I wake at 6:45; Mike is still asleep in his little trundle-cocoon. Peeking out our cabin window, I see a brilliant glare of sunrise behind a bank of horizon-bound clouds. I try to dress quietly in the dark, find the camera, and get up on deck to take a picture, but of course I bang something and wake Mike.
We are cruising past the shores of British Columbia, through an endless strait with island after island off our port side, and sheer cliffs covered in trees to starboard.
The morning passes slowly. We partake of the continental breakfast in the lounge - fruit, muffins, and pastries - rather than the full-sized hot breakfast available in the dining room.
We make a visit to the ship's bridge, which is open for visitors most of the time. Our Captain, Dave Kay, is a serious-looking, substantial fellow whose gaze seems to stretch past the horizon. We learn some of the history of our ship - it has had quite a few owners and venues - and Mike ogles the various instruments and the GPS.
Then our friends Mal and Karen allow us to tour the "Owner's Suite", which they've rented for this trip. With a sitting room and separate bedroom, it's three times the size of other cabins!
The weather is clear and beautiful, but quite cold on deck. We needn't have worried about bringing too many warm clothes!
Before lunch, we have life-jacket drill in the lounge. This room is a tight fit for all the passengers, and when we're all hammerlocked into orange-covered foam it's quite cozy!
Lights tested, straps untangled, and whistles located, we return our clumsy packages to our cabins.
Already I've lost my new $300 binoculars! We retrace our steps to Mal and Karen's suite; Karen recalls some binoculars turned in to Todd the bartender, keeper of lost and found - and there they are! This ship is like a wonderful small town, where you can leave your door open and trust everyone around you.
The sun comes out, mitigating the cold breeze a bit. The scenery is lovely; we pass many types of sail and motorboats, and seaplanes drone overhead.
The crew is preparing a barbecue lunch for us on the Sun Deck - ribs, chicken, salads, and Frisbee-sized chocolate chip cookies.
DeAngelo the chef stokes the fire in his gargantuan barbecue, labeled the "Magicater". Other crew members are dressed in Hawaiian shirts and leis, while the passengers huddle in their parkas.
Lunch is delayed a bit while the Captain sails us into a sheltered cove; I'm sure it's more of a relief for the freezing crew than the passengers.
Finally the feast is released to the ravenous passenger-beasts. We set ourselves once again to the exhausting task of gorging.
The afternoon passes slowly. The passing shore is beautiful, but a bit uniform. Jaded already! There was one interesting and strange sight that passed us: a barge, pushed by a tugboat, with trucks, a crane, and who-knows-what-all aboard. Is this a truly portable business floating by?
About 4 p.m., while I write in my journal and Mike naps, we hear an announcement -- each cabin has a loudspeaker used for just this purpose -- that a pod of Orcas has been sighted. Wildlife at last!
We bound out of bed, slap the 500mm lens onto the Nikon, and sprint for the upper deck. About ten Orcas are moving in smaller groups of twos and threes. Our captain alters course and speed to move closer to them, as slowly and unobtrusively as possible for our size. A small motorboat, less concerned with ecological etiquette, chases them unabashedly.
Mike snaps with the e-cam and I click away with the Nikon. He has one advantage - we can immediately see his results on the monitor - but the e-cam is not built for action shots; there is a delay, sometimes a full second, between button-press and shutter-fire. Hopefully my telephoto bridges the distance better, only time will tell. The digital camera can certainly spoil you quickly with its ease of use and no worries about using up the film!!
After the Orcas leave us behind, we resume our course northward and wait for dinner. I break out my cross-stitch in the lounge while Marian reads. Another day ends, another lovely sunset. My, cruising is tough. This evening's meal is not quite up to last night's standards, but we are in pleasant company with more new friends. We make a game with our server, deciding which parts of the meal to skip - to soup or not to soup? Thereís just too much to eat here!
During dinner the Captain warns us about the coming rough water as we move beyond the protection of the Inside Passage during the night. In his words, "You might want to put anything breakable on the floor...itís gonna end up there anyway, so you might as well put it there."
After dinner our cruise director, Jen, gives a talk about shore excursions in the lounge, then it's off to bed. We batten down the hatches as if expecting a Richter 7.9. But the dire predictions are overblown, the swells are actually not as bad as the previous night. Although I don't sleep soundly, I'm becoming more at home and I get a good rest.