Monday, July 12, 2010

Week 4: July 4-11 - Sitka, Tenakee Springs to Juneau

As mentioned in the last entry our 4th of July celebration was very quiet. We arrived in the town of Sitka before noon on Monday, the 5th and the rain was still coming down. We tried to purchase fuel but because of the holiday the fuel dock was closed. We tied up at Elieson Harbor dock and donned our rain gear to take a walk to explore town. We bumped into a fellow that we had met while cruising last summer and he invited us on board for cocktails later that evening so we were happy to have a social activity for later that night. We were told by the locals that this was the first 4th of July that they had to postpone the fireworks due to rain and low visibility. So we didn’t miss anything by not being in town the day before. We walked through the center of town to the Sitka National Totem Park on the other side which was lovely even in the rain and fog. (see photo) We never saw the 3,000 foot extinct volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, that is, from what I hear, a spectacular backdrop to this bustling fishing village. But we entertained ourselves by visiting the marine store and a few tourist shops plus a wonderful coffee shop/book store. It rained all day. (See photo of what our boat looks like after being subjected to rainforest weather conditions for 3 weeks. ),-135.35575&ll=57.05934,-135.35575&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

We spent a second day in Sitka working on boat projects and doing the grocery shopping and laundry chores that we do weekly. I enjoyed watching the Ravens and Eagles that perched on the clump of evergreen trees near the marina keeping a sharp lookout for their next meal of fish. Oh, by the way, I was told by a couple of blog readers that a large group of eagles is a Convocation, and in case you are interested, a flock of Ravens is a Terror and a flock of Crows is a Murder. What’s with that? These poor birds get a bad rap! There is no shortage of Native artwork and books about Raven mythology here in Alaska. The Northwest Coast Indians believed that the sun was stolen from a ‘box of daylight’ and released into the sky by the trickster, Raven to bring light to mankind. He was the creator of the world and he was also a bit of a rascal according to Indian lore.

On Wednesday, the 7th we departed early in the morning. It was very foggy but no rain, and there was promise of sun! After taking on fuel, we headed towards Salisbury Sound. We were thinking that if the sun actually came out and it was calm in the ocean that we would head north on the outside of Chichagof Island which we heard was beautiful. There were definite patches of blue sky as we cruised through the narrow passages on the way north. But by the time we reached the Sound the fog was dense as pea soup so we ducked into Kalinin Bay for the possibility of a hike that sounded interesting. There, the folks we had cocktails with in Sitka were anchored, so we visited with them for awhile hoping that the fog out in the Sound would dissipate by the afternoon. No such luck, so we changed our plan and headed east inland, and there, we finally found the sun. Peril Strait, which we had previously cruised through in rain and fog, was a whole new vista with the sun shining. We stopped at Appleton Cove just off the Strait in the late afternoon. Its a large anchorage and several boats were already anchored. Other than swatting the huge pesky black biting flies that Pete calls 747’s, we had a lovely afternoon basking in the sun and enjoying the mountain views for the first time in several days!,-135.29129&ll=57.47094,-135.29129&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Thursday morning was lovely. We could see that fog was in the strait so we waited until the morning breeze pushed the fog away before departing for our next destination, Tenakee Springs. We arrived at the village dock in the early afternoon, and the first thing we saw was a beautiful boat called Wiley King which is the boat that belongs to an old friend of Pete’s from Washington State. Pete knew this friend spent a lot of time in Alaska fishing but he didn’t know that Tenakee Springs was the place he kept his boat. On the dock Pete ran into another friend, Stan Moberly, who is best friend’s with the owner of Wiley King. Stan invited us to stop by his summer house as walked through the village. Tenakee Springs is home to 400 full time residents and a couple of hundred additional summer residents. What a charming place! The village is lined up along both sides of a one mile long dirt road. The only vehicles are bicycles and ATV’s. There is a post office, “city park”, school (10 students), library, old fashioned grocery store, the

Part(y) Time Bakery (with free wireless), the Blue Moon Restaurant, the ferry dock, helicopter pad, and the all important bathhouse. Tenakee Springs is different from all the rest of the villages that we’ve visited that were originally Native villages. This village was never an indian village. It was inhabited initially by loggers in the wintertime who enjoyed the warmth of the natural hot springs and later by employees of the nearby cannery which has long since burned down and now by summer vacationers from Juneau. (see photo)

This is the first bathhouse we’ve encountered where swimsuits are not allowed. Nude bathing only. There are hours for women and men to bathe separately. Men bathe from 2 to 6pm. Women from 9am to 2pm. Pete bathed while I browsed the store and bakery with local hand-made crafts. Margie, the baker, told me that Rie Munoz, who is a well-known Alaskan artist, has a summer residence here. Much of her art is showcased on the walls of the bakery. On our way back to the marina which is at the far end of town, we stopped by Stan and Linda’s cabin called ‘Double Happiness’. We sipped cocktails on their deck overlooking Tenakee Inlet and the mountains beyond and enjoyed the warmth of the evening sun.

The Moberly’s invited us to join them for dinner with their two sons, daughter-in-law and 2 year old granddaughter, Charleigh, at the only restaurant in town, The Blue Moon. But first they had to notify the proprietor, Rosie, that there would be two more joining. Their son rode his bike to the restaurant to give Rosie notice. The Blue Moon is in a shack that hangs over the water and would probably be condemned if a state agency were to visit the premises. There are two dining tables inside - more seating would be possible if it weren’t for the cases of beer and food that line the walls taking up much of the space. We were told this method of storing food and beverage also serves as insulation for the thin-walled building. :)There were 5 menu items posted on the wall, but our friends told us that Rosie was prepared to serve us hamburgers, so hamburgers was what we would get (with loads of french fries). Rosie, Linda told me, was a mail order bride from the Philippines for one of the cannery workers back in the 50’s. Her husband has long since passed, but she is still here operating this vintage food establishment. The burger was not 5 star, probably not even 2 star, but the dining experience was priceless.

We went back to the boat with warm hearts and full tummies and I even stayed up long enough to take a picture of the sunset at 10:30pm!! (see photo)

We couldn’t leave Tenakee Springs before I had a visit to the bath house, so we walked to town Friday morning and stopped for a wonderful egg scramble breakfast at the Party Time Bakery. We also took advantage of the free wi-fi there. Then I strolled to the bath house with towel in hand a bit tentatively because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping there wouldn’t be a crowd of women. Behind the first door was a large changing room lined with benches where you disrobe. I noticed one other pile of clothes on the bench, so I was fairly sure there was only one person in the bath before me. I folded my clothes neatly and took off my silver jewelry because I’ve learned that the sulfur in the baths turns all my silver black. (I mentioned this to the woman who was in the bath when I arrived and she said that toothpaste works to clean silver! I tried it later and it works! ) When I opened the door to the bath I saw a concrete room with a skylight above centered in a metal roof. The rectangle pool directly below the skylight was a bit larger than a bathtub and it was flush to the floor. I had the distinct feeling that this room had been in existence unchanged since the beginning of time. It reminded me of what an old Roman pool would look like after sitting unused for centuries. The concrete walls and floor were bare and clean. The interior of the pool was rough pebble concrete, but the water was as warm as that of an artificially heated hot-tub. I chatted with the other woman in the tub for a few minutes before she got out and then I had the bath to myself. I returned to the cafe to finish my emails 45 minutes later, and then I met up with Peter at the Moberly’s to say our goodbyes. Stan loaded us up with jars of salmon, a package of frozen prawns and several jars of jelly from berries picked on the island. What a gift of local bounty! I’ll always remember Tenakee Springs - old fashioned neighborliness with a smattering of quirkiness and charm.,-135.20629&ll=57.77781,-135.20629&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

By noon we were on our way to the Native village of Hoonah. Chatham Strait was calm, and the mountains were all in view but there was a high overcast and the sun had disappeared. We saw lots of whales - both Orca and Humpback. (see photo)......... Okay, Okay, I didn’t take that photo, but to tell you the truth its dang hard to get a good photo of a whale with a digital camera. All I ever capture is the splash after the tale disappears into the water.

We arrived in Hoonah just as the rain started to fall around 5pm. We had been told that there was Halibut pizza at the Misty Bay Cafe here, so we went off in search of this novelty pizza. We found the cafe but it was just closing. I couldn’t believe that they would close by 6pm on a Friday night. The proprietor told me that they were always closed on the weekends. Strange but true. I believe they are probably open during the week because that’s when the cruise ship comes to town with tourists. We were disappointed to miss out on the pizza but we went to the grocery store for a few items and Pete did find a potential Weems and Plath dealer, the local tackle and marine store.,-135.44591&ll=58.10702,-135.44591&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Saturday morning was windy and rainy. The straits were very different from the day before. Choppy and ominous looking. We planned to go all the way to Auke Bay which is north of Juneau by 12 miles and is the closest marina to the Juneau airport. We crossed the section of water where Chatham Strait, Icy Strait and Lynn Canal converge. It was too bumpy to eat along the way, so we pulled into a sheltered bay called Swanson Harbor and tied alongside the park dock to make breakfast. We chatted with a couple, Mike and Gillian Hays, who had arrived the night before from Juneau to spend the weekend here on their boat, but because of the high winds that were forecasted they decided to cut the weekend short and head back home Saturday morning.

After breakfast we followed the Hays boat into the choppy seas and on towards the Juneau area. There were no mountains in view because the cloud ceiling was very low. The only interesting site along the way was a family of humpback whales playing in the waves as we neared Juneau. We pulled into Auke Bay around 2pm and went straight to the fuel dock. When I called the harbor master to find out about a slip for the evening she told me that the marina was “quite full” but we were welcome to tie along side any boat that was on the dock. Wow, this was the first time we had encountered a full marina. What to do? We weren’t very happy with the idea of tying next to another boat. We slowly patrolled the marina to see if we could find an opening we could slip into when I saw a man wave us down from the end of a dock. I opened the window and he called out, “Chuck told me to look out for you. You are welcome to tie up alongside my boat. I’m Grocery Boy.” Grocery Boy? I looked at Pete for a response. Pete said, “Oh yeah, Chuck talks about him all the time.” Long story short, Grocery Boat is the name of a boat owned by Dave who is a good friend of Chuck Worst who as I mentioned in the first entry of my blog loaned us all his charts, and crab pots, etc. for this trip. We gratefully tied alongside Grocery Boy for the night.(Dave used to own a Red Apple Grocery store in Washington, but now charters his boat for fishing trips in Alaska and BC.) What a wonderful serendipitous event!!

Once situated Peter and I decided to venture into the city of Juneau via the city bus that stops every 1/2 hour near the Marina. It was raining so we planned to get the lay of the land and just ride the bus round trip. The bus driver told us the $1.50 fair was for a one way ticket to downtown Juneau. We had to get off the bus in Juneau for 45 minutes and then get back on and pay the fair for the return trip to the marina. No problem. We had a quick visit to the city and returned to the marina two hours later. Dinner time.

The best thing about Auke Bay in my estimation is the nearby Thai Restaurant (Chan's Thai Kitchen). I haven’t had better Thai food anywhere. There was a line outside the door before it opened and the line continued until closing 4 hours later. We waited 1/2 hour to sit and another 1/2 hour to receive our food, but it was worth it and the customers were fun to talk to. Very friendly people here in Juneau and lots of young people in Auke Bay because the University is just up the street.

Sunday morning we were able to move to a dock space across from Grocery Boy when a seiner fishing boat pulled away from the dock. It rained all day. We worked on the boat until early afternoon and then took the bus to the grocery store which is between the marina and downtown Juneau. We called a taxi to bring us back to the boat after shopping. After dinner we went outside for another walk and as we were returning to the dock a pickup truck pulled up in the parking lot and the couple we met the day before in Swanson Harbor, Mike and Gillian, jumped out to greet us. They had come to look for us to give us some prawns they had caught and to invite us to use their car if we needed to do any errands. Wow, more serendipity! As we talked they asked us if we had visited Mendenhall Glacier yet. When we said, ‘no’, they said they would like us to see it, so we jumped in their truck and drove the 20 minutes to the glacier. It was 10pm and still light enough to see even with the rain and fog. The glacier was an amazing site (see photo). What wonderful people here in Juneau! We are truly blessed!,-134.64801&ll=58.38316,-134.64801&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1


  1. WOW! What a wonderful week you had! Thanks for sharing this trip with us. You are quite the tour director with mouth watering descriptions.
    The people you are meeting and the interesting situations you seems to be experiencing is fasinating.

    Inthemystery is because of those wonderful Ravens. Great birds that you seem to now understand about.
    I miss you terribly but feel close to you and Pete on this amazing trip.
    Nancy S

  2. Am loving all of your entries, Cathie, enjoying the descriptions of friends and food! and especially the encounters with beautiful bird life (and bears). Blog on!

    You will be amused to hear that when I read "watching the Ravens and Eagles" my first thought was, "But it's not football season!" Ha. I have been living with sports fans for too long.

    Love you!