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ADVENTURES

ALASKA: 2015 LEG 6 – GRACE HARBOR TO PENDER HARBOR

The coastline of the Malaspina Inlet is dotted with homesteads, from ramshackle huts that appear to be cobbled from driftwood to modern lodges with towering glass facades that flare in the broken sunlight.

A south breeze builds throughout the morning, and by lunchtime our bows are sending up sheets of spray which dapple the windows. Aquila swung wide towards the long coast of Texada Island seeking calmer seas and a different perspective, where they found a favorable current that added nearly two knots to their speed.

As a band of drizzle passed over us in mid-channel, captain Rich spied an enormous splash far off our bows, minutes later we all saw it, an enormous humpback whale launching itself clear of the white-capped surface. It began swimming south as we drew nearer, paralleling our route, plowing through the waves. The breeze whisked its exhalations away to the north as it swam. A small motorboat was stopped ahead in its path, and a wet-suited figure leapt from the boat with a waterproof camera as the whale dove to pass under them, emerging triumphantly a minute or two later to embrace the figure waiting in the boat.

Soon, the whale was lot from view in the chop, and we continued through clearing clouds in to Pender Harbor, a deep succession of bays linked together to form a protected inlet. Vacation homes surround the inlet, and a multitude of small marinas and docks line the waterway. A small sailing regatta finishes as we arrive, and later, on shore, we hear the drifting strains of violins performing at the local chamber music festival. The sun burns away the remaining clouds and the afternoon is sun-drenched. The parade of party boats and tan shoulders make rain-shrouded Alaska fell very far away indeed.

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