STILL PLUGGING AWAY DOWN STEPHENS PASSAGE

Last night was quiet but the occasional sound of the anchor chain dragging over the rocky bottom and the thought if ice floes circulating in the anchorage wasn’t conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep.  This morning started with foggy patches and low cloud type rain.  By eight the visibility started improving and I departed the anchorage at nine.

State float at Entrance Island. Photo Ray Penson
State float at Entrance Island. Photo Ray Penson

On my way out of the anchorage I saw the icebergs that I had been dodging around in the fog last night.  Scary stuff.    The forecast southerly wind didn’t arrive, in its place we had mist, rain, fog and more rain.  I saw a couple of my old friends, the logs, in the water today.  There is always something floating around here that needs dodging.  The sea was pretty calm and although we were going against the tide made reasonable progress with the engine.  This bit of the inside passage is quite busy with cruise ships, I saw a couple more today.

Ice not seen in fog. Photo Ray Penson
Ice not seen in fog. Photo Ray Penson

The Orca’s turned up today.  First one by himself came over to have a look at me.  A few minutes later I came across five hunting as a pack close to rocks inshore.  I was also close to the rocks, trying to keep out of the current.  They are the most beautiful animal, so sleek, powerful and fast.  One of nature’s finest designs.  These were the first Orca’s I have seen on the west coast.

Ice at entrance to Tracy Arm Anchorage Photo Ray Penson
Ice at entrance to Tracy Arm Anchorage Photo Ray Penson

I had another close encounter with a Humpback Whale as well.  There were two large Humpbacks feeding ahead.  They were both sounding and staying down for three or four minutes each time.  I was watching them and trying to calculate where they would pop up.  One popped up to starboard as expected but the other didn’t show.  As I was looking ahead I was startled to hear a whale surface very close astern.  A huge magnificent creature, did he surprise me on purpose?  I have noticed that after they have dived deep two or three times they seem to need a rest, they swim slowly on the surface and don’t blow out big streams of air.  The whale I saw close alongside yesterday was just moving slowly and didn’t blow when he surfaced next to the boat.

This evening I have tied up to a rather decrepit little float in a small cove on Entrance Island.  Entrance Island is at the entrance to Hobart Bay.  An American boat with a couple of old boys on it has tied up astern of me and the float is full.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is even worse than today, on the nose again 25 knots.  I reckon it may be OK if I get away early.  Total voyage distance 126.1 miles.

BEACHCOMBING BEARS, WHALES AND ICEBERGS

A couple of American sailing boats came alongside the float last night, a good reason for a get together and sundowners.  Sunset didn’t occur until 21:37 last night.

Large Ice Duck protecting Tracy Arm Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson
Large Ice Duck protecting Tracy Arm Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson

This morning I saw my first Black Bear.  He came out of the woods and wandered along the foreshore doing a bit of beachcombing, occasionally digging in the sand and gravel at the water’s edge.  For some reason he took interest in an old fallen tree covered in black lichen, gnawing away at it, eventually he broke off a branch and took it back into the forest.  Quite a special experience to see a bear in the wild.  Now that I have seen one bear I expect to see many more.

Fog Clears to Reveal Port Hand Buoy. Photo Ray Penson
Fog Clears to Reveal Port Hand Buoy. Photo Ray Penson

It was an afternoon start today to ride the ebb tide down Stephens Passage.  It was a soul destroying trip as the wind was on the nose and throwing up tiny little waves that acted like a brake.  The boat was hopping up and down, like driving over a constant series of speed bumps in the road.  The average speed was only 3.5 knots and at times we were down to 1.5 knots.  The hull is very dirty now with a lot of weed and animals living underneath the boat.  At the first opportunity I will haul out and do an antifoul.  Once the hull is clean again I expect to go much faster.

I had my closest encounter yet with a whale this afternoon.  He was so close alongside I could have hopped over the rail onto his back.  He just came up close alongside, thankfully he didn’t blow or I would have been covered in whale snot.  That is the closest I want to get.   I didn’t get a chance to take a photo.

I was surprised to see large icebergs in Stephens passage, as we approached the entrance to Tracy Arm there were dozens of bergs flowing out on the tide.  A fog bank covered the approach to Tracy Arm, thick fog, a pea souper as we say at sea.  The large icebergs were showing up on radar OK, the smaller SUV sized ones didn’t show as they were so low in the water.  The navigation became interesting entering the harbour, there is a range to pass through the reef but I couldn’t see it.  The fog cleared on my port side for a minute and I picked out the port hand buoy next to a large iceberg.  I didn’t see the starboard buoy only 200 meters away but I did see some very large bergs close by.

As I approached the anchorage the fog lifted to reveal the sea littered with icebergs.  I didn’t realise it would be so congested with ice, its another twenty miles from the anchorage to the glacier face.

The entrance to the anchorage is guarded by a large duck shaped berg and there are a few smaller ice floes floating around the anchorage.  There are five other boats in the anchorage, an indication of how few anchorages there are on this section of the inside passage.  There is only one other sailing boat, the others are large motor yachts.

It’s been a long day of going slowly and I am feeling pretty knackered after nearly seven hours of engine running.  No socialising tonight and a good sleep is called for.  Total voyage distance 98.7 miles.

BARTLETT COVE TO HOONAH

We arrived back in Hoonah this afternoon after an easy crossing of Icy Strait in calm conditions. Calm conditions meant we had to motor again which is not restful but preferable to wind on the nose, so we will take it. In Icy strait there is a lot more ebb than flood so correct timing of the tidal window is essential if you are in a low powered vessel. Fortunately, we got it almost right today and made good time.

Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour
Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour

Our visit to Glacier Bay was great, apart from a nasty night to start off in Fingers Bay we enjoyed wonderful weather and hardly any rain. The Glacier visit was memorable, to get up close to a calving Glacier is an awesome experience. We saw a lot of whales in the lower section of Glacier Bay but the best whale encounter occurred just outside the Hoonah Harbour entrance.

As we approached the Hoonah Harbour there was a single large whale feeding in the entrance. We slowed down to watch as the whale blew a bubble ring and then arose in the centre to collect his prey. This happened three times, the last time very close and the whale dived under the boat before surfacing on the other side. Ngozi is very happy she has seen a whale up close. She will have to go to the zoo to see a bear.

Ngozi in the Icy Strait Brewing Bar, Hoonah. Photo Ray Penson.
Ngozi in Hoonah, Alaska.

We plan to stay two nights in Hoonah as Ngozi is flying out from here on Sunday back to New Zealand.

Truce is now moored in Hoonah Harbour, all secure alongside, now we can explore the town and surrounds without any concern for the anchor.

We are both hoping to get some fresh fish and maybe some crabs and shrimp to cook. Total Voyage distance 1,632.8 miles.