Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 74 | Hoonah to Sawmill Bay

No flying today. After a trip to the two grocery stores in town (one of which is stocked entirely with Costco products at double the normal price) and a couple visits to the hardware store, I headed out.
Sawmill Bay. Can you find Safe Harbour?
We enjoyed Sawmill Bay so much that we returned. While Airship fished, I wandered around the “town.” It turns out that the museum I said “appeared to be permanently closed” is in fact open. No admission charge, no hours, no staff. Just walk in and wander around.
Inside the museum 
Later, in Sawmill Bay, I finally saw more bears. I haven’t seen a bear for several weeks. First was a mom and a couple cubs. They were skittish and disappeared before I could get a good look. Later, a lone black bear appeared on shore near where we anchored. That bear, too, was skittish, but I got a few pictures before it disappeared.
Heading for the trees...
Hiding in the grass
Airship rafted to Safe Harbour
Tomorrow I’ll pick Anna up in Gustavus and then head into Glacier Bay National Park. No cell service, so it’ll be several days before more updates.

23.02 nm today

1950.10 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 72 | Sawmill Bay to Flynn Cove

The wind had calmed by the time I woke up. We had a lazy morning in Sawmill Bay and headed out around noon.

Kevin and Laura went to Gustavus to pick up their friends Tiffani and Deke and I headed to Flynn Cove. Flynn Cove is on the north shore of Chichagof Island, just a few miles west of Port Frederick.

Despite the calmer conditions in Sawmill Bay, Icy Strait was still pretty rough. And my course from Excursion Inlet to Flynn Cove put the seas directly on the beam. The salon table isn’t permanently attached to the floor, and a few times each year the conditions are bad enough that it ends up upside down. Today was one of those days.

Nothing broke, though, and it was only rough for an hour or so. Flynn Cove was totally calm. I dropped the anchor near the head of the bay in about 50 feet of water and had a lazy afternoon.
A sun break in Flynn Cove
Kevin and Laura arrived in the evening with their friends, Tiffani and Deke. They rafted to my boat and we had a late dinner. Tomorrow we head to Hoonah for a flightseeing trip of Glacier Bay.

18.21 nm today
1917.07 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 71 | Sawmill Bay

Windy today! I’d known that wind was in the forecast, but when I woke up it was totally calm in Sawmill Bay. Calm enough (and not rainy for a few minutes) for me to fly the drone and get pictures of the uncharted shoal.
Calm morning in Sawmill Bay

Aerial of Sawmill Bay. The uncharted shoal is in the middle of the photo, ahead of the boat on the left.

Aerial of Sawmill Bay. The uncharted shoal is in the lower right
Kevin and Laura were supposed to pick up their friends in Gustavus today and then return to Excursion Inlet, but their flights got screwed up. So both Airship and Safe Harbour stayed in Sawmill Bay for an extra day. Good thing, too, since it was apparently pretty rough out on Icy Strait.

After breakfast we took Airship out fishing. No catching, unfortunately. As we trolled south in Excursion Inlet the wind and waves picked up. When we passed the public dock the smaller boats were rolling around quite a bit. We saw gusts as high as 27 knots.

By the time we got back to Sawmill Bay the wind had made it all the way to the head of Excursion Inlet. White capped waves rolled north and wrapped around to where I had anchored. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t ideal either.

After the fishing trip Airship rafted to Safe Harbour. I was anchored on a steep slope—the depth ranged from about 90 feet to 140 feet as we swung 180 degrees—with slightly less than 3:1 scope. The bottom was rocky and the wind was blowing 15-20 knots.  And the Rocna anchor still held. Impressive!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 70 | Swanson Harbor to Sawmill Bay

I woke up to the boat rolling and the sound of waves slapping along the hull. Inside Swanson Harbor the wind was breezy—12 to 15 knots, with a foot of chop. Time to go somewhere more protected.

As I exited Swanson Harbor the chop built to two feet, then three. I spotted a whale swimming around a rocky pinnacle, but given the wind and chop I didn’t linger. Soon after leaving Swanson Harbor I made a big turn to starboard, into Icy Strait, and put the wind and seas behind me.
Conditions outside Swanson Harbor
I didn’t really have a destination in mind. I’m planning on doing a flight seeing trip with Kevin and Laura from Hoonah on the 25th, so I didn’t want to go too far from Hoonah just to backtrack later.

Verizon service is generally poor in Alaska, but I was able to get enough of a signal to make plans to rendezvous with Kevin and Laura in Sawmill Bay, at the head of Excursion Inlet.
Scenery in Excursion Inlet
Excursion Inlet, or at least parts of it, are part of Glacier Bay National Park, but no permit is required to enter. Sawmill Bay is at the head of the western arm of Excursion Inlet. It’s a beautiful setting without a hint of human presence—forested hills give way to mountains covered in verdant meadows and then snowcapped peaks. Be warned, though, the chart showing the anchorage is inaccurate. A large, rocky, drying shoal juts out from the east side of the bay.
Airship at anchor in Sawmill Bay
Elsewhere in Excursion Inlet there’s quite a bit of development. Ocean Beauty Seafoods has a giant fish processing plant. Next door is a public float in rough condition. Ashore there’s a small store (with a surprisingly good selection), a museum that appeared to be permanently closed, and several collapsing buildings.
Ocean Beauty's fish processing plant in Excursion Inlet
"Town" in Excursion Inlet
Ramp leading to the public float in Excursion Inlet 
During World War II a military base had been constructed here, then turned into a German POW camp. Apparently 1200 POWs were held in Excursion Inlet and only two attempted escape. Both returned to the camp after frightening bear encounters.

We explored the entire shoreline by dinghy. No bears, unfortunately, but we did see a humpback. It was pouring at the time, so no pictures.

26.16 nm today

1898.86 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 69 | Funter Bay to Swanson Harbor

The weather this summer has been outstanding. Remarkably little wind, hardly any rain (I’ve recorded less than 1.5 inches in July), and way more sunshine than I can remember in previous summers. The last few days have been more typical Alaska: overcast, periods of light rain, 15 knots of wind. Today was similar but rainier.

I made the short hop across the southern end of Lynn Canal to Swanson Harbor. Swanson Harbor, like Funter Bay, has a public dock, but I opted to anchor instead. Anchoring is easier, for one thing, since I don’t have to deal with lines and fenders. It’s also quieter, since you’re not near other boats coming and going at odd hours or running gensets constantly. And it’s more scenic, since the view shifts as the boat swings around.

Unlike the anchorages where I’ve spent most of the summer, the land around Swanson Harbor is low-lying. The bushes and trees on shore look like they’ve been shaped by storms. It’s scenic, but in a wholly different way than the fjords and mountain vistas I’ve become accustomed to.
Swanson Harbor
Given the weather, I never even got in the dinghy to explore, and I hardly took any pictures. Suffice it to say, Swanson Harbor is a convenient stop but hardly a highlight of the trip.

9.88 nm today
1872.70 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 68 | Barlow Cove to Funter Bay

Funter Bay is only about five miles from Barlow Cove, but by water the distance is more like 18 miles. I got a lazy start from Barlow Cove. The weather was overcast and breezy.

Soon after departing Barlow Cove I rounded Point Retreat. A lighthouse still operates at Point Retreat. Mountains tower behind the lighthouse. It’s quite scenic.
Point Retreat 
After rounding Point Retreat conditions got choppier. The breeze was blowing about 15 knots from the south, and I was going right into the chop. The conditions weren’t uncomfortable, but they were just rough enough to get a thin layer of salt spray on the windows.

Funter Bay is on the west side of Mansfield Peninsula on Admiralty Island. It has several anchorages and a public float. I opted to anchor in Coot Cove. The first time I dropped the anchor, in about 50 feet of water, I couldn’t get it to set. After dragging it half way across the bay I hauled it up and found a big ball of kelp. I tried again in about 70 feet of water and the anchor set immediately on 3:1 scope.
Public dock in Funter Bay
The number of houses in Funter Bay surprised me. Perhaps two-dozen lined the cove.

Apparently a cannery once operated in Funter Bay, and during World War II the cannery was utilized as an Aleut internment camp. I explored the bay by dinghy and could only find a few collapsing buildings, not the cannery itself. Kind of haunting to know this past, though...
What was this building?
Or this one?

17.86 nm today
1862.82 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 67 | Bridget Cove to Barlow Cove

We got an early start from Bridget Cove to Auke Bay. Sam had to be back in town to meet another friend for the next faze of his Alaskan adventure, and I wanted to run some errands and get out of Auke Bay without having to spend the night.
Dodging gill nets outside Bridget Cove
Coincidentally a friend was in Juneau today on a brief layover. He had a rental car and picked me up from the marina. We made a quick Costco run and did a beer tasting at Alaskan Brewing Co. before he had to catch a plane back home. Fun to catch up with people so far from home.

After filling the water tank and dumping garbage, I departed Auke Bay, destination unknown. Anna doesn’t arrive for about a week, and I don’t have any guests in the interim. Kind of nice to be traveling without a plan for a change. I do need to be in Hoonah on the 25th for a flight seeing trip with Kevin and Laura on Airship, so I figure I’ll mosey in that direction.

Soon after leaving Auke Bay I spotted a lone humpback. I watched it for a few minutes, then it dove deep and I didn’t find it again.
Finally, a whale!
Diving deep
The first anchorage that seemed interesting was Barlow Cove, which indents the north side of Admiralty Island. It looked a little deep on the chart, but I found good anchorage in about 80 feet of water. The scenery is good but not spectacular. Alaska has a way of resetting expectations. If this anchorage were in the Gulf Islands or San Juan Islands it would be incredible. But in a place like SE Alaska—so filled with totally breathtaking anchorages—Barlow Cove doesn’t stand out.

37.09 nm today
1844.96 nm total

Friday, July 22, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 66 | Sullivan West Bight to Bridget Cove

Another scorcher, this time with temps in the 80s! This is definitely the warmest weather I remember in Alaska…

We continued south in Lynn Canal today. An easy trip, except for the dozens of commercial fishing boats and nets I had to avoid. The gill netters are out in force, and weaving through a pack of demands attention. Nets extend several thousand feet from the boats, and when several boats are fishing in close proximity it can be difficult to decipher which net belongs to which boat. Ordinarily I’d just steer around the whole fleet, but today they were blocking the entrance to the anchorage, so through them I went. No boat-on-net contact, either…always a plus.

Bridget Cove is another delightful anchorage along Lynn Canal. And it’s shallow! I anchored in 30 feet at the top of a 17 foot tide, excellent holding. The windlass will be happy with me! The surrounding land is actually a state park accessible by road from Juneau. Throughout the afternoon we saw dozens of people meandering along shore, quite a change from the more remote anchorages I’m accustomed to.
Bridget Cove anchorage
Shallowest anchorage so far this summer. Just 12 feet under the boat at low tide.
Aerial looking southwest.
Given the even warmer temperature today, I had to swim again. Again, the water temp was remarkably mild—somewhere right around 60 degrees. Refreshing!

We spotted one whale not far from the boat when we were anchored. We scrambled into the dinghy and zoomed out towards it, but by the time we got there it was gone. Lynn Canal has exceeded my expectations as a cruising area (super scenic, neat town, quite a few anchorages), but it has disappointed in wildlife.

Back to Auke Bay tomorrow to drop Sam off. Then off somewhere…

22.08 nm today
1807.87 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 65 | Haines to Sullivan West Bight

Another warm, sunny day in Alaska? You bet! When I got up at 7:00, the salon and pilothouse were already toasty warm.

Clad in shorts and flip flops, we walked around Haines for a bit, dumped the garbage, filled the water tank, and headed off. I didn’t really have a destination in mind, but quickly settled on Sullivan West Bight.

The scenery along Lynn Canal continues to delight. On a clear day, several glaciers are always in view. The peaks are jagged—reminiscent of the Tetons or Sawtooths. Boat traffic is light and anchorages are more plentiful than I expected.
Leaving Haines. Check out that house!
One of many glaciers
And another glacier

Sullivan West Bight looks kind of small on the chart, but it’s actually huge. We dropped the hook in 70 feet of water and relaxed in the sun. After a little while I was hot­—the thermometer was reading in the high 70s—so I took a swim. Remarkably, the water wasn’t that cold and the underwater visibility was decent.
Anchored in Sullivan West Bight 
A couple weeks ago I’d hit a piece of nearly-invisible ice in Endicott Arm. I never did see how big it was, but it felt big. The boat lurched as the berg made contact, followed by expensive-sounding noises as the thing bounced along the hull. I’d immediately checked the bilges—which were dry—and later that day inspected the waterline carefully. No damage. But now that I was in the water, I figured I should check more thoroughly.

I grabbed the fins and mask from the lazarette and dove under. Thankfully, my inspection revealed no damage, though I did find more growth on the hull than I expected. New anti-fouling paint was applied in February, and the boat hasn’t sat still for more than a few weeks since then. When I get down to Desolation Sound (warmer water) I’ll have to dive the boat and scrub the scum off.

Later we wandered around shore. Several houses, most in fairly good shape, and some heavy equipment are ashore. A couple small boats were on the beach, and we could hear people talking in some of the homes.
Old landing craft, permanently beached.
20.72 nm today
1785.79 nm total

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Alaska 2016 | Day 64 | Taiyasanka Harbor to Haines

This morning dawned warm and sunny. We made our way to Haines, just a few miles away, and met up with friends Laura and Kevin on Airship.

Haines might just be the most beautiful port on the entire coast. Jagged peaks, reminiscent of the Tetons, surround the town. Perhaps a dozen glaciers are visible. No matter which direction you look, the view is outstanding.
Approaching Haines
Haines Small Boat Harbor 
Haines is everything Skagway isn’t—authentic, charming, relaxed. There were tourists to be sure, but not the cruise ship type. RVers, cyclists, backpackers. A much more independent crowd.

We visited the local Hammer Museum, apparently one of just two hammer museums in the world. They had 1700 hammers on display, ranging from sledgehammers to beef tenderizers to ball pein hammers (did you know there are a half dozen correct spellings of pein?). I was surprised by the variety of hammers, and the devotion to hammers that the curators have, which extended to the music choice…MC Hammer, of course.
An assortment of ball-pein hammers and spellings 
Then we got hammered…just kidding, but we did visit the local brewery (spruce tip ale was surprisingly delicious) and distillery. Then happy hour and dinner on the top of Safe Harbour.
Dinner on Safe Harbour
Did I mention the weather? Sunny and warm…the first shorts weather in weeks. Hardly a cloud in the sky.

4.74 nm today
1765.07 nm total

Alaska 2016 | Day 63 | Skagway to Taiyasanka Harbor

Time to leave Skagway. We departed with no real plan, other than to head south towards Haines. The first viable anchorage was Taiyasanka Harbor. My go-to Southeast Alaska guidebook, Exploring Southeast Alaska, ­didn’t have any info on this spot, but it looked good on the chart.
Anchored in Tayasanka Harbor. Ferebee Glacier in the background.
Aerial of Safe Harbour in Taiyasanka Harbor. The water was opaque with glacial silt.
Mountains surrounding Taiyasanka Harbor
We found good anchorage along the south shore in about 50 feet of water, mud bottom, excellent holding. For being almost unmentioned in the guidebook, Taiyasanka Harbor is a beautiful spot. Ferebee Glacier is visible to the north, jagged peaks to the south. A wreck of some type is on the south shore, easily accessible.

Ruins ashore
More ruins
Aerial of the ruins 
Tomorrow we’ll check out Haines.

12.05 nm today
1760.33 nm total