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!
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.
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.
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!
Random caption bar I can’t make disappear.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
As it was a beautiful evening, we too, took advantage of the opportunity to engage in our own arts – a bit of photography.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Next up: Glacier Bay National Park!