Waking up in Santa Anna Inlet, the quiet was rich, and the sun peaking over the mountain sides made us all very excited for day of cruising. As everyone was up and ready to play their part in our fleet disembarking, we tossed our lines and raised our anchors, making our way toward Wrangell bright and early.
Watching the crews grow aware of their positions and roles in getting underway is one of the best parts of this experience! As people find comfort throughout our days on the water, watching each crew settle into their own way of teamwork is always very impressive and inspiring.
Underway we had a stunning blue bird day, traversing 36 nautical miles towards Wrangell Island. We began our trek headed north through Seward Passage, eyes always peeled for marine life and never forgetting to soak in the stunning mountain peaks.
Not to be confused with the port city of Seward, Alaska, Seward Passage was named after the Seward Mountains. These mountains are considered a subrange of the Boundary Ranges along the border of Alaska and Canada, making up a piece of the larger Coast Mountain Range with peaks at almost 6,000 feet.
Rounding Deer Island, we entered Zimovia Strait, a narrow passage between Etolin and Woronkifski Islands to the west, and the southern end of Wrangell Island to the east. Zimovia Strait was first named Proliv Zimov’ya, Winter Strait, found documented on charts from 1853 by the Russian Hydrographic Department. In the early 1700s Russian exploration and colonization of Alaska exponentially increased, spearheaded by the Danish explorer, Vitus Bering. That name might sound familiar, as his travels took him to the Alaska Peninsula after crossing through often brutal conditions in regions now holding his name as the well-known Bering Strait and Bering Sea.
The influence of Russian culture and heritage on Alaskan communities is quite vast and can still be seen today. Yet, It’s been over 150 years since Alaska was sold to the United States from Russian rule in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars, just 2 cents per acre, given they saw their settlement on these lands primarily for economic endeavors rather than long term development.
Making our way into Wrangell the fleet was secured to the docks and had a bit of time to settle in before we left on a jet boat tour up through the Stikine River! Lead by a local company most of the fleet spent 4 hours exploring the “fastest-flowing navigable river in North America” and learned about both the river’s natural and anthropogenic histories along the way. As the Stikine River creates one of the only natural passages through the Coast Mountains, for thousands of years it was used as a main trade route by indigenous communities. Through archeological studies, it’s been determined that first human presence in this region started about 10,000 years ago. Tlingit legends state that their ancestors did indeed live in the interior thousands of years ago, migrating south towards the coast by means on the Stikine River.
Once back at the docks we had a bit of time to rest up and prepare for a fleet dinner hosted at the Nolan Center by a local co-operated bakery and catering company, Sweet Tides.
Sweet Tides provided a delicious salmon bake for us with an incredible starting spread and a mix of entrees that left our fleet very impressed and asking us to give their compliments to the chef. As dinner was wrapping up they were all surprised with a delicious dessert too, ending their night on a fabulous note. As the sun fell lower in the sky we headed back home very satisfied with our experiences for the day.
Built in 2004, the Nolan Center houses the Wrangell Museum, The Wrangell Visitor Center, and their Convention Facility. The museum focuses on telling the history of Wrangell back to the first Tlingit community presences through the rule of British, Russian, and U.S. dominance. There are four totems among the oldest in Alaska, dating back to the late 1790s, preserved and on display for visitor to admire. Our time exploring the displays and spending time in their convention center for our dinner was outstanding, thank you Nolan Center and Sweet Tides!
Walking back to the marina we passed by Chief Shakes house, a scaled-down replica of a traditional longhouse that would have once been occupied by Tlingit royalty. Built in 1940, this replica was restored in 2013 using traditional carving methods by Tlingit Master Carvers. As a very important and respected historic site, the line of like-named Chief Shakes are among some of the oldest clan leaders to survive. Surrounded by seven totem poles, two are original Tlingit work, while five are beautiful copies recreated to uphold the historic significance.
Back home on our vessels we were lulled to rest by another stunning pink sunset and are all very thankful for the experiences we got to share here in Wrangell today. Getting ready for tomorrow’s departure, tonight’s pink sky was indeed a sailor’s delight, and the soothing evening made us look all the more forward to our 65 nautical mile cruise into Farragut Bay.
P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. firstname.lastname@example.org