We left Sitka with only a general outline of what we were going to do besides “going north”. We had hoped to travel up the outside of Chichagof Island into Cross Sound but the offshore forecast “persuaded” us it was not the best routing. That meant retracing our path through Peril Strait (the channel between Chichagof and Baranof Islands) into Chatham Strait.
We then considered heading back down to the southern part of Chatham Strait for fishing and prawning but it seemed that the best weather in SE Alaska so far this season had been in the northern half. So after all that hand-wringing we did traditional routing of going out Peril and turning left at Chatham towards Icy Strait. Along the way, we stopped at Appleton Cove in Peril Strait then Long Bay in Tenakee Inlet before stopping in Flynn Cove in Icy Strait.
While in Icy Strait, we wanted to revisit Dundas Bay, a location we hadn’t been to since 2011. We crossed over to a fishing area SW of Gustavus where Marcia caught a small halibut. Afterwards we proceeded to the North Arm of Dundas Bay. It is quite a trek (~8 miles) from Icy Strait to the head of the North Arm so it is more a “destination” than an intermediate stop but it is lovely, despite the wind from Cross Sound that funneled up through the SW Arm into the anchorage.
Marcia wanted to troll for salmon outside Dundas so we headed out to Icy Strait the next morning. No fish was caught and at the end of the session, we decided to use a closer anchorage in the Inian Islands at the junction of Icy Strait and Cross Sound. The description for Mosquito Pass mentioned a “beach” and Drake said we needed to check it out as it had been too long since he went to shore. He gave the beach a 5-star rating.
The next morning, we started out for Excursion Inlet but as we neared Gustavus, we phoned the Glacier Bay Visitor Center and were able to get a one-day permit to enter the park. We anchored in Bartlett Cove east of the fuel dock which is not part of the waters managed under the “25 private non-commercial vessels” limit so we did not need a permit to anchor there overnight. The next morning we obtained a permit under the short notice program to enter park waters two days later for a longer stay. Bartlett Cove is the only place in the park where Drake can go to shore in limited areas. We managed to find a quiet section where we put Drake on a long-lead and played his favorite thing in the world, “chase the ball.”
The weather now had turned warm and sunny and the Fairweather Range of mountains were out in all their glory. It also meant the bugs, horseflies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums, were out in all their fury. The warm weather also meant afternoon sea breezes were kicking up which was making Bartlett Cove a bit bouncy in the afternoon until the sun set. We managed to tack another one-day permit on in front of our 7-day permit and headed up to South Fingers Bay for the night for a calm night at anchor.
From there we headed up bay to Tarr Inlet. The amount of ice in the water as we approached the head appeared light and we decided to anchor in the bight on the west shore a little over a mile south of the Margerie Glacier. We had some anxiety in the late evening as the tide changed and large amounts of ice began to float by our anchored boat and periodically skitter across the hull. A back eddy is formed in the bight and a stream flows out into the bight so the currents are both strong and somewhat non-intuitive. Fortunately, nothing untoward occurred and we pulled our anchor uneventfully the next morning.
The Tarr Inlet Bight is a stunning anchorage with fabulous scenery and the sounds of sea birds and rumbling ice. In the future, ror our peace of mind, we may use it as a temporary anchorage and relocate further south towards Russel Island for the overnight anchoring.
From there, we headed to Shag Cove in Geike Inlet. The abundance of bugs was making it difficult to relax peacefully on the flybridge and take in the good weather.
From Shag it was across the bay past South Marble Island and to the always lovely North Sandy Cove. With the time and weather, we decided to head up Muir Inlet and then Wachusett Inlet. Since the weather remained stable and winds generally light, we tried an anchorage on the south side of the channel about 2 miles west of the entrance at Rowlee Point. The next morning we were rewarded by a lovely sunrise and a “bear show” by two brown bears on the beach. We headed to Berg Bay for the evening.
July 16, 2022 Update – From other boaters, we subsequently learned that the vessel, “Cats N Dawgs”, which we saw in North Sandy Cove and who preceded us up Muir Inlet, sank while exploring the entrance to the McBride Inlet. It apparently grounded on rocks in a poorly charted area, damaged its hull such that it took on water, capsized and sank. Fortunately, a small tour/guide boat, Alaskan Hunter, was nearby and pulled the 4 boat occupants from the water. Cats N Dawgs triggered their VHF DSC alarm which was picked up by the USCG which also responded with a helicopter.
At the time of the incident, we were up the Wachusett Inlet sufficiently far that we never received the DSC alarm or heard any VHF radio traffic (we monitor channels 13 & 16 while operating). We were blissfully unaware of the accident even though we were 10 or so miles from the incident.
August 29, 2022 Update – We use Coastal Explorer (CE for short) as the primary navigation tool while cruising. CE tracks and displays AIS targets. While the tracks are not logged permanently, static data (e.g., vessel MMSI, name, call sign and the last known position and time are retained. I went into the file that logs this data and found the AIS data for “Cats N Dawgs.” Our last position report has a time stamp of July 1, 2022 at 2045Z (1245 AKDT) and a position of 59.032333 N 136.145750 W. The article from Coast Guard News linked above says the DSC call came in at 1204 AKDT so our position report is likely to be at or very near where “Cats N Dawgs” sank.
At this point, a change in the weather started. A halibut fishing session near Gustavus was cut short by increasing west winds and chop. We headed up Excursion Inlet to Sawmill Bay where we found calm waters (and bugs) tucked out of the main channel.
Our original thought when leaving Glacier Bay was to putz around Icy Strait for a few days and head to Juneau on July 10. After reviewing the weather forecast we accelerated the plan and headed to Juneau sooner. From Sawmill Bay we went to Funter Bay, encountering a variety of wind and sea conditions as we approached Point Courverden, where Icy Strait, Lynn Canal and Chatham Strait all meet. Our final stretch into Funter Bay was SE15-20 and 3-foot chop on our beam making for unpleasant travel. SW winds blew into the anchorage all night, keeping us at the end of our anchor circle until the next morning.
We arrived in Juneau early on June 6 so that we could beat the gill-netters into port before the 12pm closing on their fishery. Even then, we were barely able to find a spot on the dock into which to squeeze. We know many boaters who avoid Statter Harbor in Auke Bay because it is a free-for-all of boats (commercial fishing boats, commercial tour boats, local recreational boats, and transient pleasure boats like ourselves). We’ve managed to get a spot on all our visits but we dread the day when our luck runs out.
We’ve passed the halfway point of our cruising season and from here we are starting slowly southwards.