0330: Wake up and pack my bag. The first day of a week in Hoonah always starts early. We have the 2 hour trip to get there but the tours start the same time regardless if we travel or not. Usually by 0430 I’m out of the house with my bags packed for the week.
0500: Walk on board the Katlian Express and fire up the systems. The deckhand and naturalist make sure we have enough supplies for the week aboard the boat. They check the engine room and safety equipment while I look at the weather, route, and look at the schedule in dock office for any last minute changes. There are always changes.
0600: The crew unties the lines as I guide the boat off of a raft of 3 other 78’ aluminum catamarans. The dock in Juneau only has about 8 spots but they usually carry 13 vessels tied to the dock at any one time. This means several vessels are rafted together in the same spot.
0730: This is my morning check in with Shawna to confirm our tour load for the day. Again there are usually changes with the schedule so this is a last confirmation for the daily activities. We pull up and tie to our designated slip and await our eager guests. The crew completes a last walk through of the vessel before we start allowing passengers aboard.
0745: We pull away from the dock in Hoonah, proceed right across the bow of the cruise ship giving everyone aboard a view of their ship from almost right under the bow. The crew and I conduct our safety speech and demonstration. We give the guests a quick overview of what is planned and then I slowly bring the large diesel engines up to wide open throttle as the jets quickly propel us to over 20 knots and we’re off hunting for wildlife. We pretty much know where the humpbacks will be within 5 miles or so. They are creatures of habit and so is their food source. You still have to pay attention to make sure you get that guaranteed humpback whale sighting though. It’s kind of amazing how a 50’ long 40 ton animal can hide from you in the vast ocean. Eventually we find a few humpback whales, maybe some sea lions, seals, or killer whales. There’s always a few bald eagles flying around as well. Once the guests are amazed and they have great pictures or video to take with them we start heading back towards the dock.
1045: The first tour of the day is offloaded and we are already taking on our next group of guests for another great tour. This process is repeated at least one other time for an average of 3 tours a day.
1800: The final tour of the day is dropped off, usually right alongside the cruise ship so they can get back quickly and meet their “all aboard” time. The crew and I finish paperwork for the day, clean the boat, make sure we have fuel and water for the next day’s tours and collect our bags to take our things to the Hoonah house.
1900: Arrive at the Hoonah house, unpack and unwind for a little bit. There is usually enough time to relax, grab a bite to eat, shower and get ready for bed. The next day will start around 0500.
It was an average of 14 hours a day for 6-7 days a week. It was long but it was fun as well. Most people save up for years to go to Alaska and spend 3 hours on a whale watch tour looking at wildlife. I was able to do that for 12 hours a day, every day. I saw a ton of amazing things that few people get to experience. The hours were long and the days were longer but it was all worth it in the end.