May 31st, 2016 | By: Gregory Smart | Leg 1: The Inside Passage
This morning we leave our small, sheltered cove and continue along Peril Strait. Within an hour we see humpbacks on Deception’s starboard side and immediately halt, notifying the rest of the fleet. There are three different whales in various spot and we watch as they give us an absurd amount of fluking. No cameras for me this time…I just lean along the railing and take it in. In front of Deceptionis a beautiful charter boat named Discovery who has the amazing opportunity of having yet another humpback come and swim along just off her bow. Such a dilemma I found myself in…do I keep looking at the whales to my right or do I look in front of me? It is an incredible few minutes and yet again, I am in awe of Alaska.
A true surprise to the crew on Deception was a radio call in from one of our vessel owners, Alan Vercio. Alan and his wife own Aquila in our fleet, and have been cruising Alaska since early May. I couldn’t resist getting on the radio to say my hello’s…what a true treat to talk with Alan and hear how their trip has been thus far. Fair winds and calm seas to you, Alan and Linda…I shall see you back in Bellingham!
We head through Neva Strait, which is a major passageway to Sitka, but rather narrow. We get a ferry on our AIS and make contact – moving over as much as we can over to the right side to allow the massive Malaspina Alaska Ferry the right of way. She cruises by us going about 16 knots and we turn our speeds up to avoid getting too caught up in the waves. Many of the ferry passengers had their cameras out to take pictures of us – and we get a very polite thank you from their captain. We arrive at our destination of DeGroff Bay which is located at Krestof Island. The bay was named for a Sitka photographer & merchant Edward DeGroff. Edward can be visited now at the Sitka cemetery – our final destination tomorrow. Deception finds a good spot to drop our anchor and Jon & Greg take the shoreline over in the dinghy to wrap around a tree and reconnect back over to Deception. The rest of the fleet rafts up on either side with the two outside boats also dropping their anchors while Jon & Greg connect shore lines once again. I have seen photos of our fleet all rafted together, but now that I am a part of it, I see just what a process it is – yet it all is seamless thanks to the crew on Deception.
Discovery, who we saw earlier in the day, was gracious enough to invite us over for some wine and appetizers. They were anchored just outside of our little hidden area and we dinghy over in groups. Captain Ben and his crew helped us onboard and everyone ooh’d and aah’d as they stepped on board. Discovery dates back to 1931 and has been lovingly updated with fantastic touches throughout – being utilized today as a charter vessel out of Seattle visiting such places as Juneau and Sitka. Deception and Discovery have crossed paths over the last several years and it was fantastic for the two captains to finally be able to meet and chat. Everyone loved talking to his current guests and sharing stories of what we have all experienced. It was a lovely time and we thank you Captain Ben!
After returning back to our vessels it was time for the famed “Last Supper”. Each boat came up with a dessert, entrée, or side dish to share from their last reserves of food and we all met onboardDeception. Salmon cakes, salad, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, pasta, rice, brownies, pie…it was definitely a feast and we were all happy to dig right in! We spilled over to the aft deck on Ajax and our laughter echoed across the bay. After some instructions for when we arrive in Sitka, everyone shared their memories and exchanged their contact information. This group came together like family from day one – and for me, this last week has been incredible. Not just in the wildlife, the scenery, or the personal experiences, but seeing the faces around me. It really is about the people and the experience that we all share together.
Christina from Deception, signing off…