Love the ice sculptures

Last Prince William Sounds Ice and first SE Alaska Images

SE Alaska

On July 9 we left on a 3,5 day passage to SE Alaska. We did get a bit over a day of sailing out of this passage. The weather was beautiful in the last 12hrs we spent motoring through Prince William Sound (PWS) before we reached the Golf of Alaska. We had a stunning sunset with clear views all the way down to Kodiak Island, a rare view, just like when we arrived in Alaska and also at PWS.
We arrived in SE Alaska, at the town Elfin Cove on Chichagof Island in fog and drizzle, rafting up with a sailing vessel.
Elfin Cove is a pretty little place on a little island with a walkway around. It has a small store which is cheaper than all the big stores we've been to in the last 2 months. Also a laundry (also cheaper), showers, post office, school, gift shop and most important: nice people. During summer season there are about 40 people, in the winter it's only 5. Lots of fishing vessels pull into the harbor in summer, get gas, laundry, food, shower etc. Also there are two big lodges for tourists who want to do fishing. Really nice place.
A couple of days and anchorages later we pulled into the harbour of Tennakee Springs. You can go to a natural hot spring pool which has a bath house built around it. The hours of the day are split between men and women. Luckily when Tina and I got there it was 5 min before women time. We met nice local ladies there. One talked the most, she is a musician. Beautiful voice. She sings and plays mostly string instruments. We even visited her in her house later. Very nice and local. Most of the houses are built over water on stilts and very old. And expensive. One house is on sale for 400.000$. Decent size, but not huge. In a town which counts 60 people, the only "street" is a path and really all there is is that spring. Ferry comes twice a week and a regular plane service exists between there and Juneau. A lovely little town though where I could have easily stayed a week. Peacefully calm. Great bay view in front of forest.
Now we're in Sitka, the biggest place in long. Already too big for my taste. And still small :-) "Downtown" with a couple of shops for all the cruiseship tourists is only a 10min walk. The supermarket here is smaller than Valdez, Seward or Kodiak! There is also a salmon hatchery, but it is small and by far not as cool as the other ones, especially Kitoi. And not a good location. No bear will come here. Not good for my photography...
Tomorrow our alaskan sailing friends are coming aboard for 8 days. Very much looking forward to that!!


Love my animals

Love the ice

Major Ice breakout at Columbia glacier today

I went back to Columbia glacier today, with a tour that took me all the way to the face. We drove along the whole face for an hour. Once almost everybody was back inside (cold from rain and freezing) and I was about to give up hope a major breakout happened and I got it all on the camera! That was luck. I was amazed that this big, wide glacier, which has so many huge floating ice breakoffs (still too small to be icebergs, but when they come down, like the one I saw, they are bigger than Alita) did nothing for an hour. I could not even hear one crack. Weird. All the other glaciers we've been to cracked the whole time (mostly interior). But, Columbia is different. I have to say though, that all the other glaciers were basically sitting on land and their front moraine while Columbia is about 700ft deep in the water at his face. So a lot of break offs come from underneath and just pop up (I saw a small one pop up). And the breakout I saw today was so big it fell over a bit and then sank into the water before it came into free fall….Still very amazing. 


Bears and Shrimps

We started going after shrimp. On our first try we got 3, on the second one we got one. The shrimp here are quite big, like small lobsters. And as we learned our friends pulled out between 2 and 6 each time, sometimes nothing. So we're not bad with our catch. Still 3 shrimp - let alone one - is barely enough to add some taste to lunch. But we are really happy about our first catch. Neither of us has ever had shrimp directly out of the water. So good.

We always anchor near streams which possibly have salmon so that Marcus can fish and I can take photos of jumping salmon. And we are always waiting for bears. In each of the last anchorages one young bear came out at low tide. Happy to see him we sat and waited hoping he'd go after salmon. But what are they doing instead?? Eat GRASS!!! We still can't believe that. They hang out in the thick long grass and eat it. At least I got funny shots with the grass hanging out their mouth. But really, I am loosing it. Today we thought we're smarter. Get a fish, put it there for him and see what happens. Luckily two salmon were on a self-killing trip making their way up to the dry by hopping until there was so little water left they eventually died. And that was in the stream and part close to where the bear then showed up. But, the bear did not even start looking for fish. He stood there, looked over the water where salmon were jumping and then turned and started eating grass! Two salmo
n near where he stood and he eats GRASS. Argh. Must be the green movement hit the bears as well....
Of course, today I could have finally taken a picture in fairly good light, without rain.

I can't believe how calm it is here in Prince Williams Sound. Always flat mirror water at the anchorages, not one breeze. Unless it's raining. Today was the first nice day in a week. Yes, we just had one week of rain and drizzle, at least heavy fog or thick clouds. Most of the time though at least drizzling. Which did not keep us from walking up the waterfall, fish or do rain photography. :-) But hey, it's so nice to have a beautiful day, just slightly overcast. Perfect for another glacier visit, which we did today. A very beautiful glacier, the only advancing one in Prince Williams, one of 6 in Alaska- out of over 100.000 glaciers. So, very special.
So, we keep on enjoying Alaska, very much!!


Big scale fishing

We are so glad we came here yesterday and that Marcus got those 6 pink salmon. Today two fishing boats are fishing all the salmon out on behalf of the hatchery. The sale of these makes the budget for next year. The fishing boats put out a huge net at the places where the salmon group up, so by rivers and stream, one of which is right behind us. They circle the net and then have a small boat pulling the fishing boat in circles (so they don't catch the line). Once the circle is closed they make it smaller and smaller by pulling the outer lines up until it is so small that all you see is salmon in the net. Then the collection barge comes. They tie up to it and then with a gigantic vacuum hose they vacuum the fish out of the net (that's still in the water) onto a slide where the fish slide down via a conveyer belt into the big storage room under deck. Just in that little cove behind us they must have gotten tons is salmon, at least over 100.000 pcs. That's how Marcus could get so
many yesterday, the bay was just full. Had I known this is coming I would have let him go fishing first before heading off to the bears. But, we didn't know.
So I got more pictures and he is out trying to catch one of the left-overs. Today I got a mother with two little baby bears. And a bigger one (maybe a year old) fishing. I watched that one bear for a long time from a secure standpoint behind the electric fence. All he wanted is females for their eggs. He pulled one out, squeezed the eggs out, left it on the side and pulled the next one out. Now let's talk about food waste. They don't eat the whole fish. The only other parts besides the kaviar that I saw him eat was the eyes and the cheeks.
The mom with the little ones left once she smelled me. But I could see them far away at the stream. They walked down, the little ones behind mom. Then they had to sit and wait (which they did) until mom had a fish. Then the three of them (with the fish in mom's mouth) left for the bush to eat the salmon. Once they were done, the whole thing repeated. Oh the little ones are soso cute....
We're gonna move on today. But we loved our stop.

Salmon and black bear

After 2 days in the shoestring bay on SE Esther Island we moved to the Esther Bay with its hatchery. I was hoping to see bears here. The hatchery calls itself the biggest hatchery of North America, but that information must be old. Kitoi hatchery in Kodiak is bigger, they do double the amount of fish with the same staff. Anyways, it's still a rainy day. The cruising guide says nothing about good bear sight and Marcus does not want to be here where it's less secluded. We gave it a try anyways. Looking through the binoculars when we first came in at first I did not see anything. At the second look I was able to make out 4 black bears. That convinced Marcus and so we went and anchored at the back of the bay. I immediately put my raincoat on, put the camera's raincoat on as well, jumped into the Dinghy and motored back to the Hatchery, close to the barricade to the basin where they collect all the salmon before leading them to the basins where they wait to be killed and taken the
eggs (they would die anyways once they lay the eggs).
I saw and photographed jumping salmons as well as feeding sea lions, gulls, sea otters and black bears. Yes, I finally got to watch bears eating salmon!!!
Three employees of the hatchery came down to the pier and started fishing. I drove over to chat with them and ask for permission to go to land to get a bit closer to the bears. Their fishing was so successful I checked out how they do it. It turns out they use fly fishing gear. I went back and told Marcus, who, despite the rain still going on, grabbed his fly fishing gear, left in the Dinghy and came back with 6 pink salmon!! The freezer is full. He wants to go again
Tomorrow (as I want to go take pictures again with hopefully more light and less rain). I will have to can some fish, hope it works with my equipment. I like this place here, there is lots of life. I am always happy if I see animals. The whole evening already two sea lions have been swimming around Alita. Fun to hear them. I love Alaska. And with the sight of beaaaaaars, I don't even care about rain.


Another gorgeous day

Well, we had an amazing "night". I spent half if it outside taking pictures. Then again at sunrise. You have to know we have 19.2hrs if sunshine (daylight) these days. So I had very little sleep, but well worth it. So calm, so beautiful. I waited for stars, but it was a bit hazy and not really dark enough. I'll set my alarm for 2.30 tomorrow morning to see if I get something. We're at the same amazing anchorage after a full glacier day. Water is still flat calm, a beautiful mirror. Alita is hardly moving, that's why I can even think of taking night shots from the boat. Once in a while it works.
This morning I paddled Wickie, my kajak, over to the flat underneath the anchorage glacier. This glacier is fed by three glacier fields. But, as most of them, not much is left. This face here is covered in rocks and dirt, but is still about 100m high. I walked over the flat and up a hill for a couple of meters to get a good view of the ice cave. Boy it's huge. And lots of break-offs lying around. The melting ice there feeds a strong river that makes its way through the bed. Because of all the dirt, gravel and sand dissolved in the water those ways get blocked from time to time and then the water makes itself a nee path. Even in the firm (do you thing) gravel flatland you can hear water flowing somewhere underneath, which is a bit spooky, like walking over those lava fields. You never know what'd underneath.
The view was great and it was fun to paddle around. If only I hadn't lost my sun glasses there....
The rest of the day (noon to 6pm) we spent checking out these other two glaciers here at Harimans Fjord. The first one,
fed by the roaring glacier, releases lots if big ice chunks. We still managed to get all the way to the front, it's not too bad to drive around those big chunks. Many small ones would be worse. Too bad nothing big happened while we had the front row seat. Only once we had left a huge chunk came down. I saw the waves...A lot of tour boats are coming and going to that one. But we still managed to get some (Charly) time on our own.

In the afternoon we drove up to Hariman's glacier. It is wider, not as high because it is coming long ways out instead of that steep drop. In terms of construction it was the most beautiful one so far. Lots of blue ice peaks. Lots. Beautiful colour, with light coming from behind and thus shining through. Marcus drove all the way up to it, we were maybe 50m away, right in front of its morray, that it's just building. Because its end is already on solid ground (the gravel that he has pushed there), it's no danger to get that close. There can't be any wave. But, nothing broke off- to my disappointment. However it was just amazingly beautiful to just sit there in Alita, float with motor off, enjoy evening sun and just look at the glacier and be grateful for that opportunity and that another blue sky sunshine day. I probably got too much sun today....AMAZING. Alaska, you've got my heart.



I thought by now we've seen it all. But we hadn't until we arrived at our current anchorage. Ok, the weather is doing its best, blue sky and sunshine. Which did not always seem like that. When we left this morning to come up here to the glaciers in the northwest of Prince William Sound we came into fog, thick fog. I wanted to stop and go to an anchorage, I didn't believe it would get better again. But Marcus kept on going and said, if there is one place where the weather is still nice, it's up there. A front is moving in and a low behind. That is going to bring us bad weather for a while. In most parts it starts raining tomorrow, but it's supposed to be nice most of the day tomorrow where we are. You can see the current position if you follow the link on the page "Where is Alita". After a while, when we drove into a tiny passage between islands, the fog got away. We met it again once we exited that passage. The fog was moving east to west in the big passage. We once again dug
in, even had to turn the radar on. But then is cleared again and with open mouths we got to see the most amazing panoramic view with flat mirror water and all the high mountains and glaciers in front of us and to our sides. We're now anchored at the very northwestern part, inmidst 6 glaciers with an amazing ice view all around Alita. We're right at the foot of one of the glaciers. The front is old and covered with gravel and rock and at first glance one thinks its only rock and gravel. But it's a lot of ice underneath. Because we never know how high that front is we are always wrong in guessing the distance and height. So what to me looks like 150-200ft high and 1/3 of a mile away seems to be about 350ft high and nearly a mile away. It tool Charly for ever to get there and I had to fly 140m up. Spectacular. Between us and the front is some lagoon, then a moray of gravel and then a complex system of little rivers flowing down from the big waterfalls made up of water coming o
ut underneath this huge ice field at a big ice cave. Just amazing! We want to walk there a bit tomorrow - no worries, far enough so that no ice will ever hit us should the glacier calf throw down ice.
I don't think I can sleep tonight, have to watch all the shades of light here. This is THE most beautiful anchorage in all these 6 years of traveling. Sorry, it just kicked Caleta Beaulieu (Patagonia -Chile) from its gold position, although that was spectacular and the view in the morning with blue sky and sunshine amazing.
Soso happy to be here. No wave, no wind. Just flies and mosquitos and the sound of the waterfalls - and some eagles.


Prince William Sound

So we made it to the famous Prince William Sound (PWS) after a wonderful time in the Kenai National Reserve where we visited nearly all glaciers. We couldn't be more lucky these days. once e arrived here, the clouds lifted and moved away. Glassy water with little swell in the evening sun welcomed us and PWS put on a special show for us: feeding humpback whales. I got to shot "THE" photos. May favorite ones in a long time. Sorry bears. But feeding whales, with their mouth wide open and ever detail visible in the picture, is just AMAZING. Never had I seen feeing whales before. We watched them for a while, until they probably stopped. I am so thankful I bought a bigger lens for Alaska. I use the 300mm a lot, sometimes even with an extender to make it 4540mm. That's the maximum you can hold by hand.
So that evening was special. Next morning I was able to take a picture of a salmon jumping. Now that's a rar chance as well. boy. Today i got sea otter with a little one on top. And Marcus already caught two salmons. So ever since we got here, we've been eating salmons.
The fun part is, that because we're trawling for salmon, we're going really slow. This allows us to enjoy nature even more. Yesterday we were sailing so slow and quietly, that a sleeing otter did not hear us come. We did not know until we were really close if it's an otter or a tree in the water (there are many floating logs here -next to all that kelp). When that cute little bouncing thing was at the hight of the bow of Alita and about 5m to the side, he opened his eyes and was so shocked by the situation he immediately rolled around, flapped in the water and dove down. Oh poor guy. Sorry to have scared him. But we really couldn't tell, even with the long lens. But his reaction was so funny we laughed for a while.

Today we passed whale bay with no success in seeing whales and then drove up Icy Bay. Yes, there is lots of ice, coming from two glaciers. And there are some quite big ice logs amoung them. We had read that the bigger one of the glaciers, Chenaga glacier, does a lot of calving of biigger chunks, even real icebergs. And that it can be impossible to enter the bay as there is a tighter pass to it where all the ice gets stuck in specific currents. And once you're in, it can happen that the ice closes then and you have to wait for a couple of days to get out. Well, we got in well and it started closing a bit, but the chunks were not soooo big. I was not scared, in the worst case i would have taken the dinghy and pushed the ice away. But I understand that Marcus worried a bit and did not want to stay in there too long. So after a short round within the ice limits we drove tooutside the ice line (but still inside the bay). Our feeling told us we're about half a mile away from the gl
acier. Until I flew my drone. I gave up after one mile and turned around. The glacier was still far out. I guess about 2,2 miles from our position. but it already looked so biig. There were lots of seals on the ice chunks and it was fun filming them with the drone and with my camera. Also I love the picture of seals on a chunk of ice with the big glacier in the background. Knowing that the distance from the seals to the ice front was still about 3/4 of a mile away makes the ice even more bombastic. Too bad we did not drive up to the ice today, but we have done it already twice at other glaciers and did not want to risk anything with the ice today. The others did by far not have as much ice around them. Not until right before them.

All anchorages here are CALM. I don't even feel I am on a boat. But that's also because of our super calm weather. No or little wind. And because the anchorages here are super protected. Like in Patagonia. What I love is that we do not need land lines here! Yay.

So long, we keep on enjoying our senstational time in the land of high contrasts with super white and blue glaciers and rich green landscapes.

Ah, I almost forgot: we saw our first black bears. I even got a picture this morning, although it was far away. Cute litte thing. Very shy.


Airplane incident

Two days ago, it was a day where the rain just kept pouring down, we peacefully remained at our anchorage. Late morning a waterplane came in, landed besides us and drove to the beach. You have to know we were in the middle of nowhere, in one of the Fjords, by far no town or no other person. We were wondering what they are doing, especially as the started drifting. When the drifted by Alita I sent Marcus to ask them iif they need help. So the men drove over bit the two young guys said they are ok, just waiting for better weather. That was an interesting response considering the weather report let us only hope for a very short period of no rain the next morning. But the boys could not wait. About 20min later they started the engine and flew away towards the mountains, but they did not make height. About 30min later I happened to look out of our window and I saw this plane driving by on the water really close. They circled us, trying to communicate because their radio on board
does not have the boating frequency. Marcus stepped out (still in pouring rain and no sight) and they asked us for fuel. Unfortunately we just had little Dinghy fuel, but that was better than nothing. Two young boys in their and 20s or early 30s had either not planned their trip right or any other problem. They had no money on them, no food, just a bit of water. We tied them to our Dinghy (as a fender inbetween) when Marcus gave them fuel and I offered them something to eat. First their eyes widened in hope of food but they responded they had not much money (15$ as it turned out. I went downstairs, grabbed a bag, put two apples, two bananas and a bag of chips in it. Oh they were so happy. We did not take money as they would need it if they ever made it to a town. They were going to fly along the coast over the water instead of the short way over the mountains. I hope it worked. We have their phone number and will call once we can- just to check how the story ended. These guy
s were soaking wet. I hope all went well. It was very funny to have a little airplane tied to Alita's stern..


Kenai Peninsula

So we made it to Kenai Peninsula two days ago late in the evening. We had a beautiful sail over from Afognak Island in good wind, blie skies and sunshine. Arriving at Kenai we entered thick fog, which in the meantime changed to rain and thick clouds. We're in this beautiful area full of glaciers coming down but we can't see them. We got a glimpse of "Split Glacier" yesterday as a very small part of yesterday's fog opened at the glacier for a while. But now the weather is really bad and as it looks now it will be for a couple of days and we don't expect to see anything even until we get to Seward to deliver our guests.