Hoonah to Elfin Cove

Forty five miles to Elfin Cove. That was our plan for today. After yesterday’s perfect sunny weather, we did not know what to expect today. The forecast was noncommittal on whether or not we would have sun.

The sun greets us as we follow a fishing boat past the Hoonah breakwater

Outside the breakwater is all of Hoonah's working harbor

There's a place for everybody at Hoonah

The fuel dock is on the right of the photo

Ferry dock on the left. Hoonah breakwater on the far right.

As it turned out we were blessed with sunshine and unlimited visibility. All of a sudden there were massive snow-capped mountain ranges in sight on all quadrants. We enjoyed a fair passage with winds on the bow at 10-15 and current running in our favor.

The quintessential S.E. Alaskan "skyline"

Two boats left Hoonah at about the same time as we did and trailed us up to Point Adolphus, after which they headed to Glacier Bay. We saw a few humpback whales in route but as we approached Point Adolphus, we spotted many in the distance making themselves known with blows and splashes.

Point Adolphus is known for its whales and we hoped it would not disappoint today. A few boats were drifting around the point and we joined the fleet. While we saw six or so animals feeding leisurely, they were not very showy. After 45 minutes we continued on, although I got a great picture of a sea lion chomping on some fish.

A sea loin enjoys a lunch of fresh salmon

Our route took us through North Inian Pass, which is known as a place of winds and disturbed seas. The seas were a little confused as they spilled past the islands. The most interesting phenomenon was the clouds that cascaded off the islands and formed a fog bank as they reached the water. We had sun on the boat, blue skies in one direction and fog in the other. Alaska can certainly dish up some interesting weather combinations.

Elfin Cove, our destination, is a unique harbor. The public docks are outside the cove proper. There is a 100 foot long public dock with no services. We managed to get the very last spot, so we felt ourselves very lucky as there are not many alternative anchorages in the area. People on the dock grabbed our lines and made us feel welcome.

Elfin Cove is all about fishing. The inner cove is ringed with fishing lodges and homes all connected by a boardwalk. There is all manner of buildings: lodges, houses, gift shops, a post office, a salmon smoker and much I am certain we missed. The big news was that the Cove Lodge and the Coho Grill burned to the ground June 19. The remains of the buildings were quite a sight and one can only imagine the fear and panic fire brings when every building is so close to the other. We heard that the blaze occurred in the early morning and that everyone pitched in to help keep the rest of the town from going up in flames.

Next to the public dock sits a large fuel dock and a dock for the fish buying boats. Water and fuel can be had at this dock (unlike in Tenakee and Hoonah, it’s a floating dock, which is much nicer for us). I’m certain it exists mostly to serve the fishermen who come in to sell their catch to the fish buyer and then continue back out to sea.

With at least four fishing lodges that I counted, there was a lot of activity in the afternoon. Four seaplanes came and went, dropping off and picking up guests of the lodges. The lodge boats came in with their catches of the day. And because the King Salmon fishery was closing tonight at 11:59 tonight, the fish buying boat (St. Jude) was active all night with its cranes and deckhands offloading salmon and loading ice back into the holds of the working boats. Karen and I enjoyed watching the action, as it wasn’t something we’d seen before. The St. Jude worked through the night until the closing and midnight.

We made plans to go halibut fishing through Dan of Elfin Cove Lodge. Dan’s lodge was totally booked, but he hooked us up with Fishmasters (the neighboring lodge) and Mike and Captain Gary. Mike of Fishmasters was great – we made our plans for a half day of Halibut Fishing, and he walked us up to the General Store (that we hadn’t found on our earlier walk!) so I could buy a fishing license.  We set our departure time for 8am, and hit the sack by 10.

At 3:30am, we heard a loud knock on the outside of the aft cabin. Typically, if anchored, that means you’ve dragged into someone else. In this case, being that we were on a dock, we thought it meant that someone had arrived (yes, it’s so light out at 3:30am you could easily move around) and needed to raft to us. I got up to help, only to find that there was a man on our boat asking where the breakfast he had heard about was. I told him it wasn’t on our boat, which seemed to disappoint him a good deal. Did I mention he was stark naked? Karen couldn’t stop giggling when I came back and told her. Welcome to Elfin Cove!