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

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

Another view of departing Gut Bay

The first was that we actually sailed for three hours! We were leaving Baranof Island and crossing the Chatham Straight toward Tebenkof Bay and were able to put up our reacher sail in 9-12 knots of wind at a true wind angle of 135. 

FYI: these whales came toward us and we put the engines in neutral.

The second surprise was encountering pods of whales while we were traveling through the Chatham Straight! I tried to get photos of the tails so I could compare these whales to the ones from Hawaii because I wondered if we had traveled with some of these huge animals across the Pacific Ocean. Reminder: whale tails are unique, like fingerprints, and whales are identified by their tail markings.

This solo otter wasn’t the least bit concerned when we sailed past.

Shelter Cove was our destination in Tebenkof Bay. This anchorage had many sea otters so we didn’t bother putting out the crab pots. The otter population is quite large in Alaska and fisherman/lobstermen think they are out of control.  Since we don’t make our living chasing the same food the otters eat, we found them pretty cute, especially when they would float on their backs with one otter holding another.

Our next stop was a mere eight miles away at Gingerbread Bay. This anchorage was very large and the water absolutely flat. We took a dinghy tour of the anchorage and looked for a trail that was supposed to lead to the Afleck Canal, but we were unable to locate the trail. Frank and I think the hardest part of most hikes is finding the beginning of the trail since many places we visit are not well used. We had our first dinghy mishap in Gingerbread Bay…. the engine clipped a submerged rock that was impossible to see with the sun in our eyes. Bit of damage to the skeg but the engine still runs just fine, thankfully. 

This is actually night time in Gingerbread under a full moon!

The next day was another quick hop of only 9 miles to Exploration Basin. Although we read the SW corner was a good anchorage, we found it a bit tight, poorly charted and exposed to the north. So we anchored slightly north of that area and found an excellent, sandy spot in 40’ of water. 

The water was as clear as the skies!

Exploration Basin was a super fun place to play. We took turns SUPing, then decided a picnic lunch was in order since the day was exceptionally sunny and warm.  We packed some goodies and landed on a nearby island that had an outcropping of land that was connected to the bigger island by a gravel beach. We gathered wood and set up a campfire on the rocks, then sat and enjoyed lunch of wraps, chips and carrots. Of course lunch was ended with s’mores over the fire.  

Lunch was more delicious because the company and surroundings were great!

We spent some time splayed out like lizards on the sun heated rocks, enjoying the unusually warm day.  While compiling wood for the fire, we noticed wild blueberries so we all picked deeply colored, plump blueberries and bagged plenty to use for baking treats.

Stained hands, don’t care! The berries were yummy.

I could have stayed in Exploration Basin several days, but the weather was shaping up for a perfect rounding of Cape Decision, so we had to prepare to leave again the next morning.

Cape Decision with the American Flag fluttering proudly.

The trip from Exploration Basin to Warren Cove was six hours of motoring to cover 43 miles on a sunny day that brought us to a well protected spot and our first sand beach in Alaska! We anchored in 50’ of water, then went to shore to explore.

What a treat to walk barefoot on Alaskan sand, getting a natural pedicure while observing the “rubble” on the beach. Unlike Hawaii, this beach wasn’t scattered with seashells, but with huge logs and smooth boulders. We crossed fresh water rivulets escaping into the bay with starfish resting on the sandy floor.

Perhaps we have read too many detective novels, but guess what we saw!  For those who might be concerned….we did not find anything attached to this “finger.”

No one went missing from TTR and nobody is missing a finger either!

Our consensus was that Warren Cove warranted an extra night so we hung out and did a bit of fishing, SUPing and more beach walking.  Standing on the transom steps of TTR, we managed to catch enough halibut to top up the freezer. We kept two halibut that weighed between 8-10 pounds.Yum! 

Randy cleaning halibut and Frank showing a pre-cleaned halibut.

We also took turns in the dinghy fishing some deeper areas. Frank and I dropped our hooks and immediately caught rockfish which were apparently plentiful and hungry because they bit the minute our lures went deep in the water. However, not all rockfish were legal, and we weren’t sure which we could keep, so we released the two we hooked. 

This rockfish with an inflated swim bladder – he was returned using a weighted, releasing hook.

Interestingly, if you pull a rock fish from deep in the water, their bladder inflates and they are unable to release the air and descend again. Unaided, they will die on the surface. However, the fishing store in Sitka prepared us for this possibility. We had a special weighted hook that we quickly attached to the rockfish. Once the hook was attached, we dropped the fish and hook back into the water and the hook pulled the bloated fish to the bottom where he can expel the air. Once we could tell the weight had pulled the fish deep into the water, we reeled in the hook which is designed to flip and release the fish.  

Happily, this method worked and we didn’t see a dead rockfish surface! But, that was the end of our fishing in those deep waters.  There was no point in fishing and traumatizing the fish when we didn’t know which ones we could keep.

Warren Cove also delivered a fabulous whale experience! While out in the dinghy, we saw a whale near the shallow shoreline, so we went a little closer and were able to watch this whale feeding! It was very interesting to see the whale move in a circle, then a tighter circle. Next he sort of swept upward with his flipper, then up came his open mouth for a quick ton or two of food! It was truly fascinating to watch.  

A whale moving in a circle and rising to feed.

Our departure from Warren Cove was marked by a thick fog which remained during our 32 mile trip to La Bouchere Bay. Alaskan waters are frequently sprinkled with huge logs that must be avoided so we never traveled in the dark and someone was always on watch while we traveled. During this foggy trip, we had to pay close attention to the water as the floating debris could come up quickly and we didn’t want to damage Ticket to Ride

Visibility like this requires close attention.

We were happy to drop anchor in La Bouchere and relinquish our log watch. The guide book mentioned a hike along a rarely traveled road that is a graveyard of abandoned cars. Although usually walking on a road dotted with rusting cars isn’t high on our list of enticing activities, we were all very ready to get off the boat and unwind by taking a casual walk. 

True to the description, there were many abandoned cars. We spent our time deciding which of the vehicles we would choose to restore…. does one of them call to you?

An interesting fishing camp we saw on our walk. I might want my house a bit higher above the water.

The following day we motored 40 miles to St John Harbour which was simply a place to stage our passage through the Wrangle Narrows which required us to time the currents to pass safely. We saw an interesting truck transport which looked like a homemade barge being guided across the water by two service boats.  

Our final stop with Shellie and Randy was Petersburg where we arrived the following day, August 2nd.  After two weeks of our own cooking, we chose to eat lunch out at Enge’s Deli which Shellie and Randy remembered from their visit to St. Petersburg. The food was great, so we understand why they remembered Enge’s Deli. Frank and I agree that the cinnamon rolls we bought one morning from Enge’s are the best we have ever eaten!

Shellie is definitely great at research and when all of us talked about how fun it would be to take a float plane tour of a glacier, Shellie kicked it into gear the moment we found cell service. Her first few calls netted nothing, but then Shellie received a return call while we were chowing down at Enge’s…. she had landed us a tour for that afternoon at 2 pm!

BIG KUDDOS to Shellie for setting up this tour. Our pilot, Scott, took us up in his 1953 DeHavailland Beaver for a one hour tour. The cost was $200 per person and worth the expense! Scott was an excellent pilot and he also is a hunting guide, so he could tell us a bit about the area we flew over.  

Seeing the glaciers from above was nothing short of spectacular. At times the glacier looked like a giant Baked Alaskan dessert after it had been flamed.  (I’m probably the only person who thinks that.) The undulating surface punctuated with spires and holes was stunning to see.

I could almost feel the movement of the water before it froze around this rock and although the environment is fierce, there is something compelling about it that made me wish I could walk on the glacier.

That is a 3-way glacier intersection, not a dirty highway.

Flying over the glacier allowed a much better perspective of how much area these ice masses currently encompass. With all of the atmospheric changes occurring and glaciers melting more rapidly now, we are very glad we were able to see them.

For the record, taking off and landing from the float plane was as cool as we anticipated. I would love to take another float plane tour. And how amazing is it that the plane and engine were built in 1953? That is even older than we are!

This was our final day with Shellie and Randy as they had flights out the next morning. We ate dinner at a local pizza joint and talked about the glacier tour and the two weeks we had spent traveling together. It was really hard to believe that our trip together was ending when we could still remember the night we were sitting on s/v Moondance and Randy with Shellie in Hawaii and they first mentioned visiting us in Alaska!

One thing is for certain; we packed a LOT into these two weeks and we were really happy that we had this time to spend with Moondance!

Polar Plunge Report:

Hawk Inlet: 57°

Pavlov Harbor: 54°

Pavlov Harbor: 54°

Takatz Bay: 51°

Gut Bay: 56°

Shelter Cove: 57°

Gingerbread Bay: 56°

Exploration Basin: 57°

Warren Cove: 57° and 60°

La Bouchere Bay 51°

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. Looking through pictures, Alaska is even prettier than I sometimes remember. But the feeling of utter serenity I felt when walking through ancient forests: that memory I can recall clearly. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check our Facebook page or Instagram.

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.

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