska routes quite familiar to me now after your many blogs since 2007, and your experiences of 35 years on these routes?
    If you are home again, have a good rest as needed. Or, enjoy all the activities you might have till 25 September. Any training sessions again in September ?
    Looking forward to your new entries in your blog from Europe this time on board the Nieuw Amsterdam (still enjoy looking at her christening videos from July 2010!)

  3. Margaret Notley

    August 10, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Cap’t Albert, it was a treat–and a fine substitute for Glacier Bay–to hear your lecture on the history of the cruise industry, and of HAL in particular–on the Statendam last week. (Sat next to you in the Lido and accused you of impersonating Cap’t Albert.) So, thanks for that!
    Margaret Notley

  4. Also, kudos for the lecture on the Statendam. It was really great. And fun to see you on-board looking quite like a fellow-passenger.

  5. Capt when will you be back ??

  6. Missed Career at Sea

    September 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Well Captain, even though you have a few more days of vacation to go, I thought I’d welcome you back “in advance”. Since I didn’t see you on the Promenade in our little downtown harbour, I’d thought I’d give you a reportage of the last exit of the 22 years young lady, ms Statendam.
    She was already close to the designated location for the bridge going nose in at 06.25. As you wrote in your blog, Captain Vincent Smit was working the console, but the Chief/Staff Captain I did not recognize.
    I was quite surprised how the bulbous bow was overgrown with algae, and how much of the paint is affected if the ship is not maintained! Would no maintenance have been over the whole period of the Alaska season?
    At 16.25 all lines were winched up and the well wishers on the Promenade had a good view of the Big Burly British Captain who is going to deliver the Statendam to Singapore. Speaking to an ex-HAL Agent of the “red jacket” times, the Captain is apparently staying with the ship for 2 months during the revamping and overhauling of her.
    With a fancy-dancy new phone I bought for a song, I recorded her departure. If only we had Captain Frans Consen on the ship’s horn for this occasion. I remember him for the lot of noise he could make with the same toeter when he was Master of the Statendam. Actually, all Captains have gone quite sedate over the years in announcing their departures.
    I wonder if you could tell your readers some more about the parting lady of the fleet, the m.s. Statendam !

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