A few photos, 07.31

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, just like the day I got here! I went for a walk up to Indian River again, and while I don’t have any pictures of “downtown,” I snapped some from the harbor and further out.


A little bathhouse story 07.28

I tried to take a picture of the bathhouse but the second I took out my camera the lens fogged right up! I'll try again another day. Story after the jump...

Settling in 07.28

After two pretty chilly nights (jeez, Alaska), I’ve learned how to use the diesel stove, and I have shore power hooked up, so things here are snug, with heat and music. I’m not too sure what the blog will look like from here on out. For today, I’ll spare you guys my adventures in bilge cleaning and instead tell you what I learned about sea otters.

This is what a crabber here in town told me: Back when this was a Russian colony, sea otters were trapped for their fur, shrinking their population to something like 1000 individuals. So now, they’re a protected species, which means no more trapping. And, we've reintroduced otters into lots of areas where they used to live, including this one. Apparently, further north, orcas eat the sea otters, keeping their populations under control, but for some reason, the ones here don’t. Maybe they’ve forgotten how? Anyway, as a result the sea otter population here is totally unchecked, and apparently the otters decimate mollusk populations (maybe crabs, too?) especially on the west coast of the island. So people think of them as pests. But, after poking around on the internet a little bit, it seems some folks think that the mollusk populations are actually decimated by humans fishing too intensively. And balancing otter population's needs with our economic needs is a pretty complex question. So, more later...


the Flyer

It's still overcast, but this is a rainforest, so I guess that's to be expected. Anyway, I'm realizing if I wait for a sunny day I'll never get to post anything. Here she is.


I've jumped ship!

Tenakee Springs! We pulled into this tiny little town, population 100 max, three days ago, and I just fell in love. It's got a hot springs bathhouse. And there's one street, that's a 6 ft wide dirt road. And there's a store, a library, a bakery, and a post office. And there's no solid waste services so people burn their trash. And potable water comes from wells, the creek, or cold springs about a mile up the road. And it overlooks Tenakee Inlet, which is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. Sometimes the whales come, and there's seals, and bears, and deer, and about a million crows and ravens. And, within about 15 minutes of stepping off the boat I met a local who offered his fishing boat, currently unused in the harbor, as a place to crash. So, I've decided to stick around for a little bit.

I saw Dan and Kathy off yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day cleaning diesel out of the bilge of my new home, the Midnight Flyer.

I went hiking yesterday evening up through the rainforest to Indian River. There's a suspension bridge on it and supposedly sometimes you can watch the bears catching salmon in the stream. But no such luck yet! Still, the forest here is wonderful.

Now, I'm sitting at the bakery using the power and the wifi (I don't have electricity hooked up on the boat yet), and soon I'm off to the bathhouse. Then, back to the bilge! (Cleaning diesel up is actually kind of cool. You use these absorbent pads that only soak up diesel, so if you put them in clean water they come out dry. Crazy!)

I'll post pictures as soon as the sun comes back--Tenakee is much more photogenic on a clear day! And the Flyer will be too, I think.


What not to do 07.22

We’re leaving Glacier Bay National Park today. I’m sad to go. In the absolutely wrongheaded spirit of the “Eyes on Wildlife: Alaska Checklist” that we I picked up in a visitor’s center somewhere (and which can get me, or an excited 7 year old, a certificate of achievement for checking off enough stuff!), we saw:

·         Black bears
·         Brown bears
·         Seals
·         Sea lions
·         Wolves Wolf
·         Humpback whales
·         Orcas
·         Harbor porpoises
·         Dall’s porpoises
·         Grey whales
·         Sea otters
·         Lots of fish
·         Lots and lots of birds
·         And, oh! Glaciers and icebergs! (I know, they’re not wildlife, gimme a break.)

The only thing left is to decide whether or not I’m mailing in my checklist.

Fingers Bay 07.21

We’re anchored in this absolutely idyllic bay. Porpoises. Sunset. Fire. Ah.

Kayaking with Kathy 07.20

Life cycles, 07.19

Happy birthday, pop!

The rest of this post leans morbid. I’m saving the pictures for after the jump, because they’re a little gross. But, last summer a 41-foot humpback whale carcass washed up on one of the shores in the park. All summer, it fed bears, wolves, and a whole lot of other animals. And then, it disappeared. And then it reappeared. On a different shore across the bay. We went by to take a look yesterday.

A little bit about Glacier Bay

To warn you, this is an abbreviated account of everything I’ve learned about glaciers in the last week, so…

Our last two glaciers 07.18

This afternoon we went down Johns Hopkins inlet to see Lampugh Glacier and Johns Hopkins glacier. They might be the most impressive we’ve seen yet. Here’s Johns Hopkins:

We got about an eighth of a mile away from Lampugh, which is closer than we’ve been able to get to any of these in the boat.

We’ll catch a last glimpse of Reid Glacier on our way south, but then we’re out of tidewater glacier territory.  We’ve also gone as far north as we’ll go, so from now on our days will be getting shorter and possibly warmer.

Margerie Glacier 07.17

Feelin’ like a little tiny cherry in a giant slushy cocktail.

Ice ice and more ice 07.17

You’re supposed to learn things about yourself when you’re traveling, right? Well, I have discovered that I have a not so mild case of being-separated-from-my-kayak-by-grizzlies anxiety. So, I spent the afternoon exploring the face of Reid glacier one stretch of beach at a time, as such: get to shore, look for bears, drag kayak up, look for bears, look at glacier, walk up to glacier, look for bears, look to make sure tide hasn’t washed kayak out, look for bears, take photo, check for kayak, look for bears, walk back to kayak, paddle 100 yards down the shore, repeat.

Reid Inlet 07.16

Anchored about a mile away from the face of Reid Glacier.

Grizzlies on shore!

Less whales, more ice 07.16

Motored deeper into the park this afternoon.

As we go farther north, we’ll see more glaciers, more bergie bits, and, we’re expecting, less whales. They don’t seem to like the murky glacial water.

Tip tap 07.16

Anchored in a place called North Sandy Cove.

I’m sitting in the galley typing on my laptop, and there’s a black bear foraging about a quarter of a mile behind me, on the shore. How odd, to be sitting at the kitchen table, watching a bear. And, oh! Now the porpoises! And a bald eagle. This is getting ridiculous.

Sea otter 07.15

Equally unimpressed by us and the whales.

WHALES! 07.14

What a day!!

Dinner, 07.13

Crab and flounder for dinner!

I don’t mean to be turning this into a food blog. To temper all the seafood exuberance, maybe I’ll write a post soon about all the fishing boats we see up here and the ecological impacts of their fishing techniques.

Currently reading: Eating Animals and “Consider the Lobster”

Neka Bay, 07.13

A day away from Glacier Bay! The park only lets in 25 private vessels at a time, so most of the permits get snatched up at the beginning of the year. They have a small number of short term permits that they only release 48 hours in advance, so I got up at 6 AM yesterday to call as soon as the office opened. Sure enough, I was the first caller, and about a minute into the conversation I could already hear the phone ringing off the hook in the background. I feel like I won a radio competition. Our week-long park permit begins tomorrow, so we’ll spend another night here and head to Glacier Bay tomorrow.

In the meantime, we’re spending the day anchored in a bight of Neka Bay, which is about 40 miles south of the park. It’s peaceful, with still water, salmon jumping, and a waterfall rushing a little ways away. Dan and Kathy went for a kayak, and while I’ve been hanging out on the boat a school of harbor porpoises has come to visit me. The water is so clear, every once in a while you can see an entire porpoise from above as it shoots under the boat, presumably going after a fish it likes. But, here’s a little bit of one’s back, camouflaged pretty well against the surface of the water:

I like these harbor porpoises. They’re serious guys. They don’t play like the Dall’s porpoises or flop around like the orcas. They just cruise around doing what they’re doing.

Salmon salmon all the time! 07.12



Watch this. Somehow Kathy had the presence of mind to tape it. If you turn up the volume really loud you can hear me being dumb in the background.

Tracy Arm, 07.10

What an amazing place!

Breakfast, 07.10

Homemade lox from home caught salmon!

Tracy Arm Cove, 07.09

Bourbon on glacier ice.

Look closely, 07.09

The damn whales still won’t sit still for me, but here are some better photography attempts. You can see the whale breaching and spouting and finally sounding. Kind of.

Sandborn Canal to Tracy Arm Cove, 07.09

We spent last night in this beautiful narrow canal. And this morning we spotted bears on the shore and caught another salmon!

We’re on our way to Tracy Arm, which is an inlet that has two glaciers in it that come all the way to the water. Supposedly, you can watch them calve, and the entire inlet is full of little bergie bits that come off of them. The inlet is 25 miles long with no good spots to anchor, so we’ll spend the night at Tracy Arm Cove, at the head, and do the round trip in a day.

Here’s one of our iceberg teasers. There’s a few big ones like this piled up in the mouth of the harbor after coming off of the Sawyer glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm.

This afternoon was just ridiculous. Humpback whales in all directions, salmon jumping everywhere, and an enormous pod of orcas. The humpback whales are so cool—you’ll notice a dark spot in the water and then after a minute it’ll blow and you realize it’s the back of a whale who is just lolling around at the surface, I don’t know, sunning?


So, this boat (under the name Harambee) was designed by guy named Jay Benford, who wrote a book on how to build ferro-cement hulls. He used this particular hull as the example, and he walks through its construction in this book.

Fixed boom 07.08

And fixed mainsail.

!!!! 07.08

Silver Salmon! My first catch ever!

Photo too bloody? We had heard that vodka in the gills was a quick and painless way to kill a fish…but it didn’t seem so effective when we tried it, and a photo taken a few seconds later would have looked a little more violent.


Went to sleep here, 07.06

Woke up here, 07.07

Hundreds of birds. Thick rolling fog. I'm digging Alaska so far!

First spotting! 07.06

This is our first bergie bit! That’s what they call the little pieces of ice that come off the glaciers. We’re gonna have to be on lookout for them until we head back south, which means someone standing at the bow with a pole ready to push them away! No joke!

Wrangell Narrows, 07.06

Crazy long narrow stretch. Navigation madness.

Luckily, we didn’t meet any barges or large ships to squeeze us out!


Oh, just an afternoon in Alaska.

A bunch of humpback whales, a couple of porpoises, a seal, some sea lions, a handful of bald eagles, a puffin, a few glaciers, some icebergs.

I took this photo from  an island that we wandered around for a little bit. The boat is anchored in Snow Passage, which is where we stopped to watch a group of whales hanging out. The island was covered with rockweed, which pops like bubble wrap when you step on it!

More Ketchikan, 07.04

We spent the 4th of July hiking around Ketchikan’s neighborhoods. The city is built into the side of some really steep hills. As a result, not only is it about 10 blocks long and only 2 or 3 blocks wide, but also many of the public right of ways are just wooden staircases! They're marked just like the more conventional streets, and they connect all the neighborhoods that are built up the slopes.

Buoys, 07.03

Navigation buoys on vacation!



We got in two days ago. I’ll post more later, but in the meantime here’s a picture from today’s 4th of july parade.

(teaser for you urban design nerds: that staircase is a public street!)


We had a long day today, 79 miles! We’re in a place called Big Bay right now, just a day away from Alaska! The forecast is stormy, so we’ll stay here tomorrow and then spend Saturday traveling about 10 more hours to Ketchikan. Back to the states!

After a rainy afternoon, turns out rainbows are as abundant as bald eagles. Seriously, we saw like 8 of them last night.

Princess Royal Channel 06.29

Long rainy ride through the channel. Misty, with craggy rock faces, waterfalls, and evergreens close on both sides.

And there were porpoises! (dolphins?)

Btw, left Atlanta exactly a month ago today! Miss you all.

Grounded! 06.29


Klemtu, 06.28

Just pulled into the harbor at Klemtu for the night. And oh what a bustling place! Right when we pulled in, we saw 5 or 6 bald eagles—2 adults and at least 3 juveniles—taking turns circling low above the water. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing because they weren’t leaving with any fish, but I think maybe they have thought we were a fishing boat and tried to catch something we were bringing in. Have I mentioned the bald eagles around here? They’re all over the place! Like they don’t know they’re endangered or something. Apparently they’re considered pests in some places, swooping down to take pets out of backyards and such. I still think they’re pretty majestic though. Now we’re anchored, and we just saw a tugboat pull a barge toting 4 tractor trailers away from shore, let go of it in the middle of the channel, and circle around to its other side to grab on again! Pretty exciting stuff, especially considering that the barge would have eventually plowed right into our side if the tugboat wasn’t doing its job right.

As we get further and further north, towns are getting smaller and less accessible. The population here is a few hundred, I think, and I’m not sure there’s any way to get in other than by boat. Supposedly there is a cafĂ© and a store in this metropolis, but we’ve decided to forgo exploring Klemtu by day in favor of leaving early tomorrow to catch the current and push north.

Allison Harbor to Namu, 06.27

We travelled for a long time today, about 8 hours.

Port McNeill to Allison Harbor, 06.26

Glassy waters and overcast skies made for a white trip through Queen Charlotte Strait.

Ended in Allison Harbor for the night.