To our utter amazement and enjoyment the good weather seems to be holding. Not just for today, but for the coming week as well. We might even get a dry day in Ketchikan if things continue to go as they are now developing. The only thing that is indicating that the season is over is that we do not arrive and depart in daylight anymore. The sun rises around 06.45 if visible and sets around 19.00 hrs. so we arrive and depart in “the dark days before Christmas” as we call it. Christmas might still be far away, although in England the first large supermarket chain has already opened their Christmas grotto on September 1st. so Christmas cannot be that far away, at least according to them. It must look very quaint though to see Father Christmas selling pumpkins for Halloween. I am glad I do not understand this sort of deeper thinking and I try to keep myself to the simpler things in life such as parking the ship in Haines.
Haines is of course world famous for its Hammer Museum (1500 or so different ones, I was told) and I am trying to entice many guests to go there. Not everybody goes to Haines and not everybody knows about the Hammer museum, so when you come home and tell your Alaska tales, you are almost certain to come up with something unique that other Alaska Tourists have not done. Another highlight of the town is the local brewery. (Bring your own bottle) According to those on board who do drink, it is quite good stuff and several bottles of the brew have been consumed in the Officers Bar.
For the rest there are the more mundane highlights such as the cruise up the Lynn Canal to Skagway or going for a walk around the town. Here you have a fair chance to come eye to eye with a moose or a brown bear. Yesterday several of our guests found fresh foot prints of bear paws in the moist soil, so yogi-bear was definitely in the area. I am no bear expert but I know that the bears in this area come to the beach in the late summer to harvest the wild berries and to stack up on as many calories as they can get before going into hibernation. I do not know if moose eat berries but they do like tomatoes. One of our Lady Alaska Pilots lives in Haines and has a running fight with a local moose who attacks her tomato plants each time they are bearing fruit.
Not a bad day for Haines so close to the end of the season. It did not rain and even the sun came out on occasion.
Haines is normally a sheltered port where the predominant wind comes from the south, whistling up the Lynn Canal and thus not touching Haines as it is tucked away behind a mountain range to its south side. That makes it an ideal port for the crew to do exercises with the lifeboats and that is what was done today. All starboard boats went into the water and tomorrow while in Juneau, we will do the portside boats.
Those who took the scenic cruise up the Lynn Canal would have seen the first cruise ship gatherings of this cruise. Although the season is coming to and end, there are still quite a few ships around but most of them are leaving this week, in the same way as we do. Skagway had the last full house today with four ships in port. I hope for the guests that all shops were still open as that is not always the case after September 1st. Many of the shop attendants are only here in the summer and live in a sort of camp off the high street. Some of them have to return to school and others are working the Caribbean shops in the winter and they move with the re-location of the cruise ships. During the last time that I closed out the season in 2008 with the Veendam, several shops were already boarded up and that was mainly due to this fact that the shops attendants had already departed for warmer pastures.
Tomorrow in Juneau we will be the only ship and thus I will relocate the Statendam from our all season berth the Alaska steamship dock to the Cruise Terminal. Alaska Steam is a little bit closer to town but it necessitates the use of a high gangway which has to be relocated when the tides go up or down. At the cruise terminal we can lay our gangway in the ramp that was once used by the Alaska State Ferries. That ramp follows the vertical movement of the ship on the tide and that makes it a lot easier for the guests to get on and off. The Alaska ferries moved a long time ago to Auke Bay on the other side of Juneau but the ramp was left in place and happily taken over by the cruise ships. The forecast is for little wind and sunshine later in the day. My guests should be happy campers.