"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, July 11, 2014

Alaskan Dream Cruise: Two Orca Evenings

All was still...

…when we heard the distinctive pphoosh of a marine mammal blowing a misty spray as it broke the water's surface.

"Orcas," we whispered to each other, so as not the scare them with our loud voices.

(I say that calmly now, to convey the sense of peace and tranquility of the evening, 
but we could all barely contain our excitement.) 

In quiet appreciation we watched the pod of orcas cruise along in the isolated bay for about an hour. It looked like one adult male, two adult females and a "2013-14 model" (according to Rica, our onboard marine mammal enthusiast).  The yearling shadowed its mom closely.

Leonty Williams, one of our exhibition leaders who is a Native Alaskan, sang a Tlingit offering song to the orcas, thanking them for our safe passage through their home and honoring their presence. The song certainly spoke for the gratitude and awe we all felt.

As the late evening waned to a deep blue the orcas went their way and we quietly went ours.

Pphoosh…..into the night.

The next night, after a long day in Juneau, we had another kind of orca evening. The cruise company, Alaskan Dream, has a lodge on Colt Island called Orca Point.  We pulled into Colt Island at supper time, psyched about a big night of feasting and fun.

Above you can see the lodge and one of Allen Marine's smaller boats, and below you can see the Baranof Dream pulled up to the Orca Point dock at low tide.

A campfire was already set up in preparation for some very special some-mores for dessert.

King crab was at the top of the menu, along with prime rib, salmon and all the fixings.

After dinner the silliness began. There was going to be a demonstration by one of the chefs on how to filet a salmon. One of our hostesses carried the huge fish out and announced that it was a tradition of some sort to "kiss the fish." Yes, she got a couple of takers. (Was this part of the educational component of the cruise?)

Our youngest passenger, a real trooper and role model for us all 
was the only person who volunteered to hold the fish (not kiss it though). 

Then the chef, in all seriousness, demonstrated his salmon filet technique. 

(Let me just say here that ALL the crew, from captain, to stewards, to deckhands and even those in the kitchen and down below who we rarely saw, were topnotch at what they did. They were always sincere, courteous, helpful, competent, generous and always pleasant, but never obsequious. And they worked really hard. Real pros.)

In an open sided shed next to the lodge there was a touch tank filled with sea creatures from the surrounding tidal zones and maintained by one of the caretakers of the lodge. Any time any of us wanted to take a look at it, she was available to open it up and tell us all about it. Many folks watched her feed the critters after dinner, and before dessert. Lots of folks took the opportunity to explore the rocky beaches as well.

Finally we all gathered around the campfire for dessert: do-ti-yourself (of course) some-mores made with perfectly toasted marshmallows, melted candy bars of various sorts and graham crackers. 

Yum. A perfect ending to another perfect day.

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