Monday, August 27, 2012

The Awesome Lu-lu Belle Cruise

Friday morning we awoke to blue skies and sunshine....perfect! The Lu-lu Belle waits quietly in the harbor.
When we get there at boarding time, Beth is already at work getting things ready. Here she's drying off the seats for us.
The Captain keeps his boat shipshape, so we help by cleaning our feet.
Beth greets guests as they arrive.
Captain Fred gathers everyone for a safety talk. Notice the polished woodwork gleaming everywhere. I know from owning a sailboat that it takes ongoing constant maintenance to keep it that way.
Beth had already given us a heads up that the best seats were right behind the Captain.
As we cruise out of the harbor Capt. Fred explains what each boat is used for, and begins his narration. I'm not sure everyone recognized the humor right away when he explained with a straight face that he "never stops for sea lions." We cruised right by these on the buoy while everyone was eagerly trying to take pictures.
He did abruptly stop for these sleeping sea otters though, telling us it was his job to wake them up.
"Huh? What's making all that noise?"
"Oh, hi Captain Fred, thanks for waking us up."
"Isn't he a little early? It's not time to wake up."
"I'm still sleepy."
"I'm going back to sleep."
"You're not coming back this way, are you?"
Out into Prince William Sound we go, and on the way we learn about the history, the geography, the wildlife, and more.
Prince William Sound is ringed by the coastal mountains of the Chugach Range, which are the tallest coastal mountains in North America, rising from sea level to over 7000 feet. The sound is also home to 5 glaciers. You can just see part of Shoup Glacier in this photo...inaccessible by the Lu-lu Belle, but you can get there by kayak, helicopter, or on foot along a hiking trail. Maybe next time.
Beth told us that Fred and Megan live aboard the Lu-lu belle when they winter in Washington state, so I was not surprised to see a bathtub when I visited the "head", as toilets are called aboard ship.
The "head."
There was a wonderful aroma wafting up from the galley (kitchen)...Beth was making brownies to die for. Later maybe.
Right now we're going by a spectacular waterfall that cascades from the very top of the mountain all the way to the sea.
Natural beauty abounds in every direction.
Beth is helping the Captain look for wildlife. She did a good job spotting some Dall Porpoises, but they didn't want to come and play with us yet. Maybe on the way back...
Blue skies, blue water.
We begin to see ice floes in the water. We are heading toward Columbia Glacier.
Maybe there's time to get something to eat before we get there. Beth is in the you think she likes her job?
So I told myself, maybe I could have a brownie if I ate a bowl of clam chowder in a bread bowl first. That worked out real good. Yum!
Fins of a couple of ice whales swimming by?
Had to finish eating quickly because we were at the puffin caves. Fred eases the nose of the boat right inside so we could have a good look.
Puffin habitat
Let's try this one.
There's a puffin in the water. It's vey hard to get a focused photo of a moving puffin from a moving boat with water dripping down between us.
This horned puffin was outside the cave, but still not an easy shot.
So all the sea lion enthusiasts were happy now.
Madonna and child.
And of course there would be bald eagles to see.
If you think swimming puffins are hard, try photographing them in flight!
Another attempt.
Looking for more puffins up on the rock ledges inside the caves.
There they are.
Can you see this one?
At last we arrive at Columbia Glacier, the second largest tidewater glacier in America, and the largest in Prince William Sound.
This entire face area of the glacier calved the day before in one spectacular event. Beth, lucky lady, has a video of it and you can see it on her blog.
The requisite group photo of the three RVing women friends: Birdie, Beth, and me.
We also saw some pretty big calving, but not to compare with what Beth saw the day before.

You can see the blue ice where the glacier just calved.
On the way back we saw some mountain goats grazing high on the mountainside.
This big ice chunk "flew" off the glacier in a calving event and landed on another iceberg.
Otters look a lot bigger when they're out of the water.
Sometimes the ice floes form a barrier, and Captain Fred had to navigate slowly through, pushing the ice out of the way. A kayaker could get trapped this way.
And suddenly the Dall porpoises were back, playing with the bow of the boat. They are fast!
Back by the basking sea lion on a buoy.
The Captain knows these waters well and where his boat can safely navigate. We leave the channel and cruise through this narrow pass.
It's not what we saw or didn't see that makes this cruise the best one of the summer in Alaska. And it's not the weather...I would say the same if it was raining. Whales have migrated, we didn't see any, but were not disappointed. It's Captain Fred and his crew that make this cruise special. He has been cruising these waters since 1979 and has an expansive knowledge of the area that he shares throughout the cruise. He has perfected a narration that sprinkled with his sense of humor keeps us entertained as well as educated.

And it is not all about profit. I found out he does not do tours on Sunday. Instead the Lu-lu Belle becomes a place of worship on Sunday morning. Come join the next blog post. 

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photos and narration Liz. Loved all the close ups of the sea otters. Glad you enjoyed the tour.