Tenakee Springs Surprise

Before we boarded the skiff taking us from the ship to the Tenakee Springs dock, we were told that the yellow building to the right of the dock was the bakery and they had internet service. The Captain had called ahead so the bakery would be open for us on this Sunday morning.

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I hadn’t had any type of connection in many days so I took my computer with me. I guess I was experiencing that painful connection withdrawal.

Tenakee Springs isn’t lacking for modern-day amenities, like emergency services

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public phone service – not sure what Alaskan’s in a town of 100 people consider local calls,

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a library right in the middle of town,

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and next to the library a farmers market – during harvest season. I didn’t want to speculate on the meaning of the flying pigs.

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But the jewel of Tenakee Springs is the

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My plan was to get a cup of tea and connect with the outside world on my computer for a few minutes. I walked in and knew I had found Alaskan gold.

Tenakee Springs 255I perched myself on a stool,

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and ordered one of those cinnamon rolls, sitting on the counter, emitting a freshly baked aroma – and a cup of tea.

Tenakee Springs 260 I broke off a piece of the warm roll and placed it on my tongue. Oh my, I have been looking for this experience for well over 20 year; since I last made my own cinnamon rolls. As the tender bread and sugar and cinnamon melted in my mouth, my whole body responded with ecstasy. I am not exaggerating. I put another piece in my mouth and the same thing happened. Pure nirvana.

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I savored my tea and roll while I grinned at the signs above the coffee cups: Women who behave rarely make history; I’ll have cafe, mocha, vodka, Valium,  latte to go, please; and, We trade coffee for gossip.

The latest gossip was that the people on the other side of the island want to build a road to Tenakee Springs but locals are fighting it – they don’t want the traffic. They also don’t want the car ferry stopping there. The young man has a four year old daughter – I think I saw her and her mom walking down the lane to visit daddy. She was dancing along in her bare feet.

Tenakee Springs 269This seems to be the where-it-is-happening place. It is the town’s restaurant, with a changing menu on the board. There is a projector hanging from the ceiling and they have a screen they hang over the lunch counter that makes it the local movie theater. If you remember the sign, at least one person believes the Part-Time Bakery should be the Party-Time Bakery. By the size of the speakers on the top shelf above the coffee cups, I think some dancing has gone down in here.

Along the walls they had some merchandise by local artists.

Tenakee Springs 268I scanned them and found the perfect poster size print for my guest bedroom. On the other side they had some hand-knit hats – one of my fellow passengers bought a couple. How nice to find keepsakes that are locally made.

I never took my computer out, but that seemed just fine. I was functioning in Alaskan culture. Many of the houses had dishes so people who live there are well connected to take them through the long, dark winters but I couldn’t think of anything more interesting on my computer than the Part-Time Bakery in Tenakee Springs, Alaska.

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Put another pan of those cinnamon rolls in the oven, I’m on my way back.

Ford’s Terror

The ship’s navigational system could be programmed so the captain would know how far it was to his destination and how long it would take at his current speed. He had consulted the tidal charts (very important in these northern waters) and knew the critical window of high slack tide (14:00 to 14:15 hours) to get through the narrow passage and into the beautiful fjord where he wanted to anchor for the night.

Entrance to Ford’s Terror

When we reached the entrance, the captain idled the engines and we sat. Every two or three minutes he would pick up his binoculars and look. Not quite yet. Finally he decided it was safe to proceed. The surface of the water was still, neither moving in or out.

Ford’s Terror is a narrow fjord with very steep, very high vertical walls. It is also very deep and the water very cold. It got its name in 1899 when a naval crewman named Ford saw this beautiful, calm passage at slack tide, and decided to investigate in his dinghy. He rowed around for a little while and when he was leaving, the tide surged and he was caught in the turbulence for a terrifying six hours. Thus the name, and the lesson for boaters wanting to explore this beautiful area.

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Traversing the entrance of Ford’s Terror fjord.

Captain Ron proceeded slowly and carefully because the passage is narrow and shallow. First Mate Tommy sat next to the captain with his eyes glued to the depth meter, calling out five feet, six and a half feet… I cured my tension by stepping out on the bridge deck, so I could get a little exercise – shudder finger exercise.

When the tide is flowing either in or out, there can be as much as a 3 foot drop in levels and the water churns in white-water rapids because of the shallow depth. This is especially deadly at low tide. I would love to see it, maybe experience it, but the smarter part of my brain was happy for our calm passage.

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What a place to anchor – all adjectives I can think of seem inadequate. Those glaciers did a brilliant job of gouging out this peaceful cove.

Captain Ron had to wait for the next day’s high slack tide for our safe departure, so there was time for skiff rides and kayaking – the water toys were lowered. We went on a skiff ride in the evening and also saw a demonstration of kayaking skills and safety. The kayaks would not be available for us until morning because they enforce the rule that no one can get in a kayak in the evening if they had alcohol with dinner.

I was up early the next morning because: a) I still hadn’t adjusted from Eastern Time to Alaska Time (4 hours); b) I wanted to get some photos in the early morning light – but not dawn’s light at 3:00; and c) Crew member Dillon had promised me the night before that he would take me on my very first kayaking adventure. Dillon – my hero!

My reward for getting up was a beautiful mist hanging over the water.

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I later learned that traveling companions had seen a rock slide on the shore close to our ship and this was dust hanging. It reminded me of the constant dangers that are present in Alaska’s wilderness, and the extent of my naivety about surviving in this ‘hood.

My real reward was going in a kayak, relaxed as I explored the differences between canoeing and kayaking – and also taking a few photographs. Dillon did a wonderful job of making me believe I was an important member of our paddling team, as he kept us going straight and steady.

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It surprised me that Dillon was the one who suggested we get back because the other crew members needed him to help with the work. I wasn’t ready to leave the calm and peace of floating on these still waters.

As we were (sadly) exiting Ford’s Terror, I was amazed at the beauty I had missed when we had passed that way before.

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Previous posts about my small ship cruise in Alaska’s Southeast Passageway are Life Aboard a Small Ship,  Dawes Glacier, and  Whoa, Close Enough.