Elfin Cove to Lituya Bay

Another 55 nautical miles and we’ll be in Lituya Bay today.

These long trips make for boring blog entries. That is good, because it means we have not had any issues or problems worth noting. Except for rounding Cape Spencer, the seas were kind to us.

Deception makes her way into the seas rounding Cape Spencer.

Rounding Cape Spencer

Deception had decided to brave a bit of gnarly seas in that area to get us to Lituya Bay at the right time to safely enter and still have time to enjoy exploring this rarely visited Bay. To put it in perspective, the Bay is about 125 nautical miles to the north of Sitka.  

Sea Caves populate the west coast as a tribute to the power of seawater erosion.

The Fairweather Mountain Range in all its glory.

In addition to the out-of-the-way location, the Bay has a deadly history that often keeps pleasure boats away. The entry “bar” has taken its toll on a wide range of boats and people over the years.  The potential of an ebb tide from the Bay developing standing waves as the ocean meets the shallow water can be epic. We planned for a high slack tide entrance, as per the Coast Pilot (“no stranger should attempt to enter except at slack water.”) Add to this, the entrance is small (150’ wide at maximum navigable water), rocky and visually not self-evident. Thankfully, to help the mariner, there is a range for the entrance.

The range for the entrance to Lituya Bay shows the challenge. NOT FOR NAVIGATION

  The fleet spread itself among three anchorages in Lituya Bay.

The fleet spread itself among three anchorages in Lituya Bay.

The ranges were easy to see starting five miles out.

With the weather clear and the sun at our backs, we could visually pick up the range as soon as we turned on our inbound heading, five miles out. We were getting set to the south, but the range made this obvious and aided in making the needed correction.

The sea was following, so we surfed into Lituya Bay. We breathed a sigh of relief to have made it past La Chaussee spit. Karen had done a lot of research on Lituya Bay, and we knew once we made it through the entrance, all would be well (barring any tsunamis or earthquakes!)  It is part of Glacier Bay National Park, but does not require permits. The Bay is very large and seems to support its own weather system.

We headed towards Centotaph Island, thinking of the anchorage behind the island that might allow for fun exploring later in the day. To our surprise, clouds and rain greeted us. However, to the west of the island, it was still clear. Others in the fleet headed toward the glaciers in the rain. We decided to turn around and bask in the sun. We picked a spot on the south east shore, called “the Paps”, and while a constant breeze tugged at our anchor, the sun never stopped shining down on us. We spent a lazy afternoon relaxing, interspersed with installing a depth sounder on our dinghy and looking for elusive halibut. We were later visited by Brian and Rich in Deception’s dinghy. They couldn't believe the weather difference between their location and ours.

Brian, at the helm, and Rich on a mission.

The most interesting feature of Lituya Bay is the scarring of the tree line from the 1958 Tsunami. The wave was 1720 feet tall, the highest in recorded history. If you are a student of the marine environment and geology there is a wealth of information on the internet about this amazing event.