Over the last week, I made it down the Lynn Canal, out to the Gulf of Alaska, and down to Sitka with some great stops in between. After departing Skagway last Thursday, I made the short hop down to Haines. I'm definitely glad I had waited out the weather in Skagway because clear skies meant that all the mountains surrounding the Lynn Canal that had been socked in when I made my way up to Skagway were now in full view. I worked my way down the Taiya Inlet and was blown away by the peaks that form the backdrop to Haines. Haines proved to be abuzz which I had not expected. The entire transient dock in the harbor was full so I went back out into Portage Cove to drop the anchor but found the bottom too steep to get a good set. A friendly gillnetter offered to let me raft up with him back at the dock and explained that everyone was in town for the Southeast Alaska State Fair and that I had to go check it out. I took a walk around town that evening and found the local watering hole, the Fogcutter. I walked in, sat down, and started chatting with the locals who were remarkably friendly. When I went to pay my tab, the nice woman sitting next to me said my money was no good there and told the barmaid to put it on her tab. The following morning I made my way out to a little area of town called Dalton City where the fair was taking place. Dalton City was actually built as part of the set to the movie White Fang and is now home to Haines Brewing Company and a few other small shops. I sat sipping on Eldred Rock Red and listened to some fantastic live music. I knew I had miles to make that day so I made my way back to the boat and set off.
That night's anchorage in Boat Harbor proved tricky to get into. The entrance is narrow, less than 40 feet wide at low tide, and the bottom irregular and very shallow in places. Despite entering when the tables indicated slack water, a current swept me in as whirled Antoinette's wheel back and forth to keep her off the rocks. I decided I'd wait at anchor and depart when I could see nothing moving on the surface of the water through my binoculars. This meant I did not depart the next day until about 2:30 in the afternoon, but that gave me time to clean and fillet a beautiful pair of sockeye that I have been feasting on since. The exit back into the Lynn Canal was less eventful and I was off to make my way back to Hoonah.
I dropped anchor in Hoonah in the same nice, protected spot I had the last time I had been in Hoonah. A quick stop at the fuel dock and grocery store the next morning and I was off again. I saw numerous whales again off of Point Adolphus, the same place I had come across that massive pod of orcas. This time it was orcas and humpbacks at the same time. To my amazement, a humpback made a full breach no more than 100 yards off my port side. I was glad he wasn't any closer! The Inian Islands between the Icy Strait and Cross Sound proved to be remarkably beautiful. The guide books warn against the strong currents in the southern passage around the islands so I rounded them to the north and picked my way through to Elfin Cove. The currents swirled in every direction through the passages lined by cliffs and sea caves and I was taken aback by how beautiful it was. Gentle swell off the Pacific rolled in as I rounded Point Lavinia and made my way into Elfin Cove.
All the guide books indicate Elfin Cove as a must, but I didn't quite understand why until I landed there. There is no good place to anchor at Elfin Cove and I was fortunate to snag the last spot on the small transient dock. It turns out that Elfin Cove is a thriving little village in a very unlikely place. There are no motor vehicles and no roads in Elfin Cove and not a spec of level ground. All the structures and dwellings in Elfin Cove are built on pilings and connected by a series of wooden boardwalks that encircle the cove. Everything comes in either by seaplane or by boat and I was surprised by just how well stocked Elfin Cove's general store is. I meandered around the boardwalks and was reluctant to leave. My next destination was White Sulfur Springs. I set out into the Cross Sound and made my way over to the calm waters of the Lisianski Inlet. A good northerly blew me down the Lisianski Inlet and into the Lisianski Strait. From there it was back out into the Gulf of Alaska where northerlies and a following sea swept me down White Sulfur Springs in no time at all. I maintained 7.5 knots, frequently hitting 8.5 knots. On the front of one particularly steep wave, Antoinette hit 9.5 knots through the water! Not bad for a 34 foot boat! Breakers crashed as I neared my anchorage for that evening and I very carefully picked my way around Fairway Rock and into the Fleming Channel. Chart 17132 is woefully inadequate for this anchorage so I maintained a vigilant watch and cross referenced my chartplotter, my iPhone, and the diagram in the guidebook. The reward for my work getting into the anchorage was a amazingly still, quiet, beautiful spot all to myself. I explored the area in the dinghy and made my way to shore. A half mile walk through the forest brought me to the Forest Service cabin and bathhouse at White Sulfur Springs. I was completely blown away the beautiful timber framed bathhouse. Mahogany decking surrounded a magnificent pool and large glass doors slid open revealing the Gulf of Alaska. The only sounds were of the swells crashing onto the rocks of Bertha Bay and I had the place entirely to myself. Back aboard Antoinette, I crashed hard that night.
I set out the next morning on what was to be a very long day. My exit from the previous night's anchorage proved to be more difficult than my entrance. I rushed back and forth between the cockpit and the bow to keep a lookout for rocks lurking beneath the surface. That day's swell was not much larger than the previous day's, but the period between wave crests was shorter making for steeper, more powerful waves. I set a course to put a solid amount of sea room between Antoinette and shore before turning south. I rounded Hill Island and entered the calm waters of Portlock Harbor through Imperial Passage. The 'ol Yanmar chugged away and kept me going through the glassy, river-esque waters of the Surveyor Passage and Ogden Passage. After Smooth Channel, it was back into the Gulf of Alaska and its swell for about 20 nm out around the Khaz Penninsula and into the Salisbury Sound. The wind was not cooperating at all. It would blow for two minutes in one direction, shift and blow for another two minutes, then die for ten minutes before picking up again. This was killing my progress so I decided I had had enough and dropped the sails. Upon furling in the genoa, I discovered that somehow the furling line had gotten itself into a massive tangle on the furler drum and that meant a trip up to the foredeck. In the process of untangling the line, between “Bob” was not behaving well in the steep swell and the wind shifting mercilessly, and the genoa wrapped itself every which way around the forestay and I had a hell of a time getting it sorted out. In hindsight, perhaps I should have dropped the genoa entirely before taking on the mess with the furling line. Who knows? I got everything situated and made my way back to the cockpit. I've never been seasick but with all the pitching and rolling up on the bow, I had come close. A couple hours of diligent hand steering later and I was very much relieved to enter the calm waters of the Neva Strait. I had wanted to make it all the way to Sitka, but I was wiped out so I started looking for a good anchorage. I motor sailed through Krestof Sound, found a nice calm spot for the night in a cove on the south side of the Magoun Islands, and sacked out hard. A short 10 nm run yesterday and I made it to Sitka.
Sitka is a nice town in a magnificent setting amongst many bays and islands. It was the capitol of Alaska until 1906 when the honor was given to Juneau. Sitka is also the site of where the purchase of the Alaska Territory from the Russians was finalized in 1867. Interestingly, during the transfer ceremony, the Russian flag became entangled on the flag pole while being lowered and it took attempts by three different Russian soldiers to disentangle it. Ultimately, the Russian flag fell to the ground where it was whisked up by the wind into the bayonets of the Russian soldiers' rifles... Must have been an awkward moment.
I will be headed back toward inland waters today via the Peril Strait and the infamous Sergius Narrows. Once in Chatham Strait, I will be heading towards Kake via Warm Springs Bay. Before I leave today, I'll try and update the photos in my last post now that I have a better internet connection. Also, I'm excited to report that my great friend Devon will be joining me on 12th! Single-handing has been a great experience, but I'm looking forward to the company. In other news, Laura and her dear friend Caroline have made it to Iceland and are off backpacking the Laugaveurinn Trail. I'm hoping that between the two of us we can simultaneously keep the blog up to date with our adventures with a third of the globe between us. Be sure to keep track of the best photographs of their travels on Instagram at @lauraheinritz and @carobean303.