Fitzhugh Sound

by Gibblet10/18/16

O’er mirrored pond of Fitzhugh Sound,
from Ketchikan, we’re southern bound
Twin Hinos, humming loud their song
to make 10 knots, push us along

Our course is set down channel wide:
about four miles from side to side
and twenty miles from end to end
with mountains high to hem it in

As strange a fact, it is to say,
there is no wind or tide this day
No other boat, no fish, no fowl,
just the wake against our bow

Lazy sun is heading west
in sky of light blue cloudlessness
as auto-pilot guides the way
along our course this special day

What’s that on the radar’s screen
upon the water so serene,
directly on our charted course
to, perhaps, a detour force?

I get binoculars from the shelf
to check the obstacle myself
and there I see, as plain as day,
a log is floating in our way

Still half-a-mile to go, we muse
how odd, this log our path did choose
And nothing else, except this log –
no flotsam, seaweed, ripple, fog

Our course is set, we detour not
Nor does the log move from its spot
deep in its soggy deadhead nap
upon the X marked on our map

It looms ahead right in our path,
drawing closer with each breath
We see the danger it presents
in potential cracks and dents

Now! Auto-pilot override!
to pass it on our near port side
all studded grey with barnacle
and – what’s that there? – a big blowhole!

A humpback whale is sleeping there,
an ocean giant with no fear!
Our diesels hum a lullaby
and wake him not as we pass by…

Churning on, our course regained,
(surprised that humpbacks, logs may feign)
I look as wake and blowhole meet
and cause the whale to wake from sleep!

A whale shocked is quite a site
as first it shudders, then it dives
away from danger yet unseen
to make a get-away that’s clean

I look at Dad with saucer eyes
as if to seal our memory prize
of passing by within mere feet
and waking whale from deadhead’s sleep

Then look behind, to reminisce
such a glorious site as this,
in time to see a flying whale,
a huge splash, and then a tail!

He dives and then comes out again
flying high now with a spin
to crash and splash upon his side
as if to say, “I will not hide!”

“I am the king of all the sea
from the Northwest Coast to Hawaii
I’ll live and play where’er I choose…
In Fitzhugh Sound, I choose to snooze”

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11 Responses to Fitzhugh Sound

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    So was this an actual voyage or just an imagined one? I can imagine hitting a full-grown humpback whale would be worse than hitting a log. But much depends on the boat; I suspect this was a wooden-hulled yacht.

    • Gibblet says:

      Timothy, Thanks for asking. It was an actual trip a couple of years ago on my parent’s 48′ Bayliner (fiberglass). They have spent about 25 of the past 30 summers in southeast Alaska cruising and sport fishing.
      My husband and I have enjoyed many trips, either flying up to meet them, or making the 10 day trip through the inland passage between the Seattle area and Ketchikan and then points beyond. We have many, many happy (and some nearly tragic) stories of our time at sea.
      This particular trip it was just my parents and myself (I flew up to help bring the boat home). The sleeping whale was a neat experience for Dad and I to share (I think Mom was napping).
      I have seen humpback whales in Hawaii with new babies, bubble fishing in Alaska (awesome), and cruising alongside just a few feet away giving us a look….but this is the first sleeping whale! I should add that I just love whales!!! Oh my gosh! I never get tired of whales. I had just never considered how they slept.
      We’ve also seen Orca whales in Alaska. And grizzly bears (which is why I rarely get off the boat in remote areas), and hundreds of eagles, and black bears, and lots of fish, and fjords, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls…..oh, what a special place – especially in summer when the sun is out.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Gotta be careful about those grizzlies. I read an Internet listing of the most dangerous animals, and they were well up there. (The 2 deadliest were the tsetse fly and the mosquito due to the diseases they carry.)

        • Gibblet says:

          I saw a huge grizzly on the nearby shore onetime that looked to be bigger than a VW Bug. He came out of the woods, seemed to be a little flustered at seeing the boat and was shifting back and forth from one front paw to the other, then ran back into the woods. I think after that I went ashore only when we made a rare trip to a town.

  2. Anniel says:


    What a fun poem. I have been out on a few ferry trips where humpbacks have jumped up to have a look at us, and we do see Beluga Whales often, but not sleeping ones. There was a fisherman in southeastern Alaska Waters once in a very small craft and a whale came up under his boat and raised him up, swam a few minutes with the boat on its back, then gently submerged and swam away. The fisherman was spooked but thought the whale was laughing as it disappeared.

    • Gibblet says:

      Wow! What an experience, to be carried along on a whale’s back. Having observed whales quite a bit, I have no doubt that whale knew exactly how it was toying with the fisherman!
      Anniel, do you live in Southeastern Alaska, or farther north?

      • Anniel says:


        I actually live on the outskirts of Anchorage, but have traveled all over Alaska. My traveling days are mostly behind me now so our children have to come here to see us. They don’t mind and they’ve all returned to stay, some for fairly long periods.

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