Friday, August 1, 2008

Alaska '08 Day 46, Valdez

Sun July 27, 2008

Cheryl wanted to take another boat tour and there looks to be two operators here, Star Stephen and the Lu Lu Belle. I picked the Lu Lu Belle based on the boat; its a small boat that looks more like a offshore boat than a tour boat.

We lucked out, it was a little clearer today than yesterday. Right outside the harbor we found a group of sea otters.

Outside the narrows we came across a pod of dall porpoise. Man are they fast. The captain drove the boat towards them and they ran to us to ride the bow wave. There were 4 of them darting from side to side of the boat. Just as fast as they came to us they took off. The captain turned and chased them again and this time some more joined in. I counted 6 porpoise and they swam ahead of the boat for about 5 minutes. Everybody was jammed onto the bow of the boat to take pictures, it was really cool.

The captain found a humpback and a calf. Because there was a calf the mother wouldn't dive deep and flash her tail much. The mother did come up mouth open once and roll over. After a while we came into a wide cove where there were maybe 6 other whales feeding. Off in the distance I saw a couple feeding and push through the surface head up. There were a couple other cruise boats here chasing the whales.

Out at the edge of the gulf we came across quite a few puffins. The captain pushed the boats bow right into a couple caves and we could see the puffins up in the cracks in the rocks. The puffins don't seem to mind the boat, they didn't spook. Made for some good pictures. At one cave Anna and Emmy were on the pulpit and the captain pushed the pulpit into a small trickle of a waterfall.

We came across a large group of Stellar sea lions.

The tour boats can't get to the face of Columbia glacier like we did in '82, the glacier is calving so much ice boats can't get through. But the captain did take the boat as far up into the ice as he could. Again made for some great pictures.

This guy put on a great tour. He gave the kids on board a chance at the wheel.

When I bought the tickets said they don't have a definite return time (and because of that the busses won't book with them), they alter the tour based on the wildlife. And the captain did seem to wing it. He spent more time on the whales and the caves because the passengers really liked it. We left at 2PM for a 5 to 6 hour cruise and hit the dock at 9PM.

The boat was really something. Lots of varnished wood, inside and outside. The boat was spotless. The captain let the kids drive and let people climb all over everything.

- Jon


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