Hello Alaska!

Ahhhh, it’s good to be back in the Great State I was born in. Even though it’s 40 degrees colder than the place we just left and we had to dig out an alarm clock because apparently when you are Employed they expect you to show up on time, sometimes as early as 8 am! Soon to be earlier. Wow, we took to the semi-retired life a little too well I guess. But a paycheck sure is great! We’re saving every cent we can for sailing next season. I don’t really like the expression “filling the cruising kitty” I guess because it makes me think of a cat stuffed with money. I think I prefer “loading the piggybank” or “pinching our pennies to convert them to pesos.” Anyway, you get the picture.

It does feel great to be in Sitka and working on boats again. So far we’ve been training and helping de-winterize the fleet of day boats. Cleaning mold, painting, stocking the galleys. After caring for Velella velella the past 8 months it feels quite natural to care for another boat, in this case mainly a 65′ quad jet power catamaran we’ll be running called the St. Eugene. She’s no pretty sailboat but she does 30 knots and only draws 3 feet of water. Perfect for searching out whales and sea otters in small coves and bays. Our first trip will be next week, when the cruise ships start arriving. Rob will be captain, I will be deckhand/engineer. There also will be a naturalist and 1-2 pursers in the galley. I wasn’t so sure about being engineer but I’ve already learned how to start the genset when it’s finicky (by manually activating the solenoid) and how to clear kelp and debris out of the jet impellers. Hint: very carefully and with no chance anyone can start up the engine because your arm is completely submerged in freezing water up to your shoulder, and all up in the prop. If it started spinning, it would not end well. But that won’t happen! Because you turn off the starter batteries and take the key with you. Safety First!

Besides our jobs, other things we like about Sitka are the gorgeous snowcapped mountains, the tiny islands that fill the Sound, the sleepy gray whales, the eagle and raven calls, hiking in our xtratufs (adios flipflops), not running into hungry bears, making new friends on the ferry and at yoga and reuniting with old ones! We had a great time visiting with Pete and Kelsey, friends from PT who run charters on their sailboat Privateer. Northwest Expeditions, look them up. They had a much snowier winter than we did but love their boat just as much. It’s so fun and novel to row out to an Alaskan liveaboard on anchor and see their pile of firewood. Thanks guys for a wonderfully fun weekend! Hope you have a great season.

Enjoy the first round of photos, starting with our lovely PT stay at my Mom’s (we got to see three beautiful friends who were 9 months pregnant!), my lightening fast trip to Portland, then our inside passage ferry ride up, our great time in Juneau with my Dad and Laurie, and finally, arriving in Sitka, the land of Tlingits and Russians and Environmentalists. We will keep the stories coming!

Vaya con los angelitos,
Kai and Rob

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Wrapping up the Season

Leaving La Cruz – sad
Arriving in Mazatlan before a fairly strong system hit – excellent
Volunteering with a church passing out sandwiches to kids and dump workers who sort out recycling for income – eye opening, mind expanding
Walking around Mazatlan now that we know it better – comfortable, relaxing
Entering the Sea of Cortez on another great weather window – zenlike tranquility (caaaaalm waters, lots of reading, we even stopped the engine to jump in for a swim!)
Arriving in Guaymas to haul out the boat for the summer – hot, dusty, busy, friendly
Actually getting the boat thoroughly cleaned up, hauled out, closed up, packed away, and sealed up tight – stressful, rewarding
Crossing the border by bus back into the States – mixed emotions, excitement for home and Alaska, immediate nostalgia for sun and spanish and boat friends and tortilla soup
Flying with 6 bags, a guitar and a surfboard – easier than sailing in opposing wind and seas
Arriving in Seattle and then Port Townsend to soft rain, bright sunbreaks and a definite chill – lovingly familiar, almost eerie, like we never left…

That about brings you up to speed. We just got back to Port Townsend last night, after three days of not too gruesome travel. We reunited with friends at various points along the way and look forward to catching up with folks around here before we catch the M/V Kennicott ferry from Bellingham, WA to Sitka, AK. Jobs start around April 18th! We have been hired as a Captain (Rob) and a Deckhand (me) with Allen Marine Tours, a family-owned wildlife tour boat company that operates multiple boats and daytrips for cruise boat tourists. We will work on the same boat some of the time, different boats at other times, but always get to come home together at the end of the day to our cozy home, the Westfalia van. Awwww. Actually, though we are bringing the van up with us, we’re hoping to find affordable housing so we don’t have to live in a space even smaller than Velella velella. Besides, no bathroom and showering outside when there is still snow on the ground is not ideal. Happily, we already have one housesit hopefully for the month of May. Cross our fingers we’ll find some thing for June-early Sept.

Sitka seems like the perfect place to be this summer: jobs on boats, friends up there fishing, yoga studios, farmer’s market, great community and even surfing! I’m happy to get some land time, I can’t wait to get back into yoga and biking and hiking on days off. There’s a strong possibility I will keep blogging through the summer, if anyone wants to hear about this half of our adventure. We don’t plan to head back to unwrap and revive our dear boat until early November, after hurricane season is over. That’s a long time to be away but we closed her up good and tight and feel very happy about the safety and security of the yard she’s hauled out in. Our last week on her was so strange! Being on the hard, in the heat, trying to get all projects checked off our list but still keep her livable until our last day. A highlight was the ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ potluck party we organized to socialize with the yard community and simultaneously giveaway books, magazines and opened, potentially spoilable food. “You know you want this half bag of pancake mix…And how about this nearly full jar of kalamata olives purchased in Santa Barbara?” It was fun and successful.

There’s one more album of pictures from our last weeks in Mexico up on Picasa. From here on out people are going to be wearing a LOT more clothes. But there will be boats and likely beautiful places and funny faces! So, hang in there or at least check back in November. Thanks for being loyal readers!

Love, gringos in gringoland, sailors without sails, Kai and Rob