Dawn broke on another mild and calm morning today in the protected waters around the government dock in Meyers Chuck. As Ray and Bill from Telita and Aquila cooked up the night’s catch of Dungeness crab, local resident and expert baker Donna brought smiles to everybody’s faces when she came down to the dock at seven with a basket piled high with her world class butterhorns still warm from the oven.
While we originally planned to depart at 9 am, due to unfortunate unforeseen circumstances Ajax crew member Preston was obligated to depart the flotilla. We decided to wait as a group for the floatplane to see him off, and by 10:30am were rewarded for our patience by the sight of a truly skilled Alaska bush pilot setting his floatplane down between the jagged rocks at the south end of the cove before taxiing over to the floatplane dock. We wish Preston all the best and are sorry to see him go! As the roar of the departing seaplane faded into the distance we cast off lines and sent the boats out into Clarence strait to start the 22 mile transit to Santa Anna Inlet.
Steaming around Lemesurier Point against a light northwest breeze, we rounded the corner into Ernest Sound, welcomed by a bald eagle standing sentinel atop Lemly Rock. Excited at the prospect of finding marine mammals in these waters the fleet spread apart to increase our chances of spotting wildlife. As the chop of Clarence Strait fell away to the calm waters of the sound, the crews of Navigator and Aquila were quick to notice several small groups of Dall’s Porpoise and Pacific White-Sided Dolphins which rocketed towards us along the nearly mirror surface of the sea to ride our bow waves and surf and leap into the sun in our wakes. After nearly half an hour of play the dolphins and porpoises peeled off, no doubt towards their intended anchorage while we carried on towards our own. As the sound began to narrow, marbled murrelets and pacific loons dove around us. Approaching the tiny diminutive Easterly Island we were delighted to find a group of nearly 75 Steller Sea Lions hauled out on the steep limestone shore in the dappled sunlight. We slowed to appreciate these impressive animals and our cabins filled with choruses of their raucous grunts and squeals. Occasionally an individual sea lion launched itself in a clumsy dive from the rocks, landing in the water below with a resounding splash.
We continued on, threading between Deer and Change Islands just in time to see a fisherman pull a 20lb halibut into his boat! Near one o’clock we nosed our way into the steep-banked mouth of Santa Anna Inlet, motoring towards the head of the bay to find a suitable anchorage. Ajax rafted along the starboard side of the lead boat Deception while everyone else found their own beautiful spot in the calm waters. With the warm afternoon begging to be taken advantage of, everyone’s dinghy was soon in the water, followed soon after by intrepid swimmers Sarah and Frank from Telita who happily swam the considerable distances back and forth across the inlet and from boat to boat in the chilly water. Spurred on by their brave example, Larry from Ajax, Greg and Rowan from Deception, Bo and Kelsey from Navigator, and Rik from Aquila soon followed suit.
While much of the group explored the rusted remains of an abandoned 1900’s salmon cannery near the head of the bay, Ray and Bill from Aquila cruised back into the anchorage with a gorgeous good-sized Yellow eye Rockfish for dinner, a testament to the bounty of these northern waters.
The colors of another fabulous sunset hung in the sky until well after 10 pm, reflected almost perfectly in the dead calm waters of the inlet. Snug in their bunks, the mother goose crew members drifted to sleep, no doubt already dreaming of tomorrow’s adventures.