JUNEAU to SITKA
A fjordic itinerary
You will find your yacht, Singawing, provisioned and ready to go in Auke Bay, just a short taxi ride north of The Juneau, Alaska airport. After departing the marina we will head south down the Gastineau Channel passing the bustling capital city waterfront. Take one last look at society because you won’t see it again for eight blissful days. As we make our way down Stephens Passage focus on the western shores as Admiralty Island has the highest density of grizzly bears in the world. This evening we will spend nestled in protected Taku Harbor under 2600 to 3700 foot peaks that rise strait out of the bay. After a delightful fresh salmon dinner, as you sip on that single malt or favorite glass of wine, notice how incredibly bright the stars are this far from the light pollution of the lower forty-eight.
After a morning row Singawing will reenter Stephens passage once again heading south. Today depending on ice conditions we will head up the infamous Tracy Arm. This fjord’s steep rocky walls lead the way to the North and South Sawyer glaciers. At times when dangerous ice prevents Singawing’s entry, we will explore this area in the kayaks or our inflatable. Surrounded by icebergs we’ll cautiously await the calving of the glacial wall. Massive waves can be caused when two hundred foot tall sections of ice drop into the inlet, so it is important to stay at a relatively safe distance. Any particulate that is suspended in the ice bergs or glacier wall probably became entombed in the time of the Roman Empire. Toting a chunk of glacial ice back for evening highballs, we begin our journey to the Point Ashley and Wood Spit Anchorage. After dinner while sitting on the deck, gaze up to the Sumdum Glacier as you sip your cocktail, remember the last time the ice chunks in your glass were in liquid form was 1500 years ago.
Today we head as deep into Endicott Arm as the ice will allow; our goal: Dawes Glacier. Some of the largest icebergs in Alaska can be expected here as this huge mass of ice regularly sloughs off building-size chunks. When calving occurs, up to twenty-five foot-tall swells can majestically roll out of the inlet, lifting everything in the way including boats and icebergs. Care must be taken to keep Singawing’s bow into these waves. After a few hours of calving time we’ll head back out the inlet and turn right into Fords Terror. If our timing is good we will meet the slack tide as we enter this unmatched, beautiful and isolated fjord. Once inside the narrows, whose currents can flow at up to fifteen knots, have your cameras ready. Several waterfalls tumble endlessly to their demise, black bears meander in and out of the forest onto the beach, eagles soar in the thermals created by the 5000 foot walls that border this amazing gash into the mainland. Having anchored in the west arm under a massive waterfall, feel free to take the dingy or kayak on a paddle. There is no hurry as we can spend up to three days exploring this magical place.
Fords Terror. Kayak, fish, shrimp, crab, relax, dine, row and explore.
Today we leave early and with the slack tide. Feel free to sleep, in order to diminish the tears on deck as we leave Fords Terror. There is no reason for sadness, however, because during a beautiful down-wind sail we’ll have a great chance of spotting and traveling with humpback or orca whales. If we are lucky we might witness the humpbacks synchronized bubble feeding, a method of collecting schools of fish behind a circular wall of bubbles produced by multiple whales rising to the surface. Tonight, weather permitting dinner will be cooked over a beach fire on our Swanker, a German swinging barbeque. The Brothers Islands offer a prime spot for an evening bonfire. Located on the north side of Frederick Sound at its confluence with Stephens Passage, this small island archipelago plays host to a myriad of wildlife and is ripe with exploration possibilities. Save up your favorite camp fire stories, the crew loves a good tale.
Today is no different from the last; a watchful eye on deck will spot another pod of whales. By this time in the cruise, sea lions, porpoises and bald eagles are commonplace. As we drift along side of breaching, surfacing, disappearing and reappearing humpback families, this five hour leg of our journey will seem too short. After leaving our aquatic entourage we’ll enter the narrow gap leading into the cliff ridged Red Bluff Bay. Anchorages can be found beneath two delightful waterfalls that drain any precipitation from thousands of feet above. Binoculars are always available, and should be taken advantage of, as grizzly bears frequent the low land sections of this wild and beautiful bay. Join the captain as he sets crab and prawn traps. Tonight, after fresh seafood smorgasbord, you can drift off to sleep, lured to dreams by the crashing waterfall just outside.
By this time, some may have developed sore muscles from all of the activities. There is no need to worry; today we’ll sooth our bodies back to the same relaxed state our minds have discovered. Just two hours north, lies one of Southeast Alaska’s greatest treasures. One hundred and four degree Baranof Warm Springs sits directly beside the crashing drainage creek from Baranof Lake. It is easy to lose time and sit in these springs for several hours. For those who wish to continue hiking up to the lake it is a short distance and well worth the effort. Some passengers may prefer more of a domesticated spa-like pool and these are available as well. Again this anchorage is also blessed with a dramatic crashing waterfall.
Continuing north up Chatham Strait, we have now put Admiralty Island on our starboard side. Remember to watch for big bears scouring the rocky beaches for dinner. To the port side a continuous barrage of wisp-like long waterfalls will greet us as we round every headland and point. Our destination today is Hanus Bay located on Peril Strait. After dropping lines in the water for king salmon and halibut, Singawing will nestle in behind Point Moses. For the eager among us an easy hike up to Lake Eva is a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon. The predominance of the color green painted everywhere by immense Sitka spruce, cedar, hemlock and fir trees will tomorrow give way to blue, as we easy our way through Serguis Narrows out into the vast Gulf of Alaska.
After running out Salisbury Sound into the ocean swell, we will for the last time see what the bountiful Alaskan waters can provide for tonight’s dinner. As the last lure is pulled out of its salty bath and the poles are all stored, we will head into Kalinin Bay for our last night at anchor. From this quaint bay with a wonderful view, a trail leads out to Sealion Cove. This weather-beaten and wild beach reminds us of what happens here when the wintery winds return and all of the cruise ships and pleasure vessels have headed south. The trees are shorter, sturdier and angled, braced against the prevailing wind direction. It is hard to imagine the storms this craggily forest has witnessed. Upon our return to the comfortable little ship that has been your home for the last week, cocktails, dinner, music and good cheer will cap off the evening.
With the last day of any cruising vacation sadness is experienced. However, we encourage this day not to be considered as the last day in Alaska, but rather the first of many rewarding northern adventures. Today we will sail down Neva Strait through Olga Strait and accompanied by eagles and porpoises into the bustling seaside town of Sitka, Alaska. Before leaving, we recommend checking out the totem park; it is truly not to be missed. As your flight departs the Sitka airport and climbs over snow capped Baranof Island, gaze out the window and try to retrace the nine amazing days you had aboard Singawing. See you next year!