ALASKA: 2015 LEG 3 – TRACY ARM TO PYBUS BAY | NW Explorations



An 0800 departure this morning, stunning scenery as we departed Tracy Arm Cove – snow in the mountains and a view of the retreating Sum Dum Glacier, with the sun illuminating layers of clouds piled and pulling from the tops of the surrounding mountains.

As the fleet gather at the mouth of Tracy Arm cove, the younger members of the crew spot a bear on the beach – the same sow and cubs seen last night by Todd and Judy aboard Telita!  We idle a few hundred yards from the beach and take a look through our binoculars, she seems to be foraging in the rack line and her brown figure blends in perfectly against the backdrop of seaweed. It’s only the movement of the darker cubs that allow us to pick them out.  It’s a wonderful bonus to our stay here in Tracy Arm cove, and a wonderful way to start the day.

A beautiful sunny day out here on the water and not more than a few moments after our departure from the cove we begin to see whale spouts.  We’re entering Fredrick Sound; one of the richest feeding grounds for humpback whales anywhere in Alaska, and in the world. And a few hours into our transit the sightings begin.  Several spouts on the horizon off the bow of Deception, off the port of Ajax, off the starboard of Eldean…  we seem to be surrounded, off in the distance a whale breaches.   The fleet idles their engines,  a particular whale off the bow of Ajax is lobbing it’s fluke.  Slapping it’s pectoral fin.  Slapping it’s fluke – once, twice, three fourfivesixseven..we lose track! The whale is going nuts!  One of the young crew members aboard Eldean asserts that the whale is dancing whale-style.  Potentially as good a theory as any other.

There is when we first see whales a short distance away, the urge to approach them.  Each boat eager to get perhaps just a little closer, but we remind the fleet that not only is that poor form, but it’s also useless here in the sound – there are so many whales in any direction, that in fact the best strategy is to cut your engine and await their approach.  Indeed Eldean does just that, and soon enough they have whales diving not more than 15 yards from the boat.  The shadows of these gentle giants can be seen just next to the boat as they surface, and screams and squeels sound from the crew when the whales surface close enough to the boat to hear them exhale explosive breaths.

We watch for quite a while, but eventually Deception elects to press on.  Eldean and a few other boats hang back a while to enjoy the show a while longer, but eventually, after the pleasure of watching each of several flukes it seems time to continue on and leave these whales to their business.

We arrive in Pybus Bay and elect to anchor in Henry’s Bar. After anchoring, Eldean’s crew join Deception’s naturalist for a little dinghy excursion.   Lorenzo, age 5, Pascal age X and Carlota, X, are delighted at the opportunity for a fast boat ride and a chance to go to shore after being on the boat all day.  Whales are great and all, but these kids want to explore!  They find a nice beach to pull ashore that is covered in mussels and clamshells, with hermit crabs and limpets for the attentive beachcomber.  Barnacles! They crush and examine the barnacles, find barnacle brains and peel limpets off the rocks to examine their undersides, there are hermit crabs in the water that they pursue to the deepest depths their wading boots will allow.

Back at the boat they entertain themselves with the abundance of moon jellies and lions mane jellyfish in the water.  They are down on the swim deck using ziplock bags and whatever ingenious methods they can invent, to capture them all.  Eldean has rafted to Deception, along with Ajax and all three boats are soon the heart of jellyfish joy.  Susana equips the kids with dish gloves, and now there are three small crew members scampering over decks equipped in life jackets and dishgloves with plastic bags and buckets of jelly fish.  Deception hosts Sabine and Kurt, Craig and Fabrice from Ajax for dinner.  Fabrice is a world class chef, but seems content with a night off and Deceptions modest menu.  Not a moment after the table is cleared have the crew members from Eldean scurried in to declare that all must see the size of the most recent captured jellyfish.

It’s not a boat, if you don’t have something more pressing to attend to after dinner, than dishes.  And indeed, it’s an impressive sized jelly fish.

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