A thrill of excitement was in the air this morning as we prepared to embark on our Alaskan adventure. We have over a week to get to Juneau, and much to explore on the way! Each of the five crews in the fleet arrived in Skagway a few days prior in order to learn their boats and provision for the trip. Each crew spent time maneuvering with Captains Rich and Jordan, and settling in to life on board. Arriving early also gave us the chance to enjoy the unique charm of Skagway. And, since it was the Fourth of July, we were able to watch the fireworks, parade and festivities!
The town of Skagway sprung up almost overnight in 1897 due to the Klondike gold rush. In its heyday, Skagway was the largest city in Alaska with a population of over 20,000; today, less than 1,000 fulltime residents remain. The goldrush ended in 1899 almost as abruptly as it began. The gold rush removed an estimated one billion dollars of gold from the ground, and left behind a legacy and the Yukon Railway which was built to take eager prospectors and their gear across the treacherous White Pass. Skagway has a rich history including tales of incredible hardship and perseverance as well as lawlessness and conmen. Skagway is proud of its heritage, and is built to look much like it must have in the late 1800s.
We pulled off the docks in Skagway around 10am, just as the skies cleared and the sun poked out for the first time since we arrived. We headed south through Lynn Canal which is lined by towering cliffs on either side. The deep glacier-carved channel allowed us to travel close to shore and admire the rugged coastline, the many waterfalls cascading from the cliffs, and the many bald eagles perched on the tops of trees. As the day cleared, mountains became visible in all directions, peaks still snow covered. It was a truly spectacular introduction to cruising in Alaska!
On the way to Haines, we tested out our maneuvering skills with man overboard drills. Tossing life rings and fenders overboard and then circling back to retrieve them. We were impressed with the abilities and enthusiasm of each crew, and are really looking forward to cruising with them for the next week. As we neared Haines, Patos and Discovery were having too much fun to dock, and went off on their own to explore the nearby inlets. The rest of us went into the town of Haines for a look around. Later in the evening, we all met on Deception for a happy hour, swapping stories and appetizers.
After dinner, we were treated to a lovely sunset over the mountains (around 10:30pm!) and the slow rise of a nearly full moon. Eagles, kittiwakes and terns swooped over the harbor squabbling over the fishermen’s scraps. We are savoring every moment in this beautiful, wild place. It has been a full first day out, and I think we will all sleep well tonight. I cannot wait to see what else this trip holds in store for us!