June 1st, 2016 | By: Gregory Smart | Leg 1: The Inside Passage
On this last morning out to anchor, the crew on Deception awoke to a rockin’ radio station, courtesy of Captain Brian…perhaps we took our chance to sleep in a little too literally? J We gather in the salon with our coffee and review the tasks before us this morning and when we get into Sitka. We are greeted by the Patos crew and Todd from AnamCara who stop by for quick chats. As we all congregate together in our large floating fleet, I am reminded this is the last time for such an opportunity. When we arrive in Sitka we will be assigned our slips by the harbormaster upon entering and just hopping over to the next boat for a wee chat won’t be possible. I try not to be too sad – as we still have today in Sitka together before everyone leaves on their flights home Thursday.
We leave our quaint bay and head into Sitka Sound – which gave us quite a bouncy ride as we secured anything that could fall and break. Having stabilizers made the short journey across the choppy water pretty comfortable as we begin to see through the mist the shoreline of Sitka. We fuel up the fleet and hand out the slip assignments. While we are separated between the two harbors of Eliason and Thomsen – they are close enough that we are able to assist most of our guests as they settle in to their last dock of the trip. After rafting together for so many days it feels very foreign to be back at a harbor and among cars, people, and a city. The seclusion of our various bays and coves had become so common it feels quite unusual to be in a bustling city once more!
Despite the mist settled on top of the surrounding mountains, Sitka is a beautiful city. On the small island across Sitka Channel is the Coast Guard Air Station, Mt. Edgecomb Hospital, and the Sitka Airport. The harbor itself is bustling with activity and I enjoy a great walk around the docks looking at all the differing commercial fishing vessels. Sitka is one of the busiest fishing seaports in the U.S hosting commercial fisherman, pleasure boats, and touring/charter vessels. The Deception crew met a fabulous family who own a marine-survey company. Greg (the owner), his son Aaron, and daughter Rebecca were fantastic and we had them onboard to talk about what they do here and what our company is all about. People are proud of Sitka and it is easy to see why – it has a magic quality to it and I can’t wait to explore it more.
Our crew took a tour of the city and found that among the tourist shops with Alaskan treasures are several small bookshops, cafes, family restaurants, a cultural center, museums, and small pubs. There are many things to do here such as Fortress of the Bear – an educational center to provide protection and care to urbanized bears, the Alaska Raptor Center – an excellent avian hospital and educational facility, the historic Russian Bishop’s House, and a definite must…the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This museum was established in 1895 and contains the largest collection of Alaska Native artifacts in the state. Castle Hill has unbeatable panoramic views of Sitka, and was a stronghold of the Kiks.adi clan, later becoming the site of the Alaska transfer from Russia to the U.S back in 1867. We join up with Liz Don from Ajax and enjoy a pint of beer at the Pioneer Pub and have a wonderful time talking about everything from small-town pubs to farming in Australia.
Everyone decides it would be a good idea to have one more dinner together and so earlier in the day we made reservations for the Channel Club – specializing in steak, seafood, and delicious desserts. It was fantastic to all sit together at a long table, one large family, together one last time. I got to spend a lot of time talking with Dave & Anita from Koa Lanai. Such a fantastic couple – and great stories of travel and gal-talk between Anita & I that I really treasured and was sad when it ended as our van was ready to take everyone back to the harbor.
It was a good day here in Sitka, albeit, a bit sad as the realization that our new friends and new members of the NW Explorations’ family will be leaving tomorrow. I may have only been along for the last week or so, but this collection of people are truly some of the most incredible and interesting people I have ever met. I am thankful for this time with them on such a magical adventure.
Full of happy memories…this is Christina from Deception, signing off.