We last wrote from Kodiak, a wonderful town where we met a lot of very friendly people. As well as completing necessary chores like laundry, internet, fuel, and groceries, we had fun hiking the hill behind town. We really fell in love with the island of Kodiak, though, when we left town to sail to a deserted bay. Deserted, that is, except for humpback whales, sea otters with babies, and hundreds of puffins and auklets!
With favorable weather for the 36-hour crossing to the Kenai Fjords, however, we set out next morning. Again we were surrounded by wildlife – orcas right close to Celeste, a huge pod of humpbacks feeding, and another humpback breaching! An incredible sight! The passage was calm and uneventful and by evening the following day we were anchored in a stunning cove surrounded by very Alpine-looking mountains. It reminded us both of the higher elevations of the Swiss Alps, but with the ocean right there instead of meadows. Being a fjord, the anchorage was very deep – at 140 feet, the deepest we’ve anchored so far.
One of the highlights of the voyage came the next morning when we sailed up to the very head of the fjord to nose up to a huge tidewater glacier. To be so close to the wall of ice, and to hear it rumbling and watch it calving into the ocean was truly awesome, in the original sense of the word! There are many things it’s been a great privilege to see from Celeste’s deck on this Arctic endeavor – polar pack ice, grazing caribou, and fishing brown bears among them – but this glacier is high on the list. We finally tore ourselves away around 8pm to beat back down the fjord and out into the Gulf of Alaska.
We made it across the Gulf to the islands of Southeast Alaska just in time to beat the low pressure systems that have formed pretty much continuously since then. Westerly winds favored us for the whole passage, meaning Celeste could run downwind and that the crossing was quite fast – 470 miles in 4 days. A big southerly swell meeting our westerly wind chop made the boat’s motion uncomfortable, so that we were both pleased when we sighted Baranof Island and the entrance to Peril Strait that would lead us into the protected channels of the Inside Passage.
The strong tidal currents that come through these channels can still make the sailing challenging, but at least when we fight headwinds in here we’re only fighting 3-4 foot waves and not the 10-12 foot waves outside. Since arriving on July 18th, we beat south against fairly strong southerly winds to some beautiful secluded anchorages before reaching the little town of Petersburg.
Fortunately the strong southerlies died down once we reached Petersburg and we’ve encountered mostly calms for the last few days as we’ve progressed south through the narrow channels that wind among the steep, wooded mountains of this part of Alaska. We’ve taken a different route than we sailed on our way north in 2014, mainly in order to visit one incredible spot where black bears and the occasional brown bear congregate to fish for salmon. Along with the volcanic wilderness of the Alaska Peninsula and the huge glacier in the Kenai Fjords, watching the bears was surely one the best moments of this year’s voyage.
Now we’re in the rather busy town of Ketchikan, almost at the border, and we’ll jump off for Canada in the next couple of days!
For more information about Seth and Ellen’s adventure with Celeste check out www.gonefloatabout.com