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Alaskan Journal ~ July 20 through August 2, 2021 Part I

Our last Alaskan journal ended on the afternoon that Randy and Shellie of s/v Moondance arrived and Erik and Amelia moved onto s/v Kaléwa with Katie and Kevin.  We had a big crab boil dinner on TTR with Katie, Kevin, Shellie, Randy, Erik and Amelia and generally enjoyed catching up and sharing time before we would wave goodbye in the morning.

Our plan was to make a short hop just to get away from the dock and back on the hook where Shellie, Randy, Frank and I would plan our route.  Shellie and Randy had cruised in Alaska two years prior on their own boat and it was fun to compare experiences and plan to visit places they had seen and some they had not.

Point Retreat was pretty and fruitful.

We had heard from some local fishermen that the salmon were really hitting at Point Retreat, not far from Auke Bay, so although the guys were skeptical about a fisherman sharing good fishing locations, we chose to steer TTR past that point on our way to No Name Cove at Hawk Inlet.

King Salmon have black mouths, so they are easy to identify.

Much to our delight, we were very successful with our salmon fishing at Point Retreat. Within 30 minutes we caught three king salmon!  However, we released all three because we weren’t licensed to harvest Kings.  The Alaskan fishing permit requires you to buy a special license to catch king salmon. We hadn’t bought those so we released the fish – we aren’t into illegal fishing and we surely don’t want bad karma from cheating the system!

After a better than expected night at No Name Cove, we upped anchor and headed into the Chatham Strait but we encountered the worst motoring conditions we had seen since arriving in Alaska. We had SE winds with opposing currents that created chop and waves and generally miserable conditions.

We all agreed to cut the day short rather than endure the conditions and Shellie and Randy found a good spot named Pavlov Harbor to drop anchor.  This unexpected stop turned out to be a great anchorage and a wonderful surprise! 

There was a river with a rocky drop-off with a salmon ladder on one side. Of course we took Day Tripper to the river to explore the water fall and hike a state park trail that started near the river. We brought bear spray on the walk and happily didn’t encounter any bears. You can see the beauty of the area the trail wound through by looking at the photos.

Since we arrived early, we also had time to do a little fishing from Day Tripper and once again we were very successful; this time with silver salmon! The one we kept was a good size and provided four meals for four people! 

Clearly this salmon’s mouth is not black like the king salmon.

Seeing as how lucky our harvesting had been, we decided to put out the crab pots near where some commercial pots were dropped. 

Using an official Alaskan crab measurer to evaluate our catch – two keepers.

The weather dictated another night in Pavlov but we were all happy to stay and enjoy the unexpected beauty…. we saw a brown bear and her cubs two or three times. The picture shows them near the stream we hiked the first day. 

A very enlarged photo of the mama bear and her two cubs.

Frank and Randy went to shore to find firewood as we wanted to try smoking some of the salmon and when they were returning to the dinghy they spotted the momma bear and cubs by the waterfall. From the dinghy, they guys actually watched the momma bear grab a salmon at the base of the waterfall, then run into the woods with her cubs following…… I guess everyone was having salmon for dinner!

Randy and Shellie are very pleased with this large salmon

Shellie made salmon chowder for all of us for dinner.  Yum. How lucky are we to have guests who help with the planning and cook too?!

In Pavlov we saw evidence of animals we didn’t encounter.

Our next destination was Takatz Bay which is another gorgeous anchorage. We anchored in about 50’ of water and from our anchor spot could see two separate waterfalls tumbling from high on the hillside. While on TTR, the sound of the rushing waterfalls provided delightful background music during dinner and while we slept!

Two waterfalls in this picture and others nearby.

In the back part of Takatz, there is a tidal flat that is too shallow to dinghy through at low tide, but during high tide it is deep enough to dinghy across the tidal flats. With Randy at the throttle, we puttered right up to the river that cascades energetically through large boulders and into the bay. We were so close to the rushing water that the spray misted into our faces and the sound of the water was very loud. Another demonstration of mother nature’s power and beauty.

The water tumbling into Takatz Bay.

While exploring Takatz Bay, we spotted some raspberries and Frank tried to pick a few from the bow of the dinghy.

In Takatz, we saw a cruise company called “The Un-Cruise” which has smaller ships and had people out in kayaks or on shore hiking with a guide. I think the idea of a smaller cruise like this one that can go into more unique anchorages is more appealing than larger cruise lines. 

We all would have liked to stay longer in Takatz but Gut Bay was quietly calling to us.

Wispy, low lying clouds added some beauty.

We had the anchor up by 5 am. As we left Takatz Bay, the early morning, low lying clouds created a completely different look in the bay and created interesting photos. Our usual early morning departures in Alaska are made easier by the changed appearance of our locations in the morning light.

Despite the less than fetching name, Gut Bay was another pretty stop.  The entry to Gut Bay was easier than we anticipated, however when we plotted the recommended anchor locations on our chart, they both showed us dropping anchor on land – a good reason one cannot rely solely on electronics!

We took Day Tripper out to explore a nearby river and found a raised platform that appeared ready to use as a base for pitching a tent. We tied up there and set out to try and ford a trail to a secondary basin of water which was only accessible on foot.  We carefully picked our spots through the various streams and truly tested how waterproof our boots were. Shellie lost that test as her boots definitely had water ingress. Plus I think her’s were the shortest so she had to be very careful when choosing her path!

Even with bear spray in hand, we were less than comfortable as we moved across the water. This looked like prime bear territory. Frank forded ahead and was soon across the water and working his way into some dense, head-high brush. After three scat sightings in a very short time, even Frank agreed it was time to turn back.  

The areal shot makes the trek through the stream and to the other water look very short, but we just didn’t think it was wise to try our luck. Mostly I was concerned about accidentally coming between a bear and her cubs.

An areal view of the water we were crossing to get to the remote basin.

We ended up backtracking and exploring the woods we had passed before fording the streams. We felt more comfortable here because we could see further and saw fewer bear calling cards.

Although we weren’t successful in reaching the other pool of water, once again Alaska offered up gifts from the depth. We landed three more Dungeness crabs and two silver salmon. We released the salmon and kept the two qualifying crabs. Yum.

Early morning departure from Gut Bay
Another view of departing Gut Bay

Once again we were up early and the morning marine layer made for a spooky departure as we left Gut Bay. This day held two surprises for us…

Preview of Part II

Thank you for spending time reading our blog. Alaska was filled with so much beauty and constant movement that it is hard to whittle down the number of pictures and information in each journal. Next week I’ll finish the time we spent exploring with s/v Moondance. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check our Facebook page or Instagram.

Alaskan Photo Journal ~ June 26- July 2

After tying up to the dock in Sitka we grabbed the Prosecco for a celebratory cork popping that was a bit anti-climatic as you can see in the video.

A funny, fizzled cork popping!

Although the Prosecco was less than effervescent, we were all in high spirits and immediately took a stroll through Sitka. We were anxious to stretch our legs, see the town, and find a spot to eat, drink and celebrate. French fries seemed to be tops on the list for several of us.

One interesting thing about being on passage is the lack of news. Sailing along in Ticket to Ride, we have virtually no news, unless a friend or family member contacts us. Of course we receive and study the weather, but that is the only real time information we seek. As a result, when we arrived in Sitka, we had had no news for almost two weeks.

This was newsworthy as Hawaii was still under mask mandates when we left.

As is usually the case, there were few news bites that had changed and we had missed very little without hearing the 24 hour news cycles. As we strolled the streets of Sitka, we did encounter one sign that we never saw in Hawaii.

Downtown Sitka is charming.

The main street of Sitka was clean and inviting with plenty of windows to browse and bars or restaurants to try. We saw some rather unique apparel including this gem in the window of a fur company!

The latest fury swimwear?

We were surprised by the warm weather and clear skies that welcomed us to Alaska. Exploring the town we shed our jackets and adopted a leisurely pace as we took in the influence of early Russians who settled Sitka during the heyday of fur trading. Sitka was the capital of Alaska until 1906.

The lushness of this country was unexpected and magical. Everywhere we saw flowers both wild and in hanging baskets or window boxes. Especially after days on end of blue water, the foliage was vibrant and captivating.

Lillypads and vivid greenery line this stream fed pond at the edge of town.

Erik, Tommy, Amelia, Frank and I enjoyed a protracted dinner overlooking the local library and a marina. We relished sitting still and having someone else do the cooking and the dishes. Even on a great passage, one is always looking and listening for changes in wind or sounds and this was the first time in many days we could simply sit and not be monitoring the elements around us, except in an appreciative way.

The following day, our first full one in Alaska, Erik chose to hang out with Katie and Kevin of s/v Kālewa to further explore Sitka and determine which establishments were the most fun and had the best beverages. Tommy decided he needed to catch up with family and friends after being without cell and internet during the passage. Frank, Amelia and I were in search of a hike to see the fauna up close.

We chose the hike to Beaver Lake

The hike we chose was seven miles from town so we stuck out our thumbs and hitch-hiked our way. Within one minute we were picked up by a park ranger who gave us information about the hike we had chosen which turned out to be one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced!

A relatively open area of the Herring Cove Trail.

The Herring Cove Trail is so well made it is almost beyond belief. Sometimes the surface is one stepping stone to another, or it meanders through moss covered greenery, or across bridges made from one huge tree trunk with planks on top.

A sampling of the walking surfaces!
Mary Grace and Amelia on a giant log bridge.

It’s impossible to describe the muffled silence of the ground covered in hundreds of years of layered decomposition, broken only by birdsong, water cascading over rocks and our comments of delight and reverence.

We didn’t see any leprechauns but I bet they were playing with sprites!

The Herring Cove hike would not be complete without a visit to Beaver Lake and our efforts to get there were well rewarded. Walking the edge of the lake was like being in one of those ad campaigns that show the pristine waters for Coors beer or the mountain streams and lakes used for perfect drinking water.

Picture perfect Beaver Lake was the official start of the TTR Polar Plunge!.

On this, our first full day in Alaska, Frank, Amelia and I decided we had to jump into the icy lake and really commit ourselves to all Alaska has to offer. Three jumps and several shrieks later, we had all completed our first Polar Plunge! Afterwards, we sat like seals soaking up the heat from the sun warmed rocks and decided that a new TTR tradition had been born: The TTR Polar Plunge.

Amelia and Frank in Roy’s van – as thanks for the ride, we bought dinner.

We only stayed in Sitka for two nights as we wanted Tommy to see a bit of Alaska before he left for his next adventure. With only a few nights to explore, we decided to stay one night in each anchorage to maximize the area Tommy was able to see.

Large tide ranges restricted how far in we traveled.

Our first stop was Magoun Bay, a quick 28nm from Sitka. As soon as we were anchored, Erik, Tommy and Amelia made quick work of lowering the dinghy and finding a perfect spot to place the crab trap we had purchased in Sitka. We heard that catching crab is pretty easy in Alaska and we wanted to get our first taste of Dungeness crab! Sadly, no crabs climbed into our trap this time.

With Amelia and Erik giving directions, whose advice would Tommy follow?

Our next stop was Deep Bay, a long glacier formed bay off of the Peril Strait. We anchored way in the back of the bay and spotted our first brown bear! Once again the crab trap was placed and our hopes were high.

Crabs! Now to make sure they were male and met size requirements.

We were up early the next morning for a 44 nm jump to Krestof Sound, but first the crab trap was picked up and we were rewarded with our first keepable Dungeness crab! Deep Bay gave us our first bear sighting and our first crab.

Mr. Crab would soon become dinner.

Krestof Sound can only accommodate one anchored boat and we were happy to capture that one spot. At Krestof, we walked through the moss covered forest and sat upon smooth boulders along the water edge enjoying the warmth captured from the sun despite the overcast skies.

Even under cloud cover the rocks were warm and comfortable.

We explored the shore and found clams numerous and large enough to eat, but thankfully Frank remembered that the clams have paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and were unsuitable for consumption! Dinner was a (small) feast of boiled crab with garlic butter for dipping. We felt like “real” Alaskans eating the dinner we had plucked from the sea!

Amelia during our hike on Krestof

Our final stop before returning to Sitka was DeGroff Bay. Although the weather this day was the most overcast we had experienced, DeGroff itself was very pretty. The Bay had tall wooded sides that showed several areas where landslides had occurred as shown in the drone photo.

TTR’s bows point toward a small landslide.

The water itself was extremely calm and perfect for paddleboarding, which we now do sporting rubber boots! We are truly fashionistas! 

Perfect SUPing water

The next morning we left DeGroff to return to Sitka but we found that DeGroff had gifted us two additional crabs in our trap. Since Tommy was scheduled to fly out of Sitka that afternoon, we cooked the crab and ate our fill for lunch as soon as we anchored in Sitka.

Tommy and Frank enjoying freshly cooked crab.

Tommy’s flight time quickly arrived and it was time to say Aloha. We created a ton of great memories with Tommy while in Hawaii, on the passage and in Alaska. We are sure we will see him again in the not too distant future. For now, Tommy is off to enjoy an east coast summer until he begins school in the fall. Best of luck, Tommy. We know you will excel in your schooling!

POLAR PLUNGE REPORT:

Magoun Bay: 57° F

Deep Bay: 49.1° F

DeGroff: 56° F

Thanks for stopping in to read our blog. It is impossible to capture the beauty of Alaska, but hopefully you can get a flavor of how pretty it is here. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Instagram or Facebook.

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