Sitka & Baranof Island

Sitka & Baranof Island

Glacier Bay National Park to Hoonah, to Appleton Cove, to Sitka and back to Appleton Cove:  207 nm / Critter Count:  38 humpback whales, many sea otters, 8 seals, multiple sea lions, 5 porpoises, 5 deer and 1 grizzly bear!

After a fantastic visit to Glacier Bay National Park, we found ourselves looking at the calendar and saying, “hey we should probably put a plan together for our remaining weeks!”  How did that happen?  After simply going where we felt like going, it was time to actually have more of a plan.  Hmm.

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We’d better stop being footloose and get a plan!

 

We knew we wanted to visit Sitka, and the weather reports for the west side of Baranof Island were not favorable for a comfortable trip down the west side of the island.  Sadly, we would miss Elfin Cove and Pelican – two small communities that we’ll definitely get to on our next Alaskan adventure.  Instead, we would head back Icy Strait and down Chatham Strait to Peril Strait and over to Sitka, which is located on the west coast of Baranof Island, and not on the way to anywhere.  That’s probably part of what makes it so charming!

We left Glacier Bay, letting the NPS staff know we were headed out, and started on our way back to Hoonah, where we would spend the night.  We called the Harbormaster in Hoonah when we were a good ways out still and he began to work on where to put our 60 foot selves.  Funny thing, we ended up in our same spot, right in front of Alaskan Eagle.  It was a bit of a gathering of the tribe as we saw a number of folks we knew, or were getting to know through our travels.  Akeeva, a 50 Nordhavn was in the house and we finally said hello – a funny instance as they live at Shilshole Bay Marina as well, just a few docks over from us. After an evening of dog walking, blog posting and cocktails in the cockpit we readied ourselves for an early morning departure.  The 22 foot tide swing (22 feet!!) the next morning would put us at about 4.9 feet below zero tide.  We would have all of 1.5 feet under the keel and neither of us felt great about that.  Up early and out!

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Zoe slept through the rainy transit.
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Kevin, always the chef, made prosciutto eggs benedict as I drove us south.  Ultimate man I tell you.

 

We cruised south in a misty rainy morning, where visibility was sometimes less than ideal.  As we moved down the coast we suddenly saw a tremendous density of “targets” on the radar ahead, with AIS triangles all over the screen.  What could be going on?  With the giant tide swing it seems that there was a huge opportunity for fishing.  Seventeen plus fishing boats – seiners, gillnetters and trollers were clustered around Point Augusta, taking turns with a sweeping motion through the water.  They were conversing on the VHF by first name, not boat name, giving each other the go ahead to take a turn.  It was like a misty boat ballet.

The whales of course found this movement of dinner through the water to be equally as interesting.  While they weren’t after salmon or rockfish, they do eat the small bait fish that the larger fish eat as well.  Where there are many fishermen there are often whales.  At this point we were starting to believe that seeing humpbacks every day was just a part of our life.  We didn’t realize how much we’d miss these giant elegant creatures later.

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As we moved down Chatham Strait the sun started to try to come out, but when we turned into Peril Strait, off it went again.  Back to the mist.  We hit Peril Strait at slack current so Kevin decided to participate in a survey by another Nordhavn owner, Peter Hayden, who owns the 60 Nordhavn, Tanglewood.  Peter was interested in studying the fuel burn at different RPMs of various boats to see what could be learned about optimum performance.  As there wasn’t any current, and there weren’t any other boats around, this seemed like a good time to record our findings.  I’ve included them below as I know if Kevin were writing, he certainly would.  As a side note, while the N60 is only 5 feet longer than the N55, and is basically the same boat in terms of layout and hull (the same mold is used in construction), there are all kinds of other potential differences in terms of engine HP, propeller (we have a 5-bladed propeller on Red Rover), etc.

RPM Fuel Burn: Gallons Per Hour Speed Over Ground (knots)
802 1.4 5.1
904 1.9 5.7
998 2.5 6.2
1101 3.1 6.7
1201 4.0 7.3
1306 4.8 7.9
1401 5.9 8.3
1502 7.6 8.7
1613 9.7 9
1701 11.8 9.2
1798 14.4 9.5
1870 17 9.7

We entered our anchorage, Appleton Cove, to find that it was scattered with crab pot buoys.  Ugh.  The boat responsible for the pots was also in the house – a commercial fishing boat earning a living for multiple families.  We decided not to feel so badly about the pots and instead wish him luck. A sailboat with a Seattle Yacht Club burgee was also anchored in the well-protected bay.  We anchored the boat in close proximity to the sailboat to avoid the crab pots and in the process noted a grizzly bear wandering along the shore!  Dog walking would occur in a different location for sure.  We found that the super low tides created a nice dog running spit, and with our bear spray and bear bells in tow, we let Zoe run and splash for a bit, getting rid of some energy.  A rainy night created a still yet beautiful anchorage, and in the morning we were off to Sitka!

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Misty Peril Strait.
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At anchor in Appleton Cove.

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Bear bell – make those bears aware!  Doggo in the house.

Peril Strait is 39 miles from the entrance off of Chatham Strait to Kakul Narrows and Salisbury Sound.  We had a head start due to our anchorage, but the entire trip needed to be carefully timed due to strong tidally influenced currents at Sergius Narrows, part-way through the twisty strait.  Apparently, currents can run in excess of 9 knots in Sergius Narrows with standing waves.  Fabulous.  Interestingly, the book that made such a giant deal about Wrangell Narrows and our need to print out the waypoints and shout them out to one another said very little about Peril Strait and Sergius Narrows.  The narrowest part of Sergius Narrows is about 100 yards wide and this route is frequented by tug boats, the Alaskan Ferry and other large, sometimes fast moving commercial traffic.  We found ourselves following a tug and his tow through the strait and the narrows, and therefore had a nice track to follow.  Not a problem even with some fog, some wind and a big tide change and the currents that went with it.

Peril Strait took us to Salisbury Sound which is open to the Gulf of Alaska.  We quickly crossed the Sound which had good sized rollers coming across the bay.  Nice to be in a Nordhavn!  Smaller boats were having quite a ride.  From Salisbury Sound we made our way down Neva and Olga Straits, more narrow and tight passages.  Again, these were beautiful and smoothly transited.

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Eagles along the water’s edge, just chilling.
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Here’s hoping we don’t end up like this!
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Or this?  Waterside crosses – first I’ve seen (like highway crosses).
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The many islands and small passages on the way to Sitka.
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A passing doggo on a fishing vessel.  Maybe a lookout for fish?
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Elegance in fishing.

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Arriving in Sitka, we read that the Harbormaster was exceptionally good at finding moorage for visiting pleasure craft, except likely the week of the 4th of July or the week prior.  Guess what?  No room at the inn.  The Harbormaster was incredibly friendly and helpful though, and felt badly that he could not accommodate us.  Had we been 50 feet long we would have found a slip.  One of the challenges of a bigger boat.  We spent the night anchored behind the breakwater with a bunch of commercial fishing boats that were also unable to secure moorage.  It was blowing and we felt uncomfortable leaving the boat other than to walk the dog. Sitting in the pilothouse, I read a story about a Sitka based boat, the F/V Eyak, that had delivered the mail to remote communities on western Baranof Island for many years.  Early one morning while underway, with the captain, his dog and three crew aboard it hit rocks and sank.  No one was injured but the captain who had lived aboard was homeless, and the remote communities that relied upon him were left isolated and stranded.  The communities banded together and helped the owner/captain raise the Eyak and bring it to a shipyard to try to bring it back to life.  The story resonated with all that we had been learning in our visits to small, remote Alaskan towns.  People are independent and strong, but they help each other when help is needed.  Community safety net.  For real.  We were excited the next day when we saw the F/V Eyak in person, back to work and looking renewed and refreshed!  A happy ending.

 

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The view from our anchorage – waiting along with the fishermen.
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F/V Eyak!

The next day we were happily assigned moorage in the marina and set out to explore Sitka.  Sitka is a cruise ship port of call but is not as frequently visited as other towns in SE Alaska.  Sitka is a “city” of about 9,000 people, and was originally settled by the Tlingit people more than 10,000 years ago.  In 1799, the Russians settled in Sitka, looking to create a trading outpost and a city.  The Tlingit were to “harvest” the sea otter pelts for the Russians who apparently could not get enough of their warm fur.  Sea otters have 1 million hairs per square inch or something crazy like that in order to keep them warm in the very cold Alaskan waters.  Well, the Tlingits didn’t really care for the Russians and in 1802 the Tlingits destroyed the Russian settlement and killed most of the Russians.  The Russians were not to be stopped however, and in 1804 they returned to Sitka with a soldiers to reclaim Sitka.  Which they did.  And then they re-established the town as a new settlement called New Archangel.  The Russian’s influence can be seen throughout Sitka today – from architecture to fur shops to shops that sell Russian stacking dolls and more.  The Russians came to an agreement with the Americans in 1867 to sell Alaska to the US for $7.2 million.  The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka.

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I am not a fan of this, humans!

We explored the town with and without Zoe, walking everywhere.  We both agreed that we could probably live in this nifty town.  Amazing marine stores, good restaurants, arts and culture, and natural beauty.

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Why is this poor dog sitting in a box promoting a children’s book series about him?

And in the marina, we continued to watch the energy of the fishing fleet.  The reason we could not obtain moorage the first night was that the fleet was preparing to leave for the Bering Sea and also for more local waters – there were some big opening dates coming up and the boats and crews were getting ready.  It is amazing to watch this activity.  Huge loads of groceries being loaded down ramps, carts full of Coke and Sprite.  Chips, snacks and vegetables.  Freezer packs of beef – all of the parts of a cow one can imagine, flash frozen and packed ready for your fishing boat freezer.  Crews were practically running up and down the docks when they weren’t cleaning, painting or exercising on-board equipment.  We saw some of the boats we’d noticed in Petersburg and Ketchikan in Sitka, laying over and prepping for the hard work ahead.  Alaskan fishermen are strong people.  Supporting strong families.  I have so much admiration for their craft and their tenacity.  I read a story about how something like 80% of the seafood consumed in the US is imported from other countries.  Why?  I’ll never buy farmed fish or fish from outside the US again.  Let’s support our US-based fishing industry.

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Zoe wanted in on the fishing boat action.
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As seen on a bumper sticker on one of the many pick-up trucks in the parking lot.
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Argh the Kraken!

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A little laundry?

A few fun experiences in Sitka:

  • We went to the grocery store. Exciting, huh?  This grocery store had the most amazing view from its waterfront parking lot.  Crazy use of real estate.  Inside, we met a fun young man who had moved to Alaska from the east coast.  He was originally a chef on a yacht and then worked at some high-end fishing lodges.  Ultimately he settled in Sitka and is now creating pretty amazing concoctions at the meat and seafood counter at the Sea Mart Quality Foods grocery store.  We spent way more than we were going to and filled our fridge and freezer with some truly awesome creations.  Including king crab legs. YUM.  The grocery store advertised that they would pay for your cab ride back to the marina if you spent over $150.  No problem.  We walked out of the store to see a cab sitting right out front!  No driver however.  Kevin decided to call dispatch.  A cell phone rang in the driverless car.  Yep.  Alaska.
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The view from the grocery store parking lot.  A developer’s dream.
  • We walked to the Sitka National Historic Park which is a national monument that commemorates the Tlingit and Russian histories in Sitka. The park has a stunning hiking trail scattered with totem poles.  Gorgeous.
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The walk from the town center to the National Historic Park.

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The totem pole trail.

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  • We had two great dinners! The first dinner was with our friends Rita and Vaughan from Baraka Bashad.  After taking our dinghy through town to make for a speedier trip to food, we walked to the Sitka Hotel for dinner with these two and two other sailors from B.C. that they had been buddy-boating with previously.  A fun evening was had by all!  More halibut for me and elk for Kevin.  Yum.  The next night we went out to Ludvig’s Bistro, about a 15 minute walk from the marina.  Ludvig’s had been highly recommended by Peter Hayden from M/Y Tanglewood and we thought we’d give it a try.  What an exceptional, romantic, intimate, fabulous restaurant.  Love.
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What a handsome guy.  Glad he’s all mine. At Ludvig’s.
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There was a great dog park by the marina – Zoe did some serious fetching before we headed out!

We left Sitka on the 29th, heading out again to time to Narrows.

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Time for some Grandma Rohlman selfies – Grandma and her husband (Grandpa!) lived near Sitka for two summers.

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After an uneventful passage we arrived back at Appleton Cove in time for a dog run and dinner.  A Coast Guard helicopter was circling the bay as we arrived.  It seems that one of the sailboats within the bay had run aground earlier in the day and now with the tide coming up, the concern was about taking on water and sinking.  Thankfully all was well with the boat and it came back up with the tide without further challenges.  In the morning we explored the mud flat that was usually underwater, except in these very low tides, and found all kinds of interesting creatures.

Appleton Cove to Ell Cove, Waterfall Cove & Takatz Bay 42 nm / Critter Count: 10 humpback whales, 2 deer

With all of the mileage to get to Sitka (keep in mind that we travel at about 8 kn/h) and back we decided to have a few more leisurely days exploring some of the coves on the east side of Baranof Island. Unfortunately for us, the weather was just wet.  Wet. And more wet.  But it was still beautiful.  We first went to see Waterfall Cove, which was not an anchorage, but a visit.  A huge waterfall gushed into the small cove, where we were the only occupants. Despite the rain and the wind it was gorgeous.

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Zoe wants to know what that is?!?!

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We then tucked into Ell Cove, which is just adjacent to Waterfall Cove.  More waterfalls, a sandy beach at the mouth of the cove (not commonly seen in SE Alaska) and a pretty little spot for lunch.  We put the anchor down and had grilled cheese and tomato soup in the salon, enjoying a bit of warmth on this cold icky day.

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Ell Cove entrance.

From Ell Cove, we decided to head south a few more miles to Takatz Bay, a destination we had heard about from multiple cruisers.  We headed in the entry to the bay, which wound around until we came around the corner to an absolutely stunning anchorage.  GORGEOUS!

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Waterfalls cascaded down to a completely protected, beautiful cove.  We put the anchor down next to a waterfall and the only sound was the crashing of the falls as it met the bay.  We were sharing the cove with three other cruisers and a commercial fishing boat that hailed from Gig Harbor, WA.  The fishing boat raised their red solo cups to us as we came into the bay – either because they liked our boat or they liked our Seahawks flag that we proudly fly from the mast. Either way, it was National Mai Tai Day and Kevin felt that while we couldn’t make Mai Tais (not enough ingredients), we could make a relatively distant cousin drink, the Hurricane, and deliver some beverages to the hard-working fishing crew.  He hopped in the dinghy with his hurricanes in more red solo cups, inclusive of glacial ice, of course.  The fishing crew was delighted at our “neighborly-ness.”  Fun!  Zoe was able to explore a small bear-free island and dinner by the waterfall was unforgettable.  The fog rolled in and out and the anchorage was magical.

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Coming into Takatz Bay.

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One of the waterfalls as it neared the bay.

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Doggo photobomb.

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I spot a Red Rover!

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Waterfalls coming down to the bay in the mist.

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Mist and rain, beautiful.

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Our fisherman friends check their crab pot – dinner!

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The next day we thought about simply staying put.  It was just so pretty….  But I had this desire to head 4 nm south to Baranoff Hot Springs.  I was dying to sit in the natural hot springs next to a raging river.  So off we went.  We arrived at Baranoff Hot Springs in short order to find that the dock was full and that the bay was experiencing 20-25 kn winds.  Anchoring and leaving the dog on the boat was not a good idea.  So… we left and I didn’t soak in the hot springs.  Next time.  We went back to Takatz Bay and re-anchored in our same spot.  As a consolation prize for no hot springs I decided to go kayaking.  I put on my rubber boots, my rain pants, my long underwear and both my down and gortex jackets along with a life jacket and a handheld VHF radio.  READY!  The funny thing is, we had not yet used this kayak that came with our boat.  We have two other kayaks that we need to either sell or do something with, but since this one had a rack that fit it perfectly, we just hadn’t done much with it.  Our other kayaks are sit-in kayaks and this is a sit-on-top kayak. As this boat used to live in Mexico, the kayak of course is oriented to warm weather and water.  Not Alaska.  We launched the kayak with the davit and I went to crawl on top, only to notice that water came up through the foot rest area (it was supposed to – cool off the kayaker you know).  51 degree water… but with all of my clothing and my XTRA TUFF Salmon Sisters boots I was all good.   I kayaked to the bottom of each waterfall and back into the shallow mud flats surrounded by meadow and then quickly, steep rocky faces of mountainsides.  So stunning.  I did just use that word again!  I didn’t fall in and all was well.  But, we’ll be getting a new kayak here in the coming weeks.  That is for certain.  3 kayaks will be up for sale!

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Explorer doggo.
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Kevin working on getting the drone up and running.  Of course, it needed an update that required more WiFi.

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Onto more Alaskan adventures!

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

About 8 years ago when we owned our 4788 Bayliner Pilothouse we decided that we’d take that vessel on the Inside Passage to Alaska.  (Yes, we owned a Bayliner named Island Dog and no we didn’t run with our fenders hanging out – it was a great boat for a family with dogs and teenagers and we loved it.)  We plotted out our route and noted destinations and fueling stops along the way.  The ultimate destination was to be Glacier Bay National Park, about 1100 miles north of Seattle.  And then the recession hit and our bigger concern became simply surviving through it, and coming out the other side as unscathed as possible, with two small businesses in the real estate industry.  The Alaska plan was scrapped.

 

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One of the many spectacular views at Glacier Bay National Park.

 

In 2015, when several Nordhavn owners got together and announced a rally in Alaska for the summer of 2016, the Alaska plan started up again.  This time with the purchase of Red Rover, N5505, our beloved Nordhavn.  But we couldn’t make all of the timing work to be in Alaska for that rally.  We’d have to settle for the San Juan Islands – a couple of summer trips, a bunch of upgrades and maintenance on the boat, moving into the boat, and not nearly as exciting activities as cruising to Alaska.  We were at the FIDO Fuel Dock at Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes making the fuel pump do unnatural acts when every other boat that came in asked us, “Ohh… a Nordhavn, where are you off to?  Alaska?  Mexico?  Hawaii? South Pacific?”  Um, no, just Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  And then we have to go back to work on Tuesday, but we’ll have a lot of fuel. Disappointed looks from fellow boaters ensued. We were definitely not supporting the world-traveling brand of Nordhavn.  Bad.  That evening swinging on the anchor at Reid Harbor with bourbon in hand we decided that we’d put the Alaska plan back in action, for the summer of 2017.  After approaching my business partners and Kevin’s team about us being out of touch for six weeks, we committed to making it happen!  Six weeks we thought, wow!  I’ve never taken that much time off in my adult life.  Apparently however, six weeks is extremely limited in “Alaska time.”  Everyone we meet up here says, “oh, well yes, we’ll probably head south sometime in September… you know, we left home in early May.”  When we say we are here for 6 weeks we get sad looks.  Agree, it is sad, as we’d love to spend our entire summer up here.  But we still work… so it is what it is.  This won’t be our last trip to Alaska.  A few photos to get this story started follow:

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Hoonah to Glacier Bay National Park:  30 nm / Critter Count:  10 sea otters including one momma with a baby, 10 humpback whales

Needless to say, after all of the lead-up to Glacier Bay National Park, finally heading out of Hoonah and winging our way down Icy Strait (at 8 knots – that’s winging you know) toward this long-sought-after destination was pretty exciting!  All of the excitement caused hunger.  Every other day when we are running we take turns making lunch.  It started simply, with ham sandwiches and apples and chips.  And then the bread was toasted on the sandwiches and a cup of soup was added… simple still.  Somewhere along the line the lunch game elevated sharply.  And on this day, Kevin brought the game to a whole new level. As I was at the helm, he was the Lunch Man.  I smelled delicious scents wafting up from the galley.  Grilled halibut tacos with lime-marinated and seared cabbage and onions, tomato, cilantro and a sprinkle of cheese.  Accompanied by roasted corn salad.  Of course.  This is what everyone eats when in the middle of nowhere Alaska, cruising along with the humpback whales slapping their tails in the water around the boat.  Right?  Right. Fabulous!

 

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I am a lucky girl.
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Just a view out of the salon windows as we cruise toward GBNP.

 

When Kevin took over the helm I decided that I’d whip up some dessert – fresh baked cookies and milk served in the pilothouse.  Not much of a response to the taco throw down, but it was a start. We are not having a diet trip it seems.  Ah well, you live once.

Back to Glacier Bay.  Before you enter Glacier Bay, between Point Gustavus and Point Carolus, you have to call the Bartlett Cove Ranger Station to gain permission to enter as well as to receive instructions on how they would like you to proceed through the “Whale Waters” that are located just inside the mouth to the bay – apparently an area where the humpbacks like to hang out.  We of course never saw a whale in the whale waters but we did see a ton of humpbacks in other locations.  The friendly ranger on the VHF asked for our permit number and confirmed that we were on their list, starting this day for a duration of 7 days.  She then explained that we should maintain a center channel course, ensure that we were never closer than 1 nm to the shore, and maintain a speed of under 20 knots.  Not a problem in this boat that maxes out at 10 knots unless we are riding a giant tide change current!  We then should proceed directly to the dock at Bartlett Cove, taking a 90 degree angle to the dock to ensure our movements were specific and predictable.  We then were to attend the 5 pm required boater orientation.  Boater orientation is required annually for all boaters visiting Glacier Bay.  As mentioned in our last post, there are only 25 permits for private boats available each day at Glacier Bay National Park.  In addition, two cruise ships come in and depart each day as well as what we think is a max of 5 charter boats which includes small “cruise ships” holding say 20 passengers such as the National Geographic cruise boat we later saw at Bartlett Cove.

It was sunny and calm as we entered Bartlett Cove, passing a small boat with blissed out occupants simply relaxing in the sun.  We decided that as we were going to spend the night in Bartlett Cove prior to proceeding further into the park that we should anchor instead of tying up to the dock, which has a 3 hour stay limit per 24 hours.  Of course, when anchoring a squall appeared.  Love that.

Bartlett Cove consists of a small ranger station with an even smaller meeting space, closed off from the front desk by curtains, a shower/bathroom facility, a campground, the Glacier Bay Lodge which has a Park Service visitor’s center and a restaurant as well as cabins, and the new Tlingit Huna Tribal House that was constructed last year and dedicated on the 150th anniversary of the National Park Service with great ceremony.  The ranger station has a covered patio that has, yes, WIFI!  And a sign to use it sparingly and to share with others.  There were many campers and boaters there sharing.  🙂

 

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Welcome to Glacier Bay!
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Two black bears had been seen wandering around the ranger station daily.  This stuff, who knows, but it made us feel better!
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Zoe, with bear bell, helping Kevin check his email at the ranger station.

 

The orientation started with a quick film about the beauty and cultural significance of Glacier Bay National Park – both to inform and to educate you about why it is important to follow the many, many rules.  A very sweet and young ranger then gave us an overview of more of the rules, appropriate anchorages, updates on ice in the water near the glaciers, and a bunch of information on wildlife.  For example, Johns Hopkins Inlet by the Johns Hopkins Glacier is closed to boater traffic because the seals were giving birth in that area.  Seal pups rest on ice floes and if knocked off, could lose their mother (out hunting for food) and die.  I immediately became very concerned about any and all seal pups.  Anywhere. After completing the orientation, we signed our permit and that we understood the rules and regulations and headed out, only to be stopped by two young men from the University of Utah doing a survey to help the National Park Service better understand the needs and motivations of visiting boaters, kayakers and campers.  As Kevin heckled from the sidelines that I should make sure I was getting all of the answers down correctly, I completed the survey (I love a good survey).  The survey had interesting questions about our motivations to visit with potential answers such as:  to connect with nature; to experience peace and stillness; to bring peace to my emotions; to engage in an activity that others may find risky; to have an adventure; to be alone with the environment… and more.

We have had many boaters tell us: 1) Tracy Arm is way better than Glacier Bay National Park; 2) All of the rules of GBNP make it a hassle – not worth it. 3) Skip it and spend time elsewhere.  Our answer to this, now that we have been to the Park – Tracy Arm is spectacular – absolutely stunning.  But so is Glacier Bay National Park.  GBNP is enormous and the scale is just incredible.  The mountains, the color of the water, the wildlife, the quiet – all off the charts.  Wouldn’t miss it for the world.  We’ll be back to experience even more in the future.

Glacier Bay was formed by the Little Ice Age, which reached its peak in 1750.  Glacier Bay was a wall of ice.  When Captain George Vancouver visited in the late 1700s the ice had retreated 5 miles up the Bay.  When John Muir traveled to Glacier Bay in 1879, it retreated an additional 40 more miles up the Bay.  The park contains over 1,000 glaciers, but the distance is now 65 miles from the mouth of the Bay to reach one of them.

Glacier Bay became a National Park in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act into law – a park encompassing 3.3 million acres.  It is my personal hope that our current US leadership can see beyond their ego-centric ways to support and maintain our national parks.  What a gift to all of us who visit and to the creatures that call these special places home.

 

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Red Rover at Bartlett Cove.

 

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Glacier Bay National Park – Shag Cove, Tarr Inlet, Blue Mouse Cove and more / Critter Count: hundreds of sea otters, hundreds of puffins, 1 black wolf, 2 grizzly bears, 1 black bear, at least a hundred sea lions, 2 porpoises, 50 humpback whales including a breaching whale!

We didn’t get started until the late morning as we ended up needing to use the WIFI to deal with a few things back home. We’re closing on our new Seabrook beach home (which will be a rental home – we aren’t moving off of the boat!) in early July, so there is a lot of paperwork going back and forth at the moment.  As such, we decided that we wouldn’t try to push quite as far into the park as we had initially planned.  We cruised through Stikaday Narrows and the Whale Waters (still no whales) to South Marble Island where we began to see what this place was all about.  Whales, sea lions, puffins, sea otters!!  South Marble Island was one of the park’s protected islands and we could approach to 50 yards off of the south shore and otherwise 100 yards.  We were not to go closer or to access the island.  We could hear the boisterous chatter of the Steller Sea Lions from many more yards away – what funny, talkative creatures!  Zoe was uncertain of what they were and gave them a bark or two, which they completely ignored.  They probably couldn’t hear her over their conversations.  These silly giants are endangered but thankfully the population is growing in Glacier Bay.

 

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We could hear them (and smell them) before we could really see them…
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Such chatter – what were they talking about?

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“I’m the king of the mountain!”

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South Marble Island

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A humpback just next to South Marble Island puts on a show.

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And goodbye!  See you soon Mr. Whale.
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Hello Mr. Puffin!

 

In reading my many guidebooks, I noted that Shag Cove, off of Geikie Inlet sounded like it was a stunning destination.  I should note here that anchoring in Glacier Bay is a bit of a challenge as most of the waters are extremely deep, or have rocky bottoms, impossible to sink an anchor into.  Other anchorages are in protected waters, closed to motorized boats at different times due to wildlife needs.  So even though there are only 25 permitted boaters in the Bay at any one time, many of the anchorages will have more than one boat within them.  We decided to head to Shag Cove – here’s an excerpt of the description in the Exploring SE Alaska book:  “Shag Cove is a classic U-shaped alpine valley.  Glacier-polished granite walls rise 1,000 feet; numerous waterfalls tumble down these walls, and small bowls that hold year-round snow nestle here and there.  The water throughout the cove is turquoise blue glacier wash.”  Sounds good, eh?

We decided to spend the afternoon and the evening anchored in the bay and to explore the larger Geikie Inlet by dinghy.  But first, we anchored, in 80+ feet of water!  400 feet of chain was deployed.  And note, we were super close to the shore.  But all good, we were the only ones here! Kevin fixed another awesome lunch (chicken quesadillas) and we sat back with bug spray and binoculars to watch the shore, hoping to see bears or a moose.  Nope, but we did see a Gray Wolf walking around the bay – quite quickly.  Handsome guy! The afternoon and evening were lovely, and we were able to experience our first 22 foot tide change.  22 feet!!!  That’s a lot of water moving in and out.

 

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Heading into Shag Cove.
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So very green.
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Anchored and it’s time for a Grandma Selfie!
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Scenery from the cockpit.
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All alone in the anchorage!
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Red Rover at Shag Cove.
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Dinghy exploring Shag Cove.

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That little white spot is Red Rover at the head of the bay.
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Zoe looking at the snow that is still on the beach.
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Zoe loves a good dinghy ride.  Coming back to the boat at Shag Cove.
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We do like to take photos of Red Rover!

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What do you mean we are going back?

 

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Gray wolf wanders the shore.

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All of that red painted chain means caution you are getting to 400 feet!
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About 11 pm.

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In the morning we headed out, with a plan to see a few of the glaciers and enjoy the day of exploring.  The sun came out and the world was glorious!  Humpbacks were everywhere – eating and cavorting in the water. An interesting note on the humpbacks.  In our family we have a tradition of “Tropical Christmas” where we go to the beach for the holidays each year.  Maui is a frequent destination and we always see the humpbacks visiting from Alaska – also enjoying their winter holiday.  These may well be the same whales.  We learned that most Glacier Bay whales migrate to Hawaii each winter – a 2,500 mile trip that takes them about a month to complete (each way).  The whales mate and give birth in Hawaii – a whale party!  They do not eat the entire time they are in Hawaii.  The Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui once told us that the waters in Hawaii lack the rich nutrients that the Pacific Northwest waters have.  At Glacier Bay, apparently, the whales come back to a food fiesta and spend their entire summer eating, eating, eating!  The humpbacks are 40-50 feet long and weigh over 35 tons so that’s a lot of seafood intake!

 

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This whale appeared right next to the boat!
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Heading down.

 

In our travels up the bay, who appeared, but Baraka Bashad!  Oh hey there Rita and Vaughan!

 

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Hello Baraka Bashad!

 

We continued on our journey to see hundreds of sea otters, gathered together in what looked like sea otter school – moms and dads and little sea otter kids floating around on their backs together.  The sea otters are also protected as they were extensively hunted for the Russians who once owned Alaska, and who desired their pelts.  In 20 years their population has gone from almost zero to over 9,000 in Glacier Bay.  And you see them everywhere!  Curious little guys.

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Hey there cutie!

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Sea otter school!

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I made lunch as we motored along (prosciutto and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup) and came back to the pilothouse to find Kevin blasting, I mean blasting a Scorpions album as we approached the Margerie Glacier.  I guess glaciers make him feel like a little hair metal?  Who knows.

 

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Our wake in the gorgeous turquoise waters.
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Travel view out the pilothouse window.
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Glacier approach.

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Margerie on the left, Grand Pacific ahead.
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Of course the flybridge will come in handy in Alaska!
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Now that’s a panorama!
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Margerie glacier.
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Red Rover, meet Margerie.  Not too close though!
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Bow selfies.
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Zoe loves taking photos with us.
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A quick look behind us.
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Back deck selfie too!

 

We moved up to the flybridge to experience the glacier, which was calving much less ice than we found in Tracy Arm.  An easy approach!  We of course needed to also gather some glacial ice for the freezer – can’t just have ice from one glacier!  Nope.

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Of course you need a YETI for your glacial ice!

 

The Grand Pacific Glacier, which was the granddaddy glacier of Glacier Bay is next to Margerie and at first was hard to discern as a glacier.

 

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Grand Pacific.

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Sea otters hanging on an ice floe.
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Puffin!
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Ice that is calving is said to be about 200 years old.

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Just an eagle catching a ride.

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After spending some time with the glaciers we move along to see some more!  Lamplugh Glacier was creating its own weather as we approached – and the world went from flat calm to windy and cold.  We moved along and saw Reid Glacier which has retreated back so that it is no longer a tidewater glacier – yet still impressive!

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The humpbacks came out to give us an amazing show as we cruised along toward Blue Mouse Cove where we would anchor for the evening.  Blue Mouse Cove carries an additional restriction of “quiet hours” with no generator noise from 10 pm to 6 am.  As we had been told, Baraka Bashad was in the anchorage, and they were not alone!  A grizzly bear was walking the shoreline picking up giant rocks as if they were playthings and searching under them for crustacean appetizers.  Finally!  A bear sighting!  We ended up seeing two grizzlies and a black bear in this cove.  Nice.  We visited with Rita and Vaughan, had a little ice wine and commented on how spectacular this evening was.  I’ll let the photos describe it.

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Blue Mouse Cove – so gorgeous.

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Another vista from the cockpit at Blue Mouse Cove.

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And yet another view from Blue Mouse Cove.
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It was cold.  But too gorgeous to be inside.

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Baraka Bashad has a furry friend!

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In the morning, we decided that since it was such a spectacular, sunny, cloud-free day that we would sit and soak it in – enjoying the vistas that surrounded us.  Another grizzly bear came out, seeking more snacks and we watched him or her for an hour or so.

We had determined that we could not spend a full 7 days in Glacier Bay and make it to Sitka, and see all that we wished before we needed to head south.  As such, we decided to check out a few coves and inlets, visit the sea lions and puffins again and take a leisurely cruise back to Bartlett Cove that evening.  It was a stunning afternoon.

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This lazy fellow just kind of hung out next to us for a bit.

 

 

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Bow riding doggo.

 

We were passed by a cruise ship when I was at the helm.  AIS was very concerned about a potential collision, but all was fine as they passed us and created a bit of wake.  As we were coming into Bartlett Cove, the second cruise ship of the day was also arriving at the mouth of the bay.  An interesting note here – the cruise ships pick up rangers at Bartlett Cove who are a resource for passengers.  They then tour the bay and drop the rangers back off.  Simple, right?  Not so much.  The transfer happens at 7 to 8 knots.  The ship slows down and the Park Service drives their 30 foot tender up against the cruise ship where the rangers slide on and off.  We watched the transfer happen as we gave way to the cruise ship to allow an easy process for the rangers.  That’s a job hazard, huh?

 

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Oh hey there Cruise Ship!

 

We took Zoe for a long walk around the ranger station and enjoyed a good dinner and a cold beer at the Glacier Bay Lodge.  A successful journey!

 

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Beer and dinner at the Glacier Bay Lodge.
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Tree carving on our walk.
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A gorgeous sunset to complete a beautiful visit to GBNP.

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Red Rover loves Alaska.

 

 

Kevin and Alison Interviewed by James with Pendana Nordhavn

Kevin and Alison Interviewed by James with Pendana Nordhavn

We just realized that we had not posted this Guest Interview by James with Pendana, a 62 Nordhavn.  James, Claire and their two daughters are traveling the world in their Nordhavn.  They left Australia about 4 years ago and we had the pleasure to meet and get to know them while they spent this past winter in Seattle.  They are a hoot! The Guest Interview was fun to do – take a look when you have a moment!

 

 

Juneau, Funter Bay & Hoonah

Juneau, Funter Bay & Hoonah

Time to catch up again!  We’ve been in Glacier Bay (which will be in our next post as it deserves its own post entirely) and the scenery kept our eyes busy.  No time to look at a computer screen.  I wrote this as we took a 3.5 hour ride from Glacier Bay back to Hoonah for a quick night on our way toward Sitka. And now we are in Sitka, boy are we behind!

But enough about that for now, back to our Juneau, Funter Bay & Hoonah visits.

June 15 – Tracy Arm Cove (No Name Cove) to Juneau:  44.5 nm. 

As I may have mentioned in our last post, we weren’t planning to go to Juneau at all, as we had heard it was super touristy and full of gold and diamond stores targeted at cruise ship passengers.  This isn’t really accurate.  There is one area of the downtown that resembles this remark but there is much more to Juneau.  We also read that the residents of Juneau are exhausted by all of the cruise ships and aren’t as friendly to small boat cruisers as other Alaskan communities.  NOT true at all.  We encountered super friendly people who helped us immensely.

As our Maretron weather station failed in the Williwaw storm the night before, we needed to get a new part and Juneau was the destination. Kevin had a satellite phone/email chat with the good people at Emerald Harbor Marine and we then noted that we would reconnect when we achieved real cell service.  That didn’t happen until almost 2 pm on Thursday.  Larry, the owner of Emerald Harbor and Kelly in the office ran around to make magic happen.  As it turns out, you can’t simply overnight a package to Juneau from Seattle.  What what?!?  Nope, you need to do what is called FedEx Same Day Service in order to get it there the next day (which of course was Friday to complicate things and shorten the window to get the package vs. a Tuesday delivery).  And you can’t deliver it to a FedEx office.  No of course not, that would make too much sense.  Instead, you have to have an address to deliver to.  An address?  Well, how about the marina (Port of Ketchikan).  Nope, they suggest the Post Office, General Delivery.  Well, it is FedEx.  Unlikely that the USPS will receive our package with open arms.  And, to add to the fun, they are only open for an hour.  Extremely convenient.  We tried some Mailbox, Etc. (not specifically one of these brands) type places.  Also a NO.  We were starting to believe that people were indeed not very nice in Juneau.  Until we called Visit Juneau and explained our plight, wondering if they might have a suggestion?  They kindly offered to receive our package for us!  They explained that of course, being Visit Juneau, saving the day for visitor vacations was totally in their wheelhouse.  J Wahoo! Phew.  Thank you thank you thank you Visit Juneau! With that figured out, and after more scrambling from Larry and Kelly on our behalf, we knew that our package would be coming in to Juneau on Alaska Airlines (#iflyalaska) the next morning.  Back to having fun!

 

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Our box of Maretron goodies. Thanks so much Emerald Harbor Marine and Visit Juneau!
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#iflyalaska.  Kevin is a Gold and I’m a 75K so it totally makes sense that our packages arrive via Alaska Airlines.  Best. Airline. Ever.

 

After a few nice chats with Dennis, who was managing the harbor that day, we came into Harris Harbor Marina and tied up.  Zoe was itching to explore Juneau and who were we to disappoint her?  We wandered into town to see a mix of government buildings, cruise-ship oriented tourism destinations (trinket shops and jewelry stores), restaurants (again with broad menus!) and a very cool tram that apparently offered amazing views of the area.  Of course it was very overcast and drizzly so there wasn’t too much to see on this day.  But having seen the mountains around Juneau since then, I am sure it would be an amazing ride.  We took advantage of the opportunity to sit outside in the drizzle and enjoy some halibut tacos and Alaskan White beer.  Mmm.

 

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Most expensive halibut tacos and beer ever.  But they were fantastic, so we’ll give it a thumbs up!

 

On Saturday we decided that we would rent a car and explore the area while waiting for the package to arrive.  After retrieving the car, Kevin went into Travel Juneau and had a fun 30 minute chat with Cara and team who gave all sorts of fun recommendations and were truly interested in our travels.  I think Kevin convinced them to go to Petersburg for a girls weekend!  Sitting in a car after a few weeks of not traveling at more than 15 mph felt fast!  And Kevin seemed to think that the stripes on the road were “suggested guidelines.”  Hmm.  First, we hit the local Petco with Zoe.  She needed to find an additional dog bed that would be comfortable in the pilothouse.  She tried a few out and selected one.

 

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“I think we should get this one, hoomans.”

 

 

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“Just right.”

 

After a lunch of halibut and chips and a trip to the local outdoors store for more Smartwool socks and a pair of XTRA TUFF “Alaskan sneakers” for Kevin, we drove up to see Mendenhall Glacier.  About five busloads of people arrived just after we did… which is now overwhelming as we have been accustomed to being alone most of the time.  That said, it was a very beautiful spot.  We took the trail to the overlook and then decided to walk the trail out to the waterfall. Along the way we saw a monument honoring Romeo, a black wolf that roamed this area.  Zoe paid her respects, of course.  It was funny, as we were sauntering down the path people would pass us at a high rate of speed – rushing, rushing, rushing.  Got to get to the waterfall.  Take a selfie. Rush back.  Hurry!  I think we’ve slowed way down. We’re not in much of a hurry to do anything!

 

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“Romeo is my spirit animal. #didjuneau?”

Random caption bar I can’t make disappear.

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We had to join in the selfie game.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
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Glacier, waterfall, mass amounts of people. 
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“Glacial water is so refreshing.”

 

We then drove out “the road” – there is only one – for about 25 miles or so to see the scenery and the lush, green vegetation that this rainforest climate creates.  Beautiful vistas.  Oh and we saw a marsh with maybe 50 eagles sitting in it, just hanging out like black and white gnomes dotting a field.  Did I get a photo?  Nope.  But it was cool, trust me.

And then, of course, a trip to Safeway was in order.  I had a long chat with an Alaskan native at the fish/meat counter.  He was remembering when Alaskan residents had recreational king crab permits.  He told me a story about how they would eat king crab legs all the time, sitting around the table, saying to themselves, “I wonder what the rich people are eating?”

June 17 – Juneau to Funter Bay (Admiralty Island).  51 nm.  Critter Count:  12 humpbacks, 1 sea otter

On Saturday morning we left Juneau, heading toward Glacier Bay without too much of a plan, knowing that we had a bit of a wait until our permit began.  It was rainy and misty and actually, just not a lovely day but we had hot coffee and a warm boat.  So off we went!  We headed south, rounded Douglas Island and motored north into Lynn Canal, only to make a sweeping turn around the Point Retreat lighthouse and head south down toward Icy Strait.  The scenery was beautiful, even with the less than beautiful weather.

 

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Rounding Point Retreat.
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The mountains are getting bigger as we head north.

We spent the night on anchor in Funter Bay, located at the intersection of Lynn Canal, Chatham Strait and Icy Strait.  Zoe did some swimming and some beach combing and we checked out the bay in the dinghy.

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“That’s my hoat!”
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A sunken engine – a remnant of the old cannery that was here.
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The public dock – we chose to anchor.
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Explorer Man.
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Explorer Dog. With bear bell.
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Pretty little islet.
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Red Rover in Funter Bay.

 

June 18 – Funter Bay (Admiralty Island) to Hoonah via Neka Bay (Chichagof Island).  40 nm.  Critter Count:  2 deer (land critters), 5 porpoises, 1 sea lion, 10 humpback whales and a field of cows (more land critters).

On Sunday morning, which of course was Father’s Day, we left Funter Bay and headed toward Port Frederick.  The sun was coming out, which was alarming to our eyes and delightful to our minds.  What a gorgeous ride!  We cruised across Chatham Strait and on up into Icy Strait. A perfect opportunity to continue some Grandma selfies with our cut-out of Grandma Rohlman.  Sounds like she is enjoying seeing these photos at home!

 

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The sun came out for Father’s Day!  Hooray!

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Grandma has been riding in the Captain’s cabin.
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He’s a good grandson.  🙂
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Grandma visits Icy Strait.
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“Grandma! How did you get here?”
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Zoe had to get in on the selfie action.  She’s kind of the jealous type.

 

We passed Hoonah and headed up Port Frederick looking to anchor in either Neka Bay or North Bight and spend some time swinging on the anchor in the sun, cook up some steaks for Father’s Day, maybe read a book, go dinghy adventuring and basically chill out in the sun (yes I said it twice, there was sun!).  We arrived to these two stunning anchorages to find hundreds, literally hundreds, of crab pots and buoys.  And the crab boat that put them all there.  Absolutely impossible to anchor in that mess.  Crab season just opened though and this is their livelihood.  Onto Plan B.

 

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Scenery around Neka Bay.

 

We motored back toward Hoonah and once we were about 30 minutes out, gave the Harbormaster a call on the VHF.  We chatted with Jeff, who is the Assistant Harbormaster and who is currently in the lead for the award for nicest person we’ve met in Alaska.  Jeff was busy but noted, “I’m thinking we can work something out,” and so he did!

 

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Hoonah

 

We pulled into sunny, warm Hoonah Harbor and saw our friends Vaughn and Rita on Baraka Bashad!  Rita sat on the bow and in the sun and said, “Oh hello Red Rover, Come on Over!”  After docking in front of an absolutely enormous and spotless Northern Marine vessel named Alaskan Eagle, we spent some time chatting with Jeff who was full of information.  He provided us with a brochure about the town, hooked us up to 20 amp power (the fridge ran on it basically), told us about different highlights of Hoonah and noted that there would be a cruise ship in town the next day.

An eagle sat right next to the boat, as if to welcome us to town. Kevin took a bunch of cool shots.  A few of them below!

 

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Welcome to Hoonah!

 

But back to the cruise ship factor. In Hoonah, cruise ships visit one at a time, and tie up out at Icy Strait Point, which is a development that was created to service the cruise ships.  An old cannery is the basis for ISP and it has been restored to include both a museum and shops.  Adjacent to the cannery is an event hall/lodge that has been built in a manner similar to a tribal house. There are a few restaurants, a fire pit where visitors are encouraged to share a chip of wood and a wish (I wished twice – both times for sunshine and calm seas), and yes, oh yes, a zipline.  A zipline?  In Alaska?  Indeed.  Looks very cold.

Icy Strait Point is about 2 miles from the harbor and the town of Hoonah.  While ISP is a bit Disney-esque, it is nicely created.  And Hoonah itself is a friendly, chill town.  It is a small, hard working, very real town that is the largest Tlingit community in Alaska.  The Tlingit people have resided in the Hoonah/Glacier Bay area and lived off of the land and waters that surround them for thousands of years.  Originally settlers of Glacier Bay, the Tlingits had to move as the Little Ice Age (1700s) and a large glacier (the Grand Pacific Glacier still in Glacier Bay) advanced and destroyed their villages.  Hoonah provided a refuge.  In fact, Hoonah has a Tlingit name – Xunaa which translates in the Tlingit language to “Protection from the North Wind.” Today Hoonah has 734 residents, working in the fishing industry, timber and now, tourism.

 

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The hard work of fishing. Love the personalities of these boats.
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This one is an old codger.

 

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Artwork on the stern.

 

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Part coffee shop, part gift shop, definitely home of the 12s!

 

On Sunday evening, after a visit with Rita and Vaughn, we wandered through town, which was mostly closed down for the evening.  Zoe took the opportunity to engage in the arts.

 

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“Oh hi Vaughn and Rita, I think I’ll check out your boat.”

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As it was a beautiful evening, we too, took advantage of the opportunity to engage in our own arts – a bit of photography.

 

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Hoonah reflections.
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A very pretty end to a lovely day.
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Sunset at Hoonah Harbor.
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Perspective.

 

 

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We have spent multiple days thinking about the potential story of this little boat and her red bottom.

 

On Monday morning, Kevin called Glacier Bay National Park to see if it might be possible to move up our permit.  Glacier Bay only allows 25 private vessels per day, all of which must have a permit.  We applied for our permit 60 days ago, as required.  Only 12 of the 25 vessels receive advance permits and the remaining 13 permits are available with 48 hours notice.  As we had been noticing that we seem to be early in the cruising season in Alaska, we thought we might see if we could possibly move the permit dates up. SUCCESS!  We could enter Glacier Bay National Park the next day!  Wahoo!

After that happy phone call, we set off for Icy Strait Point, accompanied by Rita and Vaughn.  It was pouring rain.  We had thought we’d walk the few miles, but Rita, being the engaging person that she is, flagged down a whale watch transport van, figuring that they were likely going out to ISP.  Indeed she was!  And she was happy to give us a ride.  She told us a bit about the town, her education at SPU in Seattle where she met her husband, and their business here in Hoonah.  She also told us about her husband’s book, which is a thriller set on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. How fun!

At ISP, we walked through the cannery museum displays, visited a few shops, watched a gentleman carving ceremonial masks and had few tiny donuts.  Rita and Vaughn said their goodbyes, heading back to their sailboat in order to catch the tide into Glacier Bay.  Kevin and I continued on, walking by the zipline and ultimately deciding to enjoy a morning “walktail” at the bar in front of a warm fire.  AHH.

 

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
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A fire in June.  Delightful. 

 

We then walked back to the lodge building for a “cultural show.”  The cultural show was fun.  Run primarily by high school students it was a mixture of teenage honesty, Tlingit stories and dances, music and yes, a little kitsch, mostly provided by the people also in the audience. Prior to the show starting, one of the teenagers, a rising senior in high school, answered questions about the lodge, the tribe, his school, etc.  Some fun facts from this “chat with Jeff.”

  • There is a school in Hoonah that serves K-12.
  • Students learn their native language in school as a supplement to English.
  • Jeff’s graduating class will have 10 students. Last year’s graduating class had 9, 8 of whom went onto college and 1 went to work at Glacier Bay National Park as a ranger.
  • All of the students in his class are related, so there isn’t any dating. Kind of a bummer.
  • There are four main clans of the Tlingit community in Hoonah, with the two primary clans being Eagle and Raven.
  • Eagles marry Ravens, etc. They don’t marry within their clan.
  • The Tlingits are matrimonial and the family follows the clan of their mother. This was interesting as they introduced themselves as child of X father and grandchild of Y grandfather.  Yet the clan follows the Mom.  Go Mom.
  • Of the 10 performers, 8 were high schoolers. This is their summer job.
  • Hoonah has 3 sports – basketball, volleyball and cross-country. The high schoolers travel for up to 36 hours on the Alaskan State Ferries to play other teams.

 

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Jeff in his Eagle blanket.  Photos were not allowed during the show.

 

Some of the audience members were having trouble wrapping their heads around this and asked Jeff questions as if they were visiting a planet full of Martians who were unfamiliar with Planet Earth vs. a small town with Native American heritage in the US State of Alaska.  That awkward feeling… At any rate, the show was fun.  We learned quite a bit and enjoyed watching the teenagers tell the stories of their people.  Such confidence.  I love seeing that.

After the show, we took the shuttle bus back into town where everything was alive.  The cruise ship was in town!  Having read about the local brewery and an awesome thai food stand in Jeff the Asst. Harbormaster’s literature, we were ready for lunch.  We stopped on the sidewalk and chatted with Srisa for a bit.  Srisa is a beautiful Thai woman who was inspired by her mom, who also ran a food truck in Thailand.  Srisa offers a very limited and very tasty menu of spring rolls and shrimp or chicken pad thai.  She is also a sunny personality and delights in her work.  We settled into our bar stools at the Icy Strait Brewing Company with our pints of locally brewed beer and Srisa floated in, providing the tastiest lunch we’ve had on this trip!  Icy Strait Brewing Co. uses many ingredients found in SE Alaska and seems to have a local following as well as a tourism fan club.

 

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YUM

 

Zoe was of course dying to get off the boat and do some exploring herself after a morning siesta in the boat.  So off we went with the Zo, wandering through town.  The rain came back and drove us back inside and blog writing commenced!

 

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Imagine seeing this state trooper in your rearview mirror?

 

 

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Ah!  A very famous Seattle boat, anchored just off of the brewery and thai food stand.  A coincidence?  We think not.

 

Next up:  Glacier Bay National Park!

Petersburg, Sandborn Canal & Tracy Arm

Petersburg, Sandborn Canal & Tracy Arm

It’s a rainy afternoon here in Hoonah, and once again we need to catch up on the blog!  We’re here waiting to be able to enter Glacier Bay tomorrow.  It has been a lovely day in this small interesting town, but now we have a bit of time to enjoy a good glass of wine, some photo review and blog writing.

Sooo… back in time to Petersburg, where we last left off.

In Petersburg, as in Ketchikan, we were once again “hot berthed” in a slip that usually belongs to a commercial fishing boat.  We love this as the fishing boats are really interesting, and their captains and crew are hard at work, but take the time to say hello and smile.  Petersburg is a community of approximately 3,200 people, with fishing as the backbone of the town’s economy.  Apparently Petersburg “landed and processed over $50.9 million in seafood in 2015.  And you can tell, as everything in town points to fishing. One of our guide books notes that the average income in Petersburg is about $66,000.  It is a thriving and friendly community.  And…it is a community with Norwegian heritage, which can also be readily seen throughout the town and its fair-haired residents.  The town founder, Peter Buschmann came from Norway and found that Petersburg reminded him of home.  The steady supply of fish and the ice from the nearby glaciers made it a great place to create a fishing-focused community.

 

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Swim down!  Trash cans full of frozen fish in the stern of a fishing boat along the dock.
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A very friendly boat guard dog.  Gave those frozen fish a good lick!
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The hard work of fishing.
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Funny little Norwegian Viking ship pole topper..
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And the Viking for the ship.  Sons of Norway Hall and the fisherman’s memorial with a Viking ship in the background.

 

Kevin is getting subjected to my “let’s learn about the town” style of travel that is the basis of my company and its work.  So we learn a bit more in each place than your average tourist likely does.  And we ask odd questions of the people we meet.  J  We’ve found that people throughout Southeast Alaska are:  friendly, willing to help us however they can, go out of their way to be supportive of our needs and are generally very direct and open.  And no one seems to wear bicycle helmets.  I think they figure they have bigger issues to worry about than a lump on the head. Oh and yes, there are 12s everywhere.  Alaska is a part of the Seahawk nation.  In a big, big, bold green and blue way.  GO HAWKS! AND, of course, everyone seems to love Zoe.  How could you not?

 

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The slough on the other side of the wooden plank road from the harbor.

 

As we had been on the get-up-and-go every day plan, we decided to spend a couple of days in Petersburg, wandering the town, going on dog walks and dinghy cruises.  We settled into the South Harbor and wandered up to meet the Harbormaster who had been such fun on the VHF.  The Harbormaster explained that he had a stressful day coming up the next day with 11 boats coming in, including two yachts over 90 feet. And, that these traveling boats were always asking things like, “I’d like a bow-in starboard tie please,” which made him just shake his head as if boy, these people are high maintenance.  He asked us, “why don’t they just back in if they want a starboard tie??”  (Future note to self should we decide to ask similar questions:  don’t.)  This is a fishing community after all.  The fishing captains drive their boats as if they are an extension of their body – it is second nature.  Mad skills.  Impressive to watch.  And the boats themselves?  Full of personality – whether new and huge and bold or vintage and crafted.  Trollers, crabbers, seiners, long-liners and more.

 

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The crab boats were all loading traps all weekend while we were in Petersburg, getting ready for the opening of the season.

 

 

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Love the wooden bow.
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Aptly named.
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One of these is not like the others…
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Kevin’s next boat name.

 

When asked where to find a good burger, the harbormaster told us that the moose burgers at his house were his personal favorites.  Very lean, kinda like bison.  And then he suggested we check out the Elk Lodge or the Moose Lodge.  We haven’t been to one of the lodges yet in this trip, but I’m thinking we need to as they appear to be a fixture in every small town.  To entertain ourselves we came up with a bunch of ideas about how the Moose Lodge came about.  Did someone get kicked out of the Elk Lodge and decide to go with the “larger mammal” for their own, new lodge?  We should research that one.

 

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A Petersburg home on Wrangell Narrows.

 

Petersburg is a mix of fishing and hippie and outdoor adventure.  There are yoga clinics and USCG license recertification destinations and a high-end outdoors/outfitter shop with everything Patagonia and Royal Robbins makes in town.  There is an upcoming controversial marijuana store and a shop that will deep freeze your fish.  As with other small towns, there is a general store that sells everything from XTRATUF boots to papayas to ceiling fans to guns.  These stores fascinate me.  I like to wander the aisles and see what the most unusual thing I can find might be.  In Petersburg, I’d say it was the selection of recliners.

We left a few dollars in the outdoors store, as well as at the great bookshop.  The bookshop kindly sent father’s day cards to our dads, along with a bit of Alaska – mystery books and a fishing hat.  We also spent a bit of time with the fisherman’s memorial in town.  It is a personal and moving tribute to the hard-working men and women of the town.  It made me wonder, what would a plaque with my name on it say?  If your life was summed up in a few words, what might those words be?  I hope mine wouldn’t be, “work was her life.”  But then again, we wouldn’t be able to do this great adventure if we had not been working at the level of focus that we have been for the past many years.  Maybe “the ocean called to her?”  Kevin’s would likely be, “He became one with his Nordhavn.”

After a long walk with Zoe we went on a dinghy ride to see the wreck across from the marina, which I found to be creepy.  And sad.  I hate to see boats in neglect or in a sad state.  Boats should be happy places.

 

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You can see her Nordic fishing boat inspiration…
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Zoe notes that we see these barges leaving Seattle all the time, loaded with everything from boats to trucks to refrigerated containers.  Cool to see them arriving.
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Only sadness.

 

On our second night in Petersburg we met a few folks from the Slow Boat Flotilla, a group of Seattle-area boats traveling together.  Seemed like they were having good fun!  We gave a little tour of Red Rover as well, which we always enjoy as we love this boat to distraction.  It’s great to share a love of boating with people – you have an immediate connection.

Petersburg (Mitkof Island) to Sandborn Canal: 53 nm

On the morning of the 12th, we left Petersburg and headed toward Tracy Arm, our next major destination. Lots of critters in this trip!  Critter count: 21 humpbacks, 2 seals.

We decided to skip the more popular anchoring spot on this route and check out a recommendation from one of our guide books – Sandborn Canal, which is located at the head of Port Houghton.  The book notes that this area isn’t well documented or detailed, but that after a narrow entry point, we should find a spectacular canal where we would likely see bears and moose.  Bears and moose?  We need this!  So off we went.  The scenery on the way was impressive, even in the pouring rain.

 

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Kevin and Zoe check out the sea conditions.

 

 

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One of the many waterfalls on the shoreline, coming down from snow-capped mountains hidden by clouds.

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Fishing boat along the route north.
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This mini-cruise ship was in Petersburg at the same time we were, with a group of Stanford University alumni on a naturalist program. They passed us as we headed north.
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Cool lighthouse.
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Starting to see huge mountains, all around us.

 

 

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Not the Admiral.
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Misty approach.

 

When we arrived at the mouth of the canal, there was a tree sitting in the middle of the channel, which gave us a bit of pause.  At the same time, we were super excited that we were finally going to be anchoring in an Alaskan cove, all alone. And then… the VHF radio sparked to life with a voice that sounded as if it was right next to us. “Red Rover, Red Rover, Red Rover this is Mist Cove.”  Um, hello?  As it turns out, Mist Cove was planning to come into Sandborn Canal too.  Ah, so much for being alone.  Mist Cove did provide some “local knowledge” that the tree had been there for a few weeks and that there was plenty of water.  Not to worry.  He explained that he was taking his parents out for a few nights, going to do some crabbing and fly fishing.  He was super friendly and nice. All of this was on the VHF and we could not yet see his boat.  He was just a triangle on AIS.  And then he came around the corner, all 157 feet of him!  I guess we should not have worried about that narrow channel’s depth!

 

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Not the canal entrance…but a cool spot just prior to it between islands.
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Mist Cove and the tree in the middle of the canal approach.

 

We moved into Sandborn Canal and anchored close to the head of the bay, with Mist Cove coming along behind us and anchoring in a larger area, closer to the entrance.  We saw them launch a tender and put out crab traps, which we assumed was an extended family.  How nice, we thought!

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Misty evening.
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Eagle friend.
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Note scarf – for bugs flying into your face.  Tons of them here, the one downside to the beauty.
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Beautiful and remote spot.
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The scale here is amazing.  Red Rover is almost 35 feet tall.
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Sunset (which does not imply darkness).
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Contemplating the rain.
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Hello Red Rover!

 

In the meantime, we hooked a bear bell on Zoe’s collar, and took the dinghy to shore, with our bear repellent spray (kind of like mace for bears I think) in hand.  I sang loud songs hoping to hurt the ears of the bears so that they would not come see the tasty snack called Zoe.  It seems to have worked.  No bears or moose to be found.  Likely due to the singing.

 

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Zoe sporting her bear bell.

 

After a peaceful night at anchor we awoke to see a fleet of four aluminum center console boats loaded with people wandering by us to the head of the bay.  Hmmm… that must be a big family on Mist Cove.  Or perhaps that captain has many moms and dads?  Perhaps “I’m taking my Mom & Dad out for a couple of days” is code for “I am a mini-cruise ship.”  Guides taught the guests to fly fish and others went off to hike the meadow at the head of the bay.  So much for being all alone.

We later looked Mist Cove up.  I think that if we didn’t have our own boat, I might choose to take one of their adventure cruises, recommended by Orvis.  Mist Cove is one of the two boats owned by the Boat Company, out of Juneau.  Mist Cove was designed and built to replicate the look and feel of the other company vessel, which is an historic vessel.

As we left Port Houghton, the critters came out to say goodbye.

 

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Zoe is fascinated by all of these water creatures.

 

Sandborn Canal to Tracy Arm Cove: 40 nm | Critter Count: 3 seals, 5 baby seals, 1 sea lion, 23 Dall porpoises, 24 humpback whales

And now, we were on our way to Tracy Arm!  We were super excited about this, having heard that Tracy Arm is a highlight for many cruisers, and that many people feel it is better than Glacier Bay.  It did not disappoint.

 

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Sumdum Glacier, seen at the approach to Tracy Arm.
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Baraka Bashad, from Sydney, B.C., who we will see more of in our travels! At Tracy Arm Cove.
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A new favorite photo of mine, at Tracy Arm Cove.

 

We arrived at Tracy Arm Cove (also called No Name Cove) in the late afternoon of Tuesday, June 13.  Tracy Arm Cove sits at the entry to Tracy Arm, and is accessed after crossing the bar into the bay.  The bar is actually a glacial terminal moraine, a pile of dirt and rocks that was left on the bottom of the sea when the glacier receded, creating a shallow area that stirs up the water (simply put).  The crossing was super simple and smooth and we followed a steel-hulled motorsailer into the bay.  Several other boats were anchored in the bay and we joined the crowd to waves and hellos.  After taking Zoe to shore (bear bells on and tinkling) we took the dinghy out to check out the multiple icebergs floating by.  And of course, to obtain some of the much-sought-after glacial ice to make cocktails. Zoe, who loves the dinghy, was highly alarmed by the icebergs.  She started shaking and tried to climb up the side of the dinghy, looking at us like, “Humans!  Do you see this?  THIS IS NOT RIGHT.”  Kevin broke off a hunk of berg and put it in the dinghy, much to Zoe’s distress.  After a few minutes though, she must have decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em as she started licking the berg.  Mmm… ice cold!

 

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What dis?

 

 

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Step 1 – Give it a hug.
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Step 2 – give it a bath.
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Step 3 – break it up.
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Step 4 – pour bourbon on it and toast!

 

On Wednesday morning, we started up Tracy Arm with our new friends in the steel sailboat, Baraka Bashad (hailing from Sydney, BC) following about a mile or so back.  Armed with coffee and cameras, we successfully avoided stray icebergs and oohed and awed at the snowcapped mountains and streaming waterfalls at every turn.  The water and air temperatures dropped and the canyon narrowed.  One of the guidebooks noted that this was like “traversing Yosemite valley in a boat.”  I can see that.

 

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Note Zoe hiding from scary icebergs.

 

 

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It was hard to know which way to look.  We took over 700 photos.

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Birds catching a cold ride.

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Bergs ahead!

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As we motored around a corner we found that the icebergs and “bergie bits” became more and more thick.  The good news?  The new radar showed every one.  What was a quiet cruise became a slalom/game of frogger.  A stunning one though.  With wildlife – two eagles floating on a bergie bit eating a baby seal.  A momma and a baby seal enjoying a rest on an iceberg.  Blue (very dense ice) bergs and eagles.  More and more eagles.  Just gorgeous.

 

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This picture just doesn’t do it justice.
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Sitting on the bow to ensure I could see if the bergs were bigger than we could see (they are much larger under water).
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Mine field.
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Icebergs as they appear on radar.

 

 

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A gorgeous blue iceberg floats by.
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Eagles snacking on a baby seal (poor thing).
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Momma and baby seal resting.

 

Red Rover, aka ice breaker Nordhavn (not really, ice avoider is more like it) made it up to the Sawyer glacier to find a small cruise ship and a charter boat by the North Sawyer Glacier.  (We saw the South Sawyer Glacier in the distance but the approach was ice-choked).  We joined the two other boats to watch in awe as the glacier calved.  Zoe, we now know, is not a fan of calving glaciers and the loud noises that accompany them.  The captain of the small cruise ship called on the VHF to let us know his intentions for turning and moving out, after which he noted, “By the way everyone over here loves your dog.”  Zoe was staring at them from the bow, with many people waving back at her.  Such a funny dog, this one is.

 

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Sawyer Glacier with the charter boat, Alaskan Story.

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Kevin navigating from the flybridge, glacier ahead!
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Had to do a Nordhavn hat photo!  We are still about 1 nm away from the glacier.
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Waterfall by the glacier. Opaque water…challenging!
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Sawyer Glacier
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Well we got the dog to look at the camera, but we blocked the glacier!
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Grandma continues to make appearances.  This time on the flybridge with the glacier!
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Air temp at the top right, 42.6 degrees, water temp below that – 36.6 degrees as we approached the glacier.

 

In short time, we were joined by our Tracy Arm Cove anchor-mates, Baraka Bashad and the Selene, Pairadice with the crew of Alaskan Sea-ductress aboard as well.  We took turns photographing each other with the glacier, shouting that we’d get together later to swap photos.

 

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Red Rover sure looks small.
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Red Rover!
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Baraka Bashad
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Pairadice

 

The sun came out and our world was perfect and special.  We cruised back on the flybridge for awhile, with our “ice confidence” up quite a bit from the trip up the Arm, after which Zoe and I felt the need to have a dance party on the bow, one held with absolutely no one around as we motored quietly through the canyon and ice.

 

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I spy a berg.
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Could this day be any more beautiful?
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Going back seemed much easier.
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Gusher.
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South Sawyer Glacier as we retreated.
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Who said we wouldn’t use the flybridge in Alaska?

 

Anchoring in Tracy Arm Cove again, we took Zoe for a glacial swim and spent some time chatting with our fellow boaters who had returned to the bay at this point.  But all of this was cut short as a squall moved into the area, accompanied by what we believe were “williwaws” which are strong, sudden winds that build off of the glacial canyons and mountains and swoop down into the bays with terrific force.  Williwaw!  A fun word.  I think, a great name for a Labrador retriever.  🙂

 

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Iceberg in an oncoming storm.
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Was it a williwaw?

 

Unfortunately, the williwaw, which was accompanied by thunder and lightning, seems to have had an impact on our new Maretron weather station.  Or perhaps it is a coincidence.  Who knows.  But the weather station was now not functioning.  Argh.  This is our second station in a matter of 2 months.  So we’re curious.  Kevin climbed up to the top of the stack (35 feet up) in the weather, and unplugged the offending device.  We tried a few work-arounds, but at the end of the day, realized that we had a dead device.  And that we’d need to head to Juneau to pick up a replacement.  After a satellite call to Emerald Harbor Marine in Seattle (who are amazing people who moved worlds to get that component up to us), we determined that we’d leave for Juneau in the morning vs. heading to Ford’s Terror, which was our original plan.  We’ll get Ford’s Terror on another trip.  This will not be our last experience in Alaska, that’s for sure.

 

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A last iceberg as we head north to Juneau.  Until we get to Glacier Bay of course!

 

Heading north from Ketchikan – Meyers Chuck, Wrangell & Petersburg

Heading north from Ketchikan – Meyers Chuck, Wrangell & Petersburg

Well, we’re behind on the blogging again.  So much to look at vs. a computer screen + so very little cell service (which is actually quite lovely) = no updates from the Jeffries.  So we’ll cram some time in here as we head north on Stephens Passage on a misty morning.

After a last trip to Safeway for some more La Croix water and vegetables, we headed out of Ketchikan mid-morning on Thursday, June 8. About 30 minutes into our trip we saw a pod of humpbacks working their way along the shore.  Generally, we don’t try to photograph whales as they are tricky to catch in a shot and you end up missing the whole experience.  More of a “keep it as a memory” type of thing.  But, Kevin was intent on capturing the grace of these gorgeous creatures so here are some shots!

 

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Humpbacks just off shore

 

 

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A little bit of tail

 

 

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Diving. Bye whales!

 

We decided to keep a “Critter Count” on a day-by-day basis.  On our trip up the coast from San Diego, Grandpa Darrel (Kevin’s dad) would come up the stairs after a nap and say “Any critters?”  And since then, we have critters.  We’re not counting eagles by the way – we’d be at a thousand by now.  We see these incredible birds at every turn.  Here in Alaska they aren’t simply up in the trees or flying overhead, they are walking in their odd little bird walk down the beach, sitting on a rock at the water’s edge or stretching out their feather clad legs to reach a tasty looking prey.  I think they look like they are wearing white fuzzy pants.  😊

The critter count for the 8th ended up at 13 humpbacks, seen in three different instances.

The day became rainy with low clouds and mist, creating an almost dream-like environment.  We saw very few other boats and no signs of human inhabitation on the islands after we were about an hour out of Ketchikan.

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Grey on grey – a favorite of the Seattlite crew.

 

 

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Zoe likes to drive when she gets tired of sleeping or looking out the window.

 

The day’s course:  Ketchikan to Tongass Narrows to Clarence Strait to Meyers Chuck | 33 nm

In the late afternoon/early evening we reached the day’s destination:  a small hamlet called Meyers Chuck.  In the 2000 Census, Meyers Chuck had 21 residents.  We’re not sure it still does, although the three residents we met were super friendly.  Once inside the tight entrance to the bay, we worked our way over to the float to tie up.  Lucky for us, we had the last spot.  A very nice man, who turned out to be one of the residents came over to add a hand to our docking, after which he told Kevin it looked like he’d been doing that forever!  He then returned to his boat, Provider, to clean rockfish for dinner.  “Fish taco night!” he exclaimed.  An additional boat arrived while we were getting settled, Lucky Stars, a Seattle Yacht Club boat with a friendly crew who rafted to a fishing boat.  Two other cruising boats were tied up, a tug from Port Ludlow who left their 5 dogs at home and therefore had to give Zoe lots of love, and a sailboat also from the SYC who took the opportunity to join their clubmates for G&Ts.  We headed up the steep steel ramp to explore the shore.  Zoe, who is not a fan of high docks with see-through steel grid flooring, ended up needing to be carried (all 58 pounds of her) to shore.  Which is where we met Carol, another resident who wanted to “Meet the man who carried the big dog to shore.”  As it turns out, Carol is married to the gentleman preparing dinner at the boat, and lives in the large house just off of the dock.  Carol is also the owner of the Meyers Chuck gallery, open upon request, just up the path through the woods.  We peeked in the windows and saw beautiful textiles, pottery and woodwork.

 

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A cool sculpture on the walk to the gallery.
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The hamlet of Meyers Chuck.
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One of the docks in Meyers Chuck.

 

While we were wandering two kayakers came to shore, greeted by Carol in the pouring rain.  Carol took them to a cabin where the residents were not home and offered the covered deck as a camping spot for the night.  The kayakers were delighted!  We then spent some time chatting with them, to learn that they were from England, and were kayaking from Skagway to Seattle.  And then somehow to Ontario.  They had been underway for a month so far.  And their primary comment was how nice and kind everyone had been to them as they traveled south.  Also that wind-swept seas in a kayak can be exciting.  Kevin said to me, “And to think that some people think it is amazing that my wife will live on a boat – can you imagine if I asked you to kayak for months in Alaska in the cold and rain?”  I will tell you, this is unlikely.  A long weekend, sure.  Months in 45 degree weather and rain?  No thanks.

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The “sawmill” operated by Carol’s husband.

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Likely to have as wonderful of service as our smart phones did in Meyers Chuck.
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Red Rover on the Meyers Chuck dock.
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Moorage fees in Alaska are trying to compete with Roche Harbor.  Not!

 

Meyers Chuck also has a welcome sign near the dock, inclusive of this invitation to call for made-to-order, personally delivered cinnamon rolls.  This became my fixation.  We MUST obtain cinnamon rolls. Of course, our cell service was so low that we couldn’t seem to get the call to go through.  Or texts.  I don’t know why we didn’t use the satellite phone, but for some reason that didn’t cross our stubborn minds.  Thankfully the crew of Lucky Stars came to our rescue and called Cassy the baker to order our buns.  At 8:15 am the next morning, Cassy knocked on the hull, standing outside in a deluge with warm rolls. After treating the Lucky Stars crew to their morning rolls and devouring ours (yes so tasty we didn’t take a photo) we were underway again.

 

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Worth every penny.  Thanks Cassy!

 

One of the upgrades that Kevin made to the boat is a new sound system throughout, including in the cockpit.  This should be enjoyed at any opportunity.  Rain gear is of course optional.

 

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Kevin is driving, taking photos of me dancing in the cockpit in full rain gear on the camera screen.  What better way to start the morning?
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A headset makes it easier for your co-captain to hear your melodious chords. Highly recommended. (Also a good idea for docking, etc. but singing definitely takes precedence.)

 

Speaking of music, we have a lot of time to listen to music underway!  Sometimes I think about if we were to create a video of this whole experience, what might be on the soundtrack?  A few thoughts so far:

  • Crosby, Stills & Nash – Southern Cross
  • Chris Stapleton – Tennessee Whiskey and Traveler
  • Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
  • Jimmy Buffett – One Particular Harbor
  • John Denver – Annie’s Song
  • Luke Bryan – That’s My Kind of Night (substitute rolling on a 55 vs. the 35s)

I’ll be adding to that list for sure.

The day’s course:  Meyers Chuck to Ernest Sound to Zimovia Narrows/Zimovia Strait to Wrangell | 53 nm20170609_13355620170609_132223

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Documentation.

 

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Documentation tools.  🙂

 

 

After cruising north in again a misty, beautiful and solitary environment we arrived in Wrangell, a small, hard-working community that is said to be the friendliest town in SE Alaska. The harbormaster greeted us like old friends and found us a spot on the US Fish & Wildlife dock where we continued to learn about the hard work of fishing in Alaska.  We walked around the harbor to town, and found what we now know to be a pretty regular small town SE Alaska assortment of stores:  one or two shops that the occasional tourist would find interesting (small cruise ships come to Wrangell on an infrequent basis as well as the Alaskan Ferries); one or more hardware stores that also sell housewares, dog food, linens and more; a restaurant or two (maybe) that serve a very wide variety of food and don’t seem to be open often; a bar (or two); an espresso shop/stand; and an Elks Lodge that is busy. This Elks Lodge was having meatloaf night which seemed popular.

 

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Crab traps behind the boat, getting ready for crabbing season.
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Red Rover fits right in with all of the fishing boats – you can see her inspiration.
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It seems we stick out a bit.
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Wrangell.

 

We finished our 5 mile walk and settled into our deck chairs with a bit of bourbon to watch the world go by.   A gentleman and his wife walked down the dock to chat with us.  The Nordhavn gets a bit of attention everywhere we go, and Wrangell was no exception.  His story was fun. Originally from the Seattle area, he left to do a three month tour of the Inside Passage in his boat, and landed in Wrangell for a night, just as we did.  He decided to stay for a few days after everyone was so nice to him only to meet his future wife.  And now he’s been in Wrangell for two years! He said he used to cruise in the San Juans, and then in the Gulf Islands and then in the Broughtons and Desolation Sound but that there were more and more people as the years went by.  So he kept going north.  And now he’s not going back.  It’s a common theme we hear from the cruising community, and the land-based community here – getting farther away from crowds and traffic and back to nature is a shared goal.

 

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Our new friend’s cool ride.
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Wrangell seemed like a good spot to get a photo with Grandma.  She’s really seeing Alaska on this trip!

 

Oh yes, critter count for the 9th:  15 porpoises, 1 seal and what appeared to be 1 sea lion.  No whales.

The morning of the 10th arrived and with it, a quick boat project.  Kevin installed the new Raymarine Dragonfly chart plotter on the dinghy.  The existing device chose to die just prior to our departure from Seattle, prompting the purchase of a new unit.  Of course!  We were planning a late morning start anyways, as we were heading to Wrangell Narrows, a 23-mile passageway that was said to have tidal current conditions that could be less than delightful.  In addition, we wanted to time the currents so that we would catch both the flood and ebb currents that met in the middle of the Narrows to catch a nice push from Mother Nature.

I have about 6 guidebooks in the pilothouse, all of which offer different opinions on anchorages, towns, sights and more.  They also provide stories from various individuals and their Alaskan experiences.  All of these books made a big point about Wrangell Narrows, currents, tides and what read to be a massive concentration of commercial traffic that should be expected in the Narrows, forcing smaller pleasure craft into the shallows or just about onto the rocks.  All with giant currents.  Sounds like fun, no?

The primary guidebook proceeded to explain that we should print out and color code the navigational marks in the Narrows (there are 62) and that the “crew” should count down the buoys and day marks to the captain as we headed through the Narrows.  Oh and that we should study very hard before entering the Narrows, knowing exactly where we could get out of the way of the Alaska Ferries and large barges in an emergency without getting swept away by the current.  It also noted that we would feel “a great sense of accomplishment” when completing this passage. I envisioned a 23-mile version of Deception Pass, not quite at slack tide, and this began to make me a bit nervous.  Kevin made some chicken nachos to ease my angst and we found ourselves following a fishing boat up into the Narrows.  That seemed like a good omen – local knowledge ahead.

 

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Our fishing boat friend… until he turned out of the Narrows.  Hey, where are you going?

 

We entered the Narrows and I had all of my books and binoculars and charts at the ready.  I even had a tablet with my own chart so I could duplicate Kevin’s three different screens of charts, two radars, etc.  This all seems a little ridiculous now I must say as this was a super easy, beautiful ride up to Petersburg.  No large traffic encountered, no scary currents, nada.  Just us and a bunch of people fishing in small craft as well as a few commercial fishing boats.  So instead we had some fun with it.  I would yell out the number of every mark in my loudest voice to Kevin (just to be sure he heard me you know) and we ran around taking photos and enjoying the trip.  Zoe rode out on the bow for awhile too – so she could feel pleased with herself as well, having braved the Narrows.

 

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The many marks of the Narrows.

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Apparently a particularly concerning area, around the “Christmas Tree.”
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When we woke up the next morning in Petersburg, St. Lazaria was docked across from us.
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One of the cool fishing camps along the Narrows.
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ONE!
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Zoe feels so accomplished. Bow maiden.

 

A word about tides in Alaska:  each day we routinely see anywhere from 11 to 15 foot tide swings in 12+ hours.  So that does have an impact.  It feels like it happens very quickly as well!

In the late afternoon we arrived in Petersburg, a small fishing town located at the northern end of Mitkof Island.  Petersburg was the location of last year’s Nordhavn Rally where over 30 Nordhavns got together here in Alaska.  This rally was one of the prompts to move our dream forward when we did, but alas we did not make it up to Petersburg last year.  We did this year though!  More on Petersburg in our next post!

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Ketchikan or Bust!

Ketchikan or Bust!

After a whirlwind few weeks that involved flying to Tennessee to watch Kirsten race in the Big 12 Championships, some focused effort on work (the real work – not boat work), finishing boat projects, taking a 4 day trip to the San Juan Islands with 2 college kids, a dog and the new electronics, and some hurried provisioning we were finally ready to head to Alaska:  at 10:45 the night before we left.  Anything we didn’t have, I guess we didn’t need! 

 

As we wanted to maximize our time in Alaska, we chose to take the “Outside Passage” heading out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, banging a big right and heading up the western coast of Vancouver Island. The cruise would take 78.5 hours, running 24 hours a day.  To ensure the safety of this trip, we worked with a weather router to pick a window with the best conditions.  To make this easier and more fun we took along a few crew members.  Our next door liveaboard neighbor and friend Darren (I like to say we live 18 inches apart) said YES immediately on being asked.  Somerset, who Kevin met when taking his Captain’s class several years ago, joined us for a second appearance having been crew on the San Francisco to Seattle run about a year ago.  And, Matt, another captain friend of Somerset’s rounded out the group.  Matt and Somerset delivered a sailing yacht from Seattle to Tahiti and know each other quite well.  While Matt and Somerset are primarily sailors, they find the trawler cruising style to be acceptable as well – with a distinct focus on the trash compactor.  It’s just fascinating for some reason.  😊

 

We had previously created a weather window of June 3 – June 12, hoping to be able to leave at some point during this timeframe.  After talking multiple times with our weather router, we were surprised and delighted to learn that indeed we could leave on Saturday June 3!  And waving goodbye to Lisa, Darren’s bride, we left our slip at Shilshole Marina in Seattle at 4:45 am that morning.

 

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Red Rover, ready to go at 4:30 am, now where’s our crew?

 

 

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Leaving Shilshole while the world sleeps.

 

The morning was still and beautiful with barely a ripple on the Sound.  Three cruise ships were just arriving back in Seattle as we were leaving, having traversed the same route we were about to follow.  We rode the outgoing tide up to the Strait and turned to head out toward the mighty Pacific.  The first couple of hours of the Strait were lumpy and chunky, as the Strait often is.  As we approached Port Angeles it became just lovely with sunny skies and fairly calm seas.  Three more cruise ships passed us heading to Vancouver, BC before we reached the Pacific.  Huge glowing islands.

 

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A beautiful day in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  There are three cruise ships in this photo, see them?

 

We had a little cheer as we turned out of the Strait, around the SW tip of Vancouver Island and into the Pacific, at about 6 pm.  The swells worked their way up from about 3 feet to 6 to 8 foot swells around 8 pm which created the perfect opportunity to turn the cockpit speakers on and enjoy a little water and Diet Coke at the stern, watching the waves roll by.  Gorgeous.

 

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Darren hanging out in the cockpit, listening to some tunes, sipping on some Diet Coke and watching the waves roll on by.

 

 

The night was quieter and uneventful with a glowing moon overhead keeping the watch standers company.  As there were five of us, we had a super easy watch schedule that allowed everyone a lot of sleeping time.  Staggered night time watches ensured that no one was alone in the pilothouse during the darkness.  Not that we had a lot of darkness as we headed north.

 

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The last truly dark skies we’ll see for awhile.

 

Sunday was fairly smooth, as our weather superstar predicted, with a mix of seas anywhere from 4-6 feet from the west, to 6-10 feet from the south/southeast to 4-6 feet from the southeast with 8-11 second periods.  We saw several pods of humpback whales, out enjoying the water right alongside us.  But not nearly as many as we saw off the coast of California last summer.  Still, such majestic creatures.  And I love when we are visitors in their world.  Without a crowd of whale watch boats straining to get closer.

 

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Good morning sun – off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

 

At about 9 pm on Sunday, we arrived at Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, an area that was once described to me as “the most awful, challenging water on the planet.”  Fantastic.  And guess whose watch we arrived on?  Mine.  We arrived 3 hours early, as we had continued to make excellent time up the coast.  What looked to be a tiny passage between islands on the chart was actually about 5 miles wide in reality. From a distance we could see waves crashing on the rocks on the shore. But out where we were, the seas were 4-6 feet from a mix of the west and south/southeast (a little confused) and really not bad at all.  We passed smoothly into Queen Charlotte Sound and with our turn, we had a solidly following sea.  Perfect sleeping conditions.

 

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About to make the turn to round Cape Scott.

 

Mid-Monday morning the seas became a bit choppy in Queen Charlotte Sound with overcast skies and rain.  Our weather router had predicted this as well as the winds that were rising out of the southeast.  As such, we decided to take Principe Channel north and miss the weather in Hecate Strait.  Principe Channel was beautiful, and uninhabited – no people, boats, or homes.  Oh except the Canadian Coast Guard cutter doing what appeared to be exercises with their helicopter.  Hopefully it was an exercise.

On Monday evening around 9:30 pm we came out of Principe Channel into north Hecate Strait and Browning Entrance, just south of Dixon Entrance.  We knew that our smooth ride in the channel was to end for a bit, with 5-7 foot following seas.  Luckily for me, the seas laid down when I came on watch at 3 am.  Darren and Kevin were sitting happily in the pilothouse when I came up the stairs, noting how it really wasn’t dark at all – we must be almost there!  The next few hours were just stunning, with the “marine twilight” of the far northern skies turning to sunrise over SE Alaska.  When we crossed the US/Canadian border we celebrated with coffee and cereal.  Wahoo!

 

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Taken around 3:30 am, out in the Dixon Entrance.
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By 4:30 am it was just gorgeous.
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And it kept getting better!

 

The next few hours were uneventful, crossing the waters of Dixon Entrance in seas that could have easily been a flat lake.  So much for that dreaded crossing!  Or I should say, thank goodness for the smart man helping us with the weather on this trip!

Riding up between the islands into Ketchikan was beautiful, and felt like an accomplishment.  As I missed the SFO – SEA run last summer (and only had the nausea-inducing San Diego to San Francisco BASH) this was the longest overnight passage I have done to date – 4 days and 3 nights.  As they say in Tennessee, brick by brick – we’ll keep learning and gaining offshore experience.  Speaking of nausea, I used this trip to try out the Relief Band – a device that, worn like a watch, sends small electric shocks that disrupt your system basically and tell your brain that you aren’t sick at all.  A strange sensation but it worked!

 

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Red Rover in Ketchikan!  Happy captain. 🙂

At about 10 am Ketchikan time (an hour earlier than Seattle time) we pulled into Ketchikan and were assigned to a “hot berth” at Bar Harbor Marina, about a mile and a half north of the main town where the cruise ships are.  Basically, a hot berth means taking the slip that belongs to a fishing boat while they are out fishing.  Ketchikan is a busy fishing and working town, and mooring alongside the working fishing boats was fascinating.  Hard, hard work by entire families.  And really cool boats. 

 

Like many Alaskan harbors, Ketchikan has a grid, which is a do-it-yourself version of a haul-out.  Center your boat on the grid, tie up and wait for the tide to go out.  Quickly!  Do your work before the tide comes back.  I think I’d be a wreck.  Really neat to watch though.

 

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Little Lady, likely a 90 foot boat so not so little, sitting on the grid.

 

After a day of washing the boat, eating halibut and chips and steak and having a few beers, we all had an awesome night of sleep, tied securely to the dock. 

On Wednesday morning, Kevin, Darren, Matt and Somerset took the ferry over to the airport and flew the 100+/- minute flight to Seattle while I spent the day wandering Ketchikan. Kevin flew home to pick up Zoe who never has learned to pee on the boat.  She thought that the fabulous potty patch that Kevin made for her was a portable yard meant to lie in the sun on.  Um no.  So, the combination of open ocean seas and a dog that won’t pee on board meant that she got to stay with Uncle Jim + Uncle Bud and fly to Ketchikan.  What a princess this dog is.  Good thing we love her.

 

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Darren, Matt, Somerset and Kevin.  Thanks so much to all of you.

 

Ketchikan is interesting.  It is a mix of hard working people and cruise ship tourism.  A few things that struck me:  the Alaskan people were incredibly nice, the first people culture is alive and well and truly interesting and the development in Ketchikan, mostly based on piers in the water or stilts and retaining walls in the mountains, looks super challenging.

 

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Totem poles had a variety of uses for a people without a written language – honoring a person’s life, celebrating the milestones of a family and more.
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Totem Heritage Center, a 3 mile walk from the boat. My own “EE” while Kevin was in Seattle.
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Creek Street, Ketchikan which was the home of the city’s one-time brothels.
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Cruise ship alley.
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View from the cockpit in Ketchikan (Bar Harbor Marina).

 

 

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I had to do a little shopping. XTRA TUF Salmon Sisters boots with roll down Krakens. Also known as Alaskan sneakers. I couldn’t pass them up. Watch out Seabrook, WA, new fashion trend coming your way.

 

I greeted Kevin and Zoe back at the boat with yet more groceries. Zoe is a bit confused about how her “house” got here, and where are we really?  But she’s getting the hang of it. A Manhattan in the cockpit and we were truly on vacation. 

 

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How did my house get here??!?
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My squeaky tennis ball is here, so all is well in the world.

 

The stats (Kevin insists so here we go):

Shilshole Bay Marina, Seattle, Washington to Bar Harbor Marina, Ketchikan, Alaska

  • 78.5 hours
  • 645 miles
  • 486 gallons of diesel
  • 1.33 nmpg
  • 6.2 gallons/hour
  • 8.2 kn average SOG
  • 1 case of diet coke, 2 packs of Red Bull, 5 cases of La Croix water, a couple bags of beef jerky, a giant bowl of snacks and approximately half of the contents of the freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s

 

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Kevin’s Grandma Rohlman spent many years camping and fishing in Alaska with her husband. She was excited that we were heading north and so we thought we’d take her along!  Grandma will turn 99 this year and is a pretty amazing woman.  Glad she could come for the ride!