Monday, July 3, 2023

Sitka to Juneau via Glacier Bay

We departed Sitka on Monday, June 19 with a forecast for generally settled conditions in SE Alaska through the next 4 to 5 days. We decided to take advantage of it by going up the west coast of Chichagof Island and visiting areas we hadn’t seen since 2011.

2023-Cruise-130xThe initial route took us up the protected waters of Olga and Neva Straits into Salisbury Sound at the north end of Kruzof Island. From here we had to travel about 12 miles of open waters about 1-2 miles off shore of Chichagof Island. For this section we elected to deploy our stabilization poles and drop the “fish” which are towed through the water.  As the waves roll the boat, the fish (essentially weighted boards) resist the pull and dampen the rolling motion. They improve the ride and make everyone on board more comfortable.

2023-Cruise-116xOur first night was in Waterfall Cove along Slocum Arm. There is a water fall but it is about a mile from the anchorage and only visible as you come in.  The marine air and fog that accompanied us from Salisbury Sound along the coast disappeared at the anchorage but did lurk right outside in the channel.

2023-Cruise-120xFor the next several days, we puttered along in protected waters along Chichagof Island’s west coast. We spent one night each in Lake Anna (not a fresh water lake), Klag Bay and Baker Cove.  The Klag Bay anchorage was in the cove outside an abandoned gold mine with some relics of the effort.

This area is quite lovely and not often visited. The only detraction was the persistent marine air that brought fog in the morning and low clouds often with drizzle.  Looking ahead at our summer schedule, we decided to push on towards Icy Strait and position ourselves  to enter Glacier Bay.. A long day of travel, first outside along the coast, in at Lisianski Strait, through South Inian Pass, then east in Icy Strait to anchor in Flynn Cove on the north shore of Chichagof Island.

We obtained a 7-day/6-night permit for Glacier Bay National Park starting June 25 but were unable to obtain a one-day permit to transit to Bartlett Cove on the 24th so after some fruitless halibut fishing, we returned to Flynn Cove for a second night.

At this point, the settled weather with which we left Sitka the week before had departed. The forecast called for clouds and rain although modest winds of 10 knots or less. 2023-Cruise-132xAfter our first night in the park at Bartlett Cove, we decided our best course was to get up near the popular Margerie Glacier at the head of Tarr Inlet quickly. We anchored the second night on the east shore of Russell Island in a shallow cove partly sheltered by an island. We were entertained by a humpback whale that was doing lunge feeding along the shoreline.2023-Cruise-144x

The next day, while not glorious sunshine, was not bad and we had good views of the ice. Positioning ourselves the night before works well because we were able to spend over an hour drifting with the engine off out in front of the glacier before any other vessel showed up. From here we tried a new (to us, anyway) anchorage, Sundew Cove before spending two rainy nights in North Sandy Cove. For out last night, we returned to Bartlett Cove.

On July 1, we departed Glacier Bay and headed east in Icy Strait towards Funter Bay. As we approached Point Couverden, we saw boats stopping and lingering for a period of time before proceeding.  We 2023-Cruise-180yrecognized this as a common boater behavior when humpback whales are around. We were not disappointed when, as we approached the area, we could see many spouts and tails suggesting a group of 15-20 whales actively feeding.  We stopped a respectable (and legal) distance away and watched two bubble-net feeding events. We’ve seen it before but this was one of the best positions we found ourselves in.

An early start the next morning got us to Statter Harbor in Auke Bay (~10 miles NW of downtown Juneau) about 8:30 am on July 2. The transient moorage in this harbor is not assigned and is a bit of a free-for-all but ultimately we were happy with the spot we found.


Contributing to the “buzz” of Auke Bay are the whale watching boats, carrying mostly cruise ship passengers, departing from the harbor. There is a steady stream of buses arriving to a recently completed purpose-built parking lot dropping off and picking up visitors.  A fleet of tour boats pickup and drop off their guests from another recently completed purpose-built pair of docks.

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