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Day 6: Sitka

semi-overcast 62 °F
View Silver Seas Cruise on paulej4's travel map.

Sitka is located on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Like most Southeast Alaska communities, Sitka is accessible only by air and by sea. At Sitka, it is just us. The weather is more Alaskan with arrival temperatures at 54 degrees and clouds in the sky broken by an occasional shaft of sun to shine a spotlight on a group of harbors seals ignoring us while hunting for their breakfast. large_e625c0f0-94dc-11e8-b6c7-ff4fe62a821e.JPGlarge_e98f78d0-94dc-11e8-b6c7-ff4fe62a821e.JPG

Our solo ship 9:00am until 4:00pm stay is not unusual as this is a smaller port. large_SitkaHarbor.JPGlarge_TenderAlongside.JPGLooking at Sitka's port schedule, it is a very unusual day when three ships are here, less unusual to host two and normal to have just one. Most ships that call here are smaller: Oceania Regatta (824 passengers), Seven Seas Mariner (752 passengers), Seabourn Sojourn (450 passengers, Windstar Star Legend (212 passengers); but Sitka also hosts the Eurodam (2,250 passengers), Amsterdam (1,653 passengers), and Zaandam (1,440 passengers) call here. By the way, when a ship’s name ends in “dam” that means it is a member of the Holland American Line’s fleet.

It is forecast to be cooler here with a high of only 65 degrees and a low of 56 degrees under partly cloudy skies with a 10% chance of rain. It did not rain.large_FoggyMountain.JPG

Formerly under Russian rule, in 1799 this place was named Novo-Arkhangelsk or New Archangel. It too is on an island, the Baranof Island and Chichagof Island provides the landmass for Sitka. In 1802, local Tlingit warriors destroyed the original settlement, killed many of the Russians and those who survived were ransomed with a 10,000 ruble payment. Angry, the Russians returned in 1804 and, after two days of fierce fighting, reclaimed the place and it became the capital of “Russian America.” Sitka was the site of the transfer ceremony for the Alaska Purchase in 1867. Russia was in a bind after having gone through tough times after it lost the Crimean War to Britian, France and Turkey in 1856 and entered into what some would say was a forced sale rather than allow the British to overtake the place by force.

There are just under 9,000 people here now. There are more people employed in the seafood industry than anything else with one in five earning money from fishing, seafood harvesting and processing. Interestingly, in 2010 a Texas company named S2C Global Systems announced that it was going to ship 2.9 billion gallons of fresh lake water from Blue Lake near here to the west coast of India. The deal fell apart.

The Alaska State Trooper Academy is here. The First Presbyterian Church held its last service on July 8th. “The church has struggled as its congregation has aged,” according to broadcaster KCAW. However, thirty people showed up for Sitka’s first ever Gay Pride celebration last month at the Pioneers Home Manager’s House. And “Captain Chip Lewin handed over the keys to Air Station Sitka and its three helicopters to his successor, Cmdr. Michael Frawley in a change-of-command ceremony in the air hanger station” in late June. Lewin had served two consecutive tours in Sitka—a rarity in the Coast Guard.

But, perhaps most interesting and certainly a priority piece of news to me is this: From the Sitka Sentinel: "Bears Seen in Town, Police Urge Caution; 30 Jul 2018. This weekend alone, some 15 bear sightings were reported." This is not at all the sort of bear encounter I had imagined but, at this point, I just really want to see and photograph a bear. (Later, we learn that three bears were shot overnight. Residents who fail to properly secure their trash are blamed for providing an attractive nuisance that attracts bears and, ultimately, causes them to engage in behavior that results in their destruction)

Our day involves boarding a tender from the ship to the Sitka Dock. We are met by our tour providers in their bright blue jackets at the staging area just past the vendor selling area. We get a narrated tour of Sitka and Japonski Island which boasts a fascinating World War II history. Then, we are offered an opportunity to enter the Fortress of the Bear where we can meet rescued orphaned Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears. The mission, controversial in some quarters, is to save from destruction bear cubs whose mother's were destroyed. The problem is that these cubs--and some apparently disagree on this point--cannot ever be reintroduced into the wild because they don't know how to hunt and forage for themselves and have become acclimated to humans instead of afraid of humans. I decide to skip that because I want to see bears in the wild rather than in captivity. I walk back to the dock but there are no tours here to see bears in the wild. I will have to save that experience for another year. B4 attends the Fortress of the Bear tour and gathers several wonderful bear pictures and one quite orderly Raven Shot.large_BerylBearSplayed.JPGlarge_BerylBearPrayed.JPGlarge_BerylBearWalking.JPGlarge_BerylRavensLinedUp.JPG These are her photographic work; not mine. Bravo B4!

Before the bears is the Sitka National Historic Park past totem poles and Indian River views. I've never been a fan of native American art and I find that after having seen several totem poles, seeing more fails to impress or entertain. It’s quick lasting a mere two hours leaving time for B4 to shop a bit. She finds a wonderful piece of art that will make its way from the shopkeeper to the Alameda Tower in 8 to 10 weeks time.

B4 returns to join me aboard Silver Shadow and we enjoy lunch by the pool on Deck Ten and then retire to 719 where we watch a bit of downloaded Amazon Prime video together. B4 never saw The Sopranos so we are slowly making our way through that wonderful TV series. We are almost through season two. We weigh anchor at 4:00pm leaving this Russian heritage behind. Dasvidaniya* is wished us by seals and a single whale as we sail away though waters first calm, then with six foot swells and higher and first clear, then with patchy fog and then with heavier fog. *Russian for "Goodbye"large_SealsExitingSitka.JPGlarge_e7c6a0a0-9595-11e8-88a7-47c15d67112c.JPG

At dinner, the dress code battle begins. According to the daily bulletin on the ship, Daily Chronicles," The Silver Shadow "Dress Code: Informal" means "For Ladies: DRESSES OR PANTSUITS. For Gentlemen: JACKETS (TIE OPTIONAL) after 6:00pm. Gentlemen who present themselves at a dining venue after 6:00 who are not wearing a jacket are asked to return to their suite to retrieve one or, in the alternative, the ship will loan them one. Those who accept the loan are not required to wear the jacket. They invariably drape the jacket over the back of their chair. Therefore, I propose a change in the Dress Code so that it reads: For Gentlemen's chairs: provide a seat for a gentleman in a jacket or serve as a hanger for a jacket if providing a seat for a gentleman without one. There is, therefore, no code for the gentleman; just the chair.DressCodeforChair.JPGDressCodeForChairs.JPG

We got a chance to see 729's bed as prepared by their Butler and Steward. This is what it looks like tonight: large_729Bed.JPG
This is what ours looks like tonight:large_719BedJPG.JPG

Jami suggests that perhaps it is not a difference in Butlers and Stewards but, instead, a difference in passengers. Perhaps they have projected a vibe of fun and receptivity to whimsey and a high level of frequent service while B4 and I have projected a vibe of aloofness or a preference to be left alone. If true, I did not intend to send that message; maybe she's right. But, maybe it is not a difference in us but a difference in Butlers and Stewards and the service level they provide. And maybe the level of service they provide impacts the mood of their passengers; the question becomes one of "who is in control of the experience here...the staff or the passenger?" I do not have enough data to know for certain.

Posted by paulej4 11:14 Archived in USA Tagged alaska sitka

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