Sitka

Another early start. Oh goody. But at least this time it’s all in a good cause. We are going otter watching and if we don’t see any, we have a money back guarantee. So this should be good.

As Sitka is a tender port, the otter boat came straight to us and we boarded directly from the ship’s pontoon, which was a nice touch. It was a large, airy boat with lots of windows and a young man whose main job seemed to be to clean said windows (Arcadia, are you listening?)(spray when bumpy is a hazard of the job, it seems). It had nice loos, free tea, coffee and hot chocolate, both down in the cabin and up on the observation deck, and a little shop which sold everything you could ever need, from smoked salmon, kelp marmalade, postcards, magnets, cuddly toys, t-shirts and sweets. An astonishing array in such a small space! Every seat had a free map and a set of binoculars for passengers to use, which was another nice touch.

The guide had an excellent speaking voice and the PA system was clear and crackle-free. The boat was designed and built by the tour company and has jet engines, rather than propellers, so that it is not possible to injure, trap or damage any wildlife. It makes it very manoeuvrable although not as quiet as might be ideal.

We went out of the bay into Sitka Sound. We saw bald eagles first (two) then American sea otters (women and babies), grey whales, humpback whales and more otters (‘The Boys’ Club’)(boy and girl otters only hang out when procreating – the women then kick them out and bring up the kids together).

I finally sussed the continuous button on my camera. Some people have a sport button – David’s takes 47 pictures without stopping if you let it. Mine is continuous and, as far as I can tell, is genuinely continuous for as long as you hold the button down. I took over a 1000 photos today. It may take me quite some time to weed through these… it took nearly 18 minutes to download them from the camera onto the computer, for starters!

When we got back to shore, we walked into town and queued at the only restaurant, which was Mexican/American. When finally seated the food was lovely and the portions were huge, although the waitress, however friendly and cheery, suffered from More Haste Less Speed syndrome. Either that or she simply didn’t understand what the words “No Ice” meant. Despite repeating it several times, she not only brought us glasses brimful of ice, but she also got the order wrong – so we ended up with an extra (free) diet coke and a plate full of ice. Now, there’s not listening properly and not listening properly, but to get “two lemonades, no ice, and a diet coke, please” wrong surely takes some effort. She really wasn’t paying attention! Luckily, there was a second, less frazzled waitress, who took our food order, so that went without a hitch.

The restaurant was inside a little shopping mall of about six shops and the restrooms were in the basement. They were the least pleasant restrooms we have experienced on this cruise. I won’t go into details, but they really need a plumber.

Then we pootled our way down the one shopping street, purchasing the occasional souvenir. I went up a side road looking for something called the Tlingit village but it was quite a steep hill and I never found it. I may have given up too early, but I couldn’t afford to walk forever. That’s the trouble with tender ports, you have to allow so long for getting back that you have to ration your time ashore quite carefully.

Sitka used to be owned by Russia – it was sold to America after the Gold Rush petered out- the ‘cathedral’ is Russian Orthodox, and there are Russian reminders everywhere. The family Baranof must have had quite an influence because virtually everything is named after them. Real Estate vendors, gift shops, pharmacies, all sorts. I even found a statue, but it only said who donated it and when, not who it was or why! Turns out he was apparently the first governor of Russian America. Whatever that covers.

It took half an hour from joining the queue for the tender to get back to the ship and back to my cabin. I then spent the rest of the night (apart from dinner) downloading photos and editing. So far, I’ve got it down from 1066 to 319. I’ll have another go sometime, but right now, if I see another slightly out of focus otter, I’ll have to punch someone.

Captain’s Announcement at 16:45 today. We’re not going to Tracy Arm tomorrow, but Endicott Arm instead, same scenery but Dawes Glacier instead. This is because there will be no other cruise ships there, instead of the three other ships in Tracy Arm, and there’s also a lot of ice there, apparently, so you can’t get close to the glacier. We will enter at 6.30am tomorrow morning, leaving at midday. At 2.30pm we will lose the pilots and then head south towards Victoria, Canada.

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