Back in Alaska

I wish I had the dedication and enthusiasm to write a post on my blog everyday, but it seems that I lack the discipline and motivation.  Even if I’m on the road or amidst an adventure I find it hard to keep up with regular entries. So I’ll resort to a post every so often or when something absolutely spectacular occurs.

An update on where I am: I’ve been back in Alaska on the Sea Bird for two weeks now, after having two long months off in Vermont where I did a lot of yoga (Wanderlust Festival and a David Williams/Shelley Washington workshop), waited on tables at the Village Cup, and played with our cute new kitty, Butters.

I have one more week on the ship, then I’m heading to Jackson Hole Wyoming to visit my brother for a few days. I can’t wait! I’ve never been to Wyoming, so I’m looking forward to exploring the Tetons and maybe doing some white water rafting and/or horseback riding.

These past two trips on the Sea Bird have been great. We’ve had beautiful weather and cooperative wildlife. The brown bears have been hanging out at the mouths of the salmon streams, catching fish and putting on a good show for onlookers. At Pavlov Harbor last week we saw two young bears attempt to catch dinner at the waterfall as we watched from shore (at a safe distance) and in kayaks. The humpback whales have also been really active with their feeding. They’re trying to eat as much fish as possible before they make the 5,000 mile journey to Hawaii and warmer waters where they’ll give birth to their young. During the six months that they’re away from the productive waters of Alaska they won’t eat and only until they return Alaska will they break their fast.

We’ve had a lot of families on board since it’s still summer vacation for the kids, so I haven’t been super busy with massages, but I’ve been leading some good aerobic walks and helping out with the kayaks. I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be able to get on a trip to Europe in September which starts in Copenhagen and goes all the way down to Portugal. I’m crossing both fingers that there will be a cabin for me!

That’s it for now. I’ll try to be better about blogging during the week, especially if we see something really cool.

Which reminds me. There was a huge calving in one of the fiords we go to – Tracy Arm – and a day boat, the Captain Cook, was banged up pretty bad.  A woman fell when the wave hit and broke her leg, but luckily there were no other injuries. See the video here

The New York Yacht Club

This week is slightly different from our other trips aboard the Sea Lion. It’s a charter, which means that the ship and the itinerary are essentially in the hands of our guests, the New York Yacht Club. They have ‘rented’ out the ship for a week in Alaska and so far it has been pretty good. They’re all really nice, if somewhat high maintenance (they love their cocktail hour and they had the hardest time accepting the fact that they need to hike in their mud boots). I’ve also been looking at the wedding rings on the women and some of them are ridiculous…

On the first day we saw a bear and a pod humpback whales, which surrounded the ship, so everywhere we looked we saw whales. It was amazing and everyone was really excited. We went to Elfin Cove, a tiny fishing village that has only 11 year round residents. There are a few lodges for visitors to stay at while they fish in the summer and a nice gift shop, but the whole “town” can be seen in about 10 minutes. The houses and buildings are connected by boardwalks and everything is green and mossy with snow-capped mountains in the distance, giving Elfin Cove an elfish feel.

I haven’t been doing much off the ship because of massages (although I did go on a nice hike at Lake Eva the other day with a few crew and one of the younger guests). But it’s nice to just stay on board and watch the mountains pass by. Most of them still have snow on the tops, which make them even more majestic. Today we were in Glacier Bay National Park and the morning started out rainy and cold, then by mid-day it was just cloudy and now (at 9:30 pm), the sun is shining and there’s a blue sky. I gave five massages, so I didn’t have much time to enjoy the park, but I did see a mama brown bear with her two cubs moseying along the shore. We watched them for about 20 minutes, then a big old male came out of the the forest and the mom fled with her babies. The natualists onboard said that the mom could have taken on the male and she probably would have won because she’s protecting her cubs, but it wasn’t worth the risk since the male wasn’t threatening her. Apparently, like lions, male grizzlies will kill young cubs because they want their genes to succeed.

I had a really good dinner with two couples, one from New York and the other from San Francisco. One of the women, Susan, is/has been recovering from mercury poisoning from eating so much fish. Her metal levels were up to 87 (I’m not sure what that really means, but it’s bad), and now they’re down around 10, due to a very detoxifying diet and health regime. Because her immune system was so shot from the mercury poisoning, she also got Lyme disease and she said that if she and her husband hadn’t had the money they do to spend on treatment, she would be dead right now. So now she and her husband make short documentaries about these kinds of issues and try to spread the knowledge about how harmful toxins are and what people are aren’t being informed about. The movie “The Cove”, which I haven’t seen yet, is about the illegal dolphin killing in Japan, and tests have shown that the dolphin meat, which is being sold to schools and markets, is obscenely high in mercury levels. Susan and her husband filmed the 20 minute post-video documentary about mercury and how harmful it is. She also gave me a list of other films to watch, some about foods and another about Lyme disease and how prevalent (and widely unnoticed) it really is. I can’t wait to watch them!

Wellness Specialist in Training

So I’ve been back on board for a few days now, and I’m starting to fall into the rhythm of the wellness specialists daily schedule, which is a 180* change from being a steward. I get up around 6:15, have my tea in the lounge, then head up to the bridge deck with Susan (my wellness specialist mentor) to lead a stretch class at 7. I haven’t led any yet, just watched and participated so I can learn and see what kind of stretches and exercises work. Next week I’ll be on my own, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to lead stretch classes then! We’ve had a pretty good turn out and the guests all seem to enjoy it, even though I’m sure many of them haven’t stretched their hamstrings in the past decade.

After the stretch class, we hand out the smoothie brought up by a steward (usually vegan for me!), then head down to breakfast and a quick staff meeting to decide what everyone will being doing that day. Susan and I usually lead a faster paced, or aerobic, hike for those who aren’t as interested in learning about the natural environment and history (which is what the naturalists discuss on their walks). I also help out with kayaking – getting guests in and out of the kayaks (which can be quite challenging), making sure the kayaks don’t float away, and racking them back up at the end of the day. A couple of days ago I went out with a guest in a double and we paddled along the coastline and saw a natural arch with snowcapped mountains shining through the opening.

When there is no kayaking or hiking and no one has signed up for a massage, I’m pretty much free to do what I want. We were at the Inian Islands a few days ago and I went for a zodiac cruise where we saw a lot of Stellar sea lions and a humpback whale that surfaced a few hundred yards away from our zodiac. Later, when everyone was back on board, we spotted a pod of orca among the humpback blows and even a Minke whale, which are rare in South East Alaska.

Yesterday we were in Glacier Bay National Park where we’re not allowed to get off the ship, so everyone gathered on the bow to look at the mountains and glaciers. We’ve had relatively good weather so far, so being outside for a long time is manageable with frequent trips to the lounge to refill coffee/tea mugs. En route to Marjorie Glacier we saw a mama bear with her two cubs, a couple of mountain goats and as we were leaving, there was a dead whale carcass on the shore with a grizzly bear on top, feeding on the meat. It was gruesome, but pretty incredible at the same time. Later in the afternoon while Susan was giving massages (I’ll start next week), I set up the massage chair in the lounge and gave free 10 minute massage to guests and a few crew. They all loved it!

This morning I gave Susan a facial and back massage in return for the one she gave me yesterday. I’m getting familiar with the spa – where everything is and how everything is set up. There’s a towel warmer, a number of different oils, lotions, masks, scrubs, etc… that I can use for each treatment. I think it’ll take me a week or so to get everything memorized, but I can already tell that I’m going to love it!

We also had a presentation by a National Geographic scientist later in the morning about her work with the Critter Cam. Her team attaches the camera onto the backs of different animals such as whales, sharks, penguins, seals, and sea lions to study their behaviors and movements. She showed a video of the footage they’ve captured and it’s amazing! There’s one segment of a critter cam on a baby humpback and he’s on the bottom of the ocean looking up at the rest of his pod bubble net feeding at the surface. That’s never been documented before, so it was incredible to see, especially since we see the bubble net feeders from the surface on the ship, but never what is going on down below. You can check out some of the videos here.

Later today I’ll be going for another hike at Pavlov Harbor and hopefully we’ll see some more bears!