We were up early and the morning marine layer made for a spooky departure as we left Gut Bay. The day held two surprises…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
This blog is photo intensive because we saw so many amazing things during this week. Perhaps the most amazing week of our Alaskan tour! Also, if you remember Amelia’s blog about Alaska’s Timeless Waterways, these pictures may give you insight into where she found her inspiration.
Just two days after Tommy flew out from Sitka, our eldest son, Hunter, flew in for a visit. Once again we wanted to cover a lot of territory so Hunter could see a bit of Alaska quickly. We had an incredible time and were able to discover a variety of Alaskan landscapes. Rather than bore you with details of our time, I will attempt to share many pictures and try to give you small descriptions of our days.
We left Sitka early to conquer a long 78 nm passage to Killinoo Harbor, but the day was filled with pretty scenery and plenty of time to catch up with Hunter as we motored. We had two surprises as we covered ground. The first was an opportunity to actually SAIL for a bit as we crossed the Chatham Strait. Although we only raised our head sail, it felt great to see TTR under wind power again for a little bit.
The second bit of luck was seeing whales feeding!! While in Hawaii, the whales do not eat so we never saw those epic scenes of whales surfacing with their mouths wide open. But the very first day Hunter was with us, the whales decided to show us how it was done. SO COOL:
We went to Killinoo Harbor to meet some people Erik knew from Hawaii. This family spends time in Hawaii and in Alaska and they were kind enough to show us the very functional and comfortable cabin they built on a remote part of a remote Alaskan island.
Following a magical tramp through the woods to reach their cabin, we took dinghies to a spit nearby and had a beach BBQ dinner of fresh halibut, salmon and crab! Welcome to Alaska, Hunter, where the sea provides an amazing bounty!
Just a small tidbit of information about Dungeness crabs; in Alaska we can only harvest male crabs that are 6.5” or larger. I had no idea how to tell the difference and maybe you don’t either, so below are photos of the underside of a male and female crab. Once you know what to look for, it is very easy to tell the difference between them.
The next day was pretty much a sunrise start with plenty on the agenda beginning with seeking out waterfalls along our path. Here is a picture of the most casual waterfall I have ever encountered. 🙂
Our first stop of the day was Warm Bath Springs. Natural warm springs creating pools of clear hot water in a climate much colder than we are accustomed to are not to be missed! Hunter, Amelia, Erik, Frank and I spent hours soaking in the hot springs. There was a raging river cascading just outside of the hot pools, so we would alternate between soaking in the hot water until our skin tingled with quick, breathtaking dips into the icy river pools formed in the rocky sides.
After turning into hot springs prunes, we hiked to a nearby lake and waded into the perfectly clear water…. guess Polar Plunges are sneaking into our daytime adventures too!
Red Bluff Bay, our anchorage that night after the hot springs, was the only place we stayed for two nights during Hunter’s visit. Initially we shared this popular spot with four boats but when we left there were 10 power boats sharing the anchorage. That is the most boats we have seen in any anchorages in Alaska.
The crowd must not disturb the crab population because we caught four Dungeness crabs in Red Bluff. Since we had already eaten a good bit of crab, we decided to give them to a neighboring boat. I think we might have been their favorite boat after that.
Gambier Bay was riddled with crab pots, so Erik and Frank thought they would score at least one crab, but we were skunked. Not a single crab to show for their efforts. We did find plenty of wild blueberries which Erik transformed into a delicious pie.
FUN ALASKAN FACTS: Throughout the Tongass National Forest, the Forest Service has built cabins available for use on a first come, first serve basis. The cabins are sturdy and basic, but provide excellent refuge for travelers. There are more than 160 Forest Service Cabins in the Tongass National Forest! That is a great use of our national parks dollars!
However, for perspective, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the US. Originally named the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve, this public land was created in 1902 under Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, by presidential proclamation, Roosevelt renamed the area the Tongass National Forest and in 1908 two forests were combined to enlarge the Tongass. Finally in 1925 under Calvin Coolidge, the Tongass was expanded again to create the Tongass National Forest we have today. All together the Tongass National Forest encompasses 17 million acres!
In Gamier Bay we walked to one of the forest service cabins in the early evening. We built a campfire (why do most men love to build fires?), enjoyed toddies and ate s’mores as we exchanged stories and sang old songs. Frank and I won the oldest songs awards when we pulled out, “Little Rabbit FooFoo.” Who remembers that camp song??
Perhaps the most epic day of Hunter’s visit was our trip up Tracy Arm to the South Sawyer Glacier. Navigating up the passage, dodging floating ice while distracted by the amazing sights was a challenge. And well worth the effort!
We set up a schedule where we alternated helmsmen and bow watchers every 10 minutes because it was very cold and pretty demanding. The weather alternated between fog, mist, rain and clear skies, which only added to the drama of the scenery.
Of all the places we have visited so far, this area stands out as the most unique in its beauty and grandeur.
We were so enamored of our first glacier that after motoring back to Entrance Cove and anchoring TTR, we went out in the dinghy and lassoed one floating chunk of iceberg and tried to take it back to Ticket to Ride with us. However, sanity returned and we dropped “our iceberg” for fear it would float around the anchorage and damage a boat or two.
We did corral a few reasonable sized pieces of glacier which became our beverage cubes of choice.
That evening we anchored in Entrance Cove and met the folks on m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration. A guest on Sudden Inspiration shared several drone photos and this video he took of TTR while we were near the glacier. How awesome is that?!
We took over a bottle of wine and a few other items as thanks for the awesome video of Ticket to Ride. We also invited all on board Koda and Sudden Inspiration to join us in our daily Polar Plunge. Most thought we were nuts, but Barb and Liz changed into swim suits and joined us for a very chilly, but laughter filled PP.
Early the next morning we were up again and headed to Taku Harbor which is the site of an old cannery. We spent another excellent day exploring on shore and chatting with the folks who bought the old cannery workers housing lodge. The history of the lodge was interesting and the new owners were super nice.
Parts of Taku Harbor were easy to walk but at other times we were bushwhacking through undergrowth to find a trail. Taku was a fun mix of old ruins, old forest and new friends.
After Taku Harbor we dashed to Auke Bay in Juneau because Hunter had a flight out the next day. WOW, it was an amazing week with stellar sights and so many laughs. We had so many silly adventures, including assembling a Crystal Garden…. which is one of those stories that probably is only funny to the people involved. But I will show you two pictures:
Looking back at the pictures from the seven days Hunter was on board TTR, there are so many amazing photos I could share with you, but alas, this is already so long, I will refrain. I hope you have a tiny glimpse of just how remarkably pretty this part of Alaska is!
Polar Plunge Report: the daily plunge tradition continues!
Killinoo Harbor 54°F
Red Bluff 51°
Red BLuff 54°
Tracy Arm 54°
Thank you so much for stopping by to read our blog. This was a really long post because we packed a lot into one week. We hope to have more routine WIFI as we work our way back into the U.S. and hopefully we can share posts more routinely. If you want to hear from us more often, please follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
Like most people, our travels and interactions have been severely limited by COVID, and often we are just hanging out and doing routine activities like working out, maintaining Ticket to Ride and eating at home. But Frank and I wanted to make a trip from Oahu to Maui to see the whales that migrate there every year.
We have some college friends who live in Hawaii and they expressed a definite desire to sail with us, so we invited them to join us on our little jaunt.
Inter-island travel in Hawaii requires COVID-19 testing, so we found an accepted location and scheduled our first ever Coronavirus test to coincide with completion of provisioning and a good weather window. Happily the test wasn’t terrible and the results were negative!
Gloria, Dave, Frank and I set out to make a leisurely trip to Maui with a few stops along the way, assuming the weather predictions were accurate. The tentative plan was to stop first on the southwest side of Molokai in Lono Harbor for a night or two, next visit Needles or Shark Fin on Lanai depending on swell and wind. After Lanai we would explore a few spots on Maui and if the weather presented, we would take a day trip to Molokini.
We set off from Kaneohe Bay with one reef in the main sail plus the genoa. The wind was mild even though the channel between Oahu and Molokai (Ka’iwi Channel) can be quite sporty. It was a casual sail of 51nm and we arrived at Lono Harbor in late afternoon.
Lono is a man made harbor with a narrow opening that can close out if the waves build, so we were careful to choose a weather window that promised small swells for an easy entrance and exit. In the picture below, notice how flat the water is in the harbor and the entrance.
Although Molokai is referred to as The Friendly Island, we have heard that, especially during COVID, the locals want nothing to do with visitors to their island. We saw several individuals and a family fishing from the shore at Lono Harbor and we cheered for them from the boat whenever they landed a fish. There was plenty of waving and smiles and no feelings of ill will.
We were quite surprised to see this fellow swim from shore to the rocky pier at dusk. We aren’t sure what caused his flight but we heard a dog barking and thought perhaps the dog chased the deer into the water.
Sunset was an array of vivid colors that we enjoyed while sipping cocktails. We relished the quiet of nature that wreathed this harbor.
During the night Frank and I awakened to much greater motion on the boat, but attributed it to increased wind. However, in the morning, the harbor entrance had a little surprise for us….. the swell forecast must have been wrong or incorrectly timed because we had waves that were 8 to 10 feet instead of the 2-3 predicted. The entrance was by no means closed out, but we needed to time our exit carefully and we wanted to leave sooner than later before the anchorage became uncomfortable.
After studying the waves for quite a while, preparing TTR as if she were a monohull, and putting on lifejackets, we upped anchor and waited for a break in the waves to motor quickly out of the harbor.
Thankfully our timing worked well and our exit was uneventful. Frank and I were a bit too busy to get any pictures, but Dave caught some of the excitement on film. Though, as usual, film doesn’t capture the complete feeling.
Sailing from Lono to Lanai was easy enough and included a variety of wind but the sea state was mild. I think the shallow entrance at Lono significantly increased the swell at the entrance because the swell away from the shallows was insignificant.
Winter in Hawaii means the winds can come from any direction and as we moved toward Lanai, we were doubtful that either Needles or Shark Fin would be tenable for an overnight stay.
As we neared Needles, we knew conditions would prevent us from staying overnight, but we enjoyed seeing the unique rock formations. From a distance, the Needles blend with the black rock of the shore behind them, but up close the rock formations define themselves. Originally there were five spires, but today only three remain. Two are stubby protrusions of black rock but one looks like a large, tall tree stump with dormant grass on top.
Although it was a long shot, we sailed over to Shark Fin to see if somehow we could grab a mooring ball there to stay overnight. Once again the swell and wind were not in our favor so we pointed our bows toward Olowalu on Maui.
Olowalu has bunches of coral heads that are fun to snorkel. We don’t ever want to damage coral, so we hooked up to a mooring ball and enjoyed the steady breezes that flow between the mountains into the anchorage.
The next morning we awakened early, prepared coffee and breakfast burritos. Then we launched our dinghy, Day Tripper, and motored into the channel for breakfast in the dinghy while searching for whales. We saw many whales and had one incredible encounter. We turned off the engine and were floating near two or three kayaks when we spotted a whale and baby heading our way. Turns out it was four whales and soon they swam inside the loose circle we created with the kayaks. The whales came much closer than expected but we never felt threatened. Up close it is amazing how gently and gracefully these whales moved through us. Though we have seen some breaching that I wouldn’t want to be near!
We spent the remainder of the day in and out of the water, spying on the fish and looking at the coral.
Next we decided to find a mooring ball in a little spot called Coral Guardens. We had never been there, but we knew there were mooring balls and we wanted to explore the coral there. Since Coral Gardens is so close to Olowalu, we motored over and hooked up in less than an hour. After scouting the swing room from the mooring ball, we decided TTR would be safe there overnight and once again we spent the day relaxing and getting in and out of the water to look at the marine life. It was great to be back on Maui where the water was clear and warm enough for us to swim!
Fortuitously we had an excellent weather window to sail to Molokini, a small crescent shaped island about 10 miles southeast of Olowalu. Molokini is a favorite stop for day cruise boats but it is often too windy to stay there in the afternoons when the winds kick up. We had a pleasant sail to Molokini then spent most of a day tied to a mooring ball.
We snorkeled along the interior of the crescent and saw a nice variety of fish. Then we enjoyed lunch on the front of TTR and watched others snorkel the path we had already taken. It was a really nice change to see day cruises in operation and visitors enjoying the delights of Hawaii. Though the day charter boats are not carrying full capacity, they are making a go of things and showing a few visitors the beauty of Hawaii.
About 3 pm we released the mooring ball and had a truly delightful sail to Mala Wharf on Maui. Of these five days of sailing, this one was the best one. The winds were consistently 12-15 knots at a 120 degree true wind angle. We enjoyed champagne sailing at 8-10 knots as we moved along and searched for whales. We spotted many whale spouts as we sailed but we didn’t get close to any of them.
It was fun just to see the whales surface and watch the clouds created by their exhales.
Bouncy weather was predicted so we dropped anchor near Mala Wharf and enjoyed a final dinner with Dave and Gloria aboard TTR.
The forecast showed we were in for a day of rain and wind, so we dropped our friends off early, spent a quiet, rainy day on Ticket to Ride and planned our next move to Honolua Bay, just a few miles up the Maui coast.
****Special thanks to Dave and Gloria for allowing me to use some of their photos!
Thanks so much for stopping by to visit our blog. We hope you are staying well and sane as this pandemic continues to test all of us. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.
Who doesn’t love balloons? They represent so many positive and happy occasions from the birth of babies to birthday parties, carnivals, weddings, car sales and so many other important or pleasant events.
But there is another side to balloons; one that is forgotten or never even considered….. thousands and thousands of balloons end up escaping. Is there a secret party “out there” where all escaped balloons meet and party? No. It isn’t that pretty.
Picture the darling little 4 year old, playing with a balloon, laughing and joyous over such a simple toy. Then the balloon escapes, up it flies out of reach and the child cries, heartbroken.
Understandably, the parent spends his or her time comforting the child and the balloon is long forgotten.
But the balloon now seeks its own life’s path floating higher and further as the wind carries it along an unknown route. After a beautiful, carefree flight of perhaps hundreds of miles, the balloon slowly looses air and begins it’s descent wherever it is blown.
A sad end that is actually the beginning of tragedy because now that faded, deflated balloon with it’s bright colored ribbon still attached is about to begin a one balloon death campaign.
Perhaps the bright color will fool an unsuspecting sea turtle that will eat the balloon thinking it is food.
Photo credit to NOAA/Blair Whitherington
Perhaps the turtle is smart enough to realize the balloon is plastic and not food, but in it’s curiosity it swims around the balloon and becomes entangled in the brightly colored string. Soon its movement is restricted and it can no longer swim.
Photo credit to NOAA/Blair Whitherington
These two simple examples will result in the eventual starvation of one turtle and the death of the other as well.
Dolphins, whales and seals have all been found with balloons and other plastics in their stomachs. See this short article by John Metcalfe for additional information and links about balloons in the oceans and on the shores.
Actually, you might be surprised just how many birds, turtles, fish etc end up dying as a result of balloons, strings, fishing lines and other waste that someone simply didn’t recognize as a death trap.
Of course, this was not intentional. A 4 year old has no idea her balloon could cause such havoc. But we, the adults, need to raise our awareness.
I am not advocating that you stop celebrating! I love to celebrate, but next time, perhaps alternatives to balloons can be used.
Bubbles are pretty and fun to pop.
Ribbon streamers come in different lengths and colors.
Or perhaps you could have ribbon streamers on wands – they are engaging and make beautiful dances as children and adults wave them around.
This article Environmentally-Friendly offers many alternatives to balloons.
I’m not posting horrific pictures of dead birds or turtles in this blog, but I am asking that you help increase awareness of your own choices and perhaps share your decisions with others.