Monday, 14 August 2017

Petersburg 14th of August

Inside Passage 6th - 14th August

We had gone to Cordova because of foggy and rainy weather but surprise, surprise, during our two day visit in Cordova, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was such a waste of good sunshine but the main thing was that Pekka got the ever-so-vital maintenance work done on the boat. We are now ready to sail to Inside Passage and eventually to Canada, hopefully within a couple of days.

We left Cordova early Monday morning, and while motoring in Orca Bay on our way to Comfort Cove, Sarema was surrounded by a pod of about a dozen Orcas (Nomen est omen!)
In Prince William Sound, you can see two different types of orcas (aka Killer Whales), namely Residents and Transients. Residents, as the name implies, reside in PWS and the surrounding area and feed on fish only,  whereas Transients are meat eaters whose diet includes e.g. harbour seals and sea lions, and they visit PWS only occasionally. The orcas around us were clearly residents enjoying a scrumptious salmon breakfast.

The next morning before leaving for Olsen Bay, we dinghied to the mouth of the salmon stream at the head of the cove and caught two fish, one by angling and the other by snagging. These are the two terms used for catching a fish with a line and a lure/hook: to hook a fish in its mouth is to angle, and to hook a fish elsewhere than in its mouth is to snag. At the moment, the streams here are so thronged with salmon that wherever you cast your line you are bound to catch a fish, either by angling or snagging.

During the less than two hour trip from Comfort Cove to Olsen Bay, the sun disappeared behind heavy clouds. While casting anchor, it began to drizzle and soon the whole bay was engulfed in thick fog. Extremely disappointed in the miserable weather, we’ll weigh anchor early tomorrow morning (3rd of August) and commence the about 400 nm voyage to Inside Passage, where we hope to see the sun again.

We had a reasonably comfortable but uneventful crossing from PWS to the western entrance of Inside Passage. It was cloudy and the wind was between five to ten knots straight from behind so we were motor-sailing as usual. When we eventually reached Inside Passage, we were welcomed by blue skies and the warm sunshine we had so craved for while in PWS! 

We spent the first night in Inian Cove near the entrance of the Passage, a place where you should only anchor when it is absolutely windless. The williwaws that came roaring down the hills were a surprise and not a pleasant one. So the next morning we weighed anchor and headed for Hoonah, the largest Tlingit Indian community in Alaska. 

The village of Hoonah or Xunaa was originally settled by the Huna Tlingit aka the Xunaa K√°awu tribe i.e. the People from the Direction of the North Wind, because of the excellent protection this location offered from winds and foul weather. In fact, the name of the village Xunaa translates in the Tlingit language Lingit as ‘Protection from the North Wind’. 

Hoonah is renowned for its skilled fishermen, hunters and artisans. Today, the community supports three traditional dance groups, the Tlingit language Lingit is taught in all school grades, and many of the traditional ways of life still continue.  

Traditional Tlingit art is visible everywhere in Hoonah. Wooden wall panels, shop signs, park benches, and the numerous intricate totem poles erected to honour the departed, to share stories, and teach lessons manifest that Tlingit art is alive and thriving!

We stayed two days in Hoonah, partly because it was such a nice place and partly because Pekka had to reattach the propeller shaft seal that had come loose. But then it was time to go bear watching again!

We overnighted in Pavlof Harbor where there is a salmon stream on the western side of the bay. It was already early evening when we dinghied up the stream, and the intense light of the setting sun nearly blinded us. But, after a while when our eyes had become accustomed to the light, we could see a bear standing in the stream. 

The bear stood still for quite some time until she saw a fish in the stream and started slowly advancing towards the place where the fish was splashing. Maybe her fishing methods were no good or maybe she was just unlucky but she didn’t catch a single fish while we were there watching her fishing. She had two healthy looking cubs that were patiently waiting for their mom on the shady side of the river.

The next morning, on our way to Ell Cove, we spotted through our binoculars a black bear on the beach. After a while the bear disappeared into the bushes but soon reappeared this time followed by three tiny cubs. There was a salmon stream winding across the sandy beach, and the sow went there to fish. Suddenly, a brown bear appeared from behind the bushes, also with three cubs only these were one year older than the black bear cubs. When the bears became aware of each other’s presence, all six of them stopped dead in their tracks. And we onboard Sarema were holding our breath! Ever so slowly, the brown sow began advancing towards the black sow who saw it best to yield and started to head towards the trees. The brown sow and her cubs followed her but remained on the opposite side of the stream. Soon the bears vanished from our sight. The black bear sow had left her wee cubs by the salmon stream where they obediently stayed until their mother reappeared from behind the trees and called them. The last thing we saw was the black bear family reunited once more. What a memorable experience, the only downside being that we were much too far away to take any photos. 

While in Ell Cove, we decided to put our shrimp pot to use again. So, after dropping anchor, we dinghied out of the snug cove and while slowly motoring along the shoreline trying to figure out the best place for the pot, we saw a humpback whale dive at a distance. When we had finally decided where to drop the pot and Pekka had turned off the outboard, there was an almighty splash as the lunge-feeding humpback surfaced like a torpedo less than 15 metres from us!!! Pekka immediately started the outboard and we hurriedly reversed out of the whale’s way. Riitta had her camera with her as usual but this time the surprise was of such magnitude that all she could do was to stare at the whale in awe. Hence no photos - and we didn’t get any shrimp either!

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