April 19, 2013

Because I can't get enough of boats

It seems likely that spring is finally ready to commit to Juneau.  I have thought that before, been really convinced, only to wake up to 3 inches of surprise snow in the morning. So, we'll see.

After a stormy start to the week, this weekend was incredible.  It was clear and warm (relatively), and even the northern lights were out (we didn't see them--apparently it was a good show).  It still gets dark at night, but we are gaining a couple of minutes of daylight each day.

Because we had such a great weather window, and because I have been anxious to get out of town lately, we decided to take a little mini-vacation on the ferry.  One of my goals this summer is
to try to do as many ferry day trips as I can, partially to expose a friend of ours (and myself) to the rest of southeast Alaska, and partially as a scouting mission for taking our own boat out, when it is ready.

Yesterday was our first trip of the year and we took the LeConte to Angoon and Tenakee.  For those of you following along at home, for the first leg of the trip we headed west from the ferry terminal, north around the tip of Admiralty Island, and south down Chatham Strait to Angoon.  It was a little rough in Chatham Strait, especially where it started to open up, but because we were traveling with the wind we were able to hang out on the back deck in shirt sleeves for that entire leg.  The ferry tends to travel too fast to see much wildlife, and the waves were white-capped all around us (which makes it harder to see the blows of humpback whales), but we saw several small groups of Dall's porpoises swimming next to the ferry and in its wake, as well as in the distance on their way to other locales.  It is really cool to see them swim just under the water near the boat.  According to the NMFS website, they can swim as fast as 30 knots for short distances.  We were also close enough to the coast of Admiralty that I was able to spot some deer grazing on the beach with my binoculars.

Looking back from the deck of the ferry.

The faint mountain in the middle of the shot is Lion's Head mountain at Berner's Bay, about 40 miles north of Juneau.  We were surprised to find that we were able to see it almost all of the way to Angoon.

Near the beginning of our trip Ernie was in the right place at the right time and he got the Alaskan flag from the ferry as they retired it due to wear.  So now we have an Alaskan flag that used to fly on the ferry!  It is about 3'x5', and it looks a lot bigger on our boat than it did on their flagpole.  It needs to be cleaned, and we need to figure out a way to fly it, but we will get it up there somehow, and in the meantime we have our little flag to fly.

The ferry terminal in Angoon is about 5 miles out of town, so we didn't get off of the boat.  It docks stern-to at that ramp, and maneuvering into position was very interesting to watch.  It probably didn't help that the tide was really low and they seemed to be training the new summer staff, but they got things squared away.  While waiting for everyone to load and unload, we saw a loon float by, still in winter plumage.

Angoon, far, far, away.  I don't remember why I didn't zoom in.
From Angoon, we angled across Chatham Strait to the northwest and headed for Tenakee, on Chichagof Island.  It took a little over two hours to get there, and since the wind was no longer in our favor, we watched from the solarium until we got to the more protected waters of Tenakee Inlet.  Across the inlet from the ferry dock we saw several humpback whales feeding, the first sighting of the summer.

A mountain on the south side of Tenakee Inlet.  I'm not sure of the name.
Tenakee is adorable!  It is a tiny little village full of hippies (I think), and only around 30 people live there through the winter.  It is tucked up in a little inlet and surrounded by mountains, just like anywhere else in southeast.  I would definitely like to go back and explore a little more, either as a ferry trip or on our own boat.  Plus, there are hot springs!

Coming in to Tenakee, north of the ferry terminal.

Tenakee from the ferry.  Since there are no cars in town, loading and unloading is done by four-wheelers, and it doesn't take long.  We were only there for 30 minutes.

The Tenakee boat harbor.  This could be of future interest to us.
From Tenakee we headed back to Auke Bay.  Because we had already seen everything once already, we watched from the solarium and then played rummy in the cafeteria and watched the sun set as we sailed home.

It was a good trip.

February 23, 2013

Winter Activities

Life in Juneau in the winter is pretty mellow, compared to the whirlwind pace of summer.
Still, there is a lot going on during the dark months, and I often feel busier during the winter than I do in summer.

Of course, one of my priorities is hockey, which fills up many of my winter nights.  It runs from September thru April, with a break for the holiday season.  We have some Sunday games, but mostly the games are on weeknights, starting at around 10 pm.  I'm not good, but I am getting better nearly every game, and it is more fun than I ever thought possible.  And I do score a goal every once in awhile.  Now I really need to learn to stop...

There are a ton of lectures and seminars that go on during the winter nights.  There are Fireside Chats at the glacier, and Wildlife Wednesdays, and Evenings at Egan, and Sailor Talks, and plays and music and many other events that don't even make it onto my radar.  We go to some of them, but there are many more that I would like to see but miss.

The recent highlights: 
  • a Sailor's Talk about a Juneau couple that bought a boat in Turkey and spent five years cruising around the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.  Rough life.
  • a Fireside Chat about the recent magnitude 7.5 earthquake not too far from Juneau, and the potential tsunami danger in our area.  The good news is that we are unlikely to be in much danger from an event that is far away.  The bad news is that if there is an event that does effect us,we likely won't have time to react.  We did feel this earthquake because our friends were housesitting and we were hanging out with them.  It takes four boat people sitting around in a living room during an earthquake a very long time to figure out that something is wrong.
  •  the film Chasing Ice.  It chronicles a really ambitious project to film glacial retreat around the world through time-lapse photography over several years.  It is a bit depressing, but beautiful.  I didn't find the film to be as preachy as the websites are, and I would highly recommend it.  One of the glaciers featured was the nearby Mendenhall, which has receded quite a bit over the last several years.
Other winter projects include:  designing an independent energy system for the boat (mostly solar, maybe some wind), learning Tibetan (more complicated than I thought), knitting, perusing seed catalogs, and reading. 

I have made more of an effort to carry my camera around with me, but Juneau hasn't been very photogenic of late.  The local weather has mostly been cold rain, and it hasn't been a great snow year, so we haven't been out in it too much.  The days are getting noticeably longer, and soon there will be more playing outside. 

January 27, 2013


The other day (okay, maybe a couple of weeks ago), I had the thought, "I should start a blog".

Which was immediately followed by me remembering that actually, I did do have a blog.

So maybe I will start writing in it again.

I don't have too much to say, as life is pretty mellow right now (as it should be), but that works out, because after my long absence I doubt that too many people will notice either way.

It kinda takes the pressure off...

And then I could write about life in this magical place, and post recipes of things I invent to eat, and pictures of things that I like.  It would be like a giant art project.

I need to start carrying my camera everywhere I go anyway.  This point was hammered home this morning when I saw a family of river otters on the dock. While I was trying to figure out how to work the camera on my phone (no success), they jumped into the water and swam away. 

Since I don't yet carry my camera with me, I will share a couple of the last pictures that I took, from our Christmas trip to John Muir cabin.  We spiked up with friends on Christmas morning, after a breakfast of sugary monkey bread (no monkeys), and they headed back down while we stayed the night.  It was cold, about 0F, but we have been colder (Peterson Lake, 2010).  We decorated with glow sticks and played games all night.  The sunrise over Douglas was amazing.
The view out the back window.  A beautiful bluebird day!

View from the front porch.
The cabin itself.  My favorite!