The weather can be glorious, grey and cold, or simply miserable. I have experienced trips with nothing but sunny days and temperatures allowing shorts and sandals. Other times have brought rains that equaled anything I have seen, when it seemed the sea was both above and below. Sailing through narrow, rocky passages with nothing but radar to see the shore a few hundred feet away, shrouded in fog.
You take what you get on a trip, no way to reschedule now. Rain or shine, fog or mist, each can be beautiful in their own way to an traveler willing to enjoy the experience, whatever life brings.
The bridge of the Nordic Star, home for the next three weeks. I will be spending many hours at the wheel as we explore. There are two marine radios above along with a stereo system with CD player. (Note to self, put together a few CD’s of my playlists). On the dash are three flat panel displays that can be configured to display the GPS, marine charts, radar and depth finder display. The view is the best in the boat, aside from climbing to the upper deck. Also visible is the usual clutter of charts, binoculars, camera gear, radios, drinks and munchies.
Nordic Tugs is a company based in Burlington, Washington on the Puget Sound. They make a line of boats intended for cruising the coastal waters of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. Comfortable, roomy, well appointed and very seaworthy. One of these boats will be our home for the next few weeks as we explore the inland passages of southeast Alaska. An ideal way to experience the spectacular scenery of the region.
Nordic Tugs Charters of Juneau operates and rents a fleet of tugs. It is these vessels we have used in our family expeditions each year. From the smaller 32′, to the larger 42′ Chrisara and the largest 54′ Nordic Star. It is this larger vessel we will be renting again this year. Three staterooms, plenty of freezer space, a full galley, and a large bridge that does not seem crowded even when the entire crew comes topside to view a whale.
I expect to get a fair amount of handling practice with the boat this year as I will be staying the entire three weeks to assist my father with boat handling, a combination first mate and deckhand.
July is here and my long awaited Alaska trip is at hand. For a three weeks I will be exploring the waterways of SE Alaska aboard a 52′ motorboat. Crewing for my father as we enjoy a family escape from the world. I hope you have been enjoying the post so far.
One aspect of this trip is the nearly complete severing of net access after we leave harbor. No internet, no e-mail, no cell phone, no blogging for nearly the better part of a month!
This will be tough.
I will have a netbook along, with the ability to at least compose postings and process my photos. There may be a couple opportunities to get e-mail and post, but they will be fleeting and I have no idea just how much I may get done in the few days we will be in port to resupply and pick up other family members and guests.
I have scheduled a series of postings to give my readers something while I am out of contact. Mostly photos, Wordless Wednesdays and similar stuff, nothing with any immediacy. If a world-shaking event does happen to occur, it may be days before I find out. Most of the posts are photos and observations from past trips to Southeast Alaska, so between the scheduled posts, and all of the inevitable new stuff when I get back online, Darker View is going to be a bit of an Alaska blog for the next month.
I will also be highly restricting commenting for the three weeks as I will not be able to stop by and moderate. No sense in giving the spammers a free ride. If you need to comment or contact me your best bet is to drop an e-mail. Those at least will be sitting in a que for me to deal with.
When I am again connected to the world I expect to have hundreds of photographs and many stories to tell. Look for a flood of postings and additions to the gallery!
The topography of Southeast Alaska is beautiful beyond words. Tremendous mountains carved by glaciers. These left huge valleys flooded when the glaciers retreated and the sea levels rose at the end of the ice age. The result is a boater’s paradise, endless passages, bays and coves to explore, with mountains towering overhead. What roads exist usually end a few miles from town and the only real way to get about is by air or by boat.
A land where man does not quite rule, cities and towns are far apart and wilderness surrounds. Travel very far in any direction and you soon leave civilization behind.
Leaving the women behind I stride towards the one shop I want to look through. My wife, my mother and her best friend– their idea of shopping and mine do not mesh. We know this and have arranged a plan, I leave them for an hour, to meet again at the vehicle.
I rapidly pass storefront after storefront, fine jewelry and tourist kitsch have no attraction for me. A few pretty pieces in the galleries draw a glance or two, but I turn and walk on. Memory leads me down the street and away from the docks, towards a shop I have visited in years past and I only hope it is still there.
Leaving the waterfront district and the tourist shops behind, I climb another block, to a shop occupying an oddly shaped storefront where the street splits. The result is a pie wedge shaped building, the shop I want is in the point.
This is a place I will always enjoy, a store filled floor to ceiling in books. It is a small shop, no literary supermarket, there simply isn’t the space. But the book-buyer here carefully chooses the selections, there seems to be anything you could want in the one foot of shelf space devoted to each subject.
A single rack, three feet of wall, is Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I have either read most of what is available, or know the authors displayed are not ones I enjoy. I make a couple selections, a classic Heinlein I have not read since I was a young teenager and one by Ben Bova I do not know. These I will save for traveling, to pass the time during the trip home with a long layover in Seattle.
For the next selection I rely on the advice of the sales clerk, a field guide to Alaskan birds. Every vacation is marked by what you forget at home, for this trip one of the forgotten items was a well worn copy of Sibley’s Western Birds.
Purchases made, the clerk ushers me out the door, closing time had passed while we chatted and exchanged credit card slips. I have few minutes before I must meet the gals, so I stroll back towards the docks and back into the crowds from the cruise ships.
Deb and I did a volunteer evening at the VIS last night. A great night with a great crowd, the sort of evening that defines the reason we continue to volunteer at the Mauna Kea VIS. Lots of great questions, great conversations and a little learning about the sky and Mauna Kea. As the southern cross hung above the slopes of Mauna Loa my green laser was busy pointing out constellations and bright stars.
The only real problem with the evening was the nearly full Moon hanging in the sky. The bright moonlight drowning out many of the deep sky objects we would normally view. Even bright objects like M13 were merely dim smudged in the eyepiece in place of the beautiful sights they offer under darker skies. With these conditions much of the telescope viewing was concentrated on the Moon and a beautiful planet Saturn.
One activity that is always a hit with a bright Moon partly makes up for the loss of dark sky viewing. I hold and quick course in introductory lunar photography using the afocal method. Show a few people how to take lunar photos and there is soon a line of people waiting at the refractor for their turn to try a few frames. A few hints and people are quickly taking great lunar shots, a photo and a memory to take home from the mountain.
The evening sped by quickly, spent in conversation with guests from the islands and from across the US. People ask about the sky as seen from different latitudes and locations. A few visitors from other countries add their perspective. It is often interesting to hear about other names for constellations or to learn bits of folklore from many other cultures.
So often the crowd disappears an hour after dark, driven off by the cold and wind. This night many didn’t go until it was time to shut down the telescopes. I guess they were not ready to end an enjoyable evening under moonlight.
It started when we arrived at the morning rendezvous and noted the number of vehicles waiting. Transportation sets up up as many vehicles as necessary based on the ride board, usually two or three vehicles are sitting by the door waiting to transport our crew to the summit. That morning there were five, and we all knew from the schedule that many more would be leaving later in the day. This was going to be a busy and crowded day.
At Hale Pohaku we were met by a film crew. Documentary film crews are an occupational hazard at Keck. I have appeared in more than one show. Not usually a problem, this day the crew would be yet one more complication.
For myself, things started to go bad with an email message, trouble with a key piece of equipment in AO. At the heart of the adaptive optics system is a thin flexible mirror that can change shape to correct the light, the DM or deformable mirror. In order to monitor this mirror a WYKO interferometer is used to image its surface. This device shines laser light at the mirror, the return light is interfered with itself, allowing the surface shape to be analyzed with incredible accuracy. This is used to calibrate the AO system at the beginning of each night. Gone was my plan of a simple day doing some documentation checks to prepare for some upcoming modifications to the system.
Phase 5 in the rebuilding of Saddle Road is progressing rapidly, this is the totally new section from Mauna Kea State Park to MP42. As we came through the area Thursday morning a constant chain of trucks hauling asphalt was crossing the road. There was a great deal of other activity in evidence but we could not see the paving operation itself, it was somewhere out of sight behind the military barracks.
It appears that the entire segment now has at least some asphalt on it. This was most apparent at the east end. Monday afternoon this was still bare gravel, as of Wednesday the new roadbed was covered with a base layer of asphalt. The wide expanse of smooth pavement quite a contrast to what we had to turn down to continue our journey home.
As we come through the guys all take a moment to see where progress has been made. We all look forward to another seven miles of smooth and safe road.