It was our first humpback whale sighting of the trip. We needed a “win”. After an amazing morning kayaking and exploring in Kelp Bay in the South Peril straight near North East Baranof island from Safari Endeavor, we had spent all afternoon anchored in the bay, the crew unable to operate the winch that raises the ship’s anchor. Our sticky cabin door and the pair of non operational hot tubs now seemed to be the least of our problems.
The plan had been to spend the afternoon looking for marine mammals after leaving Kelp Bay on our way to Neka Bay. Instead we were watching the crew methodically trying to problem solve their way out of a mechanical issue, in a very remote area. No cavalry was coming. Triple A doesn’t offer a service plan out here. This issue would be solved or managed with the crew and materials already on the boat.
A decision was eventually made in the late afternoon, to abandon the anchor in the bay with a bouy for later retrieval and push on with plans to search for wildlife. Without a working winch, this meant committing to a week of constant motion on the ship, with no anchoring in remote bays. We had prepared for the unexpected when it came to weather and wildlife, knowing animals and weather have their own plans not manageable by even the best guides. But the guides were hoping for a good wildlife showing to energize discouraged guests and they got it!
A large humpback was spotted. It was moving lethargically, surfacing occasionally for air. Our guides told us the whale was moving slowly, essentially, sleeping while it continued to move and surface occasionally for air. Unlike seals and seal lions that can haul out and rest, the whales stay in a state of partial wakefulness, moving constantly even while they rest.
The irony was not lost on me that our ship was in the same condition as the sleeping whale, constantly moving, with the captain and crew having to “keep one eye open even while sleeping” to keep operating. The crew was relentlessly upbeat, sure that even after they cut the anchor and committed to a week of drifting continuously, that we could all make the best of it. They would be the ones putting in the extra work, no anchoring meant a full sailing crew on the bridge, rather than a night watch at anchor. Unable to launch kayaks from the dedicated platform on a constantly moving vessel meant extra work for guides and crew to transport people and kayaks to the shore and back every day. The crew did an incredible job, and made it impossible to be disgruntled because of their enthusiastic hard work.
Anytime guides take their guests out to see wildlife, they hope for the best, and after a demoralizing afternoon, they got as good as South East Alaska gives, when a pod of orca was spotted during dinner. Guests all left the dining room to take dessert in the lounge and on the open bow, while watching a frolicking family of so called “killer whales” .
Our expedition leader, Megan, joked that the whales were sent up by the UnCruise home office in Seattle to get our cruise back on track. Passengers said it was karma, or that they prayed to God. I’m a believer in the randomness of the world rather than karma; we could have had terrible luck with anchors AND whales that day, and that would have been the luck of the draw. But part of preparing for a remote wilderness journey is that you count your blessings when it comes to wildlife encounters. And today we were blessed with incredible whale sightings and nothing could dampen our spirits tonight! And those prayers must have been answered, because if we weren’t looking for whales, on side of the ship, we were treated to this on the other side …
Which makes me think, if not the home office, Someone was on our side!
For More Alaska see our posts here: http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2018/9/6/so-what-the-heck-is-an-uncruise
and here: http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2018/8/23/uncruise-in-alaska-for-some-unfinished-business
Follow us for more posts on Alaska coming up including “Redemption in Glacier Bay” and “Bears in Southeast Alaska”