Thursday-Friday, June 15-16, 2017: Craig to SitkaThis summer the Wild Blue is cruising San Francisco Bay and the California Delta, but when asked to crew in Alaska, how can we say no? The past several days Alex has been on Miss Micky, a new North…
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Blog Post 2 – No photos until we get higher bandwidth internet connections
May 26, 2017 – Copenhagen
The parties continued quayside until the sun began to come up, and the noise came right in the open windows where we were trying to get some cooler air. By the time the parties ended the sun was now coming in the window and lighting up the room. We are as far north already as Ketchikan, so the long days are no surprise. Our solution was to close the drapes and turn on the fan. Sleep still mostly eluded us, so about 0630 we freshened up and headed downstairs for an expansive breakfast buffet. The pickled herring was delicious!
Most stores do not open until 1000, but we headed out at 0900 anyway and searched for a spare battery for one of the Nikon cameras and a memory storage device for the iPads, knowing we would be taking lots of photos.
The pedestrian shopping street “Stroget” stretches for many blocks with every type of store imaginable. It is purportedly the longest pedestrian street in Europe. We decided there are no direct routes anywhere in Copenhagen, with the many canals which intersect the city, and the heritage of the old buildings which seem to be constructed in haphazard locations long before modern city planning. Nonetheless, we found both the batteries and the memory devices. Prices are much higher than in the USA, especially for LI-ion batteries which are taxed at a high rate.
Returning to the hotel we sat outdoors on the quay and enjoyed both the sun and delicious fresh asparagus salads before returning to the room for a much needed nap.
After another walk in the afternoon down as far as Vor Frelsers Kirkland (Our Saviors Church), with a unique spiral staircase around the outside of the campanile. The line to climb the staircase was very long so Patrick decided to pass on the opportunity. Returning to the hotel, we listened out the room window as a concert began across the quay. It will be another noisy night.
May 27, 2017 – Embarkation and Departure
The noise overnight was not too bad, perhaps because we were so tired. Jet lag is catching up to both of us. The weather continues to be nice, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s. We enjoyed another breakfast buffet and then a walk to stretch the legs before the driver picks us up at 1130. The tour busses were already out in force, with groups of people crowding around the popular scenic stops. There are 6 cruise ships tied up just north of the hotel, ranging from huge to a 328 foot ship. The Seabourn Quest looks tiny out at the end of Ocean Quay behind two large ships.
The check-in formalities were quick and we were able to board Seabourn Quest about 1230. The staterooms would not be ready until 1400, so we sat on the pool deck and enjoyed lunch with several other guests. Promptly at 1400 the announcement that the staterooms were ready was made. Arriving at suite 611, our home for the next three weeks, the stewardess, Natalya was waiting with champagne and canapés. Our luggage was already in the suite so we spent some time unpacking before attending the required safety briefing at our emergency gathering spot in the restaurant on Deck 4. After the safety briefing we headed back to the pool deck for the sail-away celebration.
Departure was delayed somewhat due to the number of cruise ships all scheduled to depart at the same time and the late arrival of guests from the massive British Airways computer system failure at Heathrow. Finally, at 1745 the ship’s horn blew announcing our departure and the ship joined the parade headed north towards our first destination, Flam Norway.
May 28, At Sea
The weather on our first day at sea was a sharp contrast to the sunny weather in Copenhagen. The temperature had dropped by 20 degrees and there was occasional rain and fog thick enough for the ship’s foghorn to sound.
We attended three of the “conversations” or lectures that Seabourn has on sea days. The evening was the first of three formal nights and also the Captain’s Gala reception. After the reception we tried “The Grill”, a new dining venue with Thomas Keller dishes in a classic chophouse atmosphere.
May 29 – Flam, Norway
Sometime during the night the ship entered Sognefjord, one of the longest and deepest fjords in the world. We docked at Flam shortly before 0800. Flam has expanded somewhat since the first time we were here and the number of tourists in addition to the ship guests was amazing. We had separate shore excursions here, with Miriam doing a “Mountains and Waterfalls” guided bus tour to some of the other scenic areas, and Patrick venturing out in a Kayak for the first time in Norway. There was not a lot of wildlife other than herds of goats and some birds, but plenty of waterfalls cascading down the steep rock walls of the Aurlandfjord, the final stretch of Sognefjord.
Seabourn Quest backed away from the pier at 1700 and headed back down the fjord for the 280 nautical mile voyage to our next destination.
May 30 – Aalesund, Norway
The weather overnight was much rougher out in the North Sea, but smoothed out as we approached Aalesund, arriving at 1000 and docking in the protected inner harbor amidst the Art Nouveau architecture of this town of 48,000. The original town was mostly destroyed by fire in 1904 and the city planners rebuilt with stone and concrete in the art nouveau style for most of the area destroyed by the fire, so the inner city has a very consistent look and feel.
Miriam took a lengthy walking tour exploring the details of the inner city and museums, as well as the quaint inner harbor. Patrick again ventured out in a kayak on a tour across the bay for a picnic on a small island followed by a paddle through the inner harbor.
The ship departed at 2000 and then went in several circles in the bay to re-swing the magnetic compass before the ship headed even further north. The seas increased again overnight as we headed for our next destination Svolvaer, 450 miles away in the Lofoten Islands.
May 31 – At Sea
The weather cooled even more with highs of 39 degrees, NW winds to 35 knots and large swells from the northwest. The ship passed through rain squalls and then sun patches all day. We were able to attend several additional lectures or “Conversations “ on history, marine mammals and the Viking sea migration patterns. Our evening entertainment was provided by Richard Wright, who we may have heard singing in the “Lion King” in London in 1999.
At 2115 the ship’s horn sounded signaling that we had crossed the Arctic Polar Circle. We will be North of the circle for the next few days.
June 1 – Svolvaer, Lofoten Islands
The wind and seas gradually calmed as we approached our anchorage in front of the town of Svolvaer. After a brief delay anchoring the ship the tours began. Miriam is doing a “Lofoten Vikings” cultural tour and Patrick went kayaking along the coastline as part of his tour. In the afternoon we both took part in a limited Zodiac tour up Trollfjord where we met back up with the ship. We did see some white tailed eagles and some trolls on the cliff in Trollfjord, but were a little disappointed that the captain decided to not enter the fjord with the Quest. Although beautiful, the fjord pales in comparison to Princess Louisa Inlet in British Columbia.
June 2 – Tromso
This city of 72,000 is both on Tromso Island and the mainland, connected by a bridge since 1960. There is a charming city center, with an increasing number of new buildings gradually displacing the original buildings built by either the Bergen Trading Company or the Tromso Trading Company. Tromso is also the area where the British RAF finally sank the German battleship Tirpitz after several attempts including mini-submarines. Several movies have been made commemorating those events. Patrick’s afternoon RIB adventure went to the site of the sinking. The RIB trip also went by an island with two musk oxen. Miriam took a tour that included a cable car ride above the city and a tour of the Arctic Cathedral.
June 3 – Honningsvag and North Cape
The weather offshore forced the cancellation of the planned Zodiac tour to the Puffin colonies and a cruise by North Cape. Winds were 25-30 knots, seas to 8 feet and intermittent snow squalls. It was snowing all day, but not hard enough to get any accumulation.
We were rebooked onto a guided bus tour to North Cape. North Cape cleared enough to have decent views, so most of the experience was there, even with the Zodiac trip cancellation. The monument was found to be misplaced when decent surveying systems were invented, since the next point west is actually 1.5 kilometers further north. Nevertheless we reached 71 degrees, 10.21 minutes North Latitude. The ship will actually go a little further north when we depart Honningsvag. Before departure we had a caviar, vodka, gravlax and aquavit celebration.
North Cape and St. Petersburg Cruise
May 24, Departure Day from Bellevue
Murphy was alive and working as we prepared to depart Bellevue via British Airways Flight 49. After a visit to Patrick’s Mom, who goes in for a total hip replacement on the morning of the 25th, final preparations for departure proceeded, including mowing the lawn, set the sprinkler timers and finalizing the luggage packing.
We are taking Seabourn Cruise for a 21 day trip along the west coast of Norway above the Arctic Circle, and then back into the Baltic to visit St. Petersburg, Tallin, Helsinki and Stockholm before traveling back to Denmark for several days. We are staying with Ted & Lisa Marx near Hou, and then finishing up back in Copenhagen. Our ship is the Seabourn Quest, the same ship as our Antarctica trip. We are going to be in suite 611 for this trip.
PSE is replacing the underground wiring in our neighborhood so access can be tricky and sometimes delayed. The Shuttle Express driver arrived on time, however, but then told us about the numerous accidents and traffic jams between our house and all possible routes to the airport.
After a wild, and sometimes scary ride with the aggressive driver in heavy traffic, we arrived at the airport and were able to upgrade from business to first class. British Airways does not have TSA pre-check, so we had to undergo the standard security screening, including the full body x-rays, physical pat-downs and an extensive search of Miriam’s carry-on luggage. Something, or a combination of items triggered the explosive detectors. Even her shoes and iphone tested positive, so it may have been a faulty detector. The TSA supervisor gave Miriam some packing suggestions to avoid a problem in the future.
We finally made it to the BA lounge and Miriam repacked her carry-on to avoid a similar delay when arriving at Heathrow and transferring to the flight to Copenhagen.
After a glass of Shiraz, Murphy disappeared for a while and relaxation and anticipation of the upcoming month in Europe began.
What initially looked to be a late departure, due to the inbound aircraft arriving nearly two hours late, turned into an on-time departure. Boarding the plane, we were escorted to our seats and offered sleep suits for the flight. We both changed before departure. Precisely at 1915 the 747-400 backed away from the gate and we took off. There was moderate turbulence for the first hour, which made it hard to keep the rose champagne in the glasses, but that was the only minor issue as we shared dinner in one of our suites on board. BA has modified the interiors somewhat and there is less shoulder room for the guest than in the past. After a leisurely dinner we stretched out on the lay-flat beds for a few hours of sleep before breakfast was served. As we prepared for arrival, the cabin crew presented us with a box of chocolates and a signed menu to celebrate our upcoming 45th wedding anniversary.
Enjoying appetizers on the way to London
May 25, 2017
The flight landed a little late, and we were taken by bus to bustling Terminal 5 where we underwent additional security screening before heading to the BA lounge. This time Miriam’s luggage did not trigger any alarms, even though they did test her bag of liquids for explosives.
We only had about 15 minutes in the lounge before we headed for the connecting flight gate, which was at the opposite end of the sprawling Terminal 5 from the lounge. The flight was full, the seats cramped and narrow, but at least we had an empty seat between us in the so-called business class. The seat pitch was so tight that even Patrick’s knees touched the seat in front of him, and the gentleman behind Patrick had his knees pressing into the seat back the entire flight.
The flight departed on time and then spent 25 minutes waiting for a takeoff slot. A light snack was served to pass the time on the 90 minute flight to Copenhagen. The service on board made up for the cramped seating and even with the departure delay we arrived slightly ahead of schedule.
Completing immigration formalities, which were quick, we headed to baggage claim where the wait for bags was very short. Heading out the exit we met our driver who drove us through light traffic to the Admiral Hotel, right on the harbor. We have stayed at the Admiral before, and it is a converted and restored grainery warehouse of brick and massive wood beams in the rooms, built in 1797.
Before leaving Bellevue we signed up for a “Day Pass” from AT&T, which is a good deal for international travel, so after phone calls to Bellevue we found that Patrick’s Mom’s hip surgery went well and we would be able to call tomorrow.
Stopping briefly in the room, we headed out and walked along the quay to the “Little Mermaid” sculpture, since the early evening light would be good for photos. The light was good for photos, and also good at the largest monument in Copenhagen, the Gefionspringvandet, named after the goddess Gefion, who with her oxen plows Zealand out of Sweden. By the time we returned to the hotel at 2000, the sun had passed below the horizon.
Little Mermaid at Langelinie
The Gefionspringvandet sculpture
Returning to the hotel we decided to eat at “SALT” restaurant in the hotel and enjoyed a four course small plate offering which included poached white asparagus, baked lemon sole, salted melon and burrito and a grilled Iberico pork, all with interesting seasonings. By now it was after 2200, but still evening twilight. Patrick took a stroll to Nyhaven to locate our hotel when we return in late June. There were still crowds eating outside at the many restaurants lining the harbor at Nyhaven, and with the long days and a holiday, the voices talking outside our hotel window continued until 0230. There is no air conditioning at the hotel, but fans are provided and the windows open out facing the harbor.
The Admiral Hotel
Nyhaven at night
This morning I awoke to some heart-breaking news, the daughter of a dear old friend had tragically died in a random and unpredictable home accident. I was there when this child, now 22 years old, was born and watched her grow up to an amazing woman. I watched as my friends raised this incredible young lady, always supporting and always gleaming with pride, they were the best of “All In” parents. Now I cannot imagine the pain they must feel. This news was especially emotional for me as I now have a child in my life.
I am biologically childless by a decision I made as a young man, one I have not regretted but it certainly removed me from one of life’s primary experiences. Today I can experience the joy of a child. I love Donna’s son and really enjoy his time with us, but I got to admit, I have been a bit gun shy, not my usual “all in” approach. We had come to this part of the country to partake in Piam’s graduation from Kindergarten, a big deal here. This was made a big challenge by a four-day cold front bringing big winds to the area which has no really good anchorage. Fact is when we arrived some on the wharf said we were the first pleasure yacht to come here, another said a Canadian boat came years back so we were second, not a sign of a good place to be.
My main goal was to get Donna here, I did that and had a good reason to stay with the boat as the wind was still strong and maybe if I had not learned of the loss of a child of a close friend, I might have skipped the whole thing. I know my friends would have never missed any milestone in their daughter’s life, never!. The wind died down a bit and I thought of my friends “All In” ways, I had to go. It is about 25k to the village from the anchorage, I went ashore not sure of how to do this, but when I said I had to get to a graduation ceremony, the guys at the dock seemed to know the importance and lent me a nice motorbike, so off I went. Now imagine a brown skinned guy who does not speak English arriving in any US town and the locals just handing over the keys to their car? Ya not going to happen.
The Filipinos cherish their children as no others, lots of them and educating their kids is a primary goal, they are “all in”. Each village has several schools and each school has “Recognition Day” at the end of the school year and the whole town shows up! New clothes are bought, hair done and even make up on the very youngest. Each parent arrives pridefully hand in hand with the kids. The village ladyboys, the beautician experts, have been working double time applying makeup, doing the hair of even the very youngest, the entire village is “All In”. Families with more than one child enlist a close relative or neighbor escort the child, each one has an escort.
Awards are doled out for each class and medals given. The first group to receive recognition is the SPED, special education students. This can be hearing impaired kids who use sign language or developmentally impaired kids. I was already a bit emotional after the morning’s news so when I saw the dozen SPED kids in their bright pink “GOD MADE ME SPECIAL” t shirts, all smiling brightly and “signing” the national anthem, i broke down in tears. Donna knows me well now and had a hanky at ready. The whole town cheered them on and it was clear they were loved and connected. They were the first to get the medals, the categories included: young singer, young dancer, book lover, budding mathematician, creative hands, and others indicative of a well-rounded education. The also got sports awards from a recent regional Special Olympics type event. If was not already misty eyed, a tiny little girl with physical limitations was put in a chair, handed a microphone and belted out an incredible song, Who am I. Tears flowed as she sang:
Who am I, that the lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?
Next was the big event for us; the Kindergarten awards. Piam had some struggles this year adjusting to the authority of a school. He may not be my kid genetically but he sure could be on this one hahah. Once we got a text from the sisters, (we get texts daily of his antics) the teacher had assigned them to write one whole page of the letter “W”. Piam simply wrote one big W covering the entire page and handed it in. I had to try hard to hide my laughter and “atta boy”. Trials past, he did get an honorable award, “Sporty Kid”. Donna was keen on maybe “mathematician” or “star reader” I thought “Sporty kid” was just fine.
I shared hugs with the family, popped on the bike and headed back to find Furthur sitting pretty. I offered the guy with the bike some money and he refused, I did fill his gas tank. Back aboard and waiting for Donna and Piam to come later I thought of the day, the tragedy and the joy I had experienced. I now know I need to be “All In”.
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert
After a late typhoon, we began our seasons cruising with a trip back to one of the favorites, Coron. Again, we met old and new friends, dove the famous WWII wrecks and bathed in the hot springs.
Our plan was to venture off shore to the small island country of Palau, this would require a good weather window with a break in the NE monsoon winds as it is 500 miles of open ocean. The winds usually subside in March and bring warm, dry and calm weather to the Philippines, their “summer”. The other requirement I had for making this trip is the boat must be void of any major problems, there is no help out there!
Sadly, neither of these things panned out. The weather just did not break, the winds and rain persisted way beyond the normal times. We watched the weather programs diligently and saw only those dark green and brown arrows, not good.
Furthur seemed to not to want to go either, gremlins kept popping up and old ones not going away. I have had a consistent problem with batteries, they just did not last. When we go back to Puerto Galera we were running the gen much longer than usual to keep the charge. We got a technician from Manila to come down and he found a weird draw from the inverter, whether it was running or not, up to ten amps. This explained the radical drop in voltage we would find overnight. We also discovered 2 more dead batteries in the 6-battery bank.
Not having access to invertor parts or the know now to fix it, the short-term solution was to switch off the main power cable from the inverter, so we installed a switch to do so. We found that if we cut off the power drain we had much better voltage each morning. A short-term solution we could live with.
The other failure that hampered our love of amps, an addiction common amongst cruisers; our trusty Balmar 160 amp 2nd alternator died. Not a big shock after 12 years and over 8000 hours. I took it to a small local repair shop with no luck. It also seemed that the smaller stock Cummins alternator had failed, possibly long ago but we could not notice with the big one churning out big amps. This left us running with no charge off the engine.
The good news is that our newly reworked solar system was spitting out a great charge and more of the day. Upon good advice from a solar expert, we switched the panels to be “in series” instead of “in parallel. This required a larger, higher voltage MPPT controller to handle the over 100 volts we now produced. The net result is the panels begin charging much earlier, as soon as they hit 24 volts and stay much later.
So, our procedure until I could get a new alternator was to run the gen in the early morning and watch the solar charge. A nifty Bluetooth gizmo now sends the solar charging data to my phone! On a clear day we could run off the panels by 8-9 am and until about 4pm.. then back on went the gen all the way to Cebu.
Multiple emails with Balmar and our good friends at Fisheries Supply and the new alternator was on its way with some other goodies. When we get to Cebu, I was directed to a huge junk yard, salvaging company, I walked in to see piles of dead alternators and other parts. The Chinese/Filipino owner took us in his care and we sent the alternator to his friend in Manila for repairs, 4 days and $200usd later I had the rebuilt one in my hands and it worked, still is! We then sent the smaller alternator and the –never did work- wind gen to the same guy. Trojan sent us 2 more batteries to replace the dead ones and they really work. About this time the new alternator arrived. So now I have a complete set of spares, you should not have to read about alternator troubles for quite some time!
Boat woes under control, we centered on the weather again. We were moored with a 150’ expedition super yacht with 19 crew. They had been in Cebu for 2 months waiting for the same evasive weather change. Finally, they found a 3 day lull and took off. About that time an Aussie cruising boat with some friends pulled in returning from Palau. The reported bad weather all the way, they were going down wind returning we would have it on the nose. They also gave glim reports of 59 out of 60 days of rain there. One cannot ignore these signs from above, Palau was out this year.
Sadly, with our change in plans we lost our one good crew member, Liz, who went on to other adventures. So, Donna and I ventured off to explore the central parts of her country more. We went to Bohol Island and spent a few days exploring its wonders. We saw the tiny rare and endangered critter, the Taisier. Did a ultra-tourist river cruise and then headed back north.
Our next stop was Comotes Island, a gem of a place with white sandy beaches, dotted with excellent and cheap eating places, 85 pesos for a great meal ($1.60). The warm water was so clear we could see the anchor at 30ft of depth. The sun shone, I got my tan back and life was good. Summer cruising was back!
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert
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