Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sun and Mountains that POP

Three nights in Wrangell. The first day, we met a young family on a sailboat (his dad's.) Three young kids as comfortable wearing lifejackets and running around in the rain on docks as, well, water rats, if you get my drift. He looked young, maybe mid-thirties, but turns out he's a pilot on Cruise Ships. He's the guy who gets on board and keeps them from running into things. A lot of responsibility. So many cool jobs in this world.

We hooked up with Doug and Jill in Passages, getting together for an evening and a breakfast. One of those chance encounters with a couple I've known of for many years, friends of many of our friends, but had never actually met. This is their 9th trip up to Alaska in a boat they've owned for more than twenty years. Lots of good tips, including their favorite anchorage in Wrangell Narrows, near Beecher Pass.

We set off mid morning intending to take two days to get to Petersburg (it can easily be done in one day.) Wrangell Narrows (oddly named in that it leads to Petersburg) is one of the more interesting waterways in Southeast Alaska. It's quite shallow in places. Similar to the ICW on the East Coast, there are channel markers everywhere to help keep you from running aground. And you share this narrow, shallow channel with tugs pulling barges and cruise ships (piloted by our new friend.)

Beecher Pass is an even shallower channel off of Wrangell Narrows with a lovely anchorage beyond. We managed to arrive right at low tide. I poked my nose off the beaten path and was immediately confronted with six foot depths (we draw 5.5ft.) Turning around VERY carefully, I decided to anchor and decide what to do. We really wanted to try out the new spot, but weren't too keen on grounding our boat. So - brilliant idea. I dropped the dinghy in the water. Although small, she has a depth finder and an electronic chart. So, following what looked like the deepest channel, I reconnoitered while Glenda stayed on the boat. Sure enough, there was a fine channel with thirteen feet deep most of the way. I headed back to the mother ship and in half an hour we were anchored in our nice new spot. Doug and Jill putted in less than an hour later, Doug radioing to announce he had caught two beautiful King salmon and would we like some? Silly question. I ferried them over in the dinghy after they anchored and got their catch carved, vacuumed packed and put on ice.

It turns out, they don't eat fish! Doug just likes to fish, and loves giving it away as gifts to friends and family. How lucky is that?

The next morning we were off to Petersburg. Passages is faster than we are and they soon passed, but not before I got a good shot of her. The sun and the mountains were out, offering lots of wonderful photographic opportunities.

We'll spend three nights in Petersburg, where the air is as clean and crisp as the top of the world. Glenda said, and I agree, that there is something about this location that feels like it's the top of the world. A water world surrounded by mountains and glaciers.

Our friends Ron and Pam join us in the morning, and then we'll be off on an adventure out Fredrick Sound, over to Baranof Island, then down to Craig on Prince of Wales Island.

Anchorage near Beecher Pass

The view up Wrangell Narrows

Doug and Jill's Passages

Perching on channel marker

Roasting this week's coffee at dock

Top of the world

1500lb Stellar sea lion cruising around the boat.
I was standing on deck when I heard what sounded like a whale breathing. It was one of the harbor sea lions. MUCH bigger than the ones at home. I once saw a skull set next to the skull of a brown bear. The sea lion's head was bigger! He swam right along the boat and I could see his entire body just feet from me. I'd estimate he was seven to eight feet long. Not sure if it was the same guy, but one of these fellows hopped on the dock and sent a man to the hospital with a huge bite taken out of his leg. Now that's an Alaskan sea lion!

Blue Heron fishing in the slough near the docks

Petersburg is famous for it's Norwegian heritage

Sometimes we feel lost among the behemoths of the Petersburg fishing fleet

Simply gorgeous setting

Slough behind the harbor.

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