We’ve been contemplating this journey to Prince William Sound for almost two years now. We’ll be traveling farther north than we ever have before. We’ll have longer legs, some 24 hours long; that too will be a new experience. And we’ll be exploring areas that few pleasure boats visit.
We have lots of confidence in our boat and in our preparation. Now, with a little cooperation from the winds and seas, we should enjoy these new waters as they pass under our hull.
Heading north out of Sitka, we worked our way through Olga Strait and then through Whitestone Narrows. These “shortcuts” are well charted and well-marked, allowing you to cut off many less-protected miles in the ocean. The weather was gloomy with only 2 miles visibility and rain that vacillated between light to moderate.
After making our way between Klokahef Island and Chichagof Island, we emerged to enter the ocean which was confused to say the least. The seas, at four to six feet plus the occasional “surprise” wave, kept the boat in motion and gave the stabilizers a workout. We were truly grateful for the stabilizers!
OceanFlyer rode well, and our new GARMIN nav system was awesome, but as we turned into the entrance of Piehle Pass, it turned out we would be in for an interesting ride. Why does that always happen when you have the toughest navigational challenges and smallest fairways? We watched Deception and Patos ride the waves through the pass with no issue. But just as we crossed the bar, a roguish wave gave us a big roll and jog to starboard. Karen, sitting in the alternate portable (but quite sturdy) helm chair in the galley, was thrown out of her seat. The chair went flying, and she landed sprawled across my lap at the helm. No injuries, but what a surprise. Once we were inside the pass, the waters calmed just as fast as they rose. Karen’s pride, however, took a few more minutes to return fully.
Deception took the lead as we entered Klag Bay through “The Gate”. As we approached the head, suddenly, Brian came on the radio and said that they just “touched” bottom. We all noted Deception’s location on the chart using his AIS target, and modified our course to avoid going where they touched. It was not charted to be shallow there. Fortunately it was soft mud, so it was no more consequential than a rude wake up for the Deception crew.
Talking with Brian later, he was amazed they found a shallow spot as he had been to Klag Bay many times and traveled over that same “spot” without incident. It’s a good lesson on how the bottom can shift and change over time.
Klag Bay is very well protected and offers a good holding mud bottom in 15-20 feet. After we all set anchor and settled in, it was a short dinghy ride to explore the old abandoned gold mines with Emily and Rowan from Deception and the crew of Patos.
Finding lots of derelict and rusty machinery, we enjoyed trying to determine what each piece of equipment may have been used for in the mining operation. Some of them were really interesting and would have made great “garden art”! As part of the shore party climbed a bit higher they reported some fresh bear scat so they quickly rejoined us at the lower mine entrance. After all, you only need to be able to run faster than the next slowest person, so we all found safety in numbers.
We had appetizers and drinks on Deception to get to know everyone a little better and talk about tomorrow’s run to Elfin Cove. We were too lazy to redeploy our dinghy, so we hitched a ride over to Deception with Lance on “Little T”. As the sun was “setting”, a term we use very loosely in these high latitudes (given that we did not stay up until 11:30 which is the time of official sunset!), the clouds started to break up. Maybe that’s a good omen for tomorrow.