Saturday, May 17, 2014


After we left the bathtubs at Baranof we made a short move up Chatham Strait to a deep bay into the west side of Admiralty Island.  The island boasts 1 grizzly bear per square mile (0.379 bears per square kilometer).  It sounds safer in metric.  I dunno about you but personally I’d much rather meet 0.379 of a grizzly bear than a whole bear.  I guess that just confirms that Canada is a safer country than the U.S.

We saw some humptyback whales in the distance that day but nothing up close.  Marilyn did however spot us a 5:00 bear.  He looked like maybe a last year’s cub.  He was out on the grassy beach to the east of us after we got anchored, rolling in the grass, wandering around, looking at us and then rolling in the grass again.  We watched him for about an hour before he wandered back into the bushes.

Yesterday morning we got an early start out of Hood Bay and came the rest of the way up Chatham Strait to Hoonah.  It was a little snotty in the Strait – nothing major but enough to put my crew to sleep all morning and part of the afternoon.  I never bothered turning the stabilizers on so it wasn’t that bad plus the waves were square on our nose all the way.  The fins work really well to take out side to side rolling but do absolutely nothing for pitching.  As soon as we started to turn back to the west at the top of Chatham Strait the waves started to ease up and before we had gone very far it was glassy smooth again. That’s when we started seeing whales.

I had talked to Chuck, former Gray Hawk owner and my spiritual guide for this trip, while we were entering Hood Bay.  He warned me that we were heading into heavy duty whale territory and his warning turned out to be bang on.  We had humpbacks everywhere we looked.  You have to look quick though because even when there’s lot of them they don’t stick around for long.

We had one (huge) pair that fed directly across our bow.  We were idling in neutral as they passed so both of us were out on deck watching them.  They were so close together on the surface that it appeared they must have been touching – I suppose they were probably less than 50 feet in front of the boat as they crossed our path.  Just as they got maybe 100 yards to starboard they dived and gave us that signature tail wave as they disappeared, only this time it was a perfect stereo tail wave.  I tried to take a bit of video footage but I doubt it amounted to much.  The rest of the time I just watched – there’s times when the camera can’t capture the scene anyway so you might as well make good memories.

Hoonah bills itself as a city but its a city they way Val Marie or Jedburgh or maybe Dalmeny are cities.  In other words – not a freakin’ chance is this a city.  But its a really cute place nonetheless.  We took a slip in the huge marina for two nights - $63 including power.  We need a few groceries and I had noticed that our flares were outdated so we went shopping as soon as we arrived.

Flares are a great big scam but the USCG loves to harass vessels and that’s about the first thing they look for to write up tickets during a boarding.  I guess its a simple enough infraction that any junior coastie can figure it out – look at today’s date, compare it to the expiry date on the flare – write ticket.  Hey --- even I could do that!  The first problem with the “system” is that the flares are manufactured with an expiry date so by the time we buy them, some of their so-called life is run out.  The ones I bought yesterday “expire” in the fall of 2016.  The second problem is that they don’t really “expire”.  I suppose maybe 30 year old flares might not be usable but even some of them probably still are if they have been kept dry.  There’s no allowance for the fact that we may be carrying 43 times the required number of flares and yes, all of them are “expired” but some of them “expired” two months ago.  When officialdom is carrying a ticket book then the rules are the rules, no matter how fundamentally stupid they may be.  Otherwise you’d have to trust officials to use common sense and nobody would want that now would they?

We’ve got two major events left on this trip so I hesitate to state that we are about to embark on the ultimate adventure of the trip but it may turn out that we are.  The two events are Glacier Bay and Rocky Pass.  I’ll deal with Rocky Pass first and come back to Glacier Bay.

When we leave Cow Bay destined for Vancouver we know we have to get out into Georgia Strait through Active Pass, Porlier Pass, Gabriola Pass or Dodd Narrows.  There’s no other way.  Similarly, when we left Ketchikan we had three choices to get to the northern part of southeast Alaska.  We could go through Wrangell Narrows, Rocky Pass or around Cape Decision.  On the chart below, Dry Passage appears to be a fourth route but it gets its name from the fact that it dries and the Coast Pilot says it should only be attempted at high water with local knowledge so we ruled it out.  On the way north we came through Wrangell Narrows but after my phone call with my spiritual guide I think we’ll go home through Rocky Pass.  It may turn out to be more exciting than Glacier Bay but we hope not.


Glacier Bay is a huge body of water and now its right over there.


After a visit to western Canada people are likely to ask (often breathlessly) “Did you go to Banff?”  Similarly Glacier Bay is the “go to” destination in southeast Alaska.  The National Parks Service only allows 25 boats at a time within the bay but we’re early enough that we don’t have to go through their ham-handed permitting process.  However when I phoned to check on the entry procedure the little chickie on the phone was adamant that we needed to call before entering the park.  I’m guessing that she’s not 100% in sync with this non-permit entry period so she made it perfectly clear that we WILL check in before we enter ‘her” park. 

I find myself reluctant to write as freely as I would like to about what we see as the rise of the US Police State.  Everywhere we turn we see evidence of increased interference and needless meddling in private life by the US Government.  One of the immediate effects of a police state is self-censorship, usually followed shortly by overt state censorship.  In my case that self-censorship is already active. 

We were talking yesterday about how our parents watched the decline of the British Empire during their lifetime but likely never really noticed it.  As Canadians we have ringside seats to watch the decline of the US Empire but we need to pay attention.  Nobody provided a play by play for the decline of the British Empire either.

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