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Alaska Inside Passage - Petersburg to Petersburg

Betty Ingerheim Voiland

  • M/V Catalyst
    M/V Catalyst
  • Glacial Carving
    Glacial Carving
  • Colony of Sea Lions
    Colony of Sea Lions
  • Glorious day for kayaking
    Glorious day for kayaking
  • M/V Catalyst
    M/V Catalyst
  • Dawes Glacier
    Dawes Glacier
  • Iceberg
  • Zodiac cruise
    Zodiac cruise
  • Kayaking the fjords
    Kayaking the fjords
  • Whale fluke in Fredrick Sound
    Whale fluke in Fredrick Sound
  • Peaceful evening at anchor
    Peaceful evening at anchor
  • Passing seals
    Passing seals
  • Catching dinner!
    Catching dinner!
  • Checking out a crab
    Checking out a crab
  • We made sushi!
    We made sushi!
  • Sitting around the dining table
    Sitting around the dining table
  • Shore hike
    Shore hike
  • Tide Pooling
    Tide Pooling
  • Beautiful waterfalls
    Beautiful waterfalls
  • Water Lily
    Water Lily
  • Kayaking quiet inlets
    Kayaking quiet inlets
  • Another whale fluke!
    Another whale fluke!
  • Secluded Anchorage - Hike to view point!
    Secluded Anchorage - Hike to view point!

Motor Yacht

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Alaska Inside Passage - Petersburg to Petersburg

Betty Ingerheim Voiland

My Alaska voyage began in Petersburg, a charming Norwegian community where I joined the Catalyst, my 'home away from home,' for the next seven days. Not only did I look forward to exploring Alaska's wilderness; I was equally excited to be aboard such a unique vessel!

A beautiful historic wooden boat, the Catalyst was built in 1932 for the University of Washington's Oceanographic Research, and today maintains her original Washington diesel engine. What a mariner's dream! The moment we stepped on board, we noticed the Captain's pride in owning this charming boat--and understandably so.

There were a total of eleven of us onboard, including the Captain/Owner, Naturalist/Guide, Chief Engineer and Chef. We became fast friends while exploring the cabins, decks, bridge, galley and engine room. The bridge was open for us to visit anytime; the Chief even invited us to oil the engines, and the Chef welcomed help in preparation of daily menus. A few of us enjoyed learning how to make sushi from delectable local dungenous crab and shrimp which the crew had caught during the voyage.

What a different experience it was cruising aboard a 12-passenger boat verses a 70-passenger expedition ship. Previously in my career, I worked several seasons in Alaska as Assistant Expedition Leader aboard vessels nearly six times the passenger capacity of the Catalyst! While both experiences are wonderful, they are indeed quite different. On the larger vessels, there is a greater distinction between staff and passengers. Due to the Catalyst's small size, however, the naturalists and crew regularly intermingled with passengers. At meal times, we were like an extended family, with everyone piled in and around one large dining table. And, since the staff and crew were so warm and friendly, it was a great pleasure getting to know them as they shared in the excitement of our day's discoveries!

For me, it was well worth sacrificing a bit of comfort aboard the ship in order to reach the remote, off the beaten path areas of the Inside Passage. We visited rivers laden with spawning salmon, witnessed bears along the shores, and hiked through grass matted down from bear naps...! And the kayaking opportunities were superb! Each excursions was no less than three miles, and no more than seven. We explored pristine coves and fjords and paddled right in front of massive beautiful waterfalls. Eagles soared overhead and sea lions, harbor seals and porpoise played at our sides.

While I had visited Alaska many times in the past, this was the first time I actually "heard" Alaska. The reason for this was the fact that most ships are underway 24/7 with the engines running regularly. The Captain, found secluded, majestic coves for each night where we anchored, shut of the engines and listened to Alaska. One night just off of Fredrick Sound, an area known for its amazing whales, we sat on the beach and enjoyed a wonderful BBQ prepared by the crew. We listened to the sounds of humpbacks breaching, the slap of their enormous bodies echoed for miles. Then, we heard the spray from their blowholes as they broke the surface of water. Sea lions grunted and groaned on a distant island, about 2 miles from where we sat. And, eagles screeched above us, making their way back to their nests for the evening.

I cannot wait to return to Alaska...to hear, to see and experience nature at its very best.