August 7, 2005

Oh, to rejoice over a sunny day. Sunny and almost perfectly calm, under cloudless sky, from start to finish. Probably the finest weather day of the trip. We left our anchorage around 8:30 and glided out into Peril Strait. The fishing boat which had shared the anchorage was long gone by the time we had gotten up. We motored easily along the south shore. A small group of whales were spouting a mile or so ahead, and a little farther out. We slowly cruised up on them. I had the jib out for a little light air motor sailing, and when we got within a quarter mile of the whales I cut the engine, and we proceeded along, silently, at 2 knots. There were 4 whales in the group. They appeared to be resting, and would lay at the surface, casually spouting. Every 5 minutes or so, they would arch their backs and sound, with their tail flukes rising into the air before gracefully sliding into the water. They would stay down for about 10 minutes, and each time they reappeared, we had sailed a little closer. We were startled when the massive, dark form of a humpback surfaced and blew within 50 yards of the boat. They moved off, in the opposite direction we were going. It was a thrilling experience.

Around noon we reached the mouth of Peril Strait, and turned south down Chatham Strait. Chatham is a very large body of water, probably 10 miles across and extending in a north/south orientation from open ocean to the approaches to Juneau, a distance of well over 100 miles. We had the rare privilege of cruising down this Strait in perfectly calm conditions, not a ripple marring the surface all the way across, and as far down as the eye could see. And throughout the expanse of mountainous shoreline, no evidence of development to be seen, except for the rapidly greening over forms of past logging activity. Baranoff Island, which forms the western shore of Chatham, quickly becomes extremely rugged and mountainous, the peaks glistening with snowfields and hanging glaciers, waterfalls cascading down steep faces and ravines. And everywhere the salmon jump. We tucked into a snug little anchorage called Ell Cove around 3 pm. I threw the kicker on the dinghy and headed out for a little fishing while Sandy enjoyed the peace, quiet (except for bird serenades), and sunshine of our cove. I trolled the mouth of the cove, and missed a couple of strikes, then broke my whole trolling rig off on a fish. He must have been huge. The ones that get away always are. I switched tactics and dropped off a jig for a little bottom fishing, and was quickly rewarded with a couple of nice rock fish, just perfect for dinner. I buzzed back to the boat and we enjoyed fresh fish fillets. After dinner we went out for a dinghy cruise in the evening light. We explored the mouth of a little salmon stream, with pink salmon congregating at the mouth, waiting for the right time to go upstream.

Distance for the day: 35 nm; total for the trip: 1708 nm

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