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16 July 2017; Seward Alaska.

Seward is a sheltered port. Completely sheltered from three sides. So whatever blows out side, will not blow with the same ferocity inside. It has two openings to the south. The one we now use to enter at Caines Head, the South West entrance to Resurrection Bay and Hive Passage which one enters and leaves on an East / West heading. Those passages can let in some unbroken wind and waves but it is not that much and it does not affect the whole bay in such a way that it becomes dangerous to be there. As a result the Alaska Railroad Company from the old days felt very secure in building a terminal here which connected to the ferries, cargo ships and barges coming in from the lower 48.

Noaa Chart 16826. In red the alternative route when sailing to Hubbard glacier and College Fjord.

We now always use the main entrance/exit from Resurrection Bay in the South West corner. Our arrival time is stipulated by the time the shore side starts working and a little time before the Guests are going off. Contrary to disembarkation ports all over the world we are not hampered here by off-loading luggage first as the guests have to collect their luggage in the terminal before seeing immigration. There is no immigration; that is being done in Vancouver, where inside the Canada Place Terminal there is a little piece of the USA hidden behind Canadian Customs.  This routine is possible because for the rest of the time we will only be calling at USA ports.  The CBP protection is also quite happy with the luggage coming on board as it either comes directly from the USA or was cleared by Canadian Customs sometime before.

So we sail completely approved by the American Authorities all the way up to Alaska. Once we get there, there is no CPB to be seen (officially…..) and we can just off load. Because the Guests do not have to go through Customs and because they travel on our trains, voyage with our coaches and stay in our Hotels, we can deliver their luggage to its final destination. Whether that is to the airport or whether that is at their first Hotel stay for the night. And that makes it possible to see the Guest disappearing in the train and the suitcase an hour later into a truck.

For those coming from the Anchorage Airport or from the interior the same thing happens. They arrive by Holland America coaches and their luggage arrives sometime before them and sometimes after them but it ends up in the cabins without the guest having to bother about it. Then after we sail, we do not see any Customs either, as we stay in American Waters until we make it back to Vancouver and Canadian Customs is waiting.

Barwell Island. The soldiers here were mainly busy with information gathering and look-out duties. (Photo Courtesy: unknown source on the internet)

When we sail, we nowadays go out the same way as we come in via the Caines Head entrance. In the good old days of the 1990’s when I was there with the ss Rotterdam V it was more or less standard that we took the Hive passage. Called so because the island marking the entrance resembles a sort of (bee) hive. (Especially after a few beers). It was narrower but straight and it was interesting because the next island, Barwell Island, had gun emplacements on the South side / Ocean side from the 2nd world war. The USA had a sort of own “Atlantic Wall” erected over here against an invasion from Japan. The Japanese did invade Alaska but not here. But the whole area was strongly fortified as Seward was such a sheltered port of entry. Every time I sailed by it, I had to think about the poor soldiers sitting there in the Alaskan winter with the howling storms of the Gulf of Alaska around them and just waiting and waiting and waiting.  In the summer time the whales must have created some distraction but in the winter it must have been quite horrible. From the outside it did not look as if Uncle Sam had spent a lot of money on making the setup really comfortable.

We could go through here as our next stop was College Fjord and we had our South West Pilots on board. Now we do not do that anymore, see blog from yesterday, and thus the pilot gets off well inside, also because we do not have a real pilot boat in Seward. We use the local tugboat, which also acts as a lines boat, for the cruise ships coming in.

Tomorrow we are retracing our route back on the same course track through the Gulf of Alaska. There should be a little bit more swell than yesterday as we had a good 15 knots of southerly winds blowing all afternoon. Still is should be a comfortable ride.

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