Alaska Cabin Fever

Come Hell or High Water (I’m getting off the boat)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

It took a couple of days for the conditions in Chatham Strait to improve, but our patience paid off and we got the break in the forecast we were looking for on Sunday. We upped anchor early, before 5 am, and made our way back out into the strait. The days are growing shorter now and we no longer have 24 hours of light but it’s still bright enough from 3 or 4 o’clock onward to see any debris in the water, even on overcast days like this one was.

With help from the current (which was supposed to be against us), we ticked 40 off miles fairly quickly and were approaching Ell Cove just as the wind started to build and the rain began to fall. It was disappointing. I’d been looking forward to getting off the boat and into the kayaks for days now. But under the current conditions, it would have to wait . . . something that’s been happening a lot lately.

As far as anchorages go, Ell Cove is pretty nice. Our favourite kind, in fact. Literally shaped like an ‘L’ it feels like it’s landlocked and whenever I look around, I struggle to find the entrance. Inside, the protection from Chatham Strait is excellent, though it would be a different story when the williwaws roar down the mountains. But for now, it’s cozy and still. It’s also popular.

With the rain keeping us inside, David and I talked about our plans for moving south. The weather is real a concern. We’ve now had 11 straight days of rain and have been hit with low after low all season long. It’s hard not to feel like we have a dark cloud following us around, especially when we heard on the radio that it was 72°F in Ketchikan. Meanwhile the barometer, which has been steady for days, is falling again so whatever fine weather we see, won’t last long.

Monday started off just like Sunday had ended – foggy, wet and cold – not what you would call prime summer conditions. My patience was wearing thin and I had to get off the boat before I killed someone (that would be David but for no reason other than he’s the only one with me). On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a difficult task, right? You want off the boat, then get off the boat – rain or shine. But there’s more to it than that. Going to shore isn’t always the best option in Alaska, not with brown bears in the area. We didn’t see any in Ell Cove, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one eating berries somewhere close by . . . or taking a nap (there wasn’t). More importantly though, there isn’t much shore to go to. Not here anyway. 

Kayaks are our preferred method of exploration these days, but they’re inflatable and not made to handle much more than 15 knots of breeze and a ripple on the water. Regardless of what was happening in Chatham Strait, it was calm inside Ell Cove; so even if I only got to circumnavigate the half-dozen boats inside the anchorage, I was going.

Mother Nature was kind enough to offer a break in the weather in the afternoon and at one o’clock I declared my intentions to David and the world – I was getting off the boat! Hallelujah! Amen! There is a god! And all that jazz. And then it started to rain. Seriously?

It didn’t matter. Cabin fever had won out and I needed to get off. Besides, I had my foulies on and by the time I finished launching my kayak, the rain had stopped and we only had a shower or two the rest of the day.

I left David on Cambria to sort himself and his kayak out and made my way into Chatham Strait. It was flat calm so I paddled over to Kasnyku Falls, lingering off the 300-foot cascade in hopes he would show. I finally gave up and started towards Hidden Falls when saw him. He’d been chatting with a local boat (out of Petersburg, I think) who told him the weather had been rotten, or more rotten than usual, this summer – as if there were any doubt.

I carried on without him but never made it to Hidden Falls* – I’m too easily distracted for that. But I did see humpback whales breaching in the distance . . . or at least I heard the “lightening cracks” and saw the giant splashes that followed. I almost caught a salmon the old-fashion way (by having it jump straight into my kayak). And I found a lovely white, sand beach where I came under attack by seagulls protecting their young. Simply put, it was a GREAT day and went a long way to erase the previous eleven.

* We’d later learn from friends that if we had gone over to Hidden Falls (just to the north of Ell Cove), we could have watched the brown bears fish and play in the creek.

Note: This blog was written on Monday, 20 July 2015.

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  1. Beautiful photos! Hope the weather clears for you.

  2. Cheers, Viki! I'll say this for Alaska, the weather might be rough but the scenery is beautiful.