ALASKA: LEG 5 – VALDEZ TO SHEEP BAY | NW Explorations
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ALASKA: LEG 5 – VALDEZ TO SHEEP BAY

July 22, 2016

A foggy morning in Valdez Arm kept the fleet close together as we navigated our way out of the entrance. Outside the narrows the ceiling lifted and the mountains again showed their faces. The sharp-eyed crew of Patos spotted a big black bear ambling along the beach as we entered Tatitlek Narrows. The bear was evidently more interested in fresh salmon and ripe huckleberries than in watching us watch him and soon disappeared into the trees, leaving us to continue the scenic trip around Knowles Head, across wide Port Gravina, and on into Sheep Bay.

Sheep Bay is surrounded by some of the prettiest country in Alaska. Sahlin Falls drops off the mountains where mountain goats roam, otters and harbor seals bask in the calm waters, and great schools of salmon dart furtively through the shallows. When the tide is right, a careful skiff driver can ride the rushing currents into the secluded tidal lagoon behind the bay, which is the kind of natural cathedral that inspires a reverent silence in all who enter. Mist rises off the water, a hundred eagles sit silent in the treetops waiting to strike at the masses of salmon congregating at the river mouth. We spend an hour moving slowly around the perimeter of the lagoon, the seals and otters passing only feet from our boat while the mother ducks with ducklings in tow paddle under the shadows of overhanging trees.

In the latter parts of the evening Deception hosts a potluck. Tomorrow we will be returning to Cordova before setting out across the Gulf of Alaska, and a few of our crew members will be leaving, and a few new members will be joining us, so this evening serves as an occasion to say goodbye to those that are leaving and to celebrate the great journey we’ve had so far.

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