Tenakee Springs to Pavlof Harbor

We were back at the Party Time Bakery precisely at 8 am when the doors opened. They promised me pancakes today and that was what I had on my mind. Our timing was mostly driven by the fact that the fuel docks open at 10 and we wanted to be there when they turned on the pumps, because the tide would be going down and we wanted all the extra “tide” we could get to avoid the aforementioned bolts and stuff. Karen had the same egg, ham and cheddar breakfast sandwich and my pancakes were just what the doctored ordered for a rainy morning. I ordered a bowl of the corn chowder to go and Karen took a piece of chocolate torte back to the boat. We also made a quick 2nd stop at the Mercantile to grab a few more items.

Arctic Star getting ready to cast of from Tenakee Springs

Tenakee Springs docks sits behind a floating breakwater, but the fetch can still get in.

The fuel docks at Tenakee are not floating. The fuel hose is dropped over the side of the pier. Depending on the tide, that can be a long drop. Opening time, 10am, was only two hours from low tide so not only was the distance from the pier to our decks on the order of 20 feet, but the pilings that are revealed at low tide are barnacle-encrusted with a few protruding metal bits exposed.

In anticipation of the hazards on the pilings, we lined the port side of Arctic Star with every fender (9) on board. As it turned, out the wind was such that we were held off the pilings for most of the 45 minutes it took to take on 400 gallons of #2 diesel.


Bob fuels Arctic Star in the rain

Eve, the fuel mistress at Tenakee, is a doll and helped us through the process, calling out target fuel quantities as we approached our limit. Luckily, we got to the fuel docks just at 10am, and I felt sorry for the boats that were hovering just off the docks as we took on our large load of fuel. However, the $1400 sale probably made the day for the economics of this small town.

I had been admiring the hoodie sweatshirts worn by the staff of Alaskan Seaplanes during our stay at Tenakee. At the Bakery, one of the staff came in for coffee, so I asked if they sold the hoodies. They did and both Karen and I came away with a practical reminder of our pleasant stay at Tenakee.

As you walk the “path/road/main street” on Tenakee, you’ll pass a number of resident dogs lying along the path, each in front of their masters’ doors. Most of they are grey haired older dogs, and most are friendly and are happy if you reach down and pet them because getting up is almost too much for these senior citizens. On our stroll back to the docks, I noticed a large fellow I had seen a couple of times. He looked just like the others I have petted, large, old, part wolf and a bit forlorn. I bent down and as I started to let him give me a smell, he tried to take a bite out of my hand. I was quicker than he was as he bared his teeth and growled, but he was not able to muster the energy to stand and pursue the attack.

We were cold and wet from being out in the rain, as we left the boat for breakfast and then spent the whole time on deck for the fueling process. Once the fenders were stowed and we were underway to Pavlof, we turned up the boat’s heat in an attempt to feel warm and dry.

Pavlof Harbor is a short (15 mile) trip to the northwest of Tenekee, in  Freshwater Bay. We did spot a humpback making his way SE as we rounded the point into Freshwater Bay. Pavlof is known for bear, so that influenced our decision to make it an overnight stop. We arrived at low tide, perfect bear viewing time. However, we never did see any of these elusive critters. There is also an interesting waterfall at the head of the stream that runs into the bay. Normally we would launch the dinghy and go exploring, but the previous time we spent out in the rain earlier today dampened our desire to brave the wet and cold yet again.

As I was preparing dinner, I spotted Northern Songapproaching the Harbor. I made a call to the bridge and we exchanged greetings with Mike and a few updates on travels and bear sightings. We had not talked with them since we visited the boat in Port McNeill last September.

Northern Song sits in Pavlof Harbor

The rain finally stopped as we went to bed and the harbor was flat. About 2:30am, I was awaked by the sound of the wind blowing. I made my way to the helm and checked the wind direction and speed. It was south at 10 to 12 knots. We were holding well and the winds were as forecast, so it was back to bed.

Tenakee Springs

(Karen writes) We awoke to no rain, which is always a good thing. It’s certainly not sunny, but it’s clear enough and that makes for a great day in Alaska. We were ready to head off to breakfast when Sally on The Spirit of Baltonext to us came out on her aft cockpit and we chatted briefly. She invited us over to see the boat that she and Dan personally built…and we’re never ones to turn down an opportunity to see the inside of these custom boats. Boy, it was lovely. Obviously built with care and attention to detail, she was fitted with, granite counter tops and arched doorways and wonderful décor. I really liked their boat a lot.

We decided to walk up together (including Dan) to town…they wanted to explore and we wanted breakfast. The Party Time Bakery did NOT disappoint. What a great place! Bob’s biscuits and gravy and sausage were good, and my fried egg sandwich on homemade bread with ham and cheddar cheese was amazing. Bottomless cups of coffee, great artwork to peruse…what a find. Sally and Dan came back chatted a while before they headed back to the docks, wanting to take their boat across the inlet to fish for halibut. Really nice people.


The Party Time Bakery has something for everyone.

We headed for Snyder Mercantile, the general store. It was decently stocked and we bought some eggs, mayonnaise, and some celery and scallions. Then we headed to the fuel dock, because we desperately need fuel and Tenakee’s fuel dock is open on Saturday when we plan to depart for destinations further north. Eve runs the fuel dock, and we got to see the dock in action. Unlike the fuel docks we’re used to, this one isn’t floating…you tie up to the pilings and they lower down the fuel hose and a bucket for you to put your credit card in. The pilings are full of bolts and mess, and they do a good job of dinging your gelcoat if you are unlucky or if you fuel at low tide. Apparently, in a blow, it’s best to delay fueling to when the wind dies down. Here’s hoping that tomorrow will be calm…even if it’s forecasted to rain all day.

It's a long way down at the fuel dock

Eve is the queen of the fuel dock. She works hard and does a great job.

We learned that the ferry (the Alaskan Marine Highway) was coming today about 2:30, and we decided to walk to town to watch the ferry load and unload. We had heard that somewhere between 35 and 70 people were headed to Tenakee. We couldn’t imagine where they all would go, so we wanted to see the spectacle for ourselves.

(Bob writes)What a spectacle it was. The large hatch opens on the port bow of the ferry and people pour in to get their “Stuff” as the passengers depart with their “stuff”. The pictures tell the story, but there is all manner of supplies. Pets, ATV vehicles, fishing rods, jet skis and guitars; whatever will make the summer more enjoyable. People have to make multiple trips back into the hold to get even more “stuff”, so the traffic is two way and chaotic. How the kids and pets survive with ATVs pulling three months worth of beer and snacks up the steep incline of the loading ramp, I’ll never know. The pandemonium lasted for 30 minutes. Right on time at 3pm, the ferry pulled away with only six new passengers onboard.

Everyones line ups to unload the ferry

The parade begins.

Everything you need for Summer in one convenient package.

Proud of his brand new John Deer.

Everything and anything comes out of the hold of the LeConte Ferry

Tenakee looks downright crowed after the ferry's arrival

Perferred method of trnsportation in Tenakee Springs

After our entertaining sojourn into the reality of life in remote Tenakee Springs, we strolled back to Arctic Star. We spent the afternoon planning the next few days. Our schedule has become very fluid and we needed to firm up at lest the next two days so I would know where to plot our course.

The helicopter pad (for emergencies) and the seaplane dock at the end at water level.

Tenakee's Chapel

Tenakee Springs Post Office

The "Bus Stop" where you can exchange things you don't want for things you do.

The rules of the "Bus Stop"

After walking a couple of miles to and from Tenakee and the docks over the last two days, I'm jealous!

Our friend's house in Tenakee; it's one the uphill side of the street.

Tenakee is a dog's town, but Karen can always find a cat no matter where we go.

The docks at Tenakee viwewd from the "road" to town.

The view from the deck of a Tenakee home looking out across the channel.

Tenakee Springs viwed from the docks

I made Karen’s favorite maple-glazed curried sweet potatoes accompanied by mustard-orange glazed pork tenderloin. It satisfied cravings and we spent a quiet evening onboard, checking out the comings and goings on the docks of Tenakee Springs.

Ell Cove to Tenakee Springs

(Karen writes) We awoke to grey skies and lingering drizzle. We had decided the night before that we were going to dinghy out to the white beach and explore it a bit before we departed for Tenakee Springs. Sometime between breakfast and launching the dinghy, a green-canvased Grand Banks named Junie Moon dropped anchor in Adirondack’sold spot. We waved as we dinghied out to see what we could see. What did we see? A beehive of seiners milling about outside of Ell Cove. I guess we know now where our two cove-mates were headed at the crack of dawn! We watched them a bit as we headed for the beach, which abuts the Kasnyku waterfall.

It really is an amazing beach – long and wide and truly made of white sand, rather than the typical “Rock” beach you see in Alaska and British Columbia. We easily beached the dinghy and had a great walk, beachcombing and looking at a wide variety of barnacles and mussels and all sorts of things that are uncovered at low tide.

One of the best "beaches" we walked on this trip. Lots of things to explore, both large and small

Life clings on to everything

Beauty on the Beach

Rorschach test in the sand. Anyone esle see a chicken. 

Nature's pallette

Bob poses in front of the river

The river rushes out to the sea

Fresh water feeds to the saltwater ocean

Green grasses trive near the river's edge.

Karen holds some of her "treasures" collected from the beach

Our dinghy always looks soooo small in Alaska

We walked to the foot of the falls, and definitely felt like we were in bear territory, although we saw none (and that was fine with us). While we were out walking, the Grand Banks that had just arrived in Ell Cove departed. Wonder what he was doing?

We dinghied back to Arctic Star, and quickly weighed anchor. We had a 46 mile run to Tenakee Springs ahead of us and we wanted to get a move on. However, we didn’t expect to spend about 45 minutes weaving our way through the seiners! At one point, we counted over 60 of them, and Bob tried to take a photo of the radar picture that showed all these targets. 

The fishery if now open and everyone is here

Working our way through the fishing fleet

 They were hard at work, these seiners...setting nets by launching their tenders, and then making large (and usually counterclockwise) circles with the big boat to close them, then hauling their catch. It was a like a mad ballet, boats going every which way in various stages of setting and hauling. Just when you thought you had a clear path out, one would start to set their nets. It was fun to see and weave our way through.

 The main ship launches the tender who holds its positions as the seiner pays out the net

 The seiner makes a circles as the net is set. The net tender job looks lonely.

 The ballet of all the seiners manages somehow not to tangle all the nets

While it never got sunny, the drizzle ended and we had a nice ride up to Tenakee. We didn’t see many boats after the seiner spot. Bob and I traded off 2-hour watches to allow the other person some relaxation time. I think it took about 5+ hours to get to Tenakee. We didn’t see any interesting wildlife, just a nice Fleming cruiser headed north and a megayacht, Shadowfaxthat we followed toward Tenakee.

We have never been to Tenakee before, but heard it was a cute little town (35 year round residents) that serves as a summer destination for Juneau-ites.  There was little information about the docks or their orientation, so we just played it by ear. As we approached, we first “parked” on C dock, but after looking at a map of the docks taped to the harbormaster’s “office”, we saw that we were not located on the transient dock, so we moved to the inside of D dock. We were helped with our lines by Ed and his friend from the Pacific Pixie, a Camano Troll. Shortly after we settled in, Ed’s friends arrived on The Spirit of Balto, a custom 52 steel trawler. We helped them with their lines and then decided to go explore Tenakee after paying our moorage to Wendy, the harbormaster, as she walked the docks checking out the new arrivals.

Tenakee has no roads, just a “path” to “town” that allows passage by ATVs or bikes. It is about a ¾ mile or so into the center of town. There are lots of cabins and houses on “Tenakee” avenue.  The views are quite pretty across the inlet to a variety of little hills and mountains. The cabins vary from quite primitive to relatively new construction. It is a really cute place.

Entering Tenakee Springs

The primary attraction appears to be the sulphur hot springs in the ‘bath house’. Women and men are not allowed to bathe together – hours are clearly posted for men and for women. No bathing suits allowed. I’m sure the warm water would feel amazing. I find it funny that men’s hours are from 10pm to 9am and then again in the afternoon. I wonder if that’s because all the fishermen tie one on late in the evening and go to the springs to sober up?

The gender specific times are clearly posted. No excuses!

The place in town that attracted my attention the most is the Party Time Bakery, which looked cute. We plan to have breakfast there tomorrow. There is no cell service here, and no internet other than what may be available at the library, which isn’t open until Saturday.

The Party Time Bakery is the hub of Tenakee Springs

The public restroom in Tenakee Springs. Yes, the plumbing work as you suspect.

Karen comes down from inspecting the library at the end of the road.

Everything on the water side of the town is built on pilings

One of the original summer cottages from the early days of Tenakee Springs

Back to the boat, a grilled cheese and Canadian bacon sandwich for dinnner, and off to a good night’s sleep!