Sunday, June 30, 2013

17th June. Hoonah to Berg Bay, Glacier Bay national Park. 47nm

It was raining lightly in the morning but it cleared by 9am and we cast off at 10am for our trip across Icy Strait to check into Bartlett cove in Glacier Bay.

We raised the sails in light NW winds and made our way to Bartlett Cove. As we approached cove a weather warning came across channel 16. A line of thunder storms squalls with lightening and gusts of 40 knots was heading our way in the next 30 minutes. We dropped the sails and made our way to the dock. Just in time. We had just tied up and we watched the squall line come in with heavy rain and gusts to 37 knots pinned us to the dock. It was all over in a few minutes and then the sun came out again. We checked in to the park, had our park orientation, a brief video with warnings about approaching whales other regulations and no-go zones in the park. I was a bit disappointed with the rangers, they did not seem to be that knowledgeable about the park and one admitted that they had not been in much of the waters so could not comment on where to go.   

Sea Otters

Berg Bay

Steve and Ben doing their morning exercise...

Glacier bay national park limits boats entering the park. At present only 25 pleasure boats and 2 cruise ships are allowed in this park which is about 60 miles long and about 20 miles wide (approx). A permit is required to enter the park which I had applied for whilst in Port Mc Neill on Vancouver island in April. Once we completed the course we headed off to Berg bay on the western side of the park. Just on the outside of the bay we spotted a humpback whale breaching a couple of miles away and inside the sheltered waters of the bay many sea otters, much larger than others we have seen, floated about on their backs eating or just chillin about.  As we had the bay to ourselves we decided to stay another day and explore the area in the kayaks.  

16th June. Neka Bay to Hoonah. 10 miles.

I awoke in the morning to find that the cockpit had a thick layer of midges on the inside. it reminded me of the time I spent camping with a friend of mine on the isle of Skye some 30 years ago when in the middle of the night I awoke and turned the flashlight on to see that the roof of the tent, on the inside, was covered on midges. We quickly packed the tent away and slept the rest of the night in a sealed car. We were covered in bites the following morning. Neka Bay certainly wins the vote for most midge ridden anchorage so far.

Before departing I went and pulled up the crab trap. As soon as I started pulling the line up I knew I either had a lot of crabs or a large starfish in the trap. We had crab. 11 lovely Dungeness specimens. Jude put the pot on and Steve and Sandy helped prepare them for cooking. Sandy did a great job in dispatching the crab. Watch out Steve!   

It was just a short trip to Hoonah, a native Indian fishing village and our chance to get a shower and stock up on some provisions (the beer seems to be going faster than anticipated). Steve, Sandy and Jude prepared the crab meat and Ben and Amber cooked some delicious crab cakes. Ben could get a job as a singing, guitar playing chef! We wondered around the town, did some laundry and I donned my wet suit (not as brave as Amber and Ben to go in my swim shorts) and cleaned the hull of the boat which had started to grow a beard. Whilst in the water the owner of the 110ft motor yacht C Jewel asked if I would be kind enough to take a look at one of his propeller shafts as he though there maybe some line wrapped around it. As the water was not too cold, in my wet suit at least, I took a look and all was clear. They kindly rewarded us with some halibut steaks.   
Hoonah cannery

Ben and Amber's crab cakes

15th June. Swanson Harbor to Neka Bay. 28 miles

Amber and Ben going for a swim
The following morning we were told off by Katya for our appalling behavior. Our clothes smelt of fire smoke and we felt a little jaded. Ben and Amber were up surprisingly early – perhaps they were still jetlagging – and decided to go for a swim. Now I know that they are from Scotland, which is on a similar latitude but here we had snow capped mountains. We were but a short distance from Glacier Bay, so named after is many Glaciers. The water is frigid. Amber hopped in without a second thought. Everybody was impressed. Ben, brave as he is needed a little encouragement in the form of a shove from Amber. Unfortunately for Ben as he went in off the front of the dinghy the dinghy went the other way making a swim back to the dinghy quite a way. We watched on as Ben gasped for air and Amber paddled towards him to retrieve his frozen body. Again we were all impressed by Ben’s bravery all without the aid of whiskey. Hot showers and cinnamon rolls for those two I think!               

Burt the Aussie Fimo man

We departed Swanson at 10am and raised the sails soon after leaving the bay. It was sunny with a slight breeze so we decided that it would be a good day to try our luck as trolling for salmon. The trolling did not yield any salmon so we dropped the hook off Spasski Island and tried our luck at Halibut. No Halibut but Amber and Ben did catch 8 good sized Pollock, which Jude quickly filleted and would be tonight’s supper. The weather remained sunny and the temperature reached 22c which is amazing given we were sailing in waters known as Icy Strait.

We continued on into Port Patrick, past Hoonah and into Neka bay where we anchored at the end of the bay hoping to see bears. We used the remains of the fish for crab bait and I set the trap in about 25 foot of water. The midges and black flies here were so bad. Swarms would surround you if you went outside the cockpit enclosure so we stayed inside all evening whilst we ate today’s catch.

14th June. Funter Bay to Swanson Harbor – 10 miles.

We awoke to another sunny day and travelled the short distance to Swanson harbor which is a well protected harbor on the south west end of Lynn Canal (not sure why they call it a canal – its natural and about 3 miles wide at its narrowest point). We tied up to one of the two public floats which were both empty with the exception of ourselves and Mary and her 90 year old father in their Nordic tug.
Amber and Ben exploring in the Kayaks
Ben and Amber went Kayaking and caught some Dolly Varden (perhaps they were Pollock) which were filleted and the remains kept for crab bait.

By the evening the docks filled up. Some more Australians, whom we chatted to for a while and a group of young fisher men/women rafted up and filled up the remaining space on the dock. Before we knew it the party was on. They had bought a fire pit which was lit on the dock and copious quantities of alcohol and we sat around and chatted, as the evening wore on the chatting turned into ruckus behavior. Ben and I were persuaded to “shotgun” beers – a process whereby a can is held on its side, a hole cut on the side of the can through which you have rapidly drink the beer against an opponent. A sure fire way to get imbibed quickly. I am not sure what time we all went to bed but it was late as it was dark so it must have been after 1am. 

Curry night

13th June. Juneau to Funter Bay – 52 miles

We filled up with diesel before heading down Gastineau channel. I must say It’s good to leave Juneau and get on our way to see more of this wonderful area. We have much to look forward to including Glacier bay, salmon and halibut fishing, Sitka and much more.

The weather still continues to be clement with little or no rain and quite a bit of sunshine. We keep waiting for it to break and expect a deluge but fingers crossed it has not happened yet.

Our plan was to see if we can get into Auke Bay but, as mentioned in the guide books, it can get pretty busy  and indeed the marina was full given the time of year and the good weather. So, we motored on to get to Funter bay by the evening. As we rounded point retreat and into Lynn Canal the wind picked up from the south and we managed to raise the sails. A couple of whales were feeding off the point, one passing a few hundred yards in front of our boat.  These are the first whales we have seen for a while and we hope to see a few more in the coming weeks.

We dropped the anchor in Coot Cove on the north side of Funter bay, with only one other boat in the cove we had plenty of swinging room. In the evening Ben entertained us with the guitar playing and Steve is his usual vivacious self. We all caught up on what we have been doing since we last met, enjoyed a few beers, a few more beers and Jude’s excellent cooking of the Rockfish that we caught in the evening.


It has been exactly 1 month since we did our last provisioning in Ketchikan and we have run out of, or are running low, on fruit, veg, bread and dairy products. Juneau’s big supermarkets are not in the main town center so a car is necessary but Juneau does have a COSTCO! We also have to do our laundry, which is a bit of a chore and does require the use of a car since the laundry in again outside of the main town.

We hired a car at the very reasonable rate of $60 for one day and did our laundry and some shopping, and went to pick up Amber, Ben (now known as Badger), Steve and Sandy from the airport.  It is great to see them and have them aboard Sarita and we are looking forward to sharing our experiences with them. The following day we did our big Costco shop and went to the Super Bear supermarket, famed in Juneau for its fresh produce and meats. With all the extra guests on board in becomes harder to find space to store provisions for seven people for 1 month, but miraculously it is achieved. I hope somebody knows where it is all hidden.