Valentine’s Day Afloat Throwback

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’ve found myself reminiscing about last year’s Valentine’s Day afloat. Rob was fishing out of Sitka, Alaska, last winter and I had a 3 day weekend so I flew up to spend Valentine’s Day with my valentine aboard the F/V Fool’s Gold.

The first part of the adventure was getting to Sitka. Flying into any airport in Southeast Alaska is always an experience. Usually when you see those articles about scariest airports to fly into, at least one Southeast AK airport is on there. I’ve heard that Ketchikan’s runway is the shortest it could possibly be in order to land a 747. It also has water on either end of it so there’s not a lot of room for error there. I found Sitka’s airport to be a little more unnerving though. It really feels like you’re about to just straight up land in the ocean. It’s pretty much just a runway floating on an island. For someone who already has extreme anxiety about flying, this is not ideal. Luckily Alaska Airlines pilots seem to have a good idea of what they’re doing because we did not, in fact, land in the ocean.

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It doesn’t seem like a jet should ever come this close to the ocean. Welcome to Sitka.

After surviving the flight which is always an accomplish for my nervous self, Rob and I headed to the harbor to set off on our weekend journey. Armed with a GoPro selfie stick that my mom had just given me for Christmas a few months before, mimosa fixins, and lots of bacon (always necessary for boat outings) we set out to find the Goddard Hot Springs. We chugged along in the Fool’s Gold, top speed of about 6 knots (aka very slow), to the springs and spotted plenty of humpbacks and sea otters along the way. Humpbacks are famous for their winter migration to Hawaii where they mate but there are some that don’t make the trek and stay in Alaskan waters instead. From what I’ve heard, it’s mostly young males that stick around because they’re not mating yet. I’m no scientist but it sounds legit to me.

One thing that struck me about being out on the water in Sitka was how different the ocean moves than it does here around Ketchikan. In Ketchikan, we are relatively protected from what you would consider the “open ocean.” Our island is surrounded by other islands that keep us from getting ocean swell. In Sitka, that’s not the case. There’s nothing really between Sitka and Japan and you can definitely feel it when you’re on the water. Even on calm days, the constant swell is noticeable and a bit unsettling at first.

Oh and how could I forget…Sitka also has a freakin VOLCANO that you can see for much of the drive. How neat is that?!

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Rob took this picture of Mt. Edgecumbe AKA the freakin volcano!

After a few hours of travel and doing what you do on a very slow moving boat- read, nap, snack, repeat- we made it to the Hot Springs Bay where we anchored the boat and paddled to shore in a little inflatable along with our mimosa fixins. When I heard hot springs, I guess I was imagining more of a rocky sort of natural hot tub area. But this was different. Basically there are a couple wooden shelters that each have a big steel tub with a tap. The tap flows from the actual hot springs that is maybe unground? To be honest, I have no idea where the hot water came from. Rob hiked up to try to find the source but I was perfectly content just accepting that there was magical hot water that came out of the tap. I was also in a bathing suit at this point and not so interested in figuring out where the hot water was coming from as I was in just sitting in the hot water. Apparently in the summer it’s more of a hot spot (get it? HOT spot?) But since we were there in February, we had the springs to ourself even though there were a few other boats anchored up in the bay around us. Works for me!

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A low quality photo of a high quality time. Enjoying mimosas at Goddard Hot Springs.

After getting our fill of mimosas and the springs, we headed back to the boat where we spent the rest of the weekend meandering the coastline between there and Sitka. There is just so much beautiful untouched nature here to explore and we even caught a few fishies along the way!

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Bring your Valentine to work day aboard the F/V Fool’s Gold.

We’re spending this Valentine’s Day on land but it’s only a matter of time before we’re back out there on the water doing some more adventuring!

Thanks for reading! Float on, friends

 

Life Adrift

Friends, you may or may not have noticed that I’ve been absent from my blog for quite some time. Don’t worry- I’m still afloat. I’ve had a series of adventures on land (I went to visit my family in Indiana!) and sea that haven’t left me with much time to write, but alas, I’m here to tell you about my mot recent adventure afloat.

The adventure technically began in February when my handsome boatmate made an exciting purchase…a fishing boat! He’s going to live his dream of being a commercial fisherman!

My handsome boatmate's new boat, Fool's Gold, and our home for the journey from Juneau.

The new boat, Fool’s Gold. Rob’s new toy and our home for the journey from Juneau.

When he bought the boat, it was in Juneau, Alaska, so this recent adventure afloat involved flying there and bringing it home. The trip was amazing. It was my first time in Juneau and my first glacier encounter. By the way, taking an Australian person who has never really been around a lot of ice to a glacier is a pretty comedic experience. I always thought he was fearless- then I saw him standing by a giant mass of solid ice and I now know otherwise.

If you ever get a chance to hike to the ice caves under the Mendenhall Glacier, you will not regret it. Unless you are Australian in which case you might be very scared of all the ice.

If you ever get a chance to hike to the ice caves under the Mendenhall Glacier, I promise you will not regret it….even if you’re Australian and scared of ice.

My time in Juneau confirmed that there is, in fact, no good Mexican food in Alaska. This is difficult for me to accept, but I think I have to give up trying Alaskan Mexican food after all. Listening the radio in Juneau also confirmed what I suspected to be true from listening to the radio in Ketchikan…if you are literally the most socially awkward person ever, you can get a job as a radio DJ in Alaska. I also had my first northern lights sighting, my first iceberg sighting, and my first time being adrift in the ocean.

Oh, that last one? Yeah, that was no big deal. There was just a slight little incident with the boat that left us adrift for a couple hours in the dark. But after a little panic and a quick chat on the radio with the Coast Guard, a friendly fishing boat in the area came and towed us to Petersburg, AK, which was the nearest town. Some amazing things came of this little mishap though because Petersburg ended up being the coolest little town i.e. this is where I saw the northern lights! And icebergs! Plus there were huge sea lions all over the harbor.

Iceberg! Dead ahead! errr...a little ways off to the left actually.

Iceberg! Dead ahead! Errr…a little ways out to the left actually.

 

Huge sea lion

Huge sea lion in Petersburg

 

Signs all over the harbor warning about not feeding the sea lions

There were signs all over the harbor warning about not feeding the sea lions.

See? No big deal at all. I could go into more detail about the mechanics of it, but I promise it’s not that exciting. All you need to know is that my handsome boatmate is super handy and fixed the problem all by himself once he figured out what was wrong. And voila! We were back on track and out on the water for our amazing adventure.

The journey really was unforgettable. The scenery was breathtaking. We got unbelievably lucky with the beautiful weather and of course I couldn’t have asked for better company.

Oh you thought I was talking about my handsome boatmate, didn’t you? I see him all the time. But the WHALES. The whales were everywhere. Whale city. It seemed like every time you looked outside, which was most of the time, because it’s a boat,  there was another spout. Whales on whales on whales. I couldn’t even complain about having to pee into a bucket since I could whale watch while peeing into a bucket. Oh yeah, did I mention that the new boat doesn’t have a toilet?

Best toilet ever.

Most scenic/least comfortable toilet ever.

Disclaimer: this video was not taken while sitting on the bucket. This is merely an example of what sitting on the bucket could entail on any given day.

And that was just one video of many. That whale in particular kept getting closer and closer to the boat and showing off its tail. It was amazing. Ok enough about whales…don’t want to make anyone too jealous! (looking at my sister on that one…she is still bitter about not seeing any whales when she came to visit me.)

This trip also made our humble 120 something square feet feel like Buckingham Palace. Keep in mind that it’s a fishing boat and purely meant for functionality but not at all made to live on for more than a few days at a time. Hence the no toilet situation.

Just when you thought we couldn't possibly coexist in a smaller space...

Just when you thought we couldn’t possibly coexist in a smaller space. I slept on the “bed” and Rob slept on the floor underneath.

 

Bucket peeing and all, the journey was a dream come true. I doubt I’ve ever actually dreamed of peeing in a bucket, but regardless, this place I now call home is truly an amazing one. Now that we’re back in Ketchikan, Rob gets to try out this whole fishing thing and I couldn’t be more excited for him. Meanwhile, I’m back to work at this crazy place I told you about called Snorkel Alaska where I get paid to go swimming everyday. Paid to go fishing and paid to go swimming…I guess you could say life is good.

Until next time, float (or drift) on friends.

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