Doug Grosjean's
Alaska Trip Report

June 1999


Day 8; Saturday, June 5th, 1999
Start: Alaska Ferry; 2nd Day
End: Alaska Ferry
0 Motorcycle Miles

Morning on back deck
Morning in Solarium
Around 3:45 AM, I wake up out of habit (it's 7:45 AM back home), to find that it's dusk and we're passing a small village. I find out later that an older passenger was sick, and they dropped him off at the nearest town.

In the morning, when I officially wake up, it's overcast. I look around, and watch as some of the young women wake up. Cute as buttons last night, they all look equally rough, cobby, and bleary-eyed in the morning. For grins, I check the Aerostich zipper-pull thermometer on my tank bag... 75F! Perfect. Then I head to the cafeteria for breakfast. Brrrrr! It's 75F under the heat lamps, but out in the open on drizzle of the back deck it's about 20F cooler!

Incidentally, everybody on the rear deck is on an adventure, while nearly everybody in the front deck observation lounge is retired. How so? The back deck is the budget accommodations - tents, Thermarests, sleeping bags tossed on top of lounge chairs, climbers and hikers and bicyclists and tenting families. An eclectic group of bohemians!

After breakfast, I gawk at the scenery. Constantly changing, clouds close in, then open up. The sun comes and goes, and the passages that we sail through are maybe a half mile wide, so you see both shores covered with lush growth. So many trees, and so much greenery.

At 9:30 AM, I take in a lecture in the front observation lounge given by a US Forest Service ranger on Alaska - settlement, weather, history, exploration. The first of many such talks I'll take in while aboard, it's a great way to pass some of the time and also learn.

At about 10:00 AM the captain announces that we will be doing an open-water crossing and that the seas are rough today. From about 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM (or so) we will be crossing open water. Anyone affected by seasickness should take their Dramamine now. Joe takes his Dramamine, and lays down in his lounge chair on the back deck.

I skip the Dramamine (who needs it, right?), and wander about the ship looking at the scenery. I can't imagine tiring of the views that pass by... By the way - the ship sails mostly through the smooth protected waters of the "Inside Passage", and it's usually like cruising down the most beautiful river you can imagine, with scenery that continually improves as we head north.

Around 11:15 AM I head up to the front observation lounge to look at rough seas that we’re about to enter. There’s a couple more announcements about settling yourself into a "secure area" for the next 3 hours; I can see the whitecapped waves ahead, and they look to be about 10’ high. I figure - this is going to be great! I take a seat in the front row, consider myself lucky, and begin to count my blessings.

A little background here - my other hobby is whitewater kayaking, and in my kayak I’ve run through 15’ waves and jumped off 20’ waterfalls, on purpose, for fun. I expect that this is going to be big fun, with the ship just slicing through the waves, and I want to watch. There’s a huge smile on my face as we head out of the protected area of the inside passage. I look around me at the faces of the retirees. They aren't smiling at all; in fact, I think that I'm the only happy person in the observation lounge.

The first hour is entertaining, as the ship rises and falls, with the nose of the ship going through probably a 20’-30’ range of travel. As the ship rises and falls, it feels like a roller coaster..... heavy in my stomach as we go up, light at the top, and then down we go, inertia and gravity pressing me into the seat at the bottom as the nose of the ship starts upward again. In addition to this motion, the ship is rolling approximately 20 degrees from vertical to the left and right. I'm absolutely amazed that a large ship like this can move around so much; I’d just expected the ship to sail smoothly through.

As background, the room is creaking and groaning as the ship bends and flexes..... doors are slamming..... silverware falls off a shelf somewhere.... various bits and pieces that passengers have left on the floor begin to travel back and forth across the lounge under the chairs, such as a pop can and some pencils...... and periodically there's a big, heavy THUD! from down in the hold, which sounds exactly like what my motorcycle might sound like if the ropes securing it were to break.....

And just to keep our interest, every now and again the captain comes on and warns about an impending sharp turn, and tells us to hang on, and then we have a whole new set of dis-orienting feelings as the ship rolls abruptly and hard towards the outside of the turn.

An aluminum sounding CRUNCH! as somebody smashes that damned rolling pop can. THUD! My bike, or Joe 's? Which really is better, rope or webbing? THUD! Well, it can only fall over once, right? After that it should be stable, laying down there on the floor on it's side leaking acid and gasoline.... THUD! Damn, I hate that sound!

At the end of two hours, this is all getting very old. I need to use the restroom, have put it off as long as possible since it looks like it's going to be really tough to walk down the hall to the restroom. Oh well...

I get up and can hardly stand, every face in the observation lounge is turned towards me as I stagger out, and start down the hall to the restroom, bouncing off the walls as I go.

I don't get far. Suddenly, I'm extremely nauseous; I bolt out a side door. Outside, I'm afraid to go to the railing for fear of falling off the ship, and with my arms outstretched for balance I keel over and puke on the deck of the ship, plus a little on my shoes so they don't feel left out... Now I feel much better, pretty good actually, and since I still need to use the restroom I go back inside and continue down the hall, still bouncing off the walls as I go.

In the restroom, there's a crowd, it's packed. People everywhere, and I find it an odd coincidence that all these people have to urinate at the same time - then I realize they're all sick, the men's room reeks. I use the puke-splattered urinal and get out of there.

Now I'm just whipped. I'm not nauseous anymore, there's nothing in my belly to make me sick, but I'm exhausted. Sitting in my chair in the observation lounge, my eyes start to close, then waves of nausea sweep over me and I'm instantly awake again. Keep the eyes open, open... No way can I drift off to sleep.

At the end of 3 hours, the open water crossing is finally over. I make my way back to my lounge chair on the rear deck, humbled, exhausted, starving and afraid to eat, and lay down. But not before I look jealously at Joe, half asleep, laying in his lounge chair with his hat over his face in a Dramamine induced stupor.

Then a little later they announce that the car deck is open for us to access our vehicles - Joe gets up, and he and I go down to check our bikes and...... all is well. Whew! As we walk, we see crew members washing puke off various parts of the ship....

I eat. Then I take a light nap. Next open water crossing is due at 4:30 PM.

At 3:15 PM, I ask Joe for Dramamine - just in case, to protect my lunch investment. I have no pride at this point. Joe just smiles and shares his meds with me. What a friend!

At 4:15 PM, we see our first dolphins. Saw our first killer whales at 11:45 AM, at the beginning of the first open water crossing.

At 5:15 PM, we're through the second open-water crossing, and this one was minor. Whew!!

I relax in my lounge chair in the solarium, drifting in and out of sleep while watching the scenery. The next open water is due Sunday morning at 4:00 AM. I slip off to sleep.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio