Sunday, June 15, 2008


Okay, I know it's been a while. I can hear you saying, "Hey! It's almost a month since you got home from the Sea Socks cruise. When are you gonna post something, huh?"

Well, here goes. Hope you've got some time, because there's a lot of ground -- uh, make that ocean to cover! I'll start you off with a little slide show to pique your interest.

That's really just a taste of the photos. There are a whole lot more over on my Flickr account and there's even a special Flickr section where everyone uploaded pictures from the cruise. If you go to either one, make sure you block out some time in your day because it can be a bit overwhelming.

So, here goes the long-winded portion of today's program! Hope you have some time (and patience). :)

We headed to Seattle on Thursday, May 8th, a day in advance of the cruise departure. Margie got us a good rate at the Sheraton downtown. Thursday evening, she had some work to finish up, so I met some other knitters in the lobby and we were off to the ferry terminal and Bainbridge Island. It was cool and windy -- a perfect Northwest afternoon. We visited the lovely Churchmouse Yarns and then I joined some knitters from California for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, where the week's feasting began.

STR new 5-08 - medCalico - ltBanded AgateYes, of course I bought yarn! I got a skein of beautiful Shoalwater Bay silk lace in Spring Meadow. It's dyed with natural dyes right there on Bainbridge Island. I also couldn't resist a couple of the Socks That Rock skeins. Here's one sock already completed (the pair is done now) in mediumweight Calico. The other skein is lightweight Banded Agate. When I posted this picture on Ravelry, folks started coveting the Calico color. It's no longer on the Blue Moon Web site, but you can sometimes find it in shops. I also have it on good authority that if a shop owner requested it, Tina would oblige and make some for them. I'm just sayin'!

Okay, so the next morning, we got up and got organized to go. Margie took the car and headed off to spend the day with her mom, who happens to live in Seattle. I joined the group headed to the ship and then a Seattle yarn crawl. It was, shall we say, an interesting day!

The ship wasn't scheduled to arrive in port until around 7:30 in the evening, which is very unusual. This was the first cruise of the season for them from Seattle and the schedule was very messed up. The plan was to load all of us and our luggage on a bus, head to the terminal, drop off the luggage and anyone who wasn't going on the yarn crawl, get checked in for the cruise, and then go on a yarn crawl. Sounds simple, yeah? Well. . .

Not everything fit on the bus. The driver did an awesome job of cramming things into the luggage hold, but there was no way it was all going to fit. So, some of us stayed on the bus and some stayed at the hotel with the pile of luggage and boxes on the curb, waiting for us to come back and get them.

The bus went to the terminal at Pier 30. We got off an went inside to get checked in, a process that was fairly quick and painless. Came back out and the bus was back where we had unloaded, ostensibly after having already deposited the luggage with the longshoremen. Wrong. The luggage was still on board because the longshoremen refused to unload it. Miscommunication, it seems, abounded. A rep from the cruise line came out and said to go around and try again, it was all taken care of. So we got on board and drove around to the drop-off point again. Longshoremen still refused to unload the luggage. Eventually, we ended up going to Pier 66, which is where the ship would dock on our return. The cruise line was accepting luggage there and putting it on trucks to take to Pier 30 for loading onto the ship. They happily took ours, too.

Then it was back to the hotel where we discovered that the remaining luggage was still too much for the bus to hold. By this time, it was turning into quite an adventure. I didn't really mind because I had cast on for socks with the STR I bought the night before. I figured this was knitting time and I wasn't spending money, so it was all good. Some of the other folks didn't share my Zen about the situation and got off the bus to grab cabs and do their own yarn crawl. Whatever.

Once all the luggage was delivered and all the knitters had checked in and gotten back on the bus, we were off!

The first shop we visited was Tricoter, which is a lovely shop in a lovely section of Seattle. They had a lot of pretty yarns, but the shop is arranged by color, which is visually very appealing, but not so practical when you don't have a specific project in mind. I browsed, then found my way to O, Chocolate! next door and bought truffles instead. Yes, in the battle of addictions between chocolate and yarn, chocolate won.

Next, we visited Hilltop Yarn. Now this is the kind of shop where you want to hang out all day. It's in an old home in the heart of Seattle's Queen Anne district. There's a huge front porch and lawn chairs and friendly staff and -- oh, yeah, yarn! I browsed a bit and ended up buying a copy of Evelyn Clark's Knitting Lace Triangles, a primer on how to design your own shawls.

The final shop of the day was So Much Yarn. If Hilltop is the relaxing, homestyle location, So Much Yarn is the welcoming urban one. Great shop! There's even a shop dog who's very cute. they had wine and cheese and crackers for us, too, which helped everyone's mood. I walked away with a skein of Fortissima Socka Color that has silver flecks. It's lovely and it's also discontinued, darn it! I also got two different colors of Claudia Handpaints sock yarn. I think I showed admirable restraint!

By the time we got back to Pier 30, the ship had arrived -- and so had about 2000 other passengers. Although we were in the "VIP waiting area," there wasn't enough room for everyone. There also wasn't any good PA system -- just one guy with a bull horn. Fortunately, Patricia had arranged for all of us to get priority boarding, so we didn't have to wait too long before we were walking up the gangplank and onto the ship. Whew!

That night, we just sort of hung out. Neither of us felt like going to formal dinner, so we hit the buffet instead. Let me pause for a minute here and talk about the cruise line and ship itself. I've been on several cruises, most back in the '80s, on other cruise lines. Last year, I went to the Caribbean on a Carnival cruise. This was my first experience with Celebrity. I have to say that while I had a good time, it wasn't my favorite cruise experience. Compared to Carnival, the cabin was smaller -- especially the bathroom -- even though we were in "Concierge Class." Service was good, but not exceptional in any way. Food was plentiful, but again, not exceptional. On Carnival, I often found myself saying, "This is the best ___ I ever had!" I didn't have that experience once on Celebrity. This is the polar opposite of what I expected, based on what I've heard and read about the two lines. Towards the end of the cruise, there were noticable fruit flies around the soda machines (thankfully I only went there for good, black coffee). The buffet food was essentially the same every day. Baked goods were not very tasty, and the chocolate ones were downright bad. I had a good time anyway, but it wasn't as nice as I had expected.

Okay, now back to our main adventure! When we got to Ketchikan, we went on the Bering Sea Fishing expedition. We had signed up for this online a long time before the cruise. It was the best thing ever! If you go to Ketchikan, I highly recommend this. Don't worry, you won't get sea sick. It's all in protected waters and very calm. Bonus! Once we got away from the shoreline, the rain stopped.

Moi on the Aleutian BalladThe boat is the Aleutian Ballad and if you've ever seen The Deadliest Catch on Discovery channel, you may recognize the name. In the second season, the Aleutian Ballad was hit by a rogue wave and turned on its side. Cameras caught the whole thing. Very scary. Needless to say, that was in the Bering Sea, which is an entirely different world than the inside passage waters around Ketchikan. Whew!

They took us out and pulled up crab pots and we got to hold crabs (king and dungeness and rock varieties) and touch octopi (two different ones came up with the pots) and feed eagles and pull up strings of rockfish and one mightly ugly rat fish and it was just a heck of a good time. The crew is a very friendly and personable bunch and there was free coffee and cocoa and a snack, too. We both bought shirts, which were extremely reasonably priced ($20 for a long-sleeved Hanes Beefy-T), especially considering they had a captive group of tourists on board.

Ketchikan 5-08When we returned to the dock, we found the Bead & Yarn Shop and discovered that not everything had been taken by the knitters who came before us. I got two balls of 100% qiviut (that's musk ox fiber that's 10-times warmer than wool and so, so soft) in a lovely rust color, an ounce of qiviut fiber, and some locally-dyed sock yarn. Margie found a great quilt shop next door and got a kit containing all her favorite colors. Then it was back to the ship to pretty much pass out until dinner.

I'll get to Sea Socks specific stuff in here somewhere, but for now, we're on to Juneau!

We docked in Juneau a little bit earlier than planned, so we had some time before our excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. What we didn't have was the address of Skeins, the LYS. All we knew was it was in "downtown," which isn't a very big area in Juneau. So off we went.

Juneau S.E.X - 5-08I didn't see the sign, but I did see a quilt shop sign and went into the lobby of the building, where I was greeted by voices saying, "It's up here!" Yep, some knitters had gotten there before us. And I guess the yarn fumes must have called me inside since I didn't see the sign outside at all. I scored some more qiviut, this time in a natural color, and two skeins of locally-dyed sock yarn (they were short yardage, so I went ahead and got two, just in case). Again, Margie found some good stuff at the quilt shop. Score!

Then it was off to meet our taxi drive for the excursion. We went up to Mendenhall Glacier and spent some time walking around and enjoying the scenery. I never did make it into the visitor center, but I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.

P1010318Then we were taken to a place called Glacier Gardens. The property was the site of a large landslide quite a few years ago and is now home to a large greenhouse and a winding road that takes you up the mountain (riding in comfortable golf carts to protect from the rain) where there are some dynomite views of the area. Along the route, there are upside down trees. Yep, you read that right! When clearing the area, the owner had a mishap with a borrowed backhoe and, in frustration, picked up a fallen tree and slammed it into the ground. When he looked at it, he thought, "Gee, that would make a pretty good hanging planter!" And so that's what he did. Because we were there early in the season, the plants weren't in the tree roots yet, but I bet when they are in full bloom, cascading from the upended root system, they are spectacular.

Anyway, if you're ever in Juneau, especially if it's summer, I recommend going to Glacier Gardens for a nice, relaxing time.

P1010161 When we left Juneau, we headed for Hubbard Glacier. Pictures just do not do this place justice. The camera (at least my camera) can't capture the depth and breadth of the blues in the ice face. It's gorgeous.

There was another Celebrity ship heading away from the glacier as we came in. Later, we decided that the captains must have made some kind of bet, because we got about a mile from the glacer and the naturalist came on the PA and said the captain wasn't happy with that -- he wanted to go closer. And so we did. When the captain came on the PA, he informed us that we were now within 1/2 mile of the ice face and said, "If anyone ever tells you they got closer, they must have been on the Titanic." It was quite a sight. And the sounds! between the ice tapping against the ship, the cracking sounds from the glacier, and the occasional rumble when calving occurred, it was pretty amazing. It was also cold and wet and very windy, but we had a balcony cabin, so we ordered room service lunch and kept going inside to get warm. Great stuff, cruising!

Our final stop was Victoria. But before we could get there, the captain had to navigate through strong headwinds (up to 50 knots, I think he said) and strong seas, too. The combination slowed us down quite a bit, so we were late in arriving. The combination also made for a very rocky evening. The ship was in open ocean when we left the bay and it was a wild ride. Because we were going against the sea and into the wind, the combination meant that the rolling was rather unpredictable. Just as you thought you had a rhythm going, the ship would lurch in a different direction. I thought it was pretty fun, but not everyone was amused. During the night, we entered the inside passage again and it was smooth as glass from there on, however it remained foggy and wet, so many passengers were disappointed that the couldn't see the scenery.

We just kept knitting and really didn't mind all that much. :)

By the time we got to Victoria, it was sunny and warm and just pretty much glorious. Many of our group were booked to attend high tea at the Empress Hotel. They disembarked and gathered to board busses which would take them to the LYS first, followed by the high tea. We disembarked and hot-footed it to the $6 shuttle bus, which let us off at the Empress Hotel. From there, we quickly walked about 10 blocks to Beehive Yarns, successfully beating the bus there by about 15 minutes or so.

And oh, my, what yarns they had! Beehive is rumored to have the largest selection of Fleece Artist and Handmaiden yarns in all of Canada. That's pretty ironic, considering how the yarns are manufactured in Halifax, which is pretty much as far east as you can go in Canada, while Victoria is as far west as you can go.

Beehive S.E.X. - Victoria BC 5-08I managed to deplete their stock just a little! Let's see, that pile contains Sea Silk in two different colors, Merino 2/6 sock yarn, handspun cashmere (that's the fluff in front), two skeins of Camelspin, and two skeins of Mini Maiden. Oh, there's also a bit of roving there just 'cause I couldn't resist the pretty blue.

When the bus arrived, the place was pretty much overrun with people in a yarn frenzy. I can't be sure, but I'm betting that the Beehive folks who stayed overtime to accommodate our late arrival were exhausted by the time everyone left. I think it was probably worthwhile for them, though.

So now you've seen most of my yarn haul from the trip. There actually was more, because we got some in our goody bags, too, including sock yarn from Mama E's CyberFiber and Kraemer. There was also some pretty novelty yarn from . . . ACK! I can't remember! Anyway, in the picture montage at the top of this post, that's the yarn Margie was using to knit a scarf.

This post has gotten REALLY long, so I'll end with a picture of the overall yarn haul from the trip and come back later with a report on the classes and some other stuff. Eventually, I'll get caught up here! :)

Sea socks S.E.X. 5-08 If you let out a little yelp and said, "Wow! She has no business buying more yarn until next year's cruise!" you're probably right. But then that is not how we build a stash, is it?! Besides, most of that yarn is for sweaters and shawls, so if I want to make a sweater, I need to buy more, right? RIGHT?!

Ciao for now, kiddos!

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