Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Petersburg to Craig

This has been a week filled with friends and laughter. Ron and Pam joined us in Petersburg. We spent the first day bicycling around town and eating at Inge's food stand (Alaska Thai Curry and a halibut sandwich to die for.)

At 5:30 the next morning we set out with the tide, rounding the last buoy of Wrangell Narrows (overflowing with sea lions) and headed out Frederick Sound to Chapin Bay for our rendezvous with John and Teddi on Teddi Bear. Teddi had planned this meal for weeks, well before leaving Sitka to bring their boat south for the summer. As we approached Chapin Bay, a tiny boat raced towards us. After a moment with binoculars we knew it was John and Teddi in their dinghy, waving a PILOT sign at us, to guide us in :)

Notice small external ear flaps differentiating seals from their much larger sea lion cousins. These guys are 8-9 feet long and weigh 1200+ lbs!

John and Teddi greeting us outside Chapin Bay

Teddi Bear leaving Chapin Bay on her way south

We're taking a bit of an unusual route this week. After Chapin Bay (on the south end of Admiralty Island), we headed for Red Bluff Bay on the west side of Baranof Island. Then, rather than head north like most folks, we decided to loop back south towards Craig, which is further west but almost parallel to Ketchikan. We love the narrow passages and smooth lake-like bays filled with sea otters--terrain unique to this part of SE Alaska.

Red Bluff Bay is one of those jewels that never disappoints. The "bear meadow" at the mouth of the river was thick with Brown Bears, the waterfall was in full flow, and the weather cooperated. Ron and I kayaked, and as we were skimming some rocky cliffs at high tide we came around a corner, and there was a huge brown bear picking his way along the 6 inches left of the shore below the cliffs. He couldn't have been more than sixty feet in front of us. We were downwind and he didn't hear or smell us, so we followed him. He'd run out of shore to walk on and would be forced into the water. Getting out, he'd shake and create a cloud of water vapor that floated away in the wind. Finally, he saw us. I think this is the first time I've seen a bear with a startled look on his face. He had arrived at a place where trees rather than rock was above him, although precarious on a 60 degree slope. In a flash, we watched amazed as the 1000 pound animal jumped up that hill as if he was light as a feather. A hundred feet up he stopped and peered down at us as we glided by. There hadn't been any time for cameras, but I'll always remember this as a peak experiences.

Red Bluff Bay

Ron keeping his distance. The water is quite shallow here and bears are FAST

King of the forest, and he knows it.

Barrow's Golden Eye

Another picture for George (her designer)

Discovery joined us late that evening

Next morning we started out early, crossing Chatham Sound (about the width of Puget Sound) in mirror smooth, water spotting both an orca and dahl's porpoises. Once across, we turned south towards Rocky Pass, between Kupreanof and Kuiu Islands. It's a strange feeling, coming from wide open waters into what at first appears like solid terrain, hundreds of tiny islands covered with evergreens.

Heading south into twisty passages
An eagle awaits our entrance into Rocky Pass

South of Rocky Pass, we anchored in Labouchiere Bay on Prince of Wales Island. The bay held two resident sea otters and the view out to the west was breathtaking. The name of the bay was French, so we decided to break out the duck confit in the freezer, and Pam, who studied with Julia Child, cooked us up a meal we'll always remember. (Thanks Joe Euro for stocking frozen confit at your wine shop.)

Duck confit, asparagus, curried rice, mushrooms sautéed in duck fat, and les petite chous

VERY happy campers

Did I mention the view?

The next day would be a short one, heading towards El Capitan, another long, shallow, twisty passage named after the mountain in Yosemite because of a similar appearing rock near by. We anchored out of the current in a widened pool about half way through the narrowest portions. Although El Capitan channel is one of the most efficient and protected north-south routes, we saw just two boats pass by in the 20 hrs we were anchored there.

Ron and Pam

Abandoned boat near El Capitan

South of Sumner Strait and El Capitan is a wonderland of islands, seemingly thousands of them, as well as larger, open bodies of water leading out to the ocean. One of these is called Sea Otter Sound. Need I say more?
They're so darned cute, and curious.

I dare you not to say 'ooh'

Or 'ah'

Nossuk Bay gave us another peaceful night in paradise. The sunset was beautiful, accompanied by the call of an owl on the island nearby.

Finally, Craig. May 28th is Ron's birthday while the 29th is mine. We explored the town on foot, went out for birthday dinner at Ruth Ann's (the salmon Oscar is wonderful), then back to the boat in time to catch the sunset (at almost 10pm!)

We sadly bid Ron and Pam goodbye this morning, watching as their float plane climbed towards the sky. Wonderful memories. Even more wonderful friends.

Craig sunset

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