After sadly sending our kids back to their productive endeavors “Outside”,(which is what Alaskans call the rest of the world), Kathleen and I resume our slow cruise in the wilderness. Appropriately provisioned, and satisfyingly stocked with spares, we shove off from Juneau heading out Icy Strait towards the purportedly isolated village of Elfin Cove.
Our Seahorse friends, Dave and Dorothy, have assumed temporary identities as Harbormaster and Postal Mistress there in Elfin Cove for 18 long months. Elfin has a population of 200, but last winter it shrank to two, Dave and Dorothy, living on their boat. Like I said, long months. So we had masked drinks and pupus on the dock, and told stories of our adventures at sea. Very nice.
Weather in the Gulf of Alaska began to turn against our plans to venture out into the open ocean for a run to Sitka, (seas 7’, maybe we’re getting soft), so we reversed and went to Dundas Bay, a remote part of the National Park. For 5 days we roamed the back bays and never saw anyone or any boat. Eerie and beautiful, and it was our 36th wedding anniversary!
Notably theses bays have a history of glacial outbursts, a sudden flood of ice and water that sounds rather disturbing. These summertime geological events occur when a melt basin up in the glacier, full of icebergs, suddenly breaks loose and rushes down the glacial valley taking trees and no doubt a few surprised mammals with it. Would not want to be there that day.
Keeping a mariner’s eye to the weather, we see a deepening storm force low developing in the Gulf with a gale front arrival in a few days. Choosing a safe harbor for a gale requires wind and especially wave protection, so we select Pavlof for its surroundings, mud bottom for anchor holding, and shoreline barrier to the south, the forecast wind direction. Plus, there’s a waterfall with jumping salmon and lots of bears.
Snugly anchored in 40’ of water, with 275’ of chain rode down, the wind began to build throughout the day to a steady 35 knots with gusts to 47. This lasted all afternoon (I much prefer daytime gales), and still kept us awake that night gusting to 35. We held fast, but another boat in the anchorage dragged and had to reanchor five times during the storm. Unfortunately he was upwind of us, which added to our anxiety.
The next day, storm had passed, but the outside channels were still churning up steep 4’ waves, so we just stayed and watched the bears. Grizzlies are amazing animals that lope around the waterfall grabbing salmon like a snack, while I fish for days and never catch anything. Oh well.
So that’s the news from Laysan in the upper Southeast Alaska. Not sure that we will ever leave, but Kathleen has heard that winter’s coming, and that is when many Alaskans go “Outside.”
All the best, my friends, and take care.