The wind died over Thursday night, and remained calm as we got underway early, our running lights shining brightly in the predawn darkness.
Out in Hecate Strait a gentle swell was all that remained of the last several day’s ferocious wind, and we cruised happily along under a sky mottled with clouds. Shearwaters and phalaropes appeared as we drew away from the coast, a sure sign we were entering offshore waters! The shearwaters provide endless entertainment, coursing low over the wave tops, their wingtips sometimes skimming the surface, disappearing now and then into the troughs between the swells.
The only other boat we saw in the open waters was a single cruise ship, hurrying north up the middle of Hecate Strait towards shopping and all-you-can-eat buffets in far-away Ketchikan. They had just dipped below the northern horizon when off our bow a great commotion of birds swirled around a single point, a sure sign of activity in the water below. To our amazement emerging from beneath the birds came a massive pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins. At least 300 of the sleek creatures sped towards us, leaping clear of the water and twisting in the sunlight. The surround us, jetting from boat to boat in sudden bursts of speed that seemed to overtake them all at the same moment. The entire pod wheeled and turned as one., at times stretching into an advancing front, and just as suddenly contracting into a tight ball. Seeing a pod of this size, especially at such a close proximity, is a real rarity. For ten minutes they circled around our idling boats and then jetted off to the south, perhaps at the call of an unseen scout reporting a juicy school of fish. We pressed on the east, thrilled to have had such a great experience.
At last, the grey green shapes of islands appeared over the horizon dead ahead and we sailed into Hakai Sound, where sea otters lolled on the surface, expertly dismantling sea urchins and crabs. Small boats scooted here and there in search of salmon and halibut, and eagles soared far overhead.
Our anchorage in Pruth Bay was a secure one, and after a long day on the water it was a fine feeling to hear the anchor chain clank out of the locker and to feel the anchor grab firmly in the muddy bottom, and we retired to greet the oncoming evening.