Sailing Solo

After a week of training with Susan, I’m finally on my own! She showed me the ropes of being a Wellness Specialist and now I’m stepping into her shoes – leading a stretch class in the morning, booking people for massage, giving treatments, guiding hikes, and helping out with kayaking. Yesterday we were in Juneau for turn day and after I helped offload luggage, clean up the spa, and do a few more small tasks, I had time to walk around the town and check out the shops. Juneau is really touristy, so I spent most of my time in a coffee shop writing e-mails, at the great health food store, and in the bookstore.

Today was my real first day alone and it went great! This morning our expedition leader woke us up a bit earlier – around 6:15 (and yes it was already light out – the sun sets around 9:30 pm and rises at 4:15 am, giving us only a few hours of complete darkness) – to announce the sighting of a grey whale in Endicott Arm, where we were slowly making our way around bits of ice to Dawes Glacier. It was a baby whale, who was probably lost because grey whales don’t normally swim this far north. We watched his blows for a little while, then continued on towards the end of the fjord and the glacier. I headed up to the bridge deck for my stretch class and greeted the guests as they trickled in. I was a little nervous last night because I had never taught a class before, but I wrote down a rough outline of stretches to have something to look at in case I needed to. I did the routine in my room (I’m currently sleeping in a guest cabin, so there’s enough room on the floor to roll out a mat. I’ve also been practicing the ashtanga primary series almost every day) and practiced talking everyone through the stretches. The class went great and everyone told me how much they enjoyed it while I was handing out the smoothies after. There were about 15 people who showed up and 4 of them were from Vermont! One couple from Hyde Park and the other from Manchester. We don’t usually get many Vermonters on board, so it was nice to talk about my home turf!

After breakfast, we did short zodiac cruises in Endicott Arm. There were a lot of icebergs and bergy bits (tiny icebergs), so we couldn’t get as close to the glacier as we did the other day. We were there last week and got the zodiacs right up close to the face of the glacier to watch the calving (when parts of the glacier fall off). One huge chunk fell off and created a wave that we felt even 1/2 a mile away. Looking at the glaciers and mountains here in Alaska is really disconcerting because everything is so big that you can’t tell how big or wide they really are. Even though we were 1/2 a mile away, it felt and looked like we were much much closer and the width of the glacier looked to be about a 1/4 mile at the most, but was actually a mile across.

In the afternoon we went ashore at Williams Cove for a hike. I went with Bette Lou on a “long, bushwhacking” walk where we muscled our way through devil’s club (think literally), over moss covered logs, and down a rocky stream bed. We saw lots of signs of bears – fur stuck on tree bark, scat, and crisscrossing bear trails – but no actual sight of the animals.

We also had the opportunity to listen to a guest from the Harvard Museum of Natural History give a lecture about salmon. I’ve never been particularly interested in the fish, but they really are amazing creatures. The eggs hatch in freshwater streams, then when the salmon are old enough, they travel downstream to the ocean, where they go through immense physiological changes to accommodate salt water. In the ocean, they feed on krill and shrimp (both red in color, giving the salmon the red pigments in their flesh). When it comes time to spawn, the salmon – scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean – return to the same shore, the same river, and the same tributary they were hatched in. The voyage back to their spawning grounds is so exhausting and dangerous that they have only a little time to lay and fertilize their own eggs before they die. She also talked about farmed salmon and how devastating it is to wild salmon, the environment, and possibly our health. Farmed salmon are packed into small corrals so tightly that they need to be fed antibiotics to be kept healthy. They’re also fed small pellets for food rather than krill and shrimp, so the flesh of the fish would be beige or brown if the ‘farmers’ didn’t also include red dye in the salmon’s diet. Finally, sea lice is a common occurrence in the ocean and occasionally attach themselves to salmon. Farmed salmon, however, attract lots of the critters and to get rid of them, the ‘farmers’ dip the fish in fresh water and the lice fall off. As the wild salmon leave the freshwater streams, though, and enter the ocean, they pick up the fallen sea lice and without ‘farmers’ to remove them, the sea lice weaken the wild salmon and they eventually die.

So the take home message? DON’T EAT FARMED SALMON!


One Response

  1. Very interesting about the Salmon, Mom and I had given up eating farm raised fish, now I feel that much better about the decision. Let’s not be getting too close to the bears. Glad to hear you are settling in so well. We are really enjoying your postings! Love Dad

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