Words by Les and Kel Rohlf Photos by Kel Rohlf
(To see more photos check out Kel’s FB page)
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Skagway to Boat Harbor
We departed Skagway Harbor at 5:25 this morning and motored slowly out the Taiya Inlet toward Haines. As we digested this morning’s weather forecast, it sounds as if things are due to get ugly on the Lynn Canal this afternoon and tomorrow. Crossing to the west side of the canal immediately after passing the end of the Chilkat Peninsula, we pushed up the power and cruised at 15 mph for a couple hours, which allowed us to arrive at the entrance to Boat Harbor shortly after high slack at 11:05.
Boat Harbor was my original plan for today and will work well if the wind comes up tonight and tomorrow. The channel is narrow with a couple bends, and the harbor is well protected from all directions. We saw 18 feet of depth in the entrance on a 12 foot high tide, so we’ll want to carefully follow our track back out if we leave during tomorrow’s -1 foot low tide. Our experience corresponds to the guide that said we should expect a fathom of water at a 0 tide.
We’re anchored in 50 feet at the southeast corner of the bay near a small beach. It seems that this is one of the last areas still open to salmon gillnetters, so there are about 25 boats within 10 miles and 5 fishing within the harbor proper. We grilled a tri-tip roast and potatoes this evening – yum. At home I normally smoke it for 60-90 minutes and then sear it. Tonight, I just cooked it on our little charcoal grill for 45 minutes. The horseflies arrived in force and wanted their share. They seemed content with a bit of my flesh instead.
I had pulled into the harbor today assuming we might be here for a couple nights. The wind was still a little out of the north when we first anchored and has shifted to the south by late afternoon.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
At 4:00 am the winds were already gusting to 25 knots at Eldred Rock, and there was a brisk south breeze whistling through our very protected anchorage, so we went back to bed. Looks like tomorrow will be better, and this is a comfortable place to wait out a choppy Lynn Canal.
I ran the generator for about an hour late this morning to charge the house batteries. My two group-27 batteries need to be recharged after 24 hours of use to keep them at 12.2 volts or higher. For reference, they power the refrigerator, (LED) lights, and one chart plotter when I’m not moving. I also keep one VHF radio on while we’re awake.
Part of our entertainment for the day was watching the gillnetters work. There were 6-8 boats working in this harbor of little more than a half mile across.
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Boat Harbor to Hoonah
It was perfectly calm within Boat Harbor this morning – much better than what we felt yesterday. We crawled out of bed at 4:30 am and left anchorage by 5:00. Low slack was at 6:40 (-2.3 feet) and I didn’t want to transit the harbor entrance below “0” level, which would correspond to 5:00 am. In the flat early morning light we had a sporty exit from the harbor. There was a pretty strong current running in the same direction we were going, with some waves through one of the turns. I saw 5.9 feet at the lowest point through the passage, so thankfully I didn’t wait until low slack and lose another 2 or more feet.
South-southeast winds and the outgoing tide generated fairly uncomfortable waves for the first several miles. We slogged and pounded our way south at 6-7 mph until we got some relief behind Lincoln and Shelter Islands. We thought we might have been lucky when seas became relatively calm approaching Couverden Island and the turn into Icy Strait. No such luck – the waves rose again from the southeast as we made the turn, so we had waves mostly abeam as we turned west. The worst of the waves abated the farther we got into Icy Strait, but it was a tedious ride for several miles.
Approaching The Sisters, we saw a couple whales feeding just east of the islands so detoured and stopped for a while to enjoy the moment and take photos. As we made the turn into Port Frederick there were several purse seiners fishing. One was pulling in his net while a whale was feeding within just a few yards of the boat – seems both were competing for the same school of fish.
We finally pulled into Hoonah about 2:00 pm. It was a long day of slow going against waves that were near our limit for fun, but very satisfying to have watched the whales up close. We enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Fisherman’s Daughter and walked to the Hoonah Trading Post to gather a few groceries. It’s getting cloudier and cooler – evidently rain is on the way for tomorrow.
Marina Shower Update: In Haines, as we said the showers were a mile away at the laundromat. We opted to forgo the hike to the shower. And I forgot to mention that the showers were memorable in Skagway, in a good way. They were right at the marina, clean, individual and the best price for the time. I got to shower for three minutes for 75cents. If you wanted to be luxurious, add another quarter for another minute. Here in Hoonah, the showers are at the marina, with two stalls in one bathroom. Clean, and cost $1.00 for first minute, and a quarter per each additional minute, however the first stall wouldn’t register my quarters, so I moved over to the second one, which did work.
I enjoy discoveries and surprises, even the ones that lead to something unwanted.
Boat Harbor was a lovely nook off the Lynn Canal, graced with mountains on one end, and the crooked, narrow entrance on the other. It was sunny and breezy when we arrived, along with the horseflies. I had hope to sit on the bow and read Moby Dick, but swatting flies and reading don’t pair well for me. I stayed inside, while Les battled the flies and grilled up delicious steak and potatoes. I put together a salad garnished with one of my Nasturtium blossoms and lettuce and swiss chard seedlings. Then I decided I wanted a charcuterie board for appetizers. Usually restaurants sell them with spicy meats that I can’t eat due to allergies, so I made a fresh veggie, cheese, maple flavored cookies, plain crackers, rhubarb jam (from the farmers market) and dried cherry plate with a side of chocolate bar and Romney’s of Kendal Mint Cake. (We ended up saving the chocolate for later, and I made a s’more, after Les finished grilling, with just toasted marshmallow and the maple cookie as the graham cracker.) My creative side nurtures and nourishes our souls.
I was surprised by how many gill netters shared the harbor with us. It was fascinating watching them drop their nets and then pulling them back in. Some even arrived after we went to bed at 8:30pm, and anchored right next to us. I put in my ear plugs to drown out their chatter. In the morning, as Les said, we determined that an extra day in the harbor was indicated. Not really what I wanted. I enjoyed the sunny day before, but wasn’t looking forward to a rainy day stuck inside the boat. Two things happened, one it never really rained, and second, I ended up enjoying a day of tidying up, and sorting my art supplies and catching up on some of the art projects I like to work on. (I make journals out of recycled items, and then use the pages to document our journey, kind of like a scrapbook of sorts.) The journal I made for the trip was getting bulky, so I took some pages out and created a second volume to house the memorabilia from this part of the journey.
We ate “Beefed Up” nachos for dinner. I heated chunks of the leftover steak, sliced beef hot dogs and a can of black beans with taco seasoning. After it heated through I threw some cheese on top to melt. We sat at the dinette with a bag of chips and enjoyed a hearty meal once again, while we watched our neighbor actually pulling fish out of the net while reeling it in and handling the boat single-handedly. He had a helm inside the cabin, and right there next to the drum he reels the net unto. I wanted to holler out and celebrate with him, but instead just silently applauded him from my seat inside our boat. He did this three or four times throughout the day. His spot was right next to the shore near where we anchored. I marveled that many people pay a premium to go out and watch or fish with professional fishers, but we got free front row seats to the process. Pretty cool! So my unwanted extra day at anchor turned into a pleasant respite.
Les had determined that the weather was favorable for leaving the harbor Thursday morning. We woke up with the sun, and had a little extra glee as we navigated the narrow exit with rapids and rocks and very low tides that Les masterfully had prepared for and handled. Once out in the channel, the calm waters began to build into light chop and then three feet waves. I did fine as long as I didn’t read or look through binoculars, but the waves combined with the side to side roll, eventually unsettled my stomach, and so I laid down in the berth. I actually fell asleep for a couple hours. When I got up, Les needed a break, so I drove the boat for a bit, which actually keeps the queasiness at bay.
A little while later I realized that we had cell coverage connection again, so I made the mistake of scrolling social media, while the boat was rollicking through the waves. Back to the berth to keep my head still. Thankfully, as we got closer to Hoonah, the waves calmed down and so did my stomach. (Eating salty pretzels and wearing special wristbands also helped to keep my body from outright seasickness.) I got back up in my perch to enjoy the scenery on the way into Hoonah.
Les noticed it first; he spotted a whale spouting. It was a couple miles away, so I didn’t even bother getting out the camera. We kept cruising, and I mentioned that we should make a point of going to look for whales in one of the prime spots mentioned in the guidebooks. Seeing that we have our own boat, we could do this without paying for one of the whale tours offered at each port. To our delight and discovery, a couple whales were feeding near some islands. Les slowed down, and I put the big zoom lens on my camera hoping to get some good shots. It was hard keeping the camera steady, even when we were idling. The way the whale surfaces kind of shoots a jolt of awe and joy through you, and so I was torn between witnessing their dance and taking photos. I did get some cool shots, which I edited once we got to Hoonah. But now, I want to go back sometime to just whale watch without the camera. When they dive down and flourish their tails, it is something to behold.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet [whale], romps in them.
Psalm 104: 24 and following, whale inserted by Kel, The Message