AUNK! AUNK! AUNK! Sounded the emergency horns, as the lights by the fire alarms flashed furiously. AUNK! AUNK! AUNK! “ATTENTION ON DECK, ATTENTION ON DECK, ABANDON SHIP! ABANDON SHIP! THE BOAT IS SINKING. PROCEED TO THE LIFEBOATS!” …this is a drill (in a quiet, soft voice).
WTF! Couldn’t you have started with, “This is a drill”? The fact that a lifejacket wearing crew member then scurried by, did not fully comfort us. We thought that Mr. Murphy had pulled the ultimate F-U on us. Good thing we can swim, we thought, and hopefully fast enough to get to the small island off our starboard side, before we succumb to hypothermia or are eaten by an orca. Luckily it was only a drill, and we got to watch them practice launching the lifeboats.
Our shuttle bus driver dropped us off at the Juneau ferry terminal, and after having consolidated our loose gear into one duffle, that Paul has now dubbed our “Schluffle”, we dumped that bad boy on the baggage cart and made our way to the Solarium at the stern of the Matanuska for an 8 hour voyage to Skagway, two hours of which would be spent in a stop at the Port of Haines.
The Solarium is an open deck with half of it covered providing protection from the rain. The covered portion is accented with overhead space heaters, and if you’re quick, you can grab your own plastic recliner. Here they also have large storage lockers for .50¢ (so don’t forget a few quarters) for when you want to walk about the boat or hit terra firma’s during a port layover. Several people had apparently boarded much earlier as there was a tent set up on the opened deck, and a hammock hanging between two support poles under the covered area. Sounds of slumber emitted from both. For ones convenience, there are restrooms, complete with a shower. It was a beautiful morning. While there are plenty of “more comfortable” places out of the weather, we elected to park ourselves here for the ride.
Even though the skies were cloud filled, they retained their moisture. The air was a warm 62°, and as expected it warmed up even more. The seas were glassy. It appeared to be a perfect day for a boat ride. One Alaskan, remarked as we all positioned our plastic recliners on the deck of the Solarium, “Finally, it’s summer!”. So far, Southeast Alaska has experienced a fairly wet summer, and this break in the weather is a welcome treat. When we stopped in Haines, a cook from the galley came out, pointed to the hills above, and asked, “Does anyone know what that is?”. Straining to see what he was talking about, I quickly realized he was talking about the heat emitting orange fire ball in the sky. ‘Oh, that?’, I responded, “It’s the sun. You can find it behind the clouds. It hangs in the blue sky’. The man laughed, “I can’t even remember how long it’s been. At least it’s not raining”.
We spent the bulk of the day lounging with a gaggle of like-minded folk at the Solarium, and with the exception of the “sinking drill”, our voyage was uneventful. We marveled at the landscapes on either side of us. The lighting however, only allowed for muted colors.
It was like being in a never ending gallery of black and white Ansel Adams wilderness photos. Wilderness porn at it’s best.
Slowly melting glaciers wedged between the folds of the mountains gave way to fractured waterfalls, that my friend Jan would be tickled pink by. The rawness of the scenery was of such epic proportions that one’s actual presense is required to fully appreciate it. It appears that our timing may superb, and we may be treated to an actual Alaskan summer, with rich blue skies, starry nights, and if it must rain, it will only be a spritzing.