2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 4 – Sawyer Glacier to Sunburn Canal | NW Explorations


2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 4 – Sawyer Glacier to Sunburn Canal

Leaving Tracy Arm Cove under overcast skies we cruised past clear blue icebergs and large rafts of resting birds. Pigeon guillemots, gulls and terns glided along the water’s surface and flew overhead. A flock of black surf scoters took flight and provided the perfect photo opportunity against the blue ice.

Outside the moraine of Tracy Arm, the rocky cliffs of Harbor Island and Point Astley in Holkham Bay are composed of granite spires that resemble a giant leaning picket fence between the forests and shore. Old Sitka spruce trees draped with lichens line the shoreline atop and behind the granite spires. The spires are awash with layers of color; a thick layer of forest green moss covers the top, white and black lines drip down the sides and fade into a soft grey-green crustose lichens and, below that, a layer of black tar lichens closer to the waters edge. Once in the range of the intertidal zone, grey barnacles create a band with golden brown rock weed with the lowest band of black mussels closest to the water.

Cruising south through Stephens Passage, various boats shared whale sightings here and there. As we entered Port Houghton on our way into Sandborn Canal small islands and rocky outcroppings added interest to the view as we weaved our way back into the canal. Pairs of diminutive, marbled murrelets would paddle away as we neared and then quickly dive forward and disappear. Majestic bald eagles, both adults and juveniles were perched in trees and flew nearby. Once we settled into our rafts and anchorages, many of us were keen to explore the flat and wide estuary at the head of the bay.

Bonum Vitae, Arctic Star, La Vida and Mojo all launched dinghies, and eight of us paddled out in our kayaks. As we paddled in, the rain stopped, and areas of blue skies appeared. The water was glass calm and reflected the bright green forest across the estuary. Shy, yet curious, harbor seals peaked up to check us out and quickly submerged again, only to show up a bit closer. Flocks of Bonaparte’s gulls with their bright white plumage and stark black heads floated all around us as we paddled our way through.

From their dinghy, Mojo reported seeing a bear in the estuary and that news piqued the interests of the La Vida crew who have decided to venture out at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to see if they catch a glance of more wildlife. Tonight we will all settle in for another still evening and restful sleep.

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. charters@nwexplorations.com 

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