Today was our day at sea prior to reaching Alaska (which is 460 miles from Vancouver). The route we take is called the Inside Passage - protected by its geography from the ocean waves and swells and the effects of strong winds. Glaciers carved out these inlets, canyons and fjords millennia ago and the result is the beautiful rugged, remote British Columbia coastline we have followed since leaving port.
If you looked at a map you would see that Vancouver Island forms the Westward boundary of the passage, from there smaller boats would be able to traverse channels north but larger ship such as ours enter open sea in the Hecate Strait then finally we are again protected to the West by Queen Charlotte Islands.
The first 200 miles of the inside passage were traversed last night while we were sleeping so sadly we missed the narrowest and most picturesque sights – Georgia Strait; the Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait. These are also the most dangerous stretches with tidal shifts of 20 feet forcing the ocean through the narrows with currents of up to 20 mph creating whirlpools that could (and did) wreck small vessels.
When we woke up this morning we were emerging from the protection of Vancouver Island and were hit by gale force winds and 16 foot swells. It was quite something to feel the ship rocking and rolling (and the number of passengers at formal dinner tonight was substantially reduced as a result). We sat in the ‘skywalker lounge’ up on deck 18 during the storm – it is quiet and has a lovely 360 degree view so we could watch the waves hitting the bow of the ship and our pitching; then the huge wake we created and the resulting spray flying as high up as the bridge.
Soon things quietened down and this evening we are snugly protected by Queen Charlotte!!
One thing that the weather did not dampen was the enthusiastic shopping exhibited by passengers – this is a view of the atrium and you can see the crowds wandering about and the tremendous interest created by a sale of t-shirts.
Think of this as another inside passage with great turbulence!!!
Tomorrow we are at Ketchikan – the Gateway to Alaska – and tonight our watches move back one hour as we head towards the International Dateline.