It’s spring! The cruise ships are arriving!
Every year about this time the cruise lines start moving their ships from their winter ports to their summer ports. This is the season of Panama Canal cruises and coastal cruises, as there is no point in moving empty ships from the Caribbean to Seattle! For those of us overlooking the waters of western Washington, the first sight of a cruise ship moving through the strait is a sure sign that spring has finally arrived.
My small town has a beautiful deep harbor. Every year or so one or more of these transitional cruises will include a stop here. Passengers have the opportunity to disembark, stroll through downtown, and enjoy the shops and restaurants. For the more adventurous, there is the option of taking an excursion tour to our mountains, rain forests, and rocky beaches.
Yesterday Holland America’s ms Oosterdam came to town. As it happens, this is an identical sister ship to the Westerdam, on which I’ll be cruising to Alaska at the end of July as a participant in the Great Alaskan Marathon. This is a staged marathon, meaning that we’ll run four races adding up to 26.2 miles during the week of the cruise. I’m excited about the opportunity to see Alaska, run on spectactular trails and through quaint (and steep) downtown streets, and mingle with a bunch of other runners for a whole week.
Yesterday, actually seeing a ship just like the one I’ll be on really ramped up my enthusiasm! I headed downtown for as close a look as possible. Security was rather tight at the dock, so I drove out to the hook (the natural sand spit that frames the harbor) for a panoramic view of the ship and the downtown area. It dwarfed my downtown!
The smaller ship you see on the far left is the ferry that takes cars and people from here to Victoria BC. That ferry is 341 feet long and carries 110 vehicles plus 1,000 passengers. The Oosterdam is 936 feet long and carries 1,916 passengers, 817 crew members, and all the restaurants, theatres, casinos, sport courts, swimming pools, and other assorted accoutrements that make up the cruising experience.
The large tan building just to the right of the Oosterdam belongs to a company that builds “super-yachts.” The largest model, built here in my town, is 163 feet and generally includes a heliport. Picture a 163-foot yacht emerging from that building — it’s huge! But it would look like a dingy next to the Oosterdam.
Back at my house later I could just see the Oosterdam from my bedroom window, but I had a panoramic view of it when it departed at 11:00 PM and glided out of the harbor, all lit up like a multi-layer birthday cake. Cruising season has begun! Later this summer, finally, I won’t be one of those watching from shore when my ship moves through the strait en route to Alaska.
Meanwhile, I continue to keep moving, adding bike rides and hikes to my 3-day-a-week running schedule. I’m getting some form of real-world exercise just about every day, which is why I’m blogging less even though I theoretically have more time in my post-corporate day. I’m still wobbly on the bicycle, but on my hikes (encouraged and accompanied by new friends) I’ve successfully met the challenges of steep hills and small stream crossings. I’m going to have to invest in rain gear, however, as I don’t much enjoy getting wet and cold.
In past years I would have retreated to my treadmill on anything less than a “perfect” sunny day, but I’m finally learning that life is too short to wait for a “perfect” day. So tonight is beer running night, and whatever the weather, I’ll meet running friends for a short run along the waterfront followed by wonderful locally-brewed beer.
Rain? Wind? Mud? Bring it on! I am a Pacific Northwesterner by choice, and this is my home.