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.


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:


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!


I am a lucky girl.
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.  🙂


Welcome to Glacier Bay!
Two black bears had been seen wandering around the ranger station daily.  This stuff, who knows, but it made us feel better!
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.


Red Rover at Bartlett Cove.



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.


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


“I’m the king of the mountain!”


South Marble Island


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


And goodbye!  See you soon Mr. Whale.
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.


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


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


What do you mean we are going back?


Gray wolf wanders the shore.



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



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!


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


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


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.


Hey there cutie!


Sea otter school!



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.


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


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



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.


Grand Pacific.


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


Just an eagle catching a ride.



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!


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.


Blue Mouse Cove – so gorgeous.


Another vista from the cockpit at Blue Mouse Cove.


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


Baraka Bashad has a furry friend!




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.


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



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?


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!


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


Red Rover loves Alaska.



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!


Our box of Maretron goodies. Thanks so much Emerald Harbor Marine and Visit Juneau!
#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.


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.


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



“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!


“Romeo is my spirit animal. #didjuneau?”

Random caption bar I can’t make disappear.

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


Rounding Point Retreat.
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.

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


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


Grandma has been riding in the Captain’s cabin.
He’s a good grandson.  🙂
Grandma visits Icy Strait.
“Grandma! How did you get here?”
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.


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!




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!


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.


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


Artwork on the stern.


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.


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



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


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



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.


It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
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.


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.




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!


Imagine seeing this state trooper in your rearview mirror?



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!