Skagway

Today was our last day in port on this cruise. Next time we dock it will be in Seward, the port for Anchorage, where we will board a coach for Denali. 

Although the Westerdam docked before we rose, our scheduled onshore excursion was not leaving until 1:00 pm so we had a slow start. Breakfast was around 8:00 am and we did not hurry to disembark.

A little after 9:00 am we set off to walk into town and explore what it had to offer, taking care to avoid the museum and garden that were included in our afternoon tour. We walked the length of Broadway, the main street, and back, exploring many of the shops as we went. Majella found a few gift-worthy items, a piece of fabric for quilting, and a quilter’s T-shirt. I picked up a souvenir T-shirt. Along the way we had coffee and a muffin.

As we reached the harbour end of Broadway on our way back we crossed the railway line as the train over the pass was shunting. We stopped for photos of that and the steam powered snow plough before strolling on back to the Westerdam.

We dropped our shopping and walked upstairs to the Lido for a quick lunch. Taking the stairs up and down 5 or more levels rather than use the elevators is part of our cruise survival plan. After lunch we picked up our gear from our room and went to meet our tour on the pier.

Our driver-guide today was Andrea, a young woman with well rehearsed and entertaining patter. She told us that Skagway has a population of 700 year round, rising to 3000 in tourist season, with up to 15000 in town in days when all the cruise ship berths are occupied. There were 3 ships in town today. The town has a K-12 school with 100 kids and 19 teachers, a wonderful ratio. It is situated at the upper end of Lynn canal, which is really a fjord, the 2nd deepest in the world. The Skagway River is fed by glaciers so has suspended silt and no fish.

Andrea drove us around town for a bit, pointing out significant buildings and recounting some of the history of the gold rush days. Then she took us north a little way on the Klondike highway that goes to Canada. We turned off not far out of town and took the Dyea road as far as the outlook that affords a view over the town and harbour. She stopped there for a while so we could look over the town and take photos. 

Then it was back into town to the Sculpture Garden. That was established by an orthodontist from further south and includes some impressive bronze sculptures in a realistic style. A wooden totem carving was paid for by orthodontic work on the teeth of the artist’s 3 sons. We had just enough time to walk around the garden admiring the sculptures and looking at some archival photographs from the goldrush days.

Next stop was on Broadway where we were booked in to see a piece of musical theatre, the Dangerous Days of ’48, which tells the story of Jefferson ‘Soapie’ Smith, who was run out of Denver as a con-man and came north to Skagway. He established a saloon and ran a variety of gambling scams aided by his henchmen until they overstepped the mark in mugging a prospector and Soapie was shot in a showdown with a local who also died as a result of the encounter. 

There were seats at the back of the theatre but Majella walked down and chose seats in the middle of the front row. Having seen the come-on by the girls from the upstairs windows of the building this morning and again as we entered, I feared for the consequences of sitting in the front row. This looked like the sort of music hall performance that might involve audience participation. I was treated to some brushing with a feather boa early in the show but avoided being pulled up for the main event. That pleasure went to a man from a couple of rows back who was cast as the target of ‘affections’ from 2 of the girls. Majella also had a lucky escape as 2 other women were selected to perform the can-can. It was a lively performance, lots of fun in parts but with some serious history beneath.

After the show our bus took us to the city museum. It is a beautiful granite building that had served first as a college for women, then as a courthouse, before becoming the city museum. We enjoyed looking at exhibits including some items owned by Soapie Smith, a variety of artefacts by native inhabitants, and more.

We had already walked the town so we took the bus back to the dock, boarded the Westerdam, and took some time to relax (me with this & Majella with her jigsaw puzzle) before going to the piano bar and on to dinner in the dining room. We enjoyed that in the company of a birdwatching Canadian couple who had visited Australia and a couple from Washington state.

Majella is still hoping to see the northern lights later tonight or in the next couple of nights. We’ll see how that goes. Tomorrow we will be in Glacier Bay and then on Saturday we will be sailing from there to Seward. I don’t expect much, if any, connectivity until we dock on Sunday so I’m not sure when I will be able to post this or subsequent episodes.