Sitka, Alaska – Saturday, July 23, 2016

No, I had never heard of Sitka before, either….., but no worries. It was formerly known as the “Paris of the Pacific” – and was also the former capital of Russian America. The town was founded around 1799. The Russian occupation ended October 18, 1867 and the Russian flag was lowered for the last time on what is now celebrated as Alaska Day.

It is pretty – that’s for sure. Population of 20,000 or so, although the town is about 4 miles from where the ship is docked. In fact, we are the ONLY ship docked in here today. It’s obvious that Sitka is not a big hitter on the cruise ship card.

Sitka – docked off the bow
Sitka – docked off the port stern
Sitka – a beautiful archipeligo – on the ocean

We woke up to our first genuine rain of the trip. Marion and Barry were signed up for a Rain Forest Tour – yep, they certainly got the rain portion of that correct. Alison and I were signed up for the SIT-D package – Dry Suit Snorkeling.

Huh? OK, OK. We are in Alaska. The air temperature this morning is 54 degrees. The ocean temperature is 45. It is windy and raining. Perfect! Alison and I went up to breakfast as they opened up on Lido at 6:30. No deck walking this morning – well, we could have, but no. Departure time for the excursion was 8:45.

On a ship with some 1100 passengers, there were six of us – including one brave volunteer from the ship staff, our escort. It was less than a 5 minute trip from the dock to the dive shop, in a 12-passenger van that we hoped would make it. “Nathan” is a local, who has been going to the University of Oregon the past 3 years, and working up here in the summers. “Brendan” was our tour guide – a local, 25, and married.

Brandon gave us the low-down on what was going to happen. We took off our shoes and any bulky clothes. We put on a fleece onesy, to keep us warm (they ARE nice, Lauren), we were “fitted” for our “surface dry suits”, which are designed for staying on the surface (neck dam and wrist dams to keep the water out), neoprene hood, neoprene gloves, and mask and snorkel.

Sitka – Scott – in his fleece onesy
Sitka – Alison – dry suit ready to pull up

The boots (shoes) were built into the suit. Once we were more-or-less dressed, we grabbed our remaining gear and went out to the van for the two minute drive to the parking area above the “beach” – no sand, lots of rocks. We finished suiting up down by the ocean, performed an interesting maneuver to vacate the air from inside the suit, and carried our mask/snorkel and fins out into the water with us. Mask and snorkel – OK. The guide had us lie on our backs – easy to do in the suit – and he put our fins on.

A fully blossoming patch of kale almost strangled us – similar to the Harry Potter movie, and the wind was much higher than normal, generating higher waves and kicking up the sand – so, visibility was not the greatest. What are you going to do, right? Our small band saw a couple small crabs, a couple of fish, and a couple small jelly fish – not exactly the richness that we had expected, but it was an interesting experience.

We went straight to the Bistro, on Deck 6, for Hot chocolate when we got back. Up in our cabin, we took a much deserved shower. I noticed some splashing in the water a couple hundred yards from the ship, and we decided that they were Sea Lions playing – one had a fish in his mouth. This lasted several minutes and involved 2-3 sea lions. We quickly settled in to reading and a good nap. When we woke up, the rain had stopped and we went out on Deck 7 to pass our 10,000 step goal. We then went up to Deck 12 for the formal tea, and returned to Deck 8 and our cabin to read and blog before dinner.

We JUST shoved off to the music of Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World before 6PM – significant because this is the first time we’ve heard it played this trip – and I like it! The four of us trekked down to Deck 5 and the Main Dining room for dinner – same table / same staff, and we had a wonderful meal.

Serenity has been out in the open ocean now for a couple hours and the seas and winds are a lot rougher than we’ve experienced, thus far. We typically like to get out on Deck 7 for a walk after dinner, but they had the doors blocked off, tonight due to the rougher seas. OK.

We all decided to call it a night – on the early side – reminded that we set our clocks forward an hour tonight – back to Pacific Standard Time. We don’t dock in Prince Rupert, British Columbia until almost noon tomorrow.

12,629 Steps today.

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