We cast off our lines this morning at 8am and cruised out onto calm waters. It was a beautiful partly sunny day with lots of different layers of cloud coverage which scattered the sunlight throughout the day. We had a delightful passage through Sumner Strait spotting a few groups of porpoises as we cruised. The mountain views were fabulous as were the changing skies overhead.
After a while, we turned north into the Wrangell Narrows. This 24-mile channel has 65 buoys and markers to keep boat traffic safe in the narrow, dredged channel. This route cuts about 90 miles off of the route from Juneau to Ketchikan and is used by the Alaska State Ferry, small cruise ships, shipping traffic, commercial fishermen and recreational boaters. At low tide the shallow banks are fully exposed, and we passed multiple boats that had gone aground in the shallows and subsequently abandoned.
As we grew closer to the town of Petersburg, the number of houses on Mitkof Island increased and we could see some of the 22-mile paved road that traverses part of the island. Mitkof Island has a lot of muskeg bogs throughout the island. These peatlands are ancient wetlands that develop in areas of poor drainage and accumulate thousands of years of dead plant material. Trees don’t grow well in the constantly wet ground, and the areas are dominated by mosses and sedges. Bears and moose like to feed in these areas and our efforts to spot them were rewarded with a black bear sighting from Helayne on Exact!
We tucked into the docks in Petersburg, dwarfed by the local fishing fleet. Petersburg is the self-proclaimed “halibut capital of the world,” and boasts the largest halibut fishery in Alaska. This quaint fishing town of about 3,000 still maintains some of its Norwegian heritage. The site was long home to a Tlingit fishing village and fish traps here have been dated to 3,000 years old and are a unique style found nowhere else.
Our crews wasted no time hitting the town! Petersburg has some great little shops and galleries. Most of the restaurants had closed early to celebrate the graduating class of 2021, so we went back to the boats for a meal. From the dock that evening we watched as the high school class drove past in their decorated vehicles and floats escorted by the fire department. The harbor erupted in a cacophony of boat horns and cheers. It was a sweet little glimpse of small-town life in Petersburg. The sky cleared in the evening and we had fabulous views of the coastal mountain range as the sun set on another great day in Alaska.
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