Sea Socks! It already seems like a beautiful dream... It started out early Friday morning with a leisurely train ride up to Seattle. Can I gush about how much I love the train? I really hope that with the high price of fuel, Amtrak will experience a renaissance and train travel will come back in vogue. How great would it be to have a high-speed rail system in this country like they do in Europe? But I digress...
After arriving in Seattle, we lugged our bags about 1.5 miles to the pier (that was NOT so much fun but I figured I need to burn as many calories as humanly possible in preparation for the gorge-fest I was about to experience) and checked our bags in. We then called our friend Nate, who lives east of Seattle, and he came and picked us up for a brief city tour. We went to Pike Place Market, of course, and got some coffee at the original Starbucks.
We also hit the Space Needle (I haven't been to Seattle before, so I felt the need to do all things touristy).
While we were up there, we got to watch our ship sail into the harbor. Here's the bird's-eye view of the Celebrity Infinity:
After waiting, waiting and waiting some more, and then waiting in a huge line (so much of cruising is all about waiting in lines), we finally got to board the ship about 10 pm.
The next day was our first day at sea and I don't remember much of what went on. Amy Singer did a lace shawl class (which I wish I would've gone to, but I was too busy hanging out with my hubby, talking about grown-up stuff and watching movies without being interrupted for a glass of milk or bowl of Cheerios every 5 minutes) and Brenda Dayne did a rectangle class (again, wish I would've gone, but it was just too nice hanging out with Bill).
Meals were a huge production, with five courses spread over the course of two hours every night. Since I was "staff", I was lucky enough to sit at the table with Amy and her hubby, Brenda & Tonia, Patricia & Michael (our fabulous cruise planners - click on their link to get the dirt on next year's cruise), and Heather & Dawn every night. I think poor Bill was a bit numb from the endless knitting talk, but he survived it. As you well know, the introvert in both of us was a tad bit uncomfortable at group dinners every night, but I feel fortunate to have been sitting with the knitting brain trust for so many hours throughout the week.
Our first port stop was Ketchikan. Here we are pulled up to the pier outside the tiny downtown in our giant monstrosity of a boat:
Ketchikan is very cute and has a nice little yarn & bead shop right next to the pier. Ironically, the owner of this shop was also on our cruise, but not with us. I ran into her in the lounge one day and we chatted for a bit about my sock.
We tried to do an excursion in each port, and in Ketchikan we did a "wildlife boat tour and crab feed". This involved us getting on a bus and driving out to a lodge on the edge of the inlet, then getting in a little boat and setting out for some crab pots. We got rain gear, which made me look frighteningly like Jabba the Hut.
When we got to the crab pots, we pulled a couple of them up to see if there were any poor crabs trapped inside. The first one we pulled up had two Dungeness girls (lucky for them, since girls have to be thrown back so they can continue to perpetuate the species), one of which was clutching a gigantic mass of eggs. I got to hold her and toss her overboard to freedom. She was quite beautiful in an alien sort of way.
That gigantic mass of brown stuff that looks like poo are her eggs. I'm holding her upside down because it puts them in a trance and keeps them from trying to clamp down on fingers with those little claws which can apply like 1,000 lbs of pressure. Not so good for the knitting career, that!
After our visit to the crab pots, we puttered back to the lodge and sat down to an all-you-can-eat crab feed. Boy were those crabs tasty! It felt a little strange to be chowing down on the bretheren of the pretty lady I'd just been admiring, but it really didn't stop me. Yum!
The next day, we were back at sea and I taught my first heel session. Heather and I both developed a set of worksheets that allow knitters to first make a sample heel of each of 3-4 different types and try them on to see which one fits their foot best. Then, they can use the worksheet to slot their favorite heel into any of their socks. This was Heather's concept, and it was such a great idea. She took top-down heels and I did toe-up. I'm thinking of formatting the worksheets into a little pamphlet and including it in my pattern line - what do you guys think? Does that sound like something you'd be interested in? The toe-up folk really seemed to like my hybrid heel, which is the one I use for the Wavelet socks.
That afternoon, we got to view the Hubbard Glacier, which is one of those giant Alaskan glaciers which rolls into the sea and continually calves icebergs. The weather behaved absolutely perfectly for us, and we were able to practically kiss the face of the glacier (we got within 1/2 mile of it, which is as close as you can legally get). It was awesome, although it was pretty darn cold and windy! As we were sailing up the bay, Bill and I decided to brave the deck. Here I am trying not to be blown over. It was crazy!
We abandoned the deck and headed for our balcony, which was much more sheltered. We got to watch the little icebergs float by (they were all different sizes, shapes and colors):
We got to watch the boat push through the ice:
And we got to stare at the glacier until our eyes hurt, waiting for giant chunks of ice to fall off and kick up waves. They'd also send out big rumbles and cracking sounds, but by then it was too late and the ice was already in the water. It was very cool and the glacier was absolutely breathtaking.
Our next afternoon was spent in Juneau, which is another delightful coastal town that's only accessible via air or sea (since nobody has figured out how to build a road across a glacier yet - something about that relentless movement that destroys anything in its path...). First we went to visit the Mendenhall Glacier which is very different from the Hubbard but just as beautiful.
We got to touch 200+-year old ice:
And we got to see the stream where the bears come to feed on Salmon.
Unfortunately, we were about two months two early - no salmon yet, which meant no bears. We got our wildlife fix on a whale-watching cruise instead.
Those are humpback humps - those buggers are ridiculously hard to photograph! They tend to like to stay mostly underwater, much to the dismay of some of our boat-mates. We also got to see a bunch of sea lions fighting over prime spots atop a buoy.
As the boat pulled out of Juneau, we got to see a killer Alaskan sunset.
The next day was supposed to be our Inside Passage day, but we got caught up in a ridiculous 60-knot headwind and thick fog. In order to make it to Victoria, we had to skip the Inside Passage since with the weather conditions we would've had to crawl through it (and really wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway). It was probably a good thing, since I had to teach a workshop on getting published that morning and do the final Q&A with the other teachers. Here we are, smiling and blinking for about a gazillion flash photographs!
We had a nice rocky night on the boat and ended up sailing into Victoria about three hours late. We'd signed up for a tour to Butchart Gardens but ended up just walking around downtown instead since we arrived in Victoria after closing time.
We saw BC's gorgeous parliament building:
We saw the Empress Hotel, where a group of Sea Sockers went for high tea (I couldn't talk Bill into that one):
And I got my mitts on the perfect Cowichan sweater:
These sweaters are knit by Salish Natives who live in Cowichan Valley about 30 miles north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. They get New Zealand wool in several different shades (all natural) and spin it themselves, then knit the sweaters out of it. Each sweater is slightly different, so I had to try on several before I found one that both fit well and had a motif that I loved. I got quite a bit of flack from my family for BUYING a SWEATER that someone else knit since they didn't quite get the history behind the Cowichan knitting movement and what a work of art this sweater really is. I love it, though - it inspires me every time I look at it.
Whew! I think I'm all blogged out right about now... It's back to the pattern formatting grind for me. Only a week and a half before the big show!