2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 5 Red Bluff to Cannery Cove | NW Explorations
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2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 5 Red Bluff to Cannery Cove

Another beautiful dawn greeted us as we prepared to depart Red Bluff Bay. Surrounded by exquisite alpine mountain peaks with cascades pouring down from dizzying heights, a friendly sea otter, brown bear and birds made it difficult to leave this magical place. But today our destination will be equally beautiful in different aspects and the voyage across Chatham Strait should be calm, making for excellent whale watching conditions.

As we departed Red Bluff, we were able to replay the grand entrance in reverse and soak up every last detail of this beautiful place one last time. As expected, Chatham was flat calm and within two hours, everyone was reporting seeing numerous whale blows so we went astray of our intended route to see if we could get a better look. First it was one whale, then two more and within twenty minutes we weren’t sure which way to look! Six humpback whales were all actively feeding separately but in the same area. They would surface, take four breaths and their backs would round, the flukes would rise high above the water, and they would gracefully slip below the surface.

The boats were spread out over a wide area, and we turned off the engines and drifted so as not to interfere with their feeding and simply observed them. It was an absolutely thrilling spectacle watching them surface and dive repeatedly. At times they would be farther away and at other times they would be right beside a boat! We drifted and observed for almost an hour when the whales began to slowly make their way in the opposite direction from our heading. As we parted, we were all so grateful to have had the opportunity to observe them, it was a real blessing.

We continued our way to our destination and before long, entered Pybus Bay with its small islands and rock piles, kelp patches and sea otters. On such a calm sunny day, the entry was particularly spectacular with mountain reflections on the water and soon the snow-capped peaks of the deep green forested mountains came into view.

Unlike Red Bluff with its narrow opening, the entry to Cannery Cove is a wide-open cove. The mountains here are heavily forested with verdant green vegetation and smaller snow fields resting on the few ledges in this otherwise steep terrain that comes down to meet the bay. At the head of the bay is a braided creek that meanders across delta, covered with blue-green grass in the higher areas and golden fucus algae in lower intertidal areas.

Once rafted, dinghies and kayaks were unloaded and a small group of us paddled kayaks into the creek. We watched as an eagle swooped down, caught a salmon, and had to work its way to the bank to eat it. It hopped across the creek tightly gripping the fish in its talons. At one point, the water was too deep, so the eagle used its wings like the butterfly stroke to swim the short distance to the bank where it hopped onto dry land and began eating the salmon. It was an interesting and entertaining sight to behold. Upon return to the boat, we all settled into a calm evening and the reassurance that we would have more time here tomorrow.

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