Takatz Bay to Ell Cove

(Karen writes) As forecast, we awoke to gray skies and drizzle. We lazed about, thinking about our plans for the day. We had talked about kayaking, but the weather was not inviting. We saw Lee and Dave from Sonata launch the tender to go check their crab pots. On their way, they swung by our boat to hand off a baggie full of freshly caught and cooked prawns. That was extremely nice of them!

As we had a leisurely breakfast, Sonata and Blue C’s weighed anchor and headed off for other destinations. It wasn’t long before the Seiners followed suit. And, we finally found the next episode of Alaska Reality TV. The guys on the sailboat apparently had set up camp on the islet overnight. Why? I have no idea...but 3three guys came out of the woods and hopped into a dinghy, leaving one compatriot on the islet, sitting there with no hat in the rain. Must be a guy thing?

We decided to head a few miles north to Ell Cove, which is supposed to be a well protected and attractive anchorage. It rained the whole way up, and as we entered the cove, we saw a pretty white beach just north that looked worth exploring.  A few kayakers were hauled out on the beach doing exactly that. We thought that after anchoring, we might do the same.

Ell Cove is as advertised…well protected once you turn down the 2nd portion of the “L”. Steep to, there are no views out into Chatham Strait. You kind of feel like you are all alone in the world, as we were the only boat there.

Bob kind of wanted to launch the dinghy, but I was less excited about it, so I decided to read while he decided to make fresh bread. Keeping bread on the boat is tough – it takes up too much room in the freezer and it doesn’t fare well at room temperature. I’ve never had Bob-baked bread, so I was anticipating something pretty darned good. It took TONS of steps to make, but it turned out to be really good. No surprise there!

We really just “vegged out” all day. The rain never let up. About 5pm, the blue seiner Adirondack came in and anchored at the bend in the “L”, with a view outside. We figured that the cove was too small for anyone other than a small boat to join us now that Adirondack was there. By the time we went to bed about 10, it was just the two of us.

I awoke at 11pm to what I thought was the sound of our anchor dragging across rocks. Not a pleasant thing! So I left Bob asleep and went up to the salon to look out…and it was lit up like Manhattan at night. A second seiner had barreled in and dropped the anchor (rather noisily, I might add) behind us. He had all his lights burning, and it was blinding! OK, I knew what that sound was, so I went back to bed.

At 3:48am, more noise and motion woke both Bob and I.  We got up to take a look, and the 2nd seiner departed Ell Cove, with Adirondack already missing. We could only imagine that some fishery opened early that morning and they both were making a beeline for the best fishing spots. Whatever it was, it did not make for a peaceful night’s sleep, so we went back to bed and slept in till about 8.

Red Bluff Bay to Takatz Bay via Warm Springs

The morning dawned to another perfectly clear and delightful weather pattern. We retrieved the anchor and set our course for Warm Springs.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0147_8_9-Edit-Edit-Edit

Checking out the “Cascades” as we leave Red Bluff Bay

20100628_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0106_7_8_9-Edit

Saying goodbye again to Sonata

Warm Springs is a bit of a destination stop. The little community of Baranof is built next to a large lake-fed waterfall. It was once a source of hydroelectric power, but apparently that is no longer in service. There are a few homes and a boardwalk that extends to the actual warm springs and then on to Lake Baranof.

20100629_Warm Springs_pano_0351

Waterfall, the homes and the docks at Warm Springs

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0205

The docks at Warm Springs

The boardwalk makes for a pleasant half mile walk to the lake. The warm springs are about half that distance. There is a bit of a steep portion of mountain goat climbing just off the boardwalk to get to the springs. However, it is well traveled,and Karen reports that it is worth the exertion, if for nothing else than to see the views.

If you don’t want to bathe in the natural sulfur springs, there is a public bath house just at the head of the docks where the warm springs’ water is piped in. There are three private large tubs with great views of the bay.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0209_10_11

A beautiful view from the Warm Springs bath house

Warm Springs is popular, so finding space on either side of the 200’ float can sometimes be a challenge. The other variable is the seiner fleet, who often tie up awaiting the opening of their fishery. Today that was the case. The dock was full of rafted fishing boats (with more at anchor) with the exception of one small sail boat and two Nordhavns rafted together.

There was also a mix of fishing vessels and pleasure boats anchored in the harbor so we set off to find a more secluded place to drop the hook and then dinghy back to the dock. We went into the southern arm, but found the anchorage a bit too deep and close to the shore for our comfort, so we traversed over to Schooner Cove and found a very pleasing one-boat anchorage.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0152-Edit

Southern Arm headwaters

We took the dinghy over to the dock, and began to explore Warm Springs. The boardwalk is well maintained and makes the walk as easy as can be. It is uphill about 400 feet over the course of the trail, but it’s very pleasant with lots of great views of the falls and the headwaters of the lake as you go. When you arrive at the lake, you’ll find a beautiful small rocky beach and perfectly clear water. It’s shallow enough for some good water romping in the shallows and relatively warm owing to its southern exposure and shallow depth.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0325

The boardwalk at Warm Springs is well maintained

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0328_29_30-Edit-Edit

Follow the signs to the natural Warm Springs

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0334-Edit

Karen returns from checking out the Warm Springs

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0270_1_2

The lake that feeds to waterfall is pristine and well worth the walk

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0294_5_6-Edit

The shallows at the end of the trail are inviting

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0320

Karen poses along the trial to the lake

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0207

A couple of cabins with movable zip codes. Nothing is permanent in Alaska.

When we returned to the docks, the two Nordhavns had left as well as one of the seiners, whose spot was taken over by a sailboat. We walked the docks, did some snooping, and then headed back to Arctic Star. Despite liking the anchorage, we thought that Takatz Bay, about 4 miles north, might be a more interesting place to overnight, so we weighed anchor and headed off.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0212_3_4

The Warm Springs docks as viewed from the boardwalk

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0326-Edit

Another souvenir from Warm Springs

Leaving the bay, we passed a pocket cruiser inbound to Warm Springs. I can only image the impact 80 to 100 people would be to the boardwalk and the springs. We’re glad we’re leaving…and that our experience was without the crowds.

Takatz Bay was described by Lee of Sonata as another Alpine-like and protected bay. We passed a couple of seiners anchored along the north shore of the outer bay. We headed to the inner bay at Takatz. There we found Sonata, two seiners , a sailboat (Bear Hunter) and a blue hulled Coastal Passagemaker called Blue C’s. It took awhile to find a spot among all these boats. Finally, we dropped the anchor in 60 feet of water. I almost got us in the exact middle of all the boats, but when we would swing in a certain direction, we would be within 75 yards of the seiner, Lady Jane. Not perfect, but safe.

The wind was still up, looping around the bay at about 10-15 knots. All the boats would spin on their rode and seldom would there be a majority pointing in the same direction. When I was out taking pictures from the deck of Arctic Star, I heard some gunshots. A check with the binoculars revealed that three crewmen from one the seiners were on shore and shooting who knows what. I think it was simply target practice to relieve the boredom as they waited for their fishery to open. After they left the “shooting range beach”, they motored over to a small islet that dominates the bay. Two jumped off and climbed to the top of the small islet while the remaining crewmember positioned his dinghy for a series of photos. Then the drama began. The Honda outboard would not restart. After much pulling on the starter cord, the paddles came out and were put in the water. He tried to make good his course back to the islet to rescue his companions, but the wind and ebbing current made his efforts difficult. Karen watched, glued to her binoculars. I teased her that this was “Alaskan Reality TV”, a replacement for the myriad of reality TV shows she enjoys at home.

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0370

“Take my picture”

Eventually the crewmembers were retrieved from the islet and they then rowed back to their boat.

Now we changed the channel on “Alaskan Reality TV. On another islet (that revealed itself to be attached to the shore at low tide), we spotted two dinghies tied to some trees. However, we never saw any people. The hours passed and still no sight of anyone. The dinghies were high and dry…but where were their owners?

20100629_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0379-Edit

Look closely and you'll see the dinghy, high and dry between the islets

I deduced that both must be from the nearby sailboat. The dinghy with the motor would hang from the davit at the stern and the other one, which only had oars, would be stowed on the cabin deck. As we went to bed, the dinghies remained where they were, dried on a rocky ledge. We had a running voice-over commentary of what might be going on that islet. We’ll have to wait for the next episode of Alaskan Reality TV to find out if our theories were right.

20100630_Red Bluff_Warm Springs_Tekatz_0340

Shrimp stir-fry, with fresh caught Alaskan prawns rounded out the day