Doug Grosjean's
Alaska Trip Report

June 1999


Day 9; Sunday, June 6th, 1999
Start: Alaska Ferry; 3rd Day
End: Alaska Ferry
0 Motorcycle Miles

The 4:00 AM open water crossing passes, noted only by the fact that I'm being rolled around in my sleeping bag by the motions of the ship.

Early in the morning we stop in our first Alaska town, Ketchikan. Joe and I go ashore, wander around, mail some post cards, and then walk back to the ship.

Stops vary in length, and on some I go ashore, some I stay aboard. The ship is a floating bus, providing transportation to the towns along the southern Alaska coast. Tip: the showers aboard the ship are virtually empty while the ferry is docked.

Later in the morning, I meet a young woman named Jean in the front observation lounge, when I comment on her knapsack with sewn on patches from countries all over Europe. Turns out that she has been to those places, via bus, train, boat.... whatever it took.

Jean is a very pretty blond, 33 years old, and she’s taken the summer off from her job in New York city to see Alaska. Traveling by herself, via bus, plane, ship, foot; she’s going to see all of Alaska that she can over the summer. Wow! I'm really impressed; “awed” would be more correct.

We end up enjoying each other's company through several of the lectures in the observation lounge, on bears, geology, whales, history..... very interesting stuff, just in case you didn't read up before you left home. Or even if you did, you're bound to learn something. And in this case, the speakers are very good.

The scenery outdoors continues to improve, it seems as though it's getting better by the hour. The mountains get larger, the snowline moves lower. Now and then there's a waterfall cascading out of the trees on either shore, or some whales or dolphins, and watching the scenery go by, while sitting next to pleasant company and listening to lectures on Alaska is a great way to pass the time! The day goes by very quickly.

At around 6:00 PM, we enter the Wrangell Narrows.

In one of the talks in the lounge, it's mentioned that the cruise ships are too large for the Narrows, that the Narrows are a shortcut route that shaves 12 hours off our trip time. It's a tight fit, and shallow. Our passage through the narrows must be timed to coincide with the tides so that it's deep enough. Incidentally, the ferry boat is the biggest ship that passes through the narrows.

We reduce speed, spotters are stationed on the bow and stern, and we begin to tweeze the ship through the maze. The route is marked with many buoys, beacons, etc; it looks like a lot of work to get through. At one point, I'd estimate that the passage is only about 300 feet wide.

Eventually, we arrive at Wrangell. I hang out on the ship and take it easy.

Enroute again, late Sunday night is the most touching, romantic scene that I've ever experienced. As the ship steams for a distant mountain range on a calm sea, the orange sun is setting and reflected perfectly in the mirror smooth water. We're far enough north that even at this late hour, 11:30 PM, the sun is well above the horizon. The ship seems to be motionless between sea and sky, with mountainous, pine covered islands on each side of us... then suddenly dolphins start leaping out of the water, more than what I can estimate, maybe hundreds, all around the ship, like a swarm of mosquitoes. We're both spellbound, the moment is pure magic!

Eventually, Jean and I are fighting to keep our eyes open watching the dolphins; she goes to bed on the floor of the observation lounge and I wander off to bed around midnight.

Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio