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Alaska Cruise Planning: When to Visit

When is the best time to visit Alaska on a cruise? Spring is an exciting time at Southeast Sea Kayaks. The phone starts to ring and the email in-box fills up: people are planning their Alaska cruises and adventures. Greg and I have a lot of fun talking with folks who are planning their trips. While we are definitely Ketchikan specialists, we have gathered tons of great information from our guests and neighbors in other Alaskan towns over the years. Here is the first of a series of blog posts that might be helpful to anyone planning a cruise to Alaska. Cruise ship at the dock in Ketchikan. When is the best time to visit? The scenery and wildlife change with season. Before you pick up that exceptional cruise deal think about what you really want to see and do…

What’s Special About Ketchikan? And How to See it When You Visit

It’s not often Ketchikanians have an actual ball to attend but our newly elected governor and lieutenant governor chose to recognize the isolation, inaccessibility and uniqueness of Alaskan communities by travelling around Alaska holding inaugural balls in some of Alaska’s bigger towns. Last weekend the Tatsuda family, Greg and I attended the final inaugural ball in Ketchikan. The Ketchikan Governor’s Ball began with bagpiping complete with men in kilts, followed by a story told by Tlingit artist Mary Ida Henrikson and short speeches by the lieutenant governor and governor. Governor Walker is a wonderful speaker; I think the state can feel comfortable with its reins in the hands of a man who, as a child,  had to sneak through a herd of buffalo in 40 below weather to get back inside from the outhouse. He opened his speech with a…

Ketchikan Winter: A photoblog

Dark, damp, chilly and gloomily beautiful: winter in Ketchikan, Alaska. What is it like here in Ketchikan in the winter? Most of the time it’s pretty much like the summer except even rainier, a little chillier, a little snowier and sometimes a whole lot windier.  Ketchikan is in the world’s largest temperate rainforest which means that the temperature is relatively mild all year (usually between 39 and 52 Fahrenheit) and it rains more than it snows. In January this year Ketchikan got just over 31 inches of rain, with 10 of those inches falling in just two days! There were only about five days in the month with no recorded rainfall and we had very little snow. Deer Mountain disappears into the clouds on a misty day in Thomas Basin, Ketchikan, Alaska. The reward for enduring all that rain? Rainbows!…

Living the Seasonal Life in Ketchikan

Beach bonfires and 10pm sunsets are some of the best parts of summers in Ketchikan. What is it really like to move to Ketchikan and work a summer in Alaska? Our 2014 office manager and seasonal adventurer, Brittany, shares her experience in this guest post. Seasonal (noun): ˈsēzənəl 1. A person who travels to a location for a set period of time (typically coinciding with the winter or summer season) whose primary objectives usually include the following:  obtain wages, seek thrills, or just do something a little different. 2. A soul, tethered only to a body, that heeds the call of adventure and experience wherever and with whomever that may be. It is difficult to really understand what you’re signing up for when you say yes to a seasonal job in a new place. For the most part, you’re…

End of Summer 2014

A sunny day in September at Orcas Cove. Southeast Sea Kayaks’ Summer 2014 Technically, summer has been over for a while, but no one told the Ketchikan weather that until yesterday. With over half an inch of rain in the last twenty four hours and southeast winds over twenty miles per hour, I think we might be able call summer 2014 complete and take a moment to reflect. You may have noticed that we don’t blog much in the summer,  that is because we are busy here at Southeast Sea Kayaks doing all the things we love to do: kayaking, kayaking and more kayaking. It is a strange way to make a living, but we love it and we love being part of Ketchikan’s amazing community. Here are some highlights from summer 2014: Our Incredible Local Crew It has always…

Welcome to Summer in Ketchikan, Alaska

2005 Guides: Chris, Nicole & Tristan. It has been a beautiful start to the summer season here in Ketchikan. By beautiful we mean that it has only rained every third or fourth day and it has even been sunny once or twice because, even though we think of May as summer, we still average about ten inches of rain for the month. The downtown is once again a hive of activity. Cruise ships will stop here every day now until September 21st. It’s also that time of year when those who have signed up for summer work arrive here in Ketchikan. Welcome adventurous souls! There is nothing quite like a summer working in Alaska. If you embrace the damp weather and quirky island life, your summer is bound to be fun and memorable. There are a quite few things that…

Kayaking Ketchikan, Alaska

The protected waters of the Inside Passage and the thousands of islands and fjords that make up the Alexander Archipelago are a sea kayaker’s paradise. While famous paddling destinations like Glacier Bay and the Misty Fjords top many kayaker’s bucket lists, getting to them can be expensive and requires at least a few days. Fortunately for those of us who live here and own kayaks, or for folks who are travelling through Ketchikan with their own kayaks, there are many excellent day and overnight paddling trips accessible right from the Ketchikan road system. Here are a few of our favorite kayak  trips in the Ketchikan Area. All of these trips have campsites within a few hours’ paddle of town and great opportunities to see whales and other marine mammals. Resident orcas in Nichols Passage near the Blank Islands. Black Sands…

All About Alaska Shore Excursions

So you booked your dream cruise to Alaska. Now it’s time to plan some shore excursions but after a little internet research your dream is turning into a nightmare. There are so many options and there is so much conflicting information online, what is the truth about shore excursions in Alaska and how do you find ones that will work for you? Should you book through the cruise ship, though a travel agent, or search online for local tour operators? The cruise lines want you to book everything on board; travel agents who specialize in Alaska have a lot to offer; and of course, being a local tour operator ourselves, we highly recommend taking the time to look for local companies in each port. Fortunately, there are amazing Alaskan adventures to be found whichever way you choose to book. In…

Why We Love Double Kayaks

Here is an illustration of why I love double kayaks… Paddling in a double is so much more fun than watching Greg disappear down the channel in his speedy single. Also this… Family paddling in our Seaward Passat G3. And this… Double Kayaks allow us to safely teach kids the basics of paddling. Here the Girl Scouts paddle Current Designs Unitys with Youth Program director, James. Quite a few people seem to suffer from what I call double-kayakaphobia, which I truly believe can only come from not having paddled the right double kayaks, or possibly from traumatic childhood experiences with 2 person canoes (I have a few of those myself.) The much maligned tandem kayak is often referred to as a “divorce boat” but there are a lot of reasons why double kayaks are the right choice for many paddlers…

Kid Ketchikan

Things to with Kids in Ketchikan Every Saturday, the Disney Wonder’s “Wish upon a Star” horn heralds a day of family fun in Ketchikan but it is not just Disney bringing families to Alaska, many other Alaska Cruise lines now offer great kids programming and families are also traveling to Alaska on the Marine Highway ferries, and flying in with Alaska Airlines. Whichever way you travel to Alaska, don’t be afraid to bring the kids. Alaska is a great destination for families and a truly unique place to share with your children. We travel with a tornado of twins who are now almost eight years old: they are active, outdoors loving boys with no patience for being still or shopping, unless it’s in a toy store. When we visited Seattle last year, the only activity that they really did not…

Fifteen Years of Fjords

Paddling into Punchbowl Cove, Misty Fjords, Alaska 2005. The blog post is tardy this week because I opened a can of worms; a big can of juicy misty worms. Once I started reviewing our fifteen years of kayaking in Misty Fjords I discovered that they couldn’t be contained within paragraphs, at least not without annoying overuse of superlatives. There is simply no way to capture the magic of a cup of coffee on a misty morning in Punchbowl Cove, or the exhilaration of paddling beneath the towering granite cliffs hearing nothing but the dip of your paddle and the cry of the loon. My blog post started to look like something by Marcel Proust. Instead of a thousand words, I give you this photographic celebration with many thanks to our guests and guides for all of the miles paddled, trails…

Alaska Vacation Reading List

Some great reading for your Alaska Vacation. Alaska Vacation Reading List I have been a bookworm since the 1st grade. Maybe that’s why I like it here so much; we get plenty of time to read during Southeast Alaska’s long, dark, rainy winters. It was images that drew me to Alaska: pictures of snow-capped mountains, rainforest islands and colorful fishing villages on the edge of nowhere. After I moved to Ketchikan I discovered that Alaska was also rich in story and storytellers. Any evening with friends here includes tall tales of bush pilots, big bears and adventures on the high seas. There are hundreds of books written about Alaska, and reading is important for guides, but to be perfectly honest I don’t have a great tolerance for non-fiction. It’s a bit like salad: I know that it’s good for me…

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