Zipping South on Indigo

(Originally posted as written by Barry, but that was a technical boo-boo. Definitely a Meps original: Barry never uses colons.)

It feels strange, not to be moving every day. Stranger still is the feeling I have when I lay down in bed at night: My bed’s not moving. And I’m not in a tent. Hey, where the heck am I?

And how did we get from our last web entry, at Craig, to Puget Sound in only two weeks? As Indigo’s skipper, Paul, said to us in Campbell River, “This is the delivery portion of the trip.”

Back up with me, all the way to Juneau, on July 5th. When Barry and I returned there from our side trip to Dawson City, we had to find a needle in a haystack. Or, one 42-foot boat out of thousands. We were looking for Indigo, and her crew was looking for us.

We got off the ferry from Skagway at 3 am, after about four hours of sleep. The terminal was miles from town. A couple of other backpackers were standing around, so we asked what their plans were. “They said we can pitch our tents right here until morning. We’re just waiting, um, for the dogs… ” “Right here” was the patch of grass in front of the terminal, where ferry-riding dogs were doing their business. We found a clear spot, pitched our tents, and turned in until 7.

In the morning, we hiked into town and looked for Indigo. There was no sign of her, so we checked our bags at the Alaska State Museum and spent the day there. Actually, our bags didn’t fit in their lockers, so the kindly staff put them behind the front desk, and then spent the rest of the day tripping over the bulky things. That afternoon, I made a lucky call to the right marina. “I just talked to that boat on the radio,” said the harbormaster. “They’ll be on E-dock, out at Douglas.”

When we got off the bus in Douglas, the island opposite Juneau, there was a really weird noise from the other side of the street. “I knew that emergency whistle was good for something,” said Paul. He and the crew were waiting for a bus on the other side of the street.

It was a diverse group. Paul is a professor of economics at Seattle U., with two months off to complete the trip. His wife, Gayle, had a month of vacation from Vashon Youth & Family Services, but it was not a good time to travel: Her father was battling cancer back home and didn’t have long to live. Norm, recently retired from a government job, is a scuba diver, boatbuilder, and artist who signed on as crew for the whole trip. His wife, Linda, retired from over 20 years with the Department of Agriculture just before flying to Prince Rupert and sailing on Indigo for a month. Her first days of retirement reminded me of my own. You just can’t believe this vacation will never end.

At 42 feet and over 30,000 pounds, Indigo sounds like a big boat. But she doesn’t have a lot of interior space, and it was very crowded with all of us aboard. When the sun was shining and the glaciers were calving and the whales were jumping, it was glorious. When it rained for three days in a row and we started running out of fresh produce and there wasn’t enough room to dry 6 sets of foul weather gear, it was miserable.

Aboard Indigo, we went north and west, through Icy Strait to Glacier Bay National Park. Then we went back south, between Chicagof and Baranof Islands, to Sitka, where Gayle flew out just in time to say farewell to her father. We cruised along the Outside, enduring swells and seasickness and stopping at Goddard Hot Springs, the Maurelle Islands, and Craig, where we rented a Suburban to explore Prince of Wales Island. (I know, embarrassing, but it’s the only model of car they rent there.)

In one super-long day (19 hours), we headed back east to Prince Rupert, where Linda flew home, in part to care for their geriatric kitty. With a crew now numbering four, we made it to Friday Harbor in just ten days. That’s where Barry and I said goodbye and caught a Washington State Ferry. We’d been aboard Indigo for exactly one month of the ten-week trip.

This afternoon, we’re heading out for a weekend sailing trip with someone we only met a few days ago, when we were in Friday Harbor. There’s another story there, too long for now, but the good news is this: Tonight, when I go to sleep aboard Sparrow, nee Nereid, I know my bed will move. It will rock gently at anchor, and Barry and I will be off on yet another adventure.

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