ALASKA: 2015 LEG 2 – BERG BAY TO WRANGELL | NW Explorations



10,000 year old ice with our 10 year old scotch.  It makes the scotch feel young …

This morning we awoke in Berg Bay to a 21 foot tidal change.  The exposed rocks just a foot or two off Eldean’s port stern stood as testament to Brian and Rowans anchoring and rafting prowess.  It’s a manageable situation when you beach your dinghy on an outgoing tide, but a 42’ Grand Banks trawler would be harder to dislodge from the rocks.  Brian situated the raft to provide just enough room. In the morning Dave aboard Eldean leans over his railing to inspect the mussels on the rocks, and Captain Brian   inquires “we didn’t leave you any extra room by accident, did we?”

Despite the shallow tide, proximity to the rocks, the stern tie roped through the trees ten feet over our heads, the plethora of crabpots dotting the cove… despite all this, we dismantle the raft without a hitch and depart beautiful Berg Bay for Wrangell.

Up through Eastern Passage, we pass two more crabbers dropping pots. Dungeness season in full swing.  There are stories of pots coming out of these waters with over 30 crabs to them.  That might be a legend, but certainly the number of pots dropped into these waters overnight is astounding.

We dock at Heritage Harbor in Wrangell.  Downtown Wrangell is a short dinghy ride from the Harbor, so Deceptions crew helps the fleet to launch their dinghy’s and points them in the direction of Front Street in town.  We all need to be back on the docks by 2 pm for a tour of the Stikine River with that Deceptions crew arranged with Break Away Adventures.

Wrangell is a small place. A town that makes most of its living today off fishing. We scout out a cup of good coffee, explore the several hardware and provision stores (the crew aboard Deception is in search of a caulking agent and propane), provision at the IGA and Capitol Grocery (which Navigator finds sufficient for their needs), and Aquila supports to local school fundraiser by purchasing  an (almost whole) homemade pie from the fundraiser at the center of town (they were in the midst of selling of slices when Aquila made a wholesale purchase and closed out the fundraiser).

Back at the dock by 2 PM, we load up in two of the aluminum river boats that are there to usher us up the Stikine to explore.  The Stikine delta is a labyrinth of sand banks and channels of shifting depth and dimension.  The river mouth is littered with washed down tree trunks. One part river tour two parts thrill ride! The boats navigate the main channel at 30 mph while drafting as little as 6 inches.  They bank back and forth leaving us to brace ourselves.  The sailors in our bunch are loving this! We’re all sporting wind swept looks by the end of it all.

We pass through the delta and up into the river’s reach, when the true Alaska experience opens up:  just when you’re convinced things couldn’t be more epic – that’s when they get epic.  The scenery is spectacular. Sitka spruce forest framed by the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Boundary Range that emerge around each bend but as we enter the otherwise the deep and wide channel of the misnamed Shakes ‘Lake’, a new navigational challenge emerges:  Ice.

Massive bergy bits (that’s really what they are called) create a new hazard to our boats, which finally slow to a reasonable speed as we make our way around the chunks of ice, some with gravel rocks the size of a kitchen table sitting atop.  We pull over at an ice berg and reach our hands out.   Someone has the foresight to collect a few bits for the cooler, and for drinks later that night.  Over a hundred years ago, the fisheries collected ice here for their catch allowing halibut to be shipped to cities as far away as Seattle and San Francisco.  We continue the tradition, and carry back with us a few small chunks for our coolers.  In the evening, we chip away at the bergy bits to make baby bergy bits.  What’s the technical term for bergy bits small enough for your glass?   At any rate, we toast to a really wonderful day.

10,000 year old ice in 10 year old scotch.  Makes the scotch feel young…

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