|Playing It Cool|
Part 3: Salmon writhed against my feet, against each other, against the rocks.
Story and Photos by Kim Kavin - November 2003
Pink salmon—thousands upon thousands of them, each a foot and a half long—wriggled and flapped and slithered atop the riverbed’s brown and green rocks in a futile attempt to get upstream where they could spawn. I beached my kayak and walked into the water, which barely ringed the ankles of my wading boots. Salmon writhed against my feet, against each other, against the rocks. Some scraped their scales off in fits of desperation, literally peeling themselves before floundering to the water’s edge and suffocating in silence.
The struggle was a show that defined their very lives and deaths while gulls squealed like a delighted audience in the balcony.
I kayaked back to Kayana, where chief stewardess Lisa Reedy and second stew Jennifer Hunt awaited me on the aft deck, as always with warm smiles and steaming hot chocolate. I resumed my breakfast of now-cold but still thick and fluffy blueberry pancakes, and realized I’d yet to enjoy a hot meal aboard—not because chef Randy Ortega’s original recipes were lacking, but because every time I tried to sit down and eat, nature beckoned with a miraculous encounter just outside the dining room window.
The surprising color of the water (like the blue-green of the water around the Turks and Caicos, only opaque and 1,200 feet deep) interrupted a lunch of papaya-marinated guinea hen salad followed by an amaretto coffee cake. A pair of Dulles porpoises pulled me from barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and salmon, all slathered in a zesty sauce and accompanied by Grand Marnier-laced watermelon slices. Three humpback whales chose to breach just off our bow as I attempted to finish a Dungeness crab tower with couscous salad, tomato, avocado, caviar, and freshly caught roasted shrimp.
I suppose it was all for the best, allowing me to save room for Ortega’s spectacular four-course finale dinner: a tomato stuffed with wild greens in a beet vinaigrette with balsamic syrup, followed by seared ahi in a soy glaze with pickled ginger and seaweed salad, followed by a roasted pillar of beef and lobster tail with gorgonzola mashed potato, mushroom sauce, and roasted asparagus, followed by a chocolate tuile (a thin, crisp, cup-shape cookie) with vanilla ice cream and blueberries inside a spun-sugar cage.
Just wondering what the California native might have prepared during a second week aboard made me salivate, the same way thoughts of what other encounters and adventures Alaska has to offer made me reluctant to disembark. I left Kayana and her crew sadly, then headed for the airport in Sitka, a historic town settled by the Russians long ago and occasionally swamped by cruise ship passengers today. With each stop my taxi made to let T-shirt-buying couples cross the narrow streets, I felt more and more of my exciting adventure melting into memory.
And I realized I’d seen the tip of the iceberg.
Kayana carries ten guests for $49,900 per week, plus expenses. Katania carries six guests for $29,900 per week, plus expenses.
CEO Expeditions Phone: (425) 460-4100. www.ceoexpeditions.com.
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.