|Raven in the rain at anchor off Stephens Passage.|
|Rounding Mansfield Point; goodbye, Icy Strait.|
|Behemoth in a narrow channel.|
|The evening before our arrival in Juneau. Looking south toward Stephens Passage.|
|So much beauty in textures.|
|Fish and chips at PubRaven.|
|Rowing the dinghy in Dundas Bay.|
There are some big currents in both north and south Inian Passage, like 6 to 8 knots on spring tides, so we timed our exit to catch the ebb. Gotta go to the Hobbit Hole, our friends in Port Townsend said we mustn’t miss that! Oh wow, this looks great, I say as we enter the channel, and Jim says, but this isn’t the Hobbit Hole, that’s the Hobbit Hole over there, as he points up a rocky narrow passage. Nuh-uh, it’s low tide and that entrance is way too gnarly even for Raven (see photo below). So we anchored in the channel outside, called Mosquito Passage, and dinghied to the 10-acre cove.
|Entrance to the Hobbit Hole at low tide.|
|K&J invade the Inian Institute at the Hobbit Hole.|
|Hobbit Hole at low tide.|
Why not? we asked.
Because it’s a bit rude.
Well, it means, uh, ‘Place Out of the Wind Where One Can Poop,’ he said. It’s where, way back in the old days, native canoes would stop to, uh, ah, let everyone out so they could, uh…
Poop? we offered.
Yeah, he said. Maybe it’s best not to let that be too widely known, huh?
Of course, we said.
A bit of wind arrived and we stayed an extra day, enjoying the peace and quiet, kayaking and rowing around. As we watched with fascination while an eagle swooped down again and again near our boat as it went after a large school of herring, and a couple of harbor porpoises dived into the herring ball, a big black inflatable cruise ship launch came roaring through, leaving a huge wake, scattering the critters, and rocking Raven. Then over the space of an hour another, and another—eight or nine passenger-filled large launches left us rocking in their wakes, until Jim yelled HEY! SLOW DOWN! YOU’RE RUINING THE PEACE HERE! and the last one did. We’re sorry, said the launch operator.
Sure you are, we thought, you’re sorry we yelled at you in front of your boatload of passengers. WHAT SHIP ARE YOU OFF? I said.
A crew member answered unintelligibly.
National Geographic Quest, this is the motor vessel Raven.
This time, the ship answered. Politely but firmly I told him how badly the 8 or 9 launch passes had disrupted the peace and rocked us, and he (we think it was the captain) apologized profusely, promising to get all the launch crews together and use it as a teachable moment.
Okay, that’s good, I said. Grumpily, we left the anchorage, heading to Elfin Cove. There’s the cruise ship, still anchored, I said.
Here comes a launch, said Jim.
I altered course to let it pass us, but it turned toward us. I altered course again. Hey, said Jim, there’s just one person in it, a woman, and I think she’s coming toward us. We slowed down. A lone woman driving the launch was trying to flag us down by waving a fine bottle of cabernet sauvignon at us.
Now, if you want to get the crew of the ole Raven to stop, there probably isn’t a better way to accomplish your goal.
We stopped, she pulled up alongside, apologized, asked us to accept the bottle of wine as a token of their apology and appreciation for calling and alerting them to the problem, and she said the captain had used the occasion to teach the launch crews how not to ruin the peace and quiet being enjoyed by an anchored boat.
Wow! Now that’s the classy way to operate!
We chatted with her for awhile, and as she was leaving, I called the ship to say thanks for the wine. After apologizing once again, the captain said, if there’s anything else we can do for you, just call.
Do you think they have any beer? whispered Jim.
Shhh, I said, and told the captain, thank you for the wine, it was a nice gesture and we appreciate it.
|Elfin Cove "road system."|
|Narrow channel to back lagoon.|
Elfin Cove has changed considerably since the last time I visited in 2006 after crossing the Gulf of Alaska.
|Flashback! Karen's former Dana 24, Minstrel, peacefully nestled among the commercial fishing fleet at Elfin Cove in 2006, after a Gulf of Alaska crossing.|
What has not changed is the humor and friendliness of its long-time residents, who made us laugh a lot.
|A few of the many homes and businesses on pilings at Elfin Cove.|
|Lotsa wise guys among the locals.|
|Nice way to use extra crocs.|
|Nice new transient dock at Elfin Cove, built by the State, for visitors to use for free!|
Due to an extra-low tide, the entire sport fishing charter fleet came out of the shallow back lagoon so they could go fishing the next morning. This is understandable, but they crowded onto the transient dock, six charter catamarans rafted up in a row very close behind us, overnight, unmanned, with three more wide boats abreast in front of us. It’s not like these low tides have never occurred before or that these businesses couldn’t plan ahead, but they apparently take over a free, state-built dock meant for transient visitors whenever there’s an extra-low tide, and good luck finding a berth.
|Raven surrounded and boxed in by charter boats.|
|Dundas Bay's northwest arm. The moose in the water was hard to see.|
|From a tiny-looking head in the water emerged a big male moose.|
Glad we’re not kayak-camping tonight?
|Pencil tip shows how far we got.|
|Low tide where not long before we'd run the dinghy.|
Grass? I didn’t know bears ate grass, said Jim.
They’re omnivores, I said, they’ll eat anything to tide them over until the salmon start running.
Then: TWO MORE MOOSE! Just north of the brown bear, a female trying to show the bull from yesterday how uninterested she was in romance, the bull following her anyway. Good luck, honey. Then: two cinnamon brown bears, a sow and her cub, just south of the big brown bear. Mama stood on her hind legs, sniffing the air, and she and her cub took off running. Boy are they fast. Males will kill cubs in order to cause the female to go back into estrus so he can mate with her. Ursine creeps. The mama and her cub, which was now sticking to her like Velcro, ran into the woods.
|Two cinnamon-colored grizzlies, a sow and her cub.|
Over several days we anchored in all 3 arms of Dundas Bay, each a little different and lovely. More bears and moose were spotted.
I just saw a hoary marmot, I said.
Jim: How’d you know it was horny?
Hoary. Nyuk, nyuk.
|Look how the fog plays tricks on the eye - this is a very large container barge being pulled by a tug to its left. Can't see the tug? We couldn't either, but we spoke with it on the radio.|
|Looking for another glimpse of the white whale in fog and rain.|
Did that whale look white to you?
It sure did.
Maybe it was the way the light was shining on it, or something?
Maybe it’s just a light-skinned whale; an albino would be very unusual.
There’s one in Australia, an albino humpback.
We stopped, turned off the engine, and waited for it to surface, to try and get another look. There was a large dark humpback whale nearby that surfaced in the mist and rain, but we didn’t see the small white one again. And of course, we got no photo of it, because it all happened too fast in the fog.
Idaho Inlet comes to a screeching halt around a corner; depths go from 80 feet to two feet in less than a hundred feet, and there’s still a mile of shallow water beyond that, so it must have looked deceptively deep from the wheelhouse of the steamship Idaho, for which the Evergreen Guide says it's named.
|Head of Idaho Inlet at low tide.|
From Idaho Inlet we headed for a last visit to Hoonah, to see our new friends and stretch our legs, which haven’t been getting much exercise. Just past Point Adolphus, which is across from the Glacier Bay entrance, there was a big tide rip with eight humpback whales playing and feeding in it.
|Humpback whale getting ready to dive at Point Adolphus.|
|Our hydrophone, deployed.|
|Resting at the surface. Dorsal fin on left, blowhole on right. The puff of mist is from the "blow."|
|Diving! (These photos are all of different whales.)|
|Tail lifts and slides under... ahhhh.|
It was like being hypnotized; we could have stayed out there all day, and in fact left only after the whales did because the current stopped ripping.
|Hoonah sunset just after 10:00 pm.|
|We were tied up next to this boat, which was across the deck from a fishing boat called Legal Tender, and down the dock were the Happy Hooker and our favorite, the Village Idiot. These Tlingits have a fine sense of humor!|
|Great garden idea for all you folks with an extra stove.|
On the way in:
You know how to use that can of bear spray, right? I asked.
Yes, said Jim. Then: Are you sure you want to do this? It’s good bearbitat in here.
Bearbitat! Great word!
So what do you think?
Oh why not, we can make lots of noise and they won’t bother us, right?
Bears are supposed to run away from humans, right?
We dinghied ashore, beached and secured our little craft, and walked about a hundred feet across some rocks.
Um, Jim? I stopped. Did you see this? You almost stepped in it.
What is it, he said.
It’s the biggest pile of bear poop I’ve ever seen in my life, I said. It’s twice as big as any ones I’ve seen. And it’s fresh.
|Karen points to an enormous pile of bear poop. We took a close-up, but honestly, it's just a big pile of poop.|
Yeah, maybe from this morning.
Jim nudged it with his foot. It’s all made of grass, he said.
Yeah, I said. The salmon aren’t running yet.
Hm, said Jim.
The horseflies stopped buzzing and the air went eerily still, just like in the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, when Clint Eastwood stares and says, “It’s no joke, it’s a rope, Tuco. Now I want you to put your head in it.”
Sweetie, I said, this is just a hypothetical question, but do we want to encounter a carnivore with a rectum this large when it’s had no meat for awhile?
Let’s call it good and get out of here, said Jim.
Yeah, I rationalized. We hiked a hundred feet to get here, and we’ll hike a hundred feet back to the dinghy. At least it’s something.
The two crabs we caught were delicious.
Leaving the lagoon at Port Frederick the next day, we trolled for salmon (skunked again) and as we left Port Frederick to enter Icy Strait, found the wind picking up and raising some seas. These are big seas for so little wind, said Jim.
Should we go back?
I dunno, it seems like a long way.
Yeah, I said. But we’re going to have to tack across the Strait to get to our next anchorage.
We ordered the millpond. I guess they misplaced the order.
I guess we may as well keep going, right?
Wham! Bash! Discomfort again, though not as bad as that day on Frederick Sound. Once we turned east to get back on our course, a pod of about six Dall’s porpoises surfed our bow wave and darted all around Raven for more than 15 minutes, which is an unusually long time. What a delight to see them. Seas increased until they were almost the size of the ones we’d encountered in Frederick Sound. In late afternoon we pulled gratefully into Swanson anchorage in the Couverden Islands at the northeast corner of Icy Strait.
Sometime, said Jim, we ought to go out and turn back, just for practice, so we know how to do it.
|Now THAT'S a crab! This huge Dungeness was too big for us to finish in one meal.|
The colds hit us pretty hard after that, and we left Swanson anchorage to spend two nights at anchor on the shoal just south of Horse Island, across from Auke Bay, before arriving in Juneau.
|Lighthouse at tip of Mansfield Peninsula, north end of Admiralty Island, home of skedillions of brown bears.|