Living With Cruise Ships (Part 3)

By , June 10, 2018

Reader, Judy’s next question about cruise ships (see Living With Cruise Ships (Part 1)) was “Can you actually wave at the passengers on the top deck of the ships?”

Most cruise ships pass our place too far out for us to see individual passengers. We do wave to friends and family coming and going on the Alaska Marine Highway ferries, but these boats are much smaller, and often pass a bit closer, to the point where, while we can’t recognize individuals, we may recognize a loved one’s walk on deck, or see them through binoculars.

The cruise ships present a much more massive view, in which people get swallowed up. We can sometimes tell where they are by the flash of cameras as they try to take photos of Rainbow Glacier, which appears on the opposite shore of Chilkat Inlet, yet seems to hang above our homestead on our Chilkoot Inlet shore.

But, there are waves, and then there are waves.

Ruby Princess

Princess Cruise Line’s Ruby Princess cruises south on a summer evening (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The wakes of the cruise ships as they pass concern us far more than whether or not we can see, or wave to, the passengers.

Most of the big ships have the “new” bulbous bow. For reasons of physics I don’t fully understand, a torpedo-shaped extension of the bow below the water line improves a ship’s progress through the water, reducing hull friction and fuel consumption, and mitigating wake somehow. Thus equipped, the wakes don’t hammer our shores as much, but I still need to check my distance from the surface before the waves roll in, or risk trouble.

I’ve had fishing gear wash off the rocks in ship wakes before. We also have trouble landing boats on our rocks with even the gentlest cruise ship wakes (see A Good Haul (Part 1)). We’ve even seen worst-case-scenario combinations of wake, tide height, and wind, that have removed tools from our beaches.

None of this cause as much trouble as the Internet blackouts, but it adds to the long list of conditions and situations of which we must be wary living on the homestead.

Norwegian Bliss

Norwegian Bliss sails to Skagway for the first time (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

As to the Internet blackouts, we anticipate changes for the worst. The Ruby Princess, pictured above, used to be the biggest cruise ship in the region. Docked in Skagway, it apparently physically blocks the town’s access to its cell tower. Michelle and Aly refer to the week day on which this ship is normally scheduled to visit Skagway as “Ruby Tuesday.”

Now, as of last week, we have an even bigger ship, the Norwegian Bliss (also pictured above). It carries a crew that roughly matches Haines’s population. It can carry 4000 guests. The thing has a go cart track on one of its decks, for heaven’s sake!

We have yet to fully appreciate its effect on cell connectivity this summer, or whatever other waves it may make in our lives, both figuratively and physically.

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