Words by Les and Kel Rohlf Photos by Kel Rohlf (unless otherwise indicated)
Sunday, July 4, 2021
Petersburg to Thomas Bay
Distance: 23 miles Hours: 4
We dallied this morning in Petersburg and had breakfast in town before preparing to leave. With high tide shortly after 10:00am this morning and a relatively short distance planned for today, I figured we could afford to leave a little later. I also wanted to take advantage of the tide wherever possible between here and Juneau: it will be a longer run between fuel stops, and I have a couple side trips I’d like to make.
We backed away at 9:40 and followed Jeff and Susie in Idyll Time out of the fairway and into Wrangell Narrows. After passing the red buoy with the sea lions fighting for a spot, we pointed toward the left side of the Sukoi Islets on a northerly heading that would take us directly to the Thomas Bay entrance.
Until we got to the Sukoi Islets, the water was fairly calm, with low swells from the north. Once we passed these islands, I think the wind against tide scenario resulted in the shorter, steep waves we experienced for the remainder of our trip across Frederick Sound. Neither winds nor tide were very strong, but we definitely experienced the high side of “waves 2 feet or less” forecast for the sound today. The waves were more on the beam as we made the wide turn into Thomas Bay. We found a quiet cove to anchor in.
While going thru our post anchoring checklist, I noted a boat on AIS entering Thomas Bay. I tracked him for a few minutes to see if he was coming into our anchorage. He was not. Shortly thereafter though, he made a “Pan Pan” radio call on channel 16 stating that he was aground. Apparently, the aft part of his 57-foot boat was stuck, and it was near low tide. Another cruiser had just entered Thomas Bay enroute to Scenery Cove, so was closer than we were. The responding cruiser did an excellent job of reminding him to put out an anchor to ensure that as the tide rose, he wouldn’t be pushed farther in.
It appeared there was no imminent danger, and the second cruiser confirmed that he looked OK and would just need to wait a couple hours for the incoming tide to lift him. During the entire process that included a couple other boats relaying info to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Sitka that overflew and talked to the captain. The rising tide seemed to resolve the issue without apparent damage to their running gear, as this same boat did end up spending the night in the same part of the bay as our anchorage south of Ruth Island.
Monday, July 5, 2021
Thomas Bay to Cannery Cove
Distance: 62 miles Hours: 7.9
Departed the anchorage at 4:30am and made breakfast during the passage out of Thomas Bay. The gnats were atrocious when retrieving the anchor. After exiting the bay at low slack tide and turning up the center of Frederick Sound, we were met by short, steep waves. This didn’t bode well for today’s plan, and I turned back toward the north shore with plans to bail out at Farragut Bay if things didn’t improve. After several miles the waves subsided to a chop, so we continued toward Cape Fanshaw. We saw several whales along the north shore between Farragut Bay and Cape Fanshaw, including one that breached.
We passed Canoe Point, and the sea state didn’t appear worse than what we’d seen the last few miles. We were able to run most of the way across the open strait toward Pybus Bay at 16-17 mph, with the water surface alternating between a one-foot chop and light swells.
We dropped anchor in 35 feet of water near the head of Cannery Cove shortly after noon. The high glacial cirque above the cove makes a most impressive backdrop. We were not alone here – there’s a busy fish camp, and two other cruisers came in later to share the cove. On two separate occasions a small boat from the fishing camp motored into the area where we were anchored and dropped crab pots for their clients, or at least I assume so since there were different “guests” each time, but the same “guide.” In one instance they dropped a pot well within our anchor swing radius.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Cannery Cove to Holkham Bay
Distance: 47 miles Hours: 6.3
We took our time this morning, and had breakfast before leaving Cannery Cove. As it turns out, our anchor line wrapped around one of the crab pot floats, so I had to untangle that before we pulled the anchor. Our plan was to just motor up to Snug Cove in Gambier Bay, a total of only 24 miles. Once we got out into Stephens Passage, where the seas were very calm, I called an audible and headed toward Holkham Bay instead of Gambier Bay. As calm as Stephens Passage was today, we decided to take advantage of it for the longer open crossing.
Once inside Holkham Bay, the water was totally calm. We anchored in a nook on the southeast side of the “Wood Spit” peninsula. It’s not a well-protected anchorage, but as calm as it was, and with little change expected overnight, I figured we be fine. We dropped anchor in 40 feet at high tide and ensured that the lowest water in a swing radius was about 28 feet. The water is forecast to drop 12 feet overnight.
We’ve watched a parade of icebergs march down the Endicott Arm to Holkham Bay. Holkham Bay splits into two arms – the Tracy Arm goes north to the North and South Sawyer Glaciers, while the Endicott Arm angles south and east to the Dawes Glacier. Both calve enough ice that there are frequently icebergs that exit Holkham Bay into the Stephens Passage. We snagged a small bergie and chipped off a couple pieces to refill the cooler today. The vistas continue to become more and more breathtaking. From our anchorage we looked directly across to the Sumdum Glacier, which hangs in a valley above where the two arms separate. Looking up the Endicott Arm yields a staggering row of snow-filled mountains rising steeply from both sides of the fjord.
This is a very popular anchorage area. AIS shows no fewer than 10 boats anchored within 8 miles of us. I guess it makes sense given that we’re well within a single day’s travel of Juneau, and none of the three tidewater glaciers here have the restrictions of those in Glacier Bay. The chatter seemed to be that the Sawyer Glaciers are more open than the Dawes, so hopefully most are heading there tomorrow instead of up the Endicott Arm to Ford’s Terror.
After enjoying a short run on Sunday morning, I met Les for coffee at the Glacier Express cafe. We ordered coffee, and I enjoyed dessert for breakfast, a yummy raspberry lemon cheesecake with a layer of cake and graham cracker crust. Les had a blueberry muffin. As we marked July 4th on the calendar, we were heading out for a six day cruise to Juneau. (We watched fireworks from our boat the night before, and they actually ended around midnight, so it was officially Independence Day, when we went to bed.) As we left port, I was once again in awe of the quietude and grandeur that surrounds us each day we are on the water.
Many people comment that we’re having a great vacation, and while that is partly true, I view this trip as mostly an expedition, and partly an experiment of what it would be like to truly live aboard our boat. (No worries, we aren’t going to sell our house and live on our boat, but I like the idea of it.) So this summer, I am fulfilling a dream I’ve had since we bought the Intuition. We’re living our day to day life on the boat. And I get to witness and participate in Les’ dream of exploring the Inside Passage with said boat. The scenery is spectacular; the company is sweet. (Except when I get moody.) Life aboard includes eating, sleeping and cleaning, the same day to day routines that you have whether living on land or sea. However, because of the limitations of space and possibly the lovely landscape, the chores seldom become tedious, except when I’m in a foul mood. (I don’t want anyone to think I’m happy all the time, that wouldn’t be realistic.) Moods aside, being on our boat in Alaska cheers us on, despite the set backs of daily life.
One of my favorite jobs on the boat includes being the main cook and galley manager. Before we left port, the captain and I decided the menu, bought and stowed the grub. We headed out confident that we’d be well fed until our next projected stop in Juneau.
Les does the grilling, and I whip up my magic on the two burner propane stove top. No microwave, no coffee maker and no oven lends itself to some creative cooking. For coffee we use a pour over system. Usually for breakfast, whoever gets out of bed first starts the water in our coffee pot that has a nice pour over spout. The pot holds enough water for two cups of Joe, and 2 bowls of instant oatmeal. Lunches consist of sandwiches or leftovers. On this trip, I have come to appreciate the versatility of a good frying pan with a glass lid.
Although we’ve had plenty of sunshine, while traveling on the water the comfortable temps (50s-60s) can feel chilly. So for lunch, I will often “grill” our sandwiches. I toasted our leftover croissants one day for our turkey sandwiches.
Also a grilled PBJ is very satisfying. I use sunflower butter because of allergies. Any nut butter and a lovely jam on sourdough bread spread with margarine or spritzed with olive oil then browned on both sides in the frying pan makes a warm, comforting nosh on a chilly day.
My other discovery has been cooking canned biscuits on low heat in the pan. Once they get started I cover them with the glass lid, which has a hole for steam, and the biscuits plump right up. For Les’ birthday, I made chicken pot pie in the pan by warming up leftover grilled chicken cubed, sliced fresh carrot, canned green beans and canned peas with cream of chicken soup diluted. After simmering those for a bit with my own mix of seasonings, I added the biscuits on top. Cooked with lid off for about 5-10 minutes then covered until biscuits spring back. (They don’t really brown on top, but they were tasty as the “crust” of the pot pie.
The crowning glory of my cookery this past week of living on the boat, with no stops in port, but anchoring out each night, was baking a gingerbread cake for Les’ big 6-0 birthday. A few years ago, a savvy boater introduced me to the omnia oven. A contraption that acts like an oven on the stovetop. I used a box mix of gingerbread prepared according to the package directions, then placed it in the “bundt” shaped pan lined with a precut parchment paper. I preheated the ring that holds the pan above the flame, and for the first time (I’ve tried before) I didn’t burn the bottom of the cake. We feasted on the cake for dessert and a couple times for breakfast, instead of our usual oatmeal. Very yummy with our morning cup of java.
All this mundane talk of food reminds me of another facet of daily life that brings me much joy, as we live aboard: my kitchen window. At home, my kitchen sink faces a blue tiled wall. One of the delights of having the boat has been realizing that although I don’t have a kitchen window with a view at home, whenever we’re boating we get to have the most spectacular views out the “kitchen window” of the boat. I leave you with some photos of those views.
Next up the exhilarating adventure of entering and exiting Ford’s Terror.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
(Psalm 34:8 The Message)