It rained all night but we experienced very little wind. The weather forecast – what we can hear of it – still indicates the low is stalling and we will have the same weather for days with 20-25 knots of wind. Just in case we get an escape window, we move out through the narrows at slack (about 2PM) and anchor in a cove to the south of the narrows. We are still in Bay of Pillars here and protected from any southerly winds. There are more sea otters here as well as mew gulls, Bonapart’s gulls, and great blue herons. It rains all day.
The night was surprisingly calm and dry. In the morning the rain starts but the wind doesn’t arrive until middle day. We read, watch movies, and try to keep out of each other’s way.
It is Craig’s turn to choose an anchorage. After checking milage and fuel, he wants to go into Honeymoon Basin. In the outer bay we pass the remains of the old cannery and herring oil reduction plant. Someone has recently been working on the site, flattening the old metal tanks and creating a building site. Further inside we find the Sea Ranger, an old tug being used as a seasonal fishing resort. The 2 boats we saw yesterday take clients fishing from this "home base".
To get to the inner basin we must pass through a "poorly charted narrows" (according to the Douglass guide book) so we anchor off the west end of the narrows to watch the current and wait for high tide slack about 1:30PM. Weighing anchor about 1 we discover the current is just changing. Following our electronic chart and watching carefully for kelp patches which might indicate rocks, we make it through with 20′ of more of water under us. We soon enter a lovely basin surrounded by forested hills. Just before reaching the far end of this basin we turn into Honeymoon, a short, narrow fjord type bay with a bear meadow at south the end. We anchor as close to the meadow as we can. The weather forecast calls for a front to arrive tomorrow morning bring rain and 20-25 knots of SE wind. They think this front will stall bringing us days of wet, windy weather. This will be a very protected place to pass the time. During the remainder of the day we see several black bears from time to time feeding along the forest edge.
The patchy fog persists in the early morning as we listen to the red-throated loons. Planning to cross Chatham Strait today, we head out early expecting this to be the calmest time of day. As we leave our sheltered little cove we discover 2 other tour boats (Mist Cove and Nat Geo Sea Lion) anchored by the big waterfall.
Following the Sea Lion out the entrance channel in pea soup fog, we enter Chatham Strait at 8. We are running about 8 knots watching the radar and sounding the automatic fog horn. Amazingly, the fog clears enough by 8:20 that we can see the coasts of Baranof and Kuiu Islands but not the tops of the mountains. A Disney cruise ship crosses our bow in the distance and we wonder how much of the Inside Passage the passengers have been able to see.
Approaching the maze of rocks off the entrance to Rowan Bay we see 2 sport fishing boats apparently drifting. Soon it’s obvious they are fishing and whale watching. At least 8 humpbacks are working together. We stop, drift, and try to keep close enough to watch but not disturb the whales. They feed together, break into smaller units, swim in tight a tight line, and occasionally bubble net feed! It’s a mystery how they decide what and when to do things. Craig tries to get a photo of the net feeding but we have a hard time determining where they are and when they will use which technique. Once they surface net feeding and then 1 particular whale tail lobbing over and over again while another whale fin slaps. In the same general area there are several sea otters, gulls, common murre, and large floats of phalaropes. We thought Kayley’s (from Seattle on Active Captain (16555) claim that Rowan Bay is analogous to a day in Sea World might be an exaggeration but it certainly comes close!
After a couple of hours we decide to head into the bay to find an anchorage before the tide starts to drop. We tuck into the SW corner (N56 deg 38.8 and W134 deg 15.5) well protected from the forecast south wind. There is evidence of extensive logging here but nothing we see is new. On the north shore there is a dock and cluster of buildings. During our afternoon dinghy ride, we see the buildings are US government (maybe forest service?) Around the point to the east of these is a sheet piling landing.
Most of the morning we are alone in the anchorage but no bears show themselves. It’s overcast and cool – not a bad day but not the wonderful summery day we enjoyed yesterday.
We wait until mid-afternoon before venturing out in the dink. We want to check out the old cannery site and the big waterfall – half tide or lower will be best. The waterfall is gorgeous; tall and powerful. We get quite close with the dinghy and realize we could get Conepatus’s nose under the flow. The cannery has almost disappeared. There are some pieces or boilers, pipes, and gears. A fair size stream runs through the site. Much of he flat area where the buildings must have been is already covered by tall evergreens while the area next to the stream is covered with brush and salmonberry bushes. There are clear signs a bear (or bears) has been lying, feeding, and eliminating here. We’re relieved the signs aren’t fresh!
Large powerboats arrive in the afternoon. The first is from Utah and anchors well away from us in the entrance channel. Next comes the tour boat Alaskan Story. She anchor in the middle of the anchorage. Soon a float plane arrives and departs from her. About 6 the 70′ Alamir (Nordhavn?) arrives and noses in to the shallow end of our small nook. If the wind comes from the NW at low tide he’s sure to touch bottom. As the Alamir gets settled the float plane again lands and taxis to Alaskan Story, taking off after about 15 minutes. Seems our "remote" anchorage isn’t so remote!
It rained during the night but the morning overcast burns off early. We motor out about 8 to find the strait a bit sloppy. The forecast calls for NW winds arriving in the afternoon but it’s already here. It’s OK with us because we are headed south along the coast again. Baranof Island is steep with lots of snow patches on the high rocks. Many of the peaks look like they are crumbling into points.The fringe is heavily wooded with numerous waterfalls.
Red Bluff Bay is obvious with its massive ridge of bare, red rock at the entrance. It’s a fiord that runs in for about 4 miles with islets in the entrance and a turn or 2 to stop all weather from the strait. Numerous waterfalls cascade down the hills including a spectacular one just outside the final cove. At the head there are large meadows where there are reputed to be numerous brown bear.
A large motor yacht (MV Reflections) and his accompanying fishing boat (an Osprey) arrive late in the day. A few minutes later the Alaska State Troopers arrive. They slowly circle the anchorage before deciding to board Reflections’ fishing boat. They have a halibut fisheries guy on boat and an summer intern as well as the troopers. Apparently all goes well and the troopers are on the way in short order.
The captain of this charter boat says he saw 17 bears here last year about the same time. Oystercatcher from Sitka and we have been looking most of the day but seen none. We’ve even paddled as far up the stream that comes from the lake as possible (not far). In the late evening at high tide we are all out quietly paddling in the still waters. We are up the river when Oystercatcher sees a bear swim across the head of the bay. As we are landing the dink at Conepatus we see a mom and 2 cubs come out the the brush close to our stern. It’s a very brief look but fun nevertheless.
Light rain in the morning and evening but most of the day is quite nice. We do some boat chores taking advantage of the lake water that is plumbed to the dock. The shower area/cockpit get a thorough cleaning and Craig makes a wonderful mac and cheese. After the work is finished I take a walk up passed the beach landing on the lake. With some effort you can get to a vantage point above the lake and see most of it. There are numerous trails through the semi-alpine landscape. It’s apparent that a single crossing by humans disrupts the fragile turf and leaves a track that is very slow to heal. Besides the bald eagles and mew gulls I finally find a couple of Dark-eyed Juncoes and a Wilson’s Warbler.
After supper, I try out the bath house on the boardwalk above the floats. There are 3 separate rooms with large tubs (each big enough for 2 adults and deep enough to soak). The water from the spring is hot and there is no way to add cold water. You are asked to keep the water running while you use the tub. When you’re finished, you drain the tub by removing the piece of plastic pipe that’s keeps the tub almost full. Then you clean it with the provided brush and re-fill it so it’s ready for the next person. It’s all quite simple but also clean and efficient.
Today has been "sailboat day" with 9 on the dock by night fall. There are no commercial boats today but a group of 5 cruisers from Washington State have arrived. All spaces on the dock are full but several places to raft up still exist. In the late evening a fairly large motor cruised and a sailboat come in but decide to anchor in one of the coves.