Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our ship has come in…. 10.2.11

And we’re getting off the Island! Haha…. The M/V Taku is taking us from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert, Canada. It’s a quick 8 hour trip and it is a spectacular crisp sunshiny day. We’re cruising through the Inside Passage, taking the same route that many of the Cruise Ships do After 6 long months of working & playing, it’s time to head out on our 4 month road trip. Woohoo!! :-)

Ferry from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert

We had a wonderful season up here again. Even after 3 seasons up here, we still manage to find lots of new things and have a great time here. Surprisingly, I don’t have as much ‘Island fever’ as I have had in previous years. Maybe I’m getting used to the place, who knows?!

We arrived in April and were off and running. There is a lot of work that goes into this business and a lot of it happens in the 30 days prior to the 1st cruise ship arrives. Hiring, scheduling, licenses, inspections, training, paperwork, cleaning, whew! It’s crazy.

The 1st Cruise Ship arrived on May 6th and the last one left on September 23rd. It’s a full 5 months of craziness with several 7 day workweeks! Michael has the same position as last year, he was the Operations Manager, who works down at the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau and is the master coordinator for about 30 employees, 4 Ducks, 5 Hummers, and the many Cruise Ships, in addition to talking to tourists looking for a tour to take. He has crazy days that start at 6am and are full of surprises. Days can be short, ending around 1pm and long, sometimes ending at 6pm. And that’s just on the dock. Once he leaves the Visitor’s Bureau he then goes back to the office and prepares for the next day. I’m tired just describing it! Haha…

On the flipside, I have a much more fun position. For 3 days a week, I am a Narrator on the Ketchikan Duck Tour. The Duck Tour is a fun, informative 90 minute tour of the land and sea. I get to entertain the folks who are visiting – get to be silly, have fun, laugh lots, sing, dance, etc. It’s absolutely fantastic and I love my job. I get to work with the best Captain ever, Captain Don. He is absolutely a joy to work with and we have become very good friends over the past 2 years. I’ll try to post a video of him in work so you get a feel for the beginning of the tour. For the remaining time, I am the Office Manager/bookkeeper for all of the companies. It keeps me in the office and there’s plenty of work to keep me busy.

But who cares about work?! We had some time to play this season and took every opportunity to do so. I have realized that I love, love, love to go fishing so I went out about a dozen times or so this season. We went fishing for halibut, crab, prawns, salmon, rockfish, cod, and other fun stuff. This season, I went ‘snagging’ for Salmon down at Herring Cove, the first time I’ve done that. It was hysterically fun.

Snagging Salmon

You see, when you snag for salmon, you throw out a weighted, unbaited three prong hook and try to launch it as far away as you can. You let it sink and then quickly whip the pole back while reeling in the hook, trying to ‘snag’ onto a Salmon. Well… It sounds a lot easier than it is! First, you have to master the whole ‘throwing out a weighted hook’ process. And I had a few unsuccessful throws – to say the least. I’m pretty sure Captain Larry had several new dings and ‘hidden’ hooks in the anchor line from my wild throws. And those who know me well know I can be a little….animated…at times and am incredibly friendly. When we pulled up in the bay I was saying Hi to all of the fishermen and asking how they were doing. And was surprised at how most just nodded & smiled…hmmm, wonder why?! :-)

Anyway, we got anchored and started fishing. When I had wild throws we would all break into hysterical laughter, which everyone in the bay listened to. When anyone in the bay would catch a fish, we would hoot & holler, clap & laugh. It was a wonder we weren’t asked to leave. Haha!!! We were fairly unsuccessful snagging until I managed to snag on to one right under the boat. The fishing pole I was using was a brand new pole and I had not figured out how to operate it quite yet but I started reeling as hard as I could. Captain Don broke out the video camera and was videoing as we all hooted & hollered alerting everyone in the bay that we had one!!! I kept reeling, and reeling, and reeling… Finally Captain Don told Captain Larry that he should check the drag. Sure enough, that salmon had taken LOTS of line as the drag was wide open. Once the drag was tightened and I pulled back on it and shockingly a salmon jumped about 300 yards away. Now we figured for sure it was someone else’s salmon…..but nope! It was mine. I had a lot of work to do. Finally the salmon was coming my way when it decided to wrap itself around another boat’s anchor line. Of course!! We hollered back and forth with this fisherman and he assisted us in freeing the line and we finally had one on board. Haha!!! When we left the bay I believe I faintly heard a round of applause – I’m choosing to believe they were congratulating us on our catch!

Halibut Fishing

Aside from that we always take time to hike the area. One of our first hikes this season was up Deer Mountain. It was a little early and we were only about to get about a mile and ¼ before it was too snowy to continue and we had to turn back. We’ll work on it again next season. But the views even at the 1 mile point were spectacular!!

Hiking in Ketchikan

At the beginning of every season all of the tours get together for something called “Tourist for a day”. Many of the tours that operate during the summer offer reduced fees and often times those fees are collected and turned over to charity. Every year we have tried different tours and this year was no different. One day we took a guided walk through the rainforest where we got to feed some reindeer and the next day I went snorkeling.

Feeding Reindeer in Ketchikan

Yep, you read that right – snorkeling – in Alaska! Now before you ask, no, I haven’t lost my mind. The Snorkel tour is very popular in Ketchikan and often gets very high customer service scores from the tourists who take it and I just had to know what the big deal was! So I signed up. And let me tell you, it was simply spectacular. The water was about 34 degrees but I was bundled up in a ¼” wetsuit – no easy feat to put on! I had gloves, a hood, boots, everything was covered except for the top of my lip to just under my eyes. Luckily it was a sunshiny day and was close to low tide. When I waded in, I was expecting a super shock of cold but was surprised at how warm I was in the wetsuit. When the water hit my upper lip it was freezing fricking cold but I quickly forgot all about the cold when I started to see all of the amazing colors & views under water! The water was crystal clear and I could see down about 30-40 feet. We snorkeled around a rock pinnacle and sheer cliff at a spot called Mountain Point. The part I’m still amazed at is just how colorful everything was and how clear it was. I dove down several times, hoping to snap some photos but my fingers were encased in the ¼” gloves and I had a hard time pressing the shutter button. I’ll see about getting some videos up. After an hour of being in the water and seeing several species of sea stars, sea cucumbers, nudabrinks, and many more, I was beginning to lose feeling in my fingers so I decided to get out. After climbing the hill to get back to the truck, we were rewarded with piping hot water to pour into our wetsuit – which was heaven! What a great experience…

Snorkeling in Ketchikan Alaska

This year for our mid-season outing, we went ziplining! Michael and I had been ziplining before, down in Mexico, but had never in Ketchikan. We lucked out again with nice weather (read: no rain!) as it was just a little overcast and cool. We were split up into groups of 7-8 and our guides took us across 7 lines through the rainforest. Each platform held spectacular views of the surrounding areas & Herring Cove. It was exhilarating and tons of fun to do with our co-workers. After the fun Michael gave a rah-rah speech and gave out awards for the employees of the month. I’m pretty proud to tell you that I won the Narrator of the month award for all 5 months! Woohoo!!!! :-) And let’s not forget Captain Don, who also won the Captain of the month all 5 months.

Rene & Michael ziplining in Ketchikan Alaska

Rene & Captain Don from the Ketchikan Duck Tour

The weather this summer was wetter than previous years but still OK. All except for that last couple weeks which, let’s face it, just plain sucked. It was the typical September/October weather – high winds, high rain, and cold. Ugh. Did I mention I’m ready to get out of here?!

Bear Watching in Ketchikan

What else?! Plenty of community events, dinner parties, bear watching, whale watching, time out with friends, & simply enjoying the area. I posted a bunch of photos from this summer on our website -

Oh!....and of course planning for our 4 month road trip! :-) But I’ll tell you all about that on the next post.


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