Alaska is Big. No, I mean REALLY BIG!!!!!
We’re in Tebenkof Bay. When you look at a chart of Alaska, Tebenkof does not appear to be all that large. But once you are here, it is enormous. As we make our way to the various anchorages in Tebenkof, we continue to be bewildered by the distances. What looks like a mile is 6 miles…or more.
Baranof Island as seen from the entrance to Tebenkof
We’ll see a humpback feeding and decide to investigate further, and 45 minutes later we‘ll just be close enough to take some pictures. We’ve been out twenty days and our internal distance scale has not yet recalibrated. I wonder if when we get home after five weeks in Alaska, if everything will seem too close and cramped. Karen often feels that way anyway…so I suspect this time in Alaska will just intensify that feeling.
My first every frittata was a success
We left Shelter Cove late morning with a goal to visit the Eye of the Needle in Tebenkof. Now the Eye of the Needle sounds small and narrow. And when you look at the charts (and read the sole “guidebook”), it appears exactly that. However, due to the distorted perception of space and distance here, it’s not really that small. Relative to all of Alaska it is small, but in the absolute we have been through much narrower passes, with much less water with critical timings for tides and currents.
Entering the Eye of the Needle
Karen keeping warm at the Eye of the Needle
Our trip started at a plus 6 foot tide and that made the trip very comfortable. At the end, or the Eye, you anchor in 12 feet of water behind a small islet. It is beautiful and almost certainly you will be alone. Although we only stayed for an hour, we would definitely come back and plan to stay a couple of days and explore the back bay via Kayak – especially if the weather was sunny.
Another note on navigation. The word is that much of the charts of Alaska are incomplete in that there are rocks and other obstructions that are not charted. Knock on wood so far… but I have to say that the Nobeltec electronic charts we are using are spot on. Thus far, what we see on the charts matches what we see out our cabin windows. That is reassuring, although we are keenly skeptical and err on the cautious side.
Scale is also impacting our fuel calculations. When we’re in the Broughton Archipelago for three weeks, we never worry about fuel. At the end of our travels, we pull up to the fuel docks and we usually have half tanks or better. If my calculations are correct we have used 250 gallons of diesel to go 218 miles. That means 58% of our fuel remains. So today we did a little planning to make certain we’ll make it to our fuel stop in Kake with a good safety margin. The only way to calculate fuel usage is to look at the site gauge and, using a tape measure, determine how full the tanks are. Old fashioned methodology but compared to the electronic Computank device we have onboard that says we added six gallons of fuel today, I’ll definitely place more trust in the tried and true methods.
As we were entering The Eye of the Needle Karen, who has become quite a critter spotter, had sighted a humpback feeding out toward the entrance to Tebenkof Bay. So after the Eye and before we made our way down Petrof Bay for the day’s anchor spot, we took a detour to see what the humpback was up to. Sure enough, he was still there. We made our way over and sat and watched and took pictures for a while. He would come up from the depths, show his flipper, pound the surface of the water with it, and then emerge, mouth wide open, before submerging again. He traveled in a large circle near a shallow (60 foot) area. As we looked at our Nobeltec charts, it turns out that this is exactly the same spot we saw a humpback yesterday on our way into Tebenkof. I suspect that this fellow has staked out this area as his own.
High-Five from our friendly humpback
Petrof Bay is much larger than Shelter Cove, almost too large for us. However, Karen did spot two black bears at the head. Therefore it might be worth a return trip to anchor overnight and wait for low tide with hopes of seeing more bears feeding on the beach.
Our next stop was Cedar Bight, the next anchorage west of the head of Petrof bay. We took a small detour to visit a rocky outcropping where we had spotted seals earlier. They had deserted their small rock, but we were able to add seals (other than the ones floating on icebergs in Le Conte glacier) to the list of critters spotted on this trip. So far, seals are much less prevalent here than what we see in British Columbia. I don’t know if it’s just normal or the large population of sea otters keeps them at bay.
Cedar Bight is a cozy (by Alaska standards) anchorage. The large drying area at the south end features a freshwater creek. It has all the makings of a bear beach: flat, fresh water and lots of surface revealed at low tide. As I was fixing dinner in the galley below, Karen found her third black bear of the day. That fellow spent the better part of two hours combing every inch of the beach looking for tasty morsels.
The other big event that occurred while I was making dinner was the appearance of some sun and blue skies. What a change happens to the landscape and your mood when the sun comes out. We took lots of pictures and ran around the boat admiring what seems like a completely new environment. However, an hour later the clouds rolled back in and secured their rightful place in the Alaskan landscape. We come here expecting clouds and rain and tell ourselves we can deal with it. But in reality, we long for some sun.
Yes! We found the sun.
The mix of sun and clouds can be stunning
Karen ready to go exploring in the dinghy
Our spirits were lifted for a while and we enjoyed some curried chicken salad with flatbread. A no-cook (since I grilled the chicken last night with the pork) dinner.
Karen's favorite thing to eat on this trip. Curried chicken salad.
With our fuel plan secure and 50 foot of additional chain sitting on the bottom, we settled in for a quiet night. Tomorrow, we’ll launch the kayaks and explore the small inlet to our east.
By the way…all we did today was “tool around” Tebenkof Bay. We put on over 28 miles.