Honolulu to Prince William Sound to Sitka
June 27, 2018
We left Honolulu on Starr heading for Dutch Harbor on May 28. I didn't know it at the time, but there was a ghost on our ship.
As we departed Honolulu, there were five of us on board: Don and I, and our guests/crew, Bill Leary (Noodle) and Clay Huchinson (both from Kaneohe), and Kyle Kim (from Honolulu). The "Ghost" was just a dim shadow at departure, but grew larger and darker as we headed North.
I could start this tale with a typical beginning of a ghost story "It was a dark and stormy day . . ."
but that wouldn't be true. It was a fairly typical Honolulu day, filled with the bright light and color of tropical Hawaii.
Our passage began by departing the Ala Wai Harbor in Waikiki, cruising along the shoreline of Oahu and then further and further offshore of Kauai, heading almost due North. Once we left the islands behind, the sea and sky darkened until all that I was aware of was "Grey". We were surrounded by grey sky, and increasingly big grey waves, with steely white hats rolling off their heads as they rose up out of the Pacific Ocean. Very soon there was a total absence of ANY COLOR!
OK, first you need some background information so you can understand our procedures on Starr:
When our normal four-person crew (including Don & I) are traveling 24/7 to a destination that requires crossing an ocean, we each stand (2) three-hour watches (0000-0300, 0300-0600, 0600-0900, 0900-1200, 1200-1500, 1500-1800, 1800-2100, 2100-2400). Because we had 5 persons onboard and all were new to Starr but Don and me, Don chose to do a "floating watch" where he joined each person individually during their watch and helped them understand Starr's navigation equipment and to become familiar with our normal procedures. Before we leave port for a passage we give every NEW crew, regardless of their experience, a multi-page "Standard Procedures" document to read. We normally also review our "Emergency Action Plan" covering "Man Overboard and Abandon Ship and Procedures.
OK, almost back to the story . . .
Usually Don stands the 0600-0900/1800-2100 Watch and I stand the 0900-1200/2100-2400 Watch. Like ships passing in the night, this gives us a chance to touch base with each other regarding what has happened during the day/or night. A big part of the remainder of the day is devoted to catching up on sleep. When not on watch or sleeping we are often relaxing in the pilothouse or salon reading a book or just visiting. Don and I also are the Cooks for most of the dinners; breakfast & lunch everyone fends for themselves, with lots of options available in the refer. At dinnertime, we all gather in the Pilothouse at our small table to have dinner together. It is the one time in the day that we can share stories. Whoever cooks, doesn't do dishes and the crew always steps up to the sink and dishtowel to do their duty. Then the cycle starts again.
The Story. . .
Part of my problem was my sense of isolation on my watch; I felt that this passage was four guys and me, and that I was the outsider. I don't blame the guys; I think that this was my problem. Ok, so my main problem was that it was GREY, NO COLOR, with smaller, bigger and Very, BIG, WAVES ALL OF THE WAY TO DUTCH HARBOR! I repeat: GREY, grey, grey, grey . . .. for 9 out of the 11 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you think that some people might get depressed? Well this Veteran Starr Cruising Lady became Very Depressed! And then: What Seemed like a Miracle! The sun came out on Day 10-June 7, and followed us into Dutch. The additional positive part of this passage was that there was a lot of life in the sea as we approached, especially sea birds including my very favorite, the elusive Albatross. We also had sun on the second day of our arrival at Dutch. (OK, keep track, 2 days of sun). It was grey with some rain the remainder of the time.
It took Kyle and I two days to get a flight from Dutch to Anchorage, where my sister was to meet me and take me to Seward where she lives; the airport was fogged in and planes were not able to land. Once in Seward I was happy to experience two more days of sun before the clouds and rain once again became the norm. (Are you keeping track 4 days of sun total so far). Clay also departed in Seward and Noodle's wife Lori joined us on Starr. We departed Seward on Starr on Monday, June 18 and headed to Prince William Sound where we cruised until June 25 where we spent the night in our final anchorage in Garden Cove in Port Etches on Hinchinbrook Island. The good news was that we didn't experience much rain in PWS, but we were tired of the cold and the GREY!
On June 26: WOW, AMAZING, FANTASTIC - Blue Sky, Sun, calm light green seas with grey clouds behind us. Barometer 1016, Air Temperature 50.5 degrees F, 3165nm traveled so far. This was a good decision!
So, what is this business about "the ghost on the boat"? The Ghost was me! I was slowly wasting away, becoming more and more depressed each day. Keep in mind only 5 days of sun since we left Honolulu!
I felt as if I was shrinking away, becoming more silent, smaller, less "there". I felt extremely isolated and alone. It was as if I was becoming transparent. It took me awhile before I realized that I was withdrawing from the world, from the cold and the grey, until I was like the rhyme that my father used to recite to us when I was little:
"Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
Oh gosh I wish he'd go away "
Departing Prince William Sound, heading out into the Gulf of Alaska, with light green seas, warmer temperature, occasional blue sky and fluffy white clouds (mixed with grey and rain in the distance) made me a happy person again. And once again we are accompanied by variety of sea birds, a few spouting whales and the rare gaggle of dolphins. We are leaving Winter behind us.