The morning broke with flat calm water, little wind, light intermittent sprinkles and everyone excited about the upcoming adventure. As we departed Sitka at 9:00, the beautifully symmetric volcanic cone of Mount Edgecombe was clearly visible on southern Kruzof Island. Eagles, ravens and gulls accompanied us as we left the breakwater on our way to Sergius Narrows to catch the slack water at 12:15.
While passing through Olga and Neva straits we spotted four sea lions calmly swimming together probably looking for some breakfast. In Salisbury Sound we could feel the easy rise and fall of the ocean swell to remind us that the Pacific Ocean was just to our west. In coastal areas, sea otters are usually nearby and sure enough, we notice a small raft of four or five of them in a kelp patch.
La Vida was cruising last in the mother goose line-up and alerted the fleet to a Mother brown bear and her two yearling cubs searching for breakfast along the east shore. Bonum Vitae was close enough to get a close look too. Humpback whale sightings were picking up as they lazily swam along the surface with shallow dives waking up to the new day.
As we entered Peril Strait, Jane alerted the fleet to a very large brown bear grazing in a field of sedge grass. Although he was quite distant, he was easy to spot due to his tremendous size! As we rounded the corner of Duffeld Penninsula, humpback whales became more numerous calmly surface feeding. We slowed down just before entering Appleton Cove to watch a pair of humpbacks synchronously swimming together, rising, breathing and diving together as they worked the area for food.
After 10-15 minutes of whale watching, we turned into Appleton Cove and all chose our favorite anchorage. Mike, Barbara, Bob and Pam on Thea, rafted alongside Deception. A large group of us were keen to go ashore for a hike; so, Mark and Heidi of Arctic Star, Russel, Susanna, Gabbie and Sam of Eldean, Emmanuel and Monserrat of Exact and Jane all loaded into three dinghies and headed off.
We made our way through the sedges and mud flats in search of an old logging road that was supposed to be parallel to the shore. Before finding our trail, we noticed numerous eagles flying overhead and dear tracks and heron footprints on the shore which we stopped to examine. A few steps later, the group was impressed to see our first brown bear prints. A bit further on, we spotted quite large bear prints which caused quite a flurry of discussion and nervous laughter. We were a group of nine and had no chance of taking a bear by surprise. We continued to the back of the estuary, located the old logging road and started our hike.
After returning to our boats, everyone settled in for a flat calm quiet evening. Deception and Thea shared stories and laughter. We wrapped up the day with a small celebration of Capt. Chris’s birthday with chocolate cake and a song. Everyone agreed that it was a perfect first day.
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