Venture Blog 2: From Auke Bay To Close By Sitka
Venture re-visits SE Alaska. June 2022.
Blog 2 From Auke Bay To Close By Sitka
The main place of interest in this blog arises from our last minute decision to re-visit infamous Lituya Bay located off the Gulf of Alaska about 40 miles north of Cape Spencer. A detailed account of the history of this bay can be viewed on my video “Venture to Lituya Bay” made after the first trip we made to this beguiling destination in 2013.
This blog begins in Auke Bay which is a few miles by road from Juneau but several hours by boat as the sea route requires you to go all around Douglas Island to get from one to the other.
June 20th Monday
For the first time in ages we are able to lie abed until 0700 which is quite a luxury. Chris and Christine head off to do massive grocery shopping at Fred Myers. I spend the day turning my journal into my first blog and sending it on its way .
June 21st Tuesday
I select and transmit to a few photos for the blog I sent yesterday. This takes pretty well the whole morning including selecting the photos, capturing a still from video, adjusting the size and uploading.
Chris sets out to see whether he could find a shop which could remove the original magnet from the anchor windlass chain counter and replace it with a new one. One problem is that original magnet is 10mm diameter and we can only obtain non-metric sizes here.
We go out to dinner at a Thai restaurant. It was a long walk to the marina ramp.
June 22nd Wednesday
Chris spends more time and makes a couple of phone calls to Kevin at Delta but despite all his efforts is still not able to get the chain counter to work reliably. We use very high quality s/s anchor chain from Germany but it does not readily accept paint and it proves very difficult to keep painted length markers on it. It is imperative we know how much chain has been let out so we rely on the chain counter. We decide to order another sensor for our next guest to bring with him when he joins us in Sitka. In the meantime, we decide to install different colors of cable ties onto the chain at 50ft intervals using a 50ft length of marked line to let out with the chain to measure the lengths.
The Riviera adjacent to us moved out in the morning so with it out of the way, I am able to get better photos of Venture. Chris and Christine head out for another major provisioning mission. We need to have sufficient food on board to last four people for four weeks.
(Seen below: Venture moored in Auke Bay.)
Chris went to Juneau airport to pick up Steve D’Antonio whose plane arrives at 9.06 pm. We sit up and chat until about 10.45.
(Seen below: View of marina in Auke Bay.)
June 23rd Thursday
Really beautiful weather today. Sunny and a little warmer with a view of the snowy mountains.
Christine goes for her usual morning walk while Chris starts the installation of the Starlift which Steve has brought with him but he finds he needs some hose clips of a smaller size than we have on board so he goes into town to get some. With these in hand and installation complete, Steve tries to fire up the Starlink but without success. We knew we were outside the published coverage area so is not unexpected but we had been hoping otherwise.
June 24th Friday
We arise just after 0600 and leave for the fuel dock at 0735. We take on 475 usg @ $5.52 per gallon. We depart Auke Bay fuel dock at 0810. We pass the small town of Hoona which has three cruise ships moored at its docks. We also notice new facilities such as a cable car with gondolas rising high up into mist-shrouded mountains and what has been billed as the fastest zip line in the world. We continue past Hoona into Port Frederick and anchor in the North Bight of Neka Bay. During the day the clouds dissipate and turn into a beautiful evening with distant peaks reflected in still waters.
June 25th Saturday
Up anchor 0833. We retrace our route out of the anchorage and over the glassy waters of Port Frederick towards Hoonah.
(Seen below: Drone shot of Venture underway in Frederick Sound.)
Chris suggests this would be a good opportunity for a drone shot of Venture proceeding through mirror still waters but the surface is ruffled by the time the drone takes to the air. We have cell phone coverage off Hoona but not sufficient to connect to the internet. We turn left into Icy Strait and need to cross to the other side to stay out of the way of a small cruise ship. We have distant views of the magnificent coastal mountains. We pass Lemesurier Island and are heading for Dundas as our evening’s destination when Chris suggests we take advantage of the rare calm conditions and head instead to Lituya Bay. After some discussion we decide to at least take a look at the sea conditions in the Gulf. We could already just see Cape Spencer light house in the distance through binoculars. So…. sharp left turn into Cross Strait and we head towards the open waters which are already within line of sight from our present position. When we reach the open sea, the sky is a clear blue but the wind is gusting to 20 knots from the north-east - our direction of travel! We decide to proceed but we will arrive too early at the tricky entrance into Lituya Bay some forty miles away so we turn into Dick’s Arm which appears on the chart to be dramatically narrow with steep contours on either side. It turns out to be a lovely spot extremely peaceful compared the boisterous conditions outside its narrow rock-strewn entrance. We anchor at the end of the inlet and enjoy an early afternoon tea while we wait so that we will arrive off the entrance to Lituya bay at around slack water at 2200. On the way back out of the Dicks Arm we spot a mother brown bear with two cubs. One stood up to get a better view of us but his mother paid us no attention and continues browsing on sedge grass.
(Seen below: Mother brown bear with cub in Dick’s Arm inlet.)
The weather is against us and the seas are choppy with volumes of wind-blown spray hurling itself against the windshield. A commercial fish boat also heading north behind us calls on radio. He is heading to Valdez in Prince William Sound so he has a long way to go. The coastal mountains are staggeringly beautiful and dominated by Mount FaIrweather which rises 15,300 feet straight up from the sea.
(See below: Mount Fairweather seen from Venture.)
We pass LePerouse glacier - named after the French Admiral who in 1786 suffered a calamity in Lituya Bay. It is hard to stop taking photos and video. Finally we arrive off the entrance to Lituya Bay marked by a couple of conical hills named The Paps. The seas are somewhat rough and the far range marker is not visible but we have no problems following the course on the chart. We drop anchor at 2200 just ahead of sunset officially listed at 2223.
(Seen below: Venture at anchor in Lituya Bay.)
Massive snow capped mountains dominate the bay but the sunset produced no color. We have the bay to entirely to ourselves. Few people visit this place with its fearsome reputation. Mist slowly steals across the water concealing the mountains from our view. We cover 107.4 nm today.
June 26th Sunday
It is very chilly overnight and we awake to find ourselves embraced in a curtain of solid mist. This gradually clears to reveal the breath-taking mountains rendered even more dramatic wearing a shawl of mist. During the day we make several expeditions in the tender throughout the bay including a visit to the colony of black footed kittiwakes which nest on the cliffs at the southern end of Cenotaph Island.
(Seen below: Black footed kitiwakes on Cenotaph Island, Lituya Bay.)
Later, everyone other than myself went ashore at the site of the massive rock fall which had caused the 1958 record breaking tidal wave. Sixty-four years later the tree line marking the height of the wave can still be clearly seen.
(Seen below: Mountains hidden in clouds - Lituya Bay.)
June 27th Monday
We again awake to thick mist but this time it hangs about 600 ft above the water. We raise the anchor at 0837. Steve drives the big tender down to La Chausee Spit and we drive Venture down to what is shown on the chart as an Anchorage in the same area. Here we drop the anchor but there is quite a swell causing to Venture roll back and forth. The plan was for us all to take the tender to the shore and for the others to land and me to take the tender back to the boat. The others would then cross the spit to the gulf side for some beach combing while I remained on the boat. However we could not find a safe place to land so we were heading back to the beach area when we spot first a pair of herons and then a mother bear with two small cubs who were cavorting and racing back and forth along on the only rock-free piece of beach among the rocks. We stop the tender to watch and, although still well off the beach, the mother bear eventually spot us and continues along rocky area of beach. By now we decide not to go ahead with beach landing and start to return to Venture when Chris spots a large male bear on beach following well behind the mother and cubs.
We decide to leave right away even though tide is flooding as the entrance looks ok. We have no problems and the entrance is not unduly rough. Once through, our journey south is comfortable with the wind and seas now from aft.
The coastal mountains are initially hidden behind a blanket of mist which dissipates over a relatively short period of time to appear in all their magnificence. As we draw near Cape Spencer lighthouse we pick up a cell phone signal as much as 2 bars with the phone placed in the pilothouse. We continue south with wind and waves slightly on the beam and anchor in the North Arm of Takanik Bay on Yakobi Island which is separated from Chichagof Island by narrow Lisianski inlet. It is overcast but blissfully calm even though the winds outside are blowing at a boisterous 18 knots.
June 28th Tuesday
Up anchor at 0856 we leave the protection of the bay and head out into a turbulent Gulf of Alaska. Initially the waves are somewhat on the beam but this improves as we turn more south. We stay well offshore and quickly lose sight of land in the mist. While well out to sea we see a charter fish boat stationary and rolling in the waves with several people standing in the cockpit and one at the bow fishing.It seems to me to be a most uncomfortable pastime!
The first sight of land are the white of breakers through the mist. We make our way into Salisbury Sound and anchor in Kalinan Bay on Kruzof Island at 1345. There are three other boats in the bay.
June 29th Wednesday
We awake to another misty morning. I stay aboard to work on this blog while the others go ashore in the small tender with its electric outboard to do some beach combing along the rocky shore. We do not get underway until nearly noon as we only have a short distance to go to our next anchorage in an un-named bay on Magoun Island about nine miles north of Sitka. We have used this anchorage on two previous occasions and intend to remain here for a couple of days.
(Seen below: Venture anchored in un-named bay on Magoun Island.)
June 30th Thursday
A restful day spent in one calm and secluded spot. We have tentative cell phone coverage so are able to catch up with e-mails and limited internet. Christine and Steve go ashore to bash their way through dense forest. Chris catches up with maintenance issues and I spend more time on this blog plus some cooking. The skies are clearing and there are patches of blue.
Tomorrow we head for Sitka.
Previous Updates To This Blog:
May 2022: Venture Re-Visits Southeast Alaska
Early July 2022: Circumnavigation Of Baranof Island
Late July 2022: Visiting Prince Of Wales Island