DRIFTING WITH HUMPBACKS

Nice soft continuous rain from early morning to around nine.  Then it cleared up but was cloudy all day.  I went to explore the ruins of Deweyville this morning.  The Suzuki outboard is humming along nicely now and is a happy starter.  I couldn’t find the ruins, I found a couple of old sheds but they had plywood in the construction and I don’t think Dewey had access to plywood.  I looked for young undergrowth and other sign of a town.  After fifteen minutes, being nice and wet by this time, I decided that I wasn’t really interested in seeing the ruins anyway.  I have seen plenty of ruins before and even sailed on a couple.

Whaler Bubble Curtain. Photo Ray Penson
Whaler Bubble Curtain. Photo Ray Penson

When time came to depart the anchorage I had trouble getting the anchor up.  It was fouled on something pretty solid.  After a combination of heaving and motoring ahead and astern I managed to get the anchor up to the surface and found it was fouled with a heavy steel cable.  I got a line around the cable, hung it off and freed the anchor.  The cable is now back on the seabed waiting to catch some other unfortunate sailor.  That was my morning workout.

From Deweyville we headed around El Capitan Island to visit the small Indian village of Tokeen.  When we arrived dock space was pretty tight so we carried on, it didn’t look very interesting anyway.

This detour to visit Token meant we had to use Skookumchuck pass to get back on our route south.  On entering the pass a large whale blew right in front of the boat.  I stopped the engine and drifted with the current through the pass.  For the next hour I was treated to a whale show with at least four humpbacks, one blew very close astern, a great explosive exhalation and plume of fine spray.

Flipper Beating Whale. Photo Ray Penson
Flipper Beating Whale. Photo Ray Penson

The pass is quite narrow and the whales were diving very close to the shore, just a few meters off the rocks.  They were also doing the bubble ring thing but not surfacing through the bubbles.  One of the humpbacks was raising a fin and bringing it down on the water with a loud thud and splash.  The sound of their blowing is awesome when there is no background noise, it’s a funny feeling to know such massive creatures are swimming just under the boat.  A truly magical experience and so unexpected.

After the whale experience I didn’t want to use the engine so sailed in a fickle wind for the next couple of hours.  We didn’t make many miles but enjoyed the sounds of the eagles and otters without the engine blocking everything out.

Winter Harbour Anchorage, Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson
Winter Harbour Anchorage, Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson

This evening I am still on a high from the whale experience.  To be drifting in complete silence with them was something I never expected.  I tried getting some photos but missed the real close up ones.

Tonight we are anchored in a place called Winter Harbour.  It has a gravel road running down to it and I went for a walk in the early evening.  Didn’t see much apart from trees.  Tomorrow I set off early towards Craig, the largest town on Price of Wales Island.  Total voyage distance 923.6 miles.

Logged 9th June 2016

WATCHING SEA OTTERS

Wonderful sparkling clear and calm weather today, perfect for motor boating.  This morning we shot out of Red Bay at ten knots with the outgoing tide and into Sumner Strait.  We carried the tide down to Port Protection where I tied up to a public float.

West Coast Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson
West Coast Prince of Wales Island. Photo Ray Penson

Port protection is a small place, just a base for fishing really.  The harbour is well protected and the name was given after the Chatham and Discovery sheltered there from a severe storm in Sumner strait.  I was invited to have a beer with the fishing guys but declined as I needed to get a bit further down the track today.  Drinking with fishing guys would have led to another night tied up.

On leaving Port protection we headed south down Sumner Strait towards El Capitan Passage.  I know this is the wrong direction for Glacier Bay but I have time, the Glacier Bay permit starts on the 9th July.  This part of Alaska is not on the inside passage route and not that well visited so worth a look.  I don’t quite know how I am going to get back north yet; I expect the weather will have a say.

Sea Otters banding together in Prince William Sound near Whittier, Alaska Image credit. secure.defenders.org
Sea Otters banding together in Prince William Sound near Whittier, Alaska
Image credit. secure.defenders.org

Since starting the voyage I have been on the lookout for Sea Otters.  Today I saw the first ones and they were everywhere.  They are really interesting to watch and don’t seem at all frightened of humans.  I had three by the boat playing around, floating on their backs while cracking sea urchins on their chests.

They are very cheeky characters and much bigger close up than I expected.  I had a whale surface quite close in front of the boat this afternoon, I thought about slowing down but at five knots we are pretty slow anyway.  Total voyage distance 883.4 miles.

Logged 7th June 2016