The Malaspina

The northern migration of this ferry has been noteworthy from my own experience as a human traveler and from my experience as a dog owner.

We sat in a warm sun in Bellingham for about three hours cued up in parallel lines of funky and fit looking Alaska bound vehicles. Once aboard Selkie had to stay with the car in the “car park” which is really the belly of the ship. It is loud and shuttery from the huge diesel engines but also stuffy with no natural light or air circulation.

Lugging three days of sleeping gear, clothes, food and stuff to do up about two flights of stairs was a hurdle for me. I settled in the “aft” part of the ship near a window, in a corner… your typical Crab place to hide. Upstairs the adventurers had set up tents in the open air, anchored with rope and tape. Others were set out on the Solarium which is covered and open air but apparently heated. Other folks without cabins settled in other little outposts around the ship. There are probably 400 of us wandering souls compacted loosely through the steel fabric of this vessel.

The first morning I was awakened before 6am by a couple who shared my spacious room, there were about 6 of us… they were talking in normal voices… so the day started and it was gray and has remained gray with various lightening, mist and heavy rain. We were in Canadian waters, still hadn’t cleared Vancouver Island but on Alaska time.


I made it my business to roam everywhere, watch old movies, walk a mile (8 laps of the deck) and on that day we also had 3 car park 15 min breaks to go down and walk dogs since there were no ports til Ketchikan. Dog owners would hover by the stairs, race to their pets… Selkie was clearly dismayed by the experience of being penned in the car alone but she kept a good appetite and peed if I let her off the leash. Those little breaks went far too fast and I was greatly concerned for her well being.

There were nice connections on the ship—a woman from New York, a couple from near Portland, another woman from near Fairbanks… Most people were in couples or family groups. I felt alone but not lonely, completed Turning Fear into Power, One Woman’s Journey Confronting the War on Terror by Linda Sartor, crocheted, even got to lose a game of Gin Rummy.

Yesterday when we entered Alaskan waters there were stops in Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg. Selkie got to walk on terra firma and we got drenched but she got to poop and I got to see a glimpse of these towns. We stopped in Juneau at about 4am and it was definitely not very scenic in the dark but at least was not raining. I had moved forward because of an influx of kids on fieldtrip in my aft quarters to what would have been a lounge with alcohol served in another time.


Soon we’ll arrive in Haines. I’ve enjoyed the respite of this unusual space, the levels and length of it, the cafeteria, the funky movies, the folks I’ve talked with, the rare sighting of whales or dolphins. It is a completely safe and controlled environment that soon I will leave for my own devices. This has been an adventure but the true adventure really begins when I have to start navigating on my own and budgeting to stay on for some weeks. I have this to look forward to in reverse in a month or so.



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