Monday morning we woke to the sound of silence. Raindrops were not tapping on the deck of the boat above us. The sun was peaking through the clouds. It was time to move on. We ate breakfast at the Waffle house which is at the other end of the building from the Thai restaurant. They served excellent Cappuccino’s and blueberry waffles plus they have free wi-fi. After publishing my blog for the week we departed from Auke Bay hoping for good weather as we headed south towards Tracy Arm to see icebergs and glaciers. The seas were flat calm and the mountains were somewhat visible so it was a good day! We stopped for the night in Taku Bay which has a lovely dock maintained by the park service. (see photo) It was a challenge to navigate the entrance of the bay because there were many commercial seiner fishing boats fishing in the strait adjacent to the entrance. There were salmon running towards the river inside the Bay.
We walked to the beach and explored the abandoned salmon cannery and the little cabin provide by the Park service for the enjoyment of the public to use simply by making a reservation. We found a wonderful swing in the forest obviously meant to be enjoyed by visiting campers. Peter and I enjoyed taking turns on the swing.
The next morning we departed early at 5:30 am because we knew it would be a long day visiting Tracy Arm and the glaciers. The “arm” of water that reaches the two glaciers is over 20 miles long, so we were going to cover 40 miles roundtrip plus another 20 miles to get there at our slow pace of 8 knots. The cloud cover was high so the mountains were visible to 3,000 feet! It was another calm day. Tracy Arm is a fjord cut out by the glaciers. The water is deep - over 900 feet. The mountains rising steeply on both sides. The two glaciers South and North Sawyer are disappearing rapidly due to the warming of the earth so there are icebergs that have peeled away from the glaciers throughout the waterway. The closer you get to the glaciers the more
“bergie bits” of all sizes choke the waterway. The icebergs were beautiful ranging in color from blue to green to clear. We did stop to chip some ice off a berg to put in our cooler. (see photo) We had heard that it takes a long time for iceberg ice to melt because of its density, thousands of years of compacted ice compared to the ice in the our ice cube tray. As we approached the glacier we slowed to a mere crawl and were a bit offended when two fast tourist boats from Juneau zipped passed us at breakneck speed. We stopped when we were about a mile from South Sawyer Glacier. (see photo).We didn’t want to negotiate any more bergie bits. It was unnerving when we bashed into pieces that scraped the bottom of the boat from bow to stern. Images of the Titanic whirled through our minds! The glacier was a spectacular site even from a mile away.
We arrived at the entrance of Tracy Arm around 5pm and decided to continue on south to another inlet, Windham Harbor to spend the night. The weather began to change as the evening fell. By the time we entered the harbor at 7pm it was rainy and foggy again. We could barely see in front of us. We anchored in a sheltered bay close to what appeared to be an abandoned fishing lodge. We were so grateful that the weather wasn’t like this when were visiting the glacier!
We woke to rain Wednesday morning and decided to stay put until the fog and rain abated which wasn’t until 11am. Some people have asked what we do on the boat during rainy periods. Well, this day, for example, we watched a convocation of eagles that were fishing at low tide on the nearby beach. They exercise so much patience as they silently watch with “eagle eye” until the right moment to strike. We love the opportunities to read in the comfort and warm glow of the flame of our Dickinson diesel heater. We plan and prepare our next meals. (We eat very well! )There is something wonderful about preparing meals from the seafood we have harvested ourselves. Of course, there are always boat maintenance projects that keep Peter occupied. This year he spent many hours removing the entertainment cabinet/bookshelf from the bulkhead to access the rear of the stereo to hook up a cord to play music from our ipod/phones. And something new this year, we spend 20-30 minutes a day doing yoga exercises. We always joke about what time the yoga class is that day. We have to take turns due to space limitations. Pete usually attends the 6am yoga class. I tend to take the afternoon session. It’s amazing how this simple exercise really keeps us in shape for the awkward positions we have to get into for the daily chores on the boat. I, too, am taking an art class on board. I have an art journal that I draw in almost every day. This is a big deal for me because I have always said I have no creative bones in my body. I’m attempting to overcome this claim! I have mixed feelings about this class. I have enjoyed paying closer attention to the details of objects or scenes that I draw, but I get frustrated at my inability to put what I see on paper. While I’m in art class Pete is often working on emails and making work related phone calls.
Back to our itinerary...... after the rain subsided somewhat, we headed back into Stephens Passage to continue south and then west, traveling some of the waters we’d already visited two weeks before. There are never ending bays and inlets to visit. No matter how often you travel the same path you don’t ever have to go back to the same place twice. This day the seas were rough so we picked up speed to get across the open waterway as quickly as possible. We entered Pybus Bay on the southeast side of Admiralty Island mid afternoon, and after setting two crab pots we anchored in Henry’s Arm. Pete made bread dough with yeast we had purchased in Juneau earlier that week.
On Thursday morning, the rain had completely subsided. We pulled the crab pots - no crab, only sea stars!! :( (see photo) As we cruised slowly into the smooth waters of Pybus Bay we saw two dear on the beach. We watched them walk gingerly into the water and proceed to swim two miles across the inlet to the other side. They were strong swimmers! (see photo) We continued into Frederick Sound and at point Gardner on the south tip of Admiralty Island we stopped the boat to fish. We were not alone. There were scores of sea lions fishing as well. Within a matter of minutes Peter caught two fish. One small Rockfish which he kept for crab bait and an 8 pound Yellow Eye Rockfish that he cleaned and filleted for dinner. (see photo) We ate well that night! Cashew encrusted baked Rockfish and warm homemade bread!!! Nothing better!
We spent the night in a tiny cove called Ell off Chatham Strait, very close to Warm Springs which we visited a couple of weeks earlier. We put the dinghy in the water with the outboard motor and explored the salmon hatchery in the bay next to Ell Cove. It was hopping! Literally! The salmon were returning to spawn and they were jumping all around us. The commercial fisherman were actively fishing out in the strait and then delivering their catch to the processing boats in the bay who purchase the fish, sort it and then take it to market. (see photo) We shared tiny Ell Cove with two commercial fishing vessels and another cruiser that night.
We left early the next morning to continue north on Chatham Strait. We were running out of water on the boat so we intended to visit the Native village of Angoon on Admiralty Island to refill our tank. We didn’t time our visit well because the tide was running out of the inlet at 9 knots where the town dock was located. We pulled to the side of the inlet and waited an hour for slack tide. The marina at Angoon was eery. There were scores of abandoned vessels high and dry on the surrounding beaches - a graveyards of boats. The dock was tippy and grass was growing in the cracks. We quickly filled the water tank with a nearby hose, stretched our legs for a few minute walk on the nearby road and then returned to the boat and left.
As we continued north on the strait we followed a pod of humpback whales hugging the shore of Admiralty Island. We spent an hour watching them them feed as they slowly moved up the shoreline. At one point Peter saw a brown bear come through the woods to the beach and then run off as if scared by something. I think he was scared off by the sudden spouting and blow of the nearby whale. Pete thinks he was frightened at the sight and sound of the nearby boat. Who’s to say?
We continued on to Freshwater Inlet on Chichogof Island that evening. There were several boats already anchored in Pavlof Harbor which was the anchorage recommended by the guide book and several fellow cruisers. We decided to anchor in nearby Cedar Cove. Only one other boat joined us. There was also an old house float in this cove that someone was living in because a plume of smoke was streaming out of the chimney. The cove was home to hundreds of beautiful orange jellyfish as well. (see photo)
Saturday morning the seas were calm so we continued north not sure what our destination would be that day. We decided to push forward due to the good weather so instead of stopping in Hoonah where we have already been once we decided to aim for Elfin Cove as our next stop for fuel, milk and bread and laundry. We spent an extra hour at the crossroads of three large bodies of water near the entrance to Glacier Bay because the waters were perfectly calm which made it extremely easy to spot whales, sea lions, birds and a host of abundant wildlife. We had the amazing opportunity to watch a pod of humpback whales bubble feed. The whales work as a team to bring the fish to the surface. No, I didn’t get a great photo of this, but I have included a photo, such as it is, to show that we did see whales! Twice Peter had to stop abruptly when whales crossed our path in front of us!
We decided to spend the night at the head of Idaho Inlet about 15 miles from Elfin Cove. We had fun watching gigantic sea otters play in the bay that night.
Two 47’ Nordhavn power boats joined us in the bay before nightfall and the next morning we introduced ourselves to the other boat owners as we pulled anchor and found out they were going to Elfin Cove as well. Our three boats tied up next to each other on the transient dock in Elfin Cove. This quaint village is home to several sport fishing lodges that take individuals and small groups fishing during the summer. (see photo) Earlier in the summer there had been an electrical fire that burned to the ground the one fishing lodge that served as a restaurant in the village. The charred remains were a blatant scar on the hillside of the village that is negotiated by boardwalks. We walked the length of the village and talked to a friendly fishing guide along the way who gave Peter some great fishing advice. We asked him about the fire, and he responded, “the one downtown?” I giggled inside. Downtown? The town is no more than the equivalent of 5 blocks long so to use the word ‘downtown’ is a bit of a stretch. The village does have a general store, post office and laundry/shower facility.
We were invited by the owners of one of the Nordhavn boats, Sea Star, for a halibut dinner. They caught the big fish while at anchor in Idaho Inlet the night before! Ted, the 28 year old son of the owners of Sea Star, attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Texas, and prepared a gourmet meal for 7 that we enjoyed tremendously.
Monday morning we woke to fog! Happy 25th Birthday Ben!! No internet service for me here in Elfin Cove. Peter uses his Verizon broadband card to get service, but I have to wait for a free wi-fi spot. By mid morning the skies cleared. We fueled up, took on water and departed for the village of Pelican 15 miles away. Pelican is another boardwalk town and is located on the same island but further west and south along the Lisianski Inlet. We arrived in early afternoon and were joined by the two Nordhavn boats once again. Walking along the boardwalk we determined quickly that this village is struggling since the close of the crab packing plant a few years ago. We had been told that Pelican was a more active community than Elfin Cove, but that’s not what we experienced. The general store was closed, no sign of life. There was only one sportfishing lodge that we could see. The only eating establishment was Rose’s Bar and Grill (emphasis on BAR) and the Lisianski Inlet Cafe which is only open for breakfast and has Wi-fi!! There was activity at one end of town where a new water line was being installed underground. This is one of the few villages where we could leave garbage because they have a nearby landfill, but the lone garbage truck in the community was broken down, so the pile of garbage behind the caged enclosure was piling high. Garbage is a problem in general in all communities in Southeast Alaska. Most communities burn as much garbage as possible. Then, unfortunately what’s left is deposited in the sea. Very little recycling here.
Tuesday morning, here I am at the Cafe! Today after updating the blog we will head back north towards Glacier Bay.