Blue Mouse Cove to Reid Inlet

(Karen writes)  Yikes, what a miserable night we had in Blue Mouse. When we anchored earlier in the day, the winds were from the NE. However, about 11pm, they turned to the South. We should have gotten up, pulled the anchor and moved to the other side of the cove. However, we hoped the wind and seas would lie down in the nighttime. This was a faulty assumption.  The fetch picked up, the boat was rocked from side to side, the anchor chain was making noise, and the waves were crashing on the boat. Bob ended up sleeping (or trying to) on the settee so he could see the anchor circle on the Nobeltec  display and make certain he heard any anchor alarms going off. I tried to sleep but was unsuccessful. I swear I was awake every hour on the hour, between the noise, the waves, the rocking, and the anchor alarm that was set by the bed, which went off for no good reason all night long.

About 5am, we had both had it. We decided to get the hell out of Dodge. Bleary eyed, we realized one of us had to run to the flybridge to turn on the master Raymarine; normally a PITA but not dangerous. Today getting up there required the balance of a mountain goat. I did it, hanging on to everything and anything I could find. I was prepared to go on the heaving bow to raise the anchor, but we decided to do it from the safety and warmth of the cabin. This was our first time using the helm control station for the windless and it worked like a charm. We headed out to find greener pastures.

However, it was still cloudy and rainy and windy, so not much was green. Coupled with the fact that we both were sleep deprived, it was a sad Arctic Star that departed Blue Mouse. I suggested we head over to Tidal Inlet to see what we could see. Of course, this meant beam seas across the bay…sigh…Bob minimized the issue by tacking, and it wasn’t too long before we were out of most of the wind and seas in Tidal Inlet. This is a narrow inlet with steep-to sides, the location of the potential landslide that caused the Park Rangers to move their float from Blue Mouse to South Sandy Cove. We enjoyed the scenery despite the gloom as we went down to the head. On the way back, we saw a nice ledge with reasonable depth and we dropped the hook. It set well and within minutes we were both asleep. We slept in the peaceful inlet for 3 hours, and awoke at 10am feeling much better and with a more positive outlook on life. We had breakfast, and lazed around, and then headed out for Reid Inlet, which has a glacier at its head that is not tidal but on land, so you can dinghy up to it and check it out.

You got to find a picture on rainy days too

On the way up the Bay, we swung by Skidmore Cut to see the “whale carcass”. Yes, there is a whale carcass, and no, it wasn’t that exciting, at least when we went by. We heard from other boaters that they saw bears and wolves feeding on the carcass when they went by. Oh well.

As we neared Reid Inlet, the sun started to come out just over the glacier. It was lovely and guess who was there? The Mother Goose Fleet.  Of course, they took all the great anchoring spots, but we found one too and were welcomed to the inlet.  After getting anchored, Brian and Bill Douglass came over via dinghy to try and troubleshoot our stabilizer problem. How many men can you fit in a small engine room? It was fun to watch, though all our efforts were to no avail. However, we did help narrow down what the issue might be and hopefully the next charterers will have full use of the stabilizers once some new parts are put on in Juneau.

Stabilizer troubleshooting finished, we lowered the dinghy and headed for the glacier. We beached the dinghy on a falling tide (always a problem) and sort of did a mountain-goat walk, fording some streams and glacier outflow, to get to the face of the glacier and actually touch it. It was really cool, and really beautiful. There was a lot of water flowing from under the glacier and it made for good pictures.

The face of the Reid Glacier. Many miles of ice are behind this and out of sight from this low vantage point.

You never realize how much water comes out from a galcier until you get close. This was just one small outflow from the massive ice wall.

"I touched  the face of a glacier"

"Me too"

When the tide goes out around here, it goes really fast!

Karen leads our tour of Reid Inlet

Neogaiting around the small bits of glacier in Reid Inlet

Glacier ice is very different than regular ice. Dense, clear and does wonders for any alcoholic beverage.

On the way back to the boat, we noticed some kayakers making a camp on the port side of the glacier…brr…can’t imagine that was as comfortable as Arctic Star! We also saw that the charter boat Safari Spirithad come into the inlet, and as we dinghied by, we spoke to a crew member who told us she was 105 feet long.  This boat was anchored near the face of the glacier, and one of the Mother Goose boats, a 42’ Grand Banks, was off to her port side. The GB looked like a toy remote control toy boat given the scale – not only the scale of Safari Spirit, but the scale of the entire glacier and inlet. It’s something we’re still not used to in Alaska. I took a cool picture of that and hopefully it will show you what I mean.

Back on board, Bob made his famous curried chicken salad and we feasted before hitting the sack for more “catch up sleep”, enjoying a calm and nearly windless night after the rock and roll of Blue Mouse.

Snug Cove to Blue Mouse Cove

  It was a peaceful night. Snug Cove provided a very well protected anchorage. When we awoke our boat had a few hundred black flies sitting on the decks, rails and kayaks. They proved to be no problem and by the time we were ready to lift anchor, they had departed for parts unknown. It was almost as if they needed a place to spend the night.

The anchorage at Snug Cove is surrounded by dramatic granite

It looks completely different when the clouds move in; but still beautiful to me.

As I was shaving, I looked out the window and on the near shore was a black bear. “Bear”, I called to Karen who sprung into action, grabbing her binoculars and charging the saloon windows. We watched for about thirty minutes as the black bear made his way along the beach. This bear seemed to be on a mission, because he seldom stopped to graze on a tasty morsel or uproot some green grasses. He finally disappeared along the stream bed at the head of the inlet. That’s one bear spotting for me this trip. All the rest of the bear sightings go to Karen.

The only bear that I was able to spot before Karen

We made our route to Blue Mouse Cove such that it would swing by Geikie Rock. This outcropping is one of the locations within the park where you must remain 100 yards from the shoreline line. As it was restricted, we were hoping that there would be good critters to observe from a distance. However there was not much on the island; a few seagulls and a spattering of other birds and two sea lions.

We set our course for Blue Mouse Cove in hopes that the weather would continue to cooperate and we could do some kayaking in the adjacent inlet, Hugh Miller. The Hugh Miller Inlet is one of a handful that is restricted to non-motorized vehicles during certain times of the year. But the wind and rain came up as predicted, except it was from the north rather than the south as forecast. We set the anchor in the northeast cove of Blue Mouse to accommodate the winds. This area was previously home to a park ranger float, but the float was moved to South Sandy Cove due to concern that a landside in Tidal Inlet, 6 miles away, might do damage to the float. Hmmm…

We were settling in when one of the park-based sightseeing catamarans, the Fairweather Express II, passed within 50 feet of our anchored boat doing greater than 8 knots. Needless to say, the wake from his vessel set off an unwelcomed episode of rolling and bobbing.

As we watched, the catamaran put its two bows on the rocky beach and held herself there with her with forward idle. The crew helped unload six kayakers, three kayaks and their gear. Once off loaded, the Fairweather Express II reversed course and left the cove. This time he was moving slower, but far faster than a no-wake speed. The president of the operating company will be getting a letter, with a copy to the Park Service office at Bartlett Cove with a complete report on the captain’s actions.

As we watched the troupe of kayakers get their gear stuffed into their two-man boats, the rain continued to increase. This dampened our enthusiasm for the trek over to Hugh Miller Inlet. As these kayakers left the cove, we talked with them briefly. Their plans were to paddle around the area for the day and camp overnight and tomorrow they would be picked up and transported up to the John Hopkins Glacier and do it all over again. One of the paddlers, who was about our age with his less than enthusiastic looking wet wife in the front, did inquire about the specifics of our methodology of exploration. He wanted to know operating costs and if you needed a license. I gave him some broad details but I told them I would not reveal that our cabin temperature was 69F and I was standing talking to him a lightweight shirt and sock feet rather than in expedition wet gear.

From our location in Blue Mouse Cove, we could watch the passing traffic in the west arm. Two cruise ships, tour boats, the occasional power boat and even less frequent sailboat passed in and out of our view.

Evening approached and as Karen was awakening from her nap,  I saw a 49 foot Grand Banks entering the cove. It looked like our friends from Northwest Explorations’ Mother Goose flotilla, and sure enough it was Brian Pemberton and crew on the lead boat, Deception.

As the three other Grand Banks that were following him came into view, we confirmed that it was the Mother Goose fleet from Northwest Explorations, the same company we chartered our boat from.

After Brian got all his boats anchored and rafted up, he gave a call on the VHF and asked if he could come over after dinner to catch up. We enjoyed nice evening trading stories about what we have been doing and where we have been. Brian also shared his travels and future plans. Eventually we’ll all meet back up in Juneau and Arctic Starwill rejoin the flotilla on its way back to Bellingham, WA. As we chatted, a black bear yearling explored the near shore.

We bid adieu to Brain and settled in for the night, or so we thought.

Dundas Bay to Snug Cove via Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay

(Karen writes) As hoped, we awoke to some sunny breaks in the morning with a promise of a brightening day. Sometime during the late evening or early morn, a sailboat came into the same bay as ours, but anchored more toward the entrance in deeper water. As we prepared to depart, we were amazed how low the tide was – we had planned for it, but it always gets your attention when the depth sounder reads 10 feet. Dundas looked much more interesting in the sun, and there were tons of little islands worth returning to explore. I spotted a brown bear on the way out, but Bob wasn’t interested in picture taking because the bear was in the shade and wasn’t terribly distinctive from the background.

We knew we’d face favorable currents in Icy Strait as we headed for Glacier Bay, and we certainly did. We had hoped to see a bunch of whales at Point Carolus before entering the park boundary, but there were just a few, cruising around peacefully. We hailed the park rangers  to announce our intention to enter, and then rode favorable currents all the way to Bartlett Cove and the ranger station. We had to slow to idle and still were doing over 9 knots. We didn’t want to get to the docks too early, because you can only stay on the docks for 3 hours in 24, and our briefing wasn’t until 2pm!

The docks were quite luxurious and uncrowded when we arrived at noon. We tied up and filled the water tanks, which were depleted after doing some laundry and we figured it would be quicker than trying to regain the gallons with the watermaker. We then headed up to Glacier Bay Lodge, where Bob uploaded the blog and pictures for several days while I snooped around and downloaded a few updates for my Nook as well as purchasing a few more e-books given the wifi connection.

Bob updates this blog while enjoying the comforts of the lodge at Barlett Cove

Karen investigates the water supply on the docks

One of those "I was there" photos

"I was there too"

The docks at Bartlett Cove. Only the U.S. Government could build docks like this.

Bog, wide and you can drive a car on the docks. The pilings look as if there are designed for cruise ships.

We headed over to our briefing at 2pm with just one other boater. We saw a nice video (Taken on a sunny day or two – rare!) and reviewed the rules before deciding to depart for destinations north. To go north of Bartlett Cove, you need to pass through Sitakady Narrows, which can run at 7kts. That’s great if it’s in your favor and not so great if it’s against you. By leaving at 3, we were able to ride the last of the favorable current and not have to buck much adverse current. We saw lots of humpbacks along the way, and took a detour by South Marble Island (obeying the distance requirements, of course!) to see the sea lion haul out, which was quite something (and quite noisy). This haul out is full of immature males who apparently spend their time practicing how to be an alpha male, posturing and snorting and shoving each other around. It’s quite amusing to watch. We also saw a few puffins, but Bob wasn’t able to get a photo of them, so we will have to return on our way out of the bay. We also saw a large cruise ship departing the Bay, the Diamond Princess. It looked kind of like the Starship Enterprise, at least on the top deck. I can’t imagine that the passengers on the Princess get the same kind of wilderness experience that we do!

When the sun comes out, everying is beautiful!

Looking back to the docks and lodge at Bartlett Cove

Glacier Bay opens up before the bow of Arctic Star

Our original anchorage destination was North Fingers Cove, but given the sunshine and the decent timing, we changed it to Snug Cove in Geike Inlet. It was really beautiful and very alpine looking. The entrance was small and there was a long narrow channel to the head, which was a great bear beach with a fresh water stream and several waterfalls.  While definitely peaceful and well protected, the anchorage was deep, and we ended up in about 70 feet of water with a well-set anchor.

The sunset approaches in Snug Cove

By the time all was said and done, we had enough energy for me to make my famous Tuna Melts and enjoy a left over piece or two of cornbread…we enjoyed the sun as we wound down for the evening.

Dundas Bay

Today was a lazy day. The wind and rain continued to dominate today’s weather. I slept in until eight after awaking at 12:30am and 3:30am to the sounds of Arctic Star resetting itself with the wind and current. At 3:30am, the current was holding our stern to the wind, so the waves slapped the boat right at our heads in the bed. Lots of noise, but the anchor was holding and all was well. Getting back to sleep was a challenge as the false dawn was making the cabin bright. Karen slept through it all. Karen kept an eye out for the brown sow with her cubs as she consumed more books on her Nook. I concentrated on finishing up as many blog entries as I could, as we are supposed to have internet access at Bartlett Cove Lodge in Glacier Bay tomorrow.  We did see a large group of surf scoters with their distinctive orange beaks tooling around all day in phalanx formation, but we never could see what they were actually trying to accomplish.

All day the weather was a tease. The clouds would briefly open and let a minute amount of blue show and then follow that up swiftly with rain. This pattern repeated itself all day. Our theory has become that these enforced rest days are all part of the Alaska program. It leaves us with more energy for the dry and/or sunny days. To pass the time during the rain, we watched the movie "Invictus". Karen liked it a lot; I thought it was good but a bit slow.

The clouds adn the sun play tug-of-war in the heavens

Even the “Alaskan Reality Radio”, VHF 16, was silent today; no drama, no gossip. So we turned in and hoped tomorrow would dawn sunny and bright.

Elfin Cove to Dundas Bay

It is only 19 miles today over to Dundas Bay. Nevertheless, we were up and ready to go after a couple of days in harbor.   Before we could make the to walk up to Fisherman’s Inn to pick up our fish from yesterday, Mike and Gary were knocking on our hull with a box containing 35 pounds of fish, vacuumed bagged and frozen. Our neighbors who rafted to us last night had departed an hour earlier, so we were good to cast off. The weather was low, but with good visibility below. As we made the turn into North Inian Pass, we found the waters disturbed and confused. There would be areas that appeared to bubble as if they were about to boil. Right next to them, the seas were mill pond flat. Our speed over ground would go from 7.5 knots to 13.5 and back. Nothing dangerous, just interesting and a little more work for the helmsman.

From the entrance to Dundas Bay to our anchorage at the southwest bay is a very interesting run with a mix of little islands, massive mud flats and wide, then narrowing channels. The visibility was down a bit, and we passed three boats outbound as we entered deeper into Dundas. We contacted the first vessel, Nordic Star, a North Pacific 52, and exchanged weather reports. They wanted to know what the pass was like and we inquired about the inner bay at Dundas.

I love how the  fog plays with the islands

We eventually negotiated our way to our anchorage. It is a large bay, but most of it is too shallow to anchor. We made a circle to define our anchor area with at least 20 feet of water at the current tide stage. That would leave us at least 10 feet at low tide which was scheduled to be at minus 2.5 feet this evening.

The anchor set well, but with the winds freshening, we added the bridle and dumped another 50 feet of chain over the side. We held our ground, but made a lot of noise during the change from ebb to flood as the rode moved across the bottom. A small price to pay for knowing your boat was not going to travel outside your planned swing area.

The wind and rain was not conducive to dinghy or kayak exploration, so I set about to make bread and a large pot of chowder. I added Dungeness crab and our fresh caught halibut to the concoction. It will make dinner tonight along with some fresh baked cornbread, and will also provide multiple warm and hearty lunches on those cold days.

As I was preparing dinner, Karen called out that she spotted either a big brown bear or a Bison. Given our latitude and longitude, I concluded that a brown bear was the likely species she was seeing. The added bonus was the bear was a sow with two cubs close on her heels. We watched for an hour as they made their way along the beach with sojourns back and forth into woods. Eventually, they grazed their way to the beach nearest our boat-- what a treat; especially when the bear cubs played with each other.

Mom calls her cubs down to the beach

"Where did they go?"

Bears spend a lot of time with their heads down grazing

Halibut, crab and corn chowder with fresh-baked cornbread