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Thursday, June 3, 2010

5/27 Finally! We are really in Alaska

Finally! We really are in Alaska. We stopped early at McHenry anchorage to enjoy the afternoon of good weather but discovered that our little dingy outboard wasnt working - at all. So instead we spent the afternoon in vain tearing it apart. But after that headache we were rewarded with our first whale. A great big humpback just off our starboard side. He was feeding with long slow rolls in the current leading up to Snow Passage.

Later in the day we navigated our way through the infamous Wrangell narrows. The narrows is 21 miles long and has more than 60 navigational aids to lead you through. The big cruise ships don't go through Wrangell Narrows but the smaller ones do and working tugs and cargo boats do as well. The guide books painted it as a very intricate and sometimes harrowing route and warn of keeping a lookout behind as the cruise ships sneak up on you and speed passed extremely close. The route really wasn't that tough. Long and intricate but really just a series of bouys and range marks leading you along without difficulty. At the end of the pass we spent the night right off the narrows in a little indentation called Scow bay. Nothing much to write about it was like being anchored off a loading dock but was out of the traffic and well staged for entering Fredrick Sound.

We left early in the morning to stay out of potential high winds. We were slowly chugging along north of Petersburg when I casually said to Bill. What kind of a bird is that. Its sure a big bird. A really big bird...Ii could see the odd little wake it was leaving and something just didn't look right. It wasn't, it was a deer. A little guy still wearing his spots. There was a small island off our starboard side and it looked like he was heading across to a larger island. As we slowed to take pictures he turned to avoid us and passed right behind the boat. As we were still staring open mouthed in wonder we saw a scrimmage line of small boats speeding towards us. There was a big salmon derby for the Memorial Day weekend and the starting clock must have just chimed because there was a whole pack of them racing to their favorite hole. We were too far off to see but wondered just how much of a gauntlet the little fellow had to run.

After, as we headed to the top of Frederick Sound we saw our first glacier in the distance. The waters open up from Frederick Sound into the bottom of Stephens passage. and along Admiralty Island. It is a large deep body of water that is ringed by mountains in every direction. It was a gloriously sunny day. Blue sky, warmth, mountains glowing in the sun light or seeming to float in a shimmer of cold hazy air in the far distance. As we crossed the widest part to the anchorage we were headed to we found the Humpbacks. Lots. Not sure how many where there but at one point we could hear them breathing there loud exclamations of air all around us. There was at least one calf with mom who was gargantuan. We slowed the boat to a crawl watching them rise and roll and dive. Turning ourselves in circles on the deck again and again as the sound of their breath spun us around and around and back again.

After that there wasn't much that could make a better day - until we chugged into Cannery Cove for the night. The cove is large and very protected. With a large drying flat at the head opening up into a bowl that spills from a huge snowy mountainside. The sounds of the water falls came floating across the cove as the sun moved over the highest snow covered hill. The drying flat was full of birds and looked like prime bear country.

After anchoring we broke out the new kayaks for the first time on the trip and soon were paddling off to investigate. The kayaks were a treat and great to finally get them out of their bags. It was an interesting prospect though. Trying to figure out how to get off the boat into an inflatable kayak that was new to us. We weren't sure of the mechanics of it or how steady they would be. The boat of course is quite a ways off the water. We use a fender step tied low to get in and out of the dingy but stepping down into a kayak that might fold in two? Well they didn't fold and in fact are pretty stable. We lowered the dingy into the water so we could climb in it first but i decided to try wedging my kayak between the boat and the dinghy and neither one of us ended up in the drink and I can already tell they are going to be great fun.

Tomorrow morning early we are going to try and slip quietly into them and head into the cove for some wild life viewing then if the tide is out far enough there looked to be some good sandy ground so we will try our hands at digging a pail of manila clams. This is the Alaska I was hoping for.

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