Our entry into Alaska was quite uneventful. It was cool and rainy and we did what most do when they enter Alaska by water – we anchored for the night in a place called Foggy Bay, the designated anchorage within Alaskan waters that you are allowed prior to checking in with Customs and Immigration. It is kind of a bland anchorage but it the best place to be prior to getting to the first major port, which is Ketchikan. Just about all of the marinas in Alaska are municipal marinas and don’t take reservations, so you have to arrive early to get a slip. The slips throughout the state are VERY cheap, especially by Northeast US standards. The average price for a slip is about thirty cents per foot! The marinas are not first class by ANY standards, but are more for support of the fishing fleet. About 90 percent of the boats at the marinas are commercial fishing vessels and they have first dibs on everything. For instance, even if you have paid for the slip, if you should leave during the day to, say, go get fuel, you may find that a commercial fishing boat had been lurking in the shadows waiting and pouncing on the slip as soon as you leave! It didn’t happen to us but it did happen to friends of ours.

Many of the marinas have “grids”, something you do not see on the east coast at all. When we need to haul boats on the east coast, you go to a marina with a travel lift with straps and it lifts you out $600 later. Not so here. You drive your boat into a corner of the marina when the tide is high, tie up to the side, and when the tide goes out you are sitting on these huge planks (the tides are between 15 and 20 feet). You need to get your work done in about 5 hours before the tide comes in again. Oh, the price?…. around $50!

All of the towns in Alaska that we visited were at best, two generations behind what you would find in the lower 48 and at worst, a dirt road with a bunch of houses, a rickety dock and maybe, one store. They were very quaint. In one town, Tenakee, people rode bicycles or golf carts (no cars) and most carried rifles. Evidently there were lots of bears that sauntered through town and one needed protection!

Anyway, we had Carol’s sister Tina and two sons, Steven and Shawn, arrive in Ketchikan the day after we arrived and we wasted no time sitting at the dock and started heading north. They only had a week so we tried to visit as many places as we could. We took an 8 hour boat ride out of Wrangell with Breakaway Tours on the Stikine River and saw our first glacier but the highlight was the moose that passed right in front of the boat. Petersburg was a fun small town with a Norwegian Heritage. They post the birthdays of the town each month on a billboard in the town center. Tracey Arm, which is a long, skinny inlet that has a glacier at the end, was really interesting. We anchored overnight in a small bay near the entrance so that we could leave early the next morning for the 4 hour trip to the glacier. Shortly after everyone went to bed, there was a banging sound on the right side of the boat. Shawn opened the port only to find an iceberg banging the hull next to his bed! There was not much you could do about it other than watch it slowly meander past you. In Alaska, you have lots of daylight (notice I didn’t say “sunlight”) so you go to bed in the daylight and never see darkness unless you are up and about between 11pm and 2pm.

The next morning we left early for Tracey Arm. A friend of ours who had just returned from there and told us that he brought his boat right up to the glacier wall and just had to “nudge” a few bergs out of the way. Not so when we arrived. Take a look at the website and you will see how dense the ice field was. The bergs are deceptively large and heavy. Most of it is under the water and when you hit one (even very slowly), it bounces downward and kind of bangs along the bottom of the boat until you pass by. We never really got close to the glacier (maybe ¾ of a mile) because it was getting to the point where I was having very few options as to where I could turn. I could tell that we had some damage to our prop and the cutters on our stabilizers so rather than get into more trouble we turned around and left. Just when I thought we were out of trouble, we heard a loud bang. Most of the icebergs are snowy colored at the top and easy to see. Some (I call them ice cubes) are clear, flat to the water and you can’t see them, but are big, just the same. When we hit, the bow of the boat went upward and banged down, bouncing off the berg for the entire length of the boat. It was very unnerving to hear. We looked back afterward and saw the flat berg, now with a deep groove in the center! I will say that we left lots of red bottom paint on many icebergs in that area (not kidding!). Cruising on to Juneau every one saw seals, whales and a lot of eagles but the Bears kept out of sight. We were very lucky to find a spot in Auke Bay for a few days as the marina was very crowded. It is close to the airport and Mendenhall Glacier is with in walking or bus distance from the marina. The absolute highlight of the trip was the Helicopter Ride to the Juneau ice fields. We arranged with ERA Helicopters well in advance and what a thrill it was to land on the icefield and see the brilliant blue glacier lakes. That was the finale for Tina and the boys and it is one hey will always remember.

The weather has been taking some getting used to. 90% of the time it is overcast and it rains almost ALL THE TIME! Plus, the temp at night is in the 40’s and during the day, the high is in the low 50’s. That is the downside of Alaska. The upside, other than the scenery, is the people. They are among the friendliest we have encountered. Very trusting and genuinely interested in you. I will tell you also that Seabird looked VERY MUCH at home at these fishing docks

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