Perhaps one of the most surprising things we saw while traveling in Canada was when we were motoring along the Cordero Islands. Frank was busy in the cockpit and I was sitting inside at the helm station, on watch, scanning the water for logs and other debris as we travelled.
Suddenly I saw something moving in the water pretty far ahead of TTR. It was some type of animal swimming in the water, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I grabbed the stabilizing binoculars for a closer look and I could not believe what I was seeing.
I quickly grabbed Frank and made him look too….. I didn’t even know this animal would swim, much less that it was such a fast swimmer! Too fast for me to get a picture.
BUT, I did some research and found a photo online:
This photo from Discover Vancouver Island Magazine looks exactly like the cougar we saw swimming across the channel.
According to the magazine article, cougars are territorial and their favorite food is blacktail deer. A cougar’s territory usually comprises an area of 30 to 100 square miles, but they will swim to smaller islands to hunt if they cannot find enough food in their own quarter. The cougar then returns to his usual grounds.
The Vancouver Island Magazine article said that sightings of cougars are very rare and that during their lifetime, many VI residents will never see a cougar.
Cougars have incredibly strong hind legs and can jump 20 to 40 feet horizontally and up to 18 feet vertically! They can run between 35-45 mph but are more suited to sprints than long distances. Cougars are solitary and only mothers and cubs are seen together. A female cougar reproduces once every two or three years. Her gestation is 90 days after which she births 2 or 3 cubs weighing between 1/2 and 1 pound each. The cubs stay with the mother for up to two years.
Cougars will eat almost anything: elk, deer, bighorn sheep, domestic animals such as dogs, horses and sheep. But they will also eat small insects and rodents. Humans are the cougars only predator, though it isn’t considered an apex predator because it competes with other large animals like bears or wolves for food.
How lucky were we to see one and to see one swimming?!
Thank you for dropping by to read our blog. Hope you enjoyed this quick story about Cougars. We were really lucky to see one! If you would like to hear from us more often, please find us on Facebook or Instagram. All the best from us to you.
If you read our last Alaskan journal that covered only a week, you know that we saw stunning sights daily, which makes covering all of our activities difficult. Once again, this blog contains many photographs in an attempt to share the beauty of Alaska.
Amelia and Erik were on board with us until July 20th, when our friends Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were scheduled to join us in Juneau. Once Shellie and Randy arrived, we would begin moving south toward Petersburg where Moondance would catch flights out of Alaska.
We wanted to make our way to Glacier Bay and see the park before returning to Juneau to pick up Randy and Shellie. So after sending Hunter on his way, we re-provisioned, refueled and topped up the propane tanks (our fuel for cooking on board TTR) so we were ready to leave early the next morning.
We left Auke Bay early to make the 73 nm trip to Pleasant Island, across from Gustavia Peer, which is close to the Glacier Bay office. The first morning at Pleasant Island, Frank taxied to the Glacier Bay office and secured a park permit for us for July 15-21st. This meant we had a couple of days before entering the Bay.
Park passes are difficult to obtain because they are taken quickly and anyone visiting Glacier Bay must have a park pass before entering. While waiting for the office to open, Frank chatted up some residents and learned that many of the passes are taken by locals who visit the office directly. For this reason, it is difficult to get a pass on-line and we were fortunate to be able to obtain a pass in person at the office.
Of course we explored elsewhere while waiting for our Glacier Bay pass dates. We had heard a lot about Elfin Cove and wanted to see this tiny fishing town.
According to the 2010 US Census, Elfin Cove covers about 10 miles. The largest population in Elfin Cove was 65 people in the 1950’s but as of 2010 there were only 20 residents of Elfin Cove.
Although small, Elfin Cove made a lasting impression. The homes line a waterway and are connected by raised sidewalks.
In addition to the wooden sidewalk, some areas of Elfin have rock and dirt paths that are right up against the wooded area. Someone in Elfin has a penchant for gnomes and placed them all along the paths. The gnomes were undertaking all sorts of activities and some were easily seen while others were tucked into hidden nooks.
We met a delightful woman named Deborah, who showed us around her family home and even shared some fresh greens straight from her vegetable garden.
These days there are several lodges in Elfin Cove and people visit to fish and explore nearby parks, like Glacier Bay. We only spent an afternoon in Elfin Cove, but it was definitely fun to explore and take in the unique charm of this community.
Anchoring outside Elfin Cove wasn’t ideal, so we motored over to Dundas Bay where we dropped anchor for the night. This was one of our first “private” anchorages and it was stunning. We stayed two nights in Dundas and relished the very calm water and serenity of the area. There were many otters so we didn’t bother putting out the crab pots.
Frank, Amelia and Erik took a long dingy ride up the local river which is accessible only at high tide. They picked this pretty bouquet of wild flowers and brought it back to TTR.
Long before we reached Alaska, we looked forward to exploring Glacier Bay to see the beauty we had heard so much about. It was definitely one of the places that drew us to Alaska, so it was fun to finally see TTR cross the charted entry to the bay.
Weeks after going our separate ways in Alaska, we met up with Katie and Kevin on board s/v Kālewa in Reid Inlet where we both anchored at the base of the glacier.
The water looks grayish here because there is so much silt in the water from the glacier runoff. But murky or not, we STILL polar plunged. We enjoyed a group polar plunge followed by a yummy dinner of halibut, salad and homemade blueberry pie.
The next day Kevin and Katie joined us on TTR to visit the Lamplugh Glacier. Both Lamplugh and Reid Glacier originate from the Brady Icefield. Reid glacier is “fully grounded” and measures approximately 3/4 mile wide, 150 feet high, and over 10 miles long. The area in front of Reid is extremely shallow from the sediment leaching from the glacier melt on both sides of the glacier.
By contrast, Lamplugh is 0.9 miles wide, 165 feet high at the face, and over 19 miles long. Like other areas, Lanplugh is suffering from climate change and estimates are that the glacier is receding 50 to 100 feet per year through calving.
Visiting Lamplugh was another unique day in our Alaskan exploration. The size of Lamplugh is hard to grasp until you are standing in front of it. There is a pool of water in front of Lamplugh that is separated from the main bay of water by a mudflat that has been created by the sediment flowing out of the glacier itself.
I stayed on TTR while Kevin, Katie, Amelia, Erik and Frank took the dinghy to shore to see the glacier. Frank flew the drone and captured some great photos which help show the immensity of Lamplugh. While visiting the glacier, we saw the glacier calf some big pieces of ice.
Later, Frank traded places with me so I could see Lamplugh up close. The pieces of ice that were resting on the silty shore were huge! Frank wished we all had paint guns as we could have had an epic game dodging and shooting between ice blocks.
We were so entranced by the glacier that Frank had to hail us on the VHF to remind us that the tide was rising and our dinghy would soon float off of the sand. We hightailed back to Day Tripper where Kevin had to wade into the water to bring her back to shallow water so we could board the dinghy and head back to Ticket to Ride.
After a day of exploring and watching the calving, Amelia and Frank still had not had enough of the Alaskan water, so they braved our coldest polar plunge to date….. Frank and Amelia jumped into 38.4 degree water while Erik, Kevin, Katie and I cheered them on…. And enjoyed staying dry!
The next morning we waved “aloha” to Kevin and Katie as they left Glacier Bay and we headed toward Marjerie Glacier, which is within Glacier Bay Park.
We had heard that Marjerie was actively calving so we thought we would stay on board Ticket to Ride to watch. But we quickly decided to find a small spot due south of the glacier to anchor TTR and launch Day Tripper for an up close experience.
Marjerie was very active and I managed to get some good calving footage on my camera, but the sound was not working and the calving is not nearly as impressive without sound. 😦 There is truly something mesmerizing about watching glaciers calf; hearing the sound echo outward from the ice and watch the wave created by the ice that slams into the water.
Marjerie is approximately 21 miles long and is defined as a tidewater glacier which means it interacts with ocean saltwater. This glacier does not move into the fjord because it rests on an underwater ledge, according to the National Park Service.
As I mentioned, watching the glaciers calf is mesmerizing and we spent several hours watching from the dinghy and later from an outcropping of land where beached the dinghy and found nice rocks to lean against while we watched the show.
That evening we dropped the hook in beautiful Shag Cove where we bumped into our friends on m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration. Seeing them was a very fun surprise. We shared evening cocktails and enjoyed Steve’s house specialty – Manhattans. We had no prior experience with Manhattans, but we will volunteer to drink Steve’s version any time he offers! We spent a lovely evening comparing our Alaskan experiences.
Shag Cove was so beautiful that we decided to stay and extra night. We enjoyed jigging for halibut, paddling on the stand up paddle boards and staying in one place.
You may notice that there are patches of snow on the hillsides. The four of us took the opportunity to climb up to the snow and I made my first snow angel in very many years! There may have been a snowball fight involved too.
After two nights at Shag Cove, we moved to Swanson Harbor for the night so we would have a quick trip into Auke Bay where we would pick up Randy and Shellie and Erik and Amelia would leave TTR. It is a testament to Amelia and Erik that, although we had lived together for six weeks, we were sad to see them leave! We are very grateful for the time we spent together and appreciate the myriad of contributions they made on our passage and throughout Alaska!
Shellie and Randy arrived, and as experienced cruisers, they packed lightly and were quickly settled into their room on TTR. Of course we kicked off their visit with a dock party! s/v Kālewa was on the dock, so Katie and Kevin, Amelia and Erik, Randy and Shellie and Frank and I shared a spur of the moment combo lobster boil and burger bash. The eight of us had a great time reconnecting; sharing food and libations as we discussed our itineraries.
Then we fell into bed as Ticket to Ride would be off again the next day, this time with Shellie and Randy sharing our adventures.
Polar Plunge Report:
Pleasant Island 56°
Dundas Bay 52° and 53°
Reid Inlet 43° and 38.4°
Shag Cove 51° and 53°
Swanson Harbor 63°
Phew, this was another long blog. Hopefully the photos and tidbits of information are enough to make it interesting. For us, it is fun to have a journal of our trek through Alaska. As always, we appreciate you stopping to read our blog. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.