Vacation Update #8

Here is Vacation Update #8. This one covers the trip from Hakodate, Japan to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Russia as well as the shore excursion there.

The first 12 hours or so of the 60 or so hour sail to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia was somewhat active but things settled down after that and there was not much more exciting to report. Along the way we saw a couple of volcanoes in what I think was called the Kruil (or similar) island chain. These islands are just north of Japan and are somewhat in dispute as to who owns them, Japan or Russia. The Russians would not allow any foreign flagged ship closer than 12 nautical miles to the islands unless the ship had a scheduled stop there. We did not, so we could not go any closer. We did manage to see a couple of them way off in the distance as witnessed by the two pictures below.

We were told what these two volcanoes were called but there is no hope of me remembering that now.

Here is the second one. It was north of the first one.

As we approached Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky we were eating dinner the night before and saw giant snow flakes falling outside the dining room windows. Everybody was thrilled! (yea, surrrre!!)

There were no docking facilities at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky that could handle a ship of our size so this became the first of our two tender ports. The other will be Sitka, Alaska on Thursday. The arrival was early in the morning, around 4:30A.M local time. Here are a couple of views from the ship before heading to shore.

More exciting haze and snow here.

More low clouds and or haze.

The entrance to the harbor is the opening in the mountains to the far left.

This was how we were welcomed. Note the two Russian military to the right of the picture.

If you thought the Japan Immigration people sounded like they were a problem, they were nothing compared to the Russians. The Captain figured that the inbound process would take 5 hours. It appeared to come very close to that. At least they cleared the people who were on the shore excursions first. Even then, most of them\us left a good hour late. Russia was also the only country that insisted that we carry our passports. Also, we could not go outside the city limits without a visa, not that too many of us would likely have wanted to. As we departed the ship, there were two Russian military officers, a tall woman, and a more typical older man. The women would read the passport info to the man and he would write it down.  The same two were there and did the same thing when we came back. The ship gave us back our passports (which they had collected for the immigration processes in all the previous countries we had been to) and then collected them again on our return so the Russians could process them again before we departed.

So we finally made it to the tenders (which are actually the lifeboats) and were transferred to the pier. Below is a picture from the tender as it approached the pier of the Statendam and what looked like an old, well used, not in too good a shape, Russian fishing vessel. As you will see shortly there were a number of these tied together in the harbor.

Our first stop was at what I believe they call Observation Hill. Apparently it is also called Petrovskaya Hill. It was the best they could do for a view of the area. Here are several pictures.

(Note about pictures. The same incorrect camera settings that happened in Hakodate, Japan were still set here. Most of the outside pictures were accidentally under-exposed by 1.3 stops. This has been corrected during the resizing of these images. The problem was discovered here, late in the day, and has been corrected.)

The harbor, with the entrance on the far left centre. I believe this is looking mainly south.

Many ships anchored in the harbor. I think this is looking mainly west or southwest.

Looking mainly north or northwest.

Our ship is anchored behind the hill on the right.

The previous nights snow fall on Observation Hill.

The bus with some of the tour group and the slush.

The next stop was the Military Museum. This was a pretty rough looking building but I doubt it was much worse that many others there. Here are a couple of pictures from there.

The Military Museum with a creek beside it.

They wanted 50 rubles to take pictures inside. I did not have any rubles so I snuck one wide inside shot.

The next stop was a ways away so what follows are some pictures taken from the less than clean bus windows along the way. I was trying to capture a bit of the local atmosphere.

This captured many men’s eyes!

So did this!

The street the museum is on.

On the way to the local church.

The next stop was the local Russian Orthodox Church. It is not the most exciting place but they are proud of it. They are in the process of building a new bigger one in a more central location than this one. This one is way out in a suburb. This is relative of course when the city you are in has barely 240,000 people in it. The whole Kamchatsky peninsula does not have many more. It is an incredibly isolated and mostly forgotten place (by most Russians anyway). Here are a couple of shots of the church.

The outside.

The inside. Russian Orthodox churches do not have any seats. I am not sure why, but it is normal.

From here the tour concluded at the local market. Finally, one that is not saturated with live fish! Here are some pictures.

This was one of the cleaner more “normal” parts of the market. There was mud all around.

The fruit and veggie section.

This is the market’s bus stop. Just about all these people piled onto one bus.

One person came back to the bus early and wanted to use a washroom. Big mistake! He found out that he really did not want to do that ever again. I guess the toilet was nothing more than a hole dug in the ground. I think it upset him somewhat. He then got lost and delayed the tour returning to the ship by half an hour.

We returned to the ship over half an hour late. This delayed the afternoon tour scheduled to use the same guide and driver. One note about the guide. Her name was Victoria. She was local and was a professor that taught English and French at the University of Kamchatsky.  She went to school in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and graduated from the university she now teaches in. We were warned that the various tour guides English may not be too good. Hers was excellent. Or was that because of that Russian fellow I used to work with and got familiar with his Russian accent? Who knows?

We returned to the pier and headed back to the ship. Here are several pictures from here.

The tenders, with the ship in the background at the pier in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

The ship as the tender I was in approached it. Taken through a very dirty tender window.

The rest of the day was on the ship. We knew things would be delayed because of the Russian immigration but there was not much that could be done about that. As seemed to be our lot on this trip the weather started clearing mid-morning. Our guide on the tour really wanted us to see what they called “their volcanoes”. She also told us that the weather had been very poor for the last 3 days and our arrival seemed to bring much better weather. We never saw “their volcanoes” while on the bus but thanks to the delay by the immigration people and a second delay that I will detail shortly we did get to see the volcanoes. Here is a group of pictures.

The pier from the ship with several of the orange tenders docked or nearby.

The mountains across Avancha Bay from the ship.

One of the previously invisible volcanoes.

The sun is beginning to set.

This group of volcanoes, which are apparently still active, apparently are the volcanoes the guide wanted us to see. They are called the Three Brothers I was told later.

Deeper into the sunset.

This as deep as the sunset got due to the clouds.

One of the last views of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

The Captain had predicted that the Russian immigration process would be finished around 8:00 P.M. An elated Office of the Watch came on the P.A. system at 7:59 and said the ship was cleared and we would be sailing shortly.

I should note at this point that earlier in the day the ship had tested its emergency generators, apparently successfully. They did one of these tests one the last cruise I was on on this ship and it left the entire ship without power for half an hour or so when the transfer switches failed. I was not on the ship at that time but was told about it by someone who was.

They got ready and seemed to have trouble raising the anchor. It appeared that every time they tried, the lights in various public areas of the ship would dim. I was on the fore deck of the ship and noticed the lights in the Bridge were doing the same thing. After just over 5 hours and a call to technical support in Seattle they fixed the problem. The Captain told us the next day that the problem was a defective printed circuit board in a large UPS used to keep the Bridge systems (e.g. radar and navigation) operating. Apparently it kept shorting and tripping various breakers and really loading down various other power systems on the ship. My suspicious mind thinks that something happened after the emergency generator test that may have damaged the system. It really looked at one point that the anchor was stuck. Apparently that was not the problem.

The ship finally sailed at approximately 1:15 A.M. the next morning.

On to Vacation Update #9.