December 03, 2007

This wind sucks and blows.

I am on the MV Malaspina, one of the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System. I'm sitting in the lounge of the foredeck, where I have a fantastic view of the Lynn Canal as we enter Chilkoot Inlet.

The wind is raging. As the Malaspina makes her way into the headwinds, I think we're going less than half the speed we were without the headwinds. Outside, the waves are up to six feet in height with whitecaps on top and streams of frothy white foam marking the direction of the wind. There is a strange combination of fog and mist blowing off the waves, coating the deck of the Malaspina in an thin and invisible layer of slippery ice.

Inside the lounge, the winds have created an oddly musical combination of whistling and roaring. People have been drifting into the lounge to hear the acoustic display of power.

The crew has put up signs that say to keep the doors closed at all times. I'm guessing that the wind can't read because there is a heavy "Emergency Use Only" door that keeps getting sucked open by the wind. The first time it happened, it took five men to shut the door. The second time it happened, one of the crew members went outside to close it. When he did, he almost got blown along the deck. They've assigned a crew member who is dedicated to making sure the door remains closed. It has blown open almost twenty times now.

I went out on the port side deck, which is slightly leeward of the wind. In the shelter of the doorway, I took a picture. Even there, out of the full force of the wind, my hands were chilled to the bones within seconds.

The crew member's radio just broadcast a message addressed to the captain, asking that he come to take a look at a window that has been damaged by the winds.

I have a friend who said that the winds in the Lynn Canal could be extreme and that it was a bad place for a small vessel to be when that happened. At the time I thought, "How bad could it really get?"

Now I know.

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