Thursday, October 1, 2015

Summer vacation, day 9

Today we pulled into Ketchikan. The harbor was packed with ships, so much so that we had to anchor off shore and take the ship's boats to and from port. In these situations the boats are called tenders. In an emergency they're called lifeboats.

Because I'm a ship nerd, I had a lot of fun watching them set the whole thing up, swinging the boats out and lowering them into the water.

Yes, I know I'm pathetic

In Ketchikan it rains 364.7 days out of the year (365.7 in leap years) and true to form, it was raining heavily. A number of locals made the point that what we had today was just a light rain.

So we went ashore, where you learn all kinds of interesting things about Alaskan liquor laws:

Have another, Frank. We may not be back here until you can buy it yourself.

At the corner of the bar was a wooden beam. Because it stuck out under the railing it received a lot of rain, with the result that plants had taken root:

We walked around. Standing at this point I overhead one of the other tourists (Mr. Macho) say: "They have handicapped people here, too? I thought this was Alaska."

Because of the rain the stores had rolled their giant stuffed animal photo-stops inside, but this place had replaced theirs with a plastic one:

Pretend it's a stuffed moose, Marie.

Again, we wandered around the usual selection of stores selling Alaska shirts, hats, baseball caps, jackets, ulu knives, socks, wood carvings of moose, Burt’s Bees stuff, ulu knives, selfie sticks, picture frames, keychains, and ulu knives. I sort of just follow along, and pay the bills. I mean, it’s not like you expect one store is going to have anything different from another.

Here's some examples of what you can buy:

"Honey, do you think a Hog would fit in the suitcase?"

"Can't wait to wear this to singles night."

After wandering around for a while we went on a Duck tour. For those unfamiliar, it involves being driven around the city in an amphibious bus, which then drives into the bay and boats you around the harbor (in some cities they’re called Seal tours).

The tour immediately got off to a good start when we encountered our favorite leather purse... Mrs. Bitchy. She had a bag full of souvenir shit on the empty seat next to her, and refused to move it so my Mom could sit down. Even when told to do so by the skipper she refused, arguing that, by paying for a ticket, she was entitled to an extra seat for her packages. Eventually she ended up leaving the bus/boat and getting a refund, but not before flipping all of us the bird.

We passed this place:

"Screw you and your copyrighted name."

As we cruised around the harbor we went by a fish processing plant on the dock. The water around the building was covered in white froth, which our guide explained was “leftover liquefied fish parts.” I thought Craig was going to barf. Frank's phone said "I've found 17 fish restaurants nearby."

We passed what looked like a closed fast-food place... As it turned out that's exactly what it was. The guide explained that corporate IQ types, none of whom lived locally, thought a waterfront fast-food drive-thru would be a big hit. Failing to take local warnings into account, they built it. The problem was that the drive-thru was located where high waterfront winds can blast through at 50-70 mph and carry a lot of water with them, making it pretty damn hard to hear orders, pay for them, or hand over bags of food. So it was a remarkably short lived venture. After dealing with them in healthcare, it's nice to know the corporate types are equally stupid elsewhere.

Ketchikan is also where Alaska's only recipient (to date) of the U.S. Medal of Honor lived out his final years, retiring to a boat in the harbor. He served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

Back on the ship that afternoon, they had a presentation by the chief engineer and his assistant on the engineering aspects of the ship. Being fascinated with this kind of thing, I showed up. Comically, there was a delay because neither of them could figure out how to work the slide projector. It got even better when the ship’s 2nd officer got lost on his way to give the “navigation at sea” talk.

My favorite question of the afternoon came after they explained how the ship distilled all it's own fresh water from sea water. Some guy stood up and said "how come they don't use this method in places like deserts, that are far from the sea?" The engineers looked at each other, pretended not to hear the question, and moved on.

Tonight at teen club they had a pick-up line contest. My boys, showing their remarkable skill at understanding girls, tried “Did you just fart? Because you blew me away.”


Heidi said...

The launching of the tenders/lifeboats would have been interesting to watch.

I'd get that Alaska Paramedics t-shirt.

Mrs. Bitchy's bird flip was almost amusing in this instance - would have enjoyed seeing the folks who were staying all raise a hand in response.

Ms. Donna said...

Hey, I would watch the boats being launched as long as I could, and my late father a retired Navy officer would too. He'd be a critic; I'd just watch.

Like Heidi, I want the paramedics t-shirt. What kind of brain trauma would result for a leap off the ship? (I have an idea, and it all involves technical terms like "drooling vegetable." If the Darwin Award candidate survives.)

Mrs. B is not just "-itchy," she is an ignorant boor.

Shae said...

The return of interrupting Siri! I missed her.

clairesmum said...

you might be curing me of my interest in a cruise to Alaska!

a.generic doc said...

Your boys need to learn better pick up lines or the only eventual Grumpy grandchildren will come from your daughter.

kjax said...

Don't you know Mrs. Bitchy has a blog somewhere and it says "wherever I went, there was this family who delighted in terrorizing me. I even resorted to flipping them off, hoping they would back off, but they just grinned at me like idiots and kept coming at me. I wasn't safe anywhere! Poor, poor, innocent me..."

Packer said...

Just home from a long weekend vacation In Savannah Ga. Went to a museum and the guide was explaining the dinning room set up and said the family would have a grand Thanksgiving dinner, a woman then asked :The table is set for 10, what would they do if 14 people showed up ? The guide very patiently said that it was just set up for example, to which she replied that doesn't answer my question. Tour Questions prove that there really are Dumb questions, despite the maxim to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that this vacation tale ends with one of the Grumpykids politely yet definitively putting Mrs. Bitchy in her place.

Don said...

Having served in the Navy, and having made lots and lots of fresh water from saltwater,

The reason we don't do this in deserts is

1. You need a handy source of saltwater. Deserts aren't normally known for their ocean views.
2. You need lots and lots of energy (heat). This is usually expensive

Santa Barbara CA had a city owned freshwater distillation plant. They mothballed it long ago because it was too expensive to operate long term. They are in the process of trying to repair it and bring it back online.

I would have watched the tenders being launched too. I would have also found the Chief Engineers discussion fascinating

Anonymous said...

In Alaska, a "real" tender boat is a boat that cruises around the sound, buying fish from the larger fishing vessels. Growing up, I had to take duffle bags full of cash to our tender in Whittier so he could buy salmon from the fishermen. It was a great time!

Hattie said...

I'm enjoying this tremendously.

RehabRN said...


All you need are Mr. Macho and the boys to be entertained (or cause you to smack your head repeatedly).

So many Mr. Machos out there...ugh!

ER's Mom said...

I totally wanna do a cruise with your kids' phone... ;)

Mage said...

I've been following your vacation with a grin on my face. We were on a Holland America ship and enjoyed the pea soup along with the glaciers. Friends up there and grandkids too. :)

WL Emery said...

This is a good read.

Try some Moose Juice. Half Moose beer, half grain alcohol.

Buy a large can of bear repellent. Test fire it on Ms. Bitchy. In the name of fun, lend your can to the kids and let them test fire it the next day. And the day after.

My father served in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, and stopped at Ketchikan on his way in and out. I still have a few ivory souvenirs he brought home with him.

McDuckGA said...

My Mom brought me back an ulu knife from Alaska many years ago. The stand even says "Alaska" on it. But it is the best knife ever! She also brought me one of those tiny vials of water with about 2 or 3 gold flecks floating in it. The little town I live in in Georgia was the site of the first major gold rush in the US. ("Thar's gold in them thar hills" is Dahlonega's lasting legacy). I could probably pan that much gold every month when I change the water filter on my house.
I had to borrow my Dad's slide projector to do a presentation on the veterinary profession for a class of middle schoolers, because the school didn't have one. The kids were more fascinated by that than anything else."This, children, is what we used before they invented PowerPoint."

Anonymous said...

I'd comment under my google account, but I can't recall the stupid PW. Been reading your stuff for ages. Had to ask - Did you see the sign for "married men's way" in Ketchican? We went to Alaska on a cruise last year, and I got a picture of hubby right next to it. Enjoy your cruise! And see if your kids will try the snails. And movies under the stars there? no way...we had our balcony cabin right behind the forecastle, so when we were in Glacier Bay, and it was raining, we were able to get good photos, out of the rain. And do try the salmon jerky while you are there. Gives you cat food breath, but hubby said it's really tasty.

Anonymous said...

Frank's phone should be enshrined.

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