Alaska Flotilla: Leg 3, Day 3 – Elfin Cove to Dundas Bay | NW Explorations


Alaska Flotilla: Leg 3, Day 3 – Elfin Cove to Dundas Bay

Dundas Bay, an unexpected but welcomed surprise to the itinerary. We were overbooked for fish charters in Elfin Cove, and with so little else to do but enjoy the good weather and small walk-abouts on the docks, Dundas Bay offered a great get-away. Immediately upon entering the narrow channel, full of silt, constant awareness was vital. The channel is shallow with changing sandy-silt bars that give this fjord a different appearance.

The best way to describe the passage was like entering the Stikine River outside of Wrangell. The water was milky jade from the streams that transport so much of the glacier flour into the sea. You could have sunk your oar like a lead line and still not see past a foot under the surface. However, life was abundant in these waters. Countless sea otters, a handful of harbor porpoises, eagles, surf scooters, and so much more made an appearance. Hard to imagine how anything could see through the suspended glacial silt, but the facts don’t lie with a plethora of wildlife.

Little Jordan and I took the red dinghy from Deception up creek from our anchorage. The river banks were lined with enormous driftwood stands that had washed up during peak flows in the spring or extreme tidal changes during new/full moons. Needless to say, it was an adventure trying to navigate up the river as the current was predicted to be around 4 knots. Every 100 meters or so, Jordan dipped the oar into the water to check our depth. We started the trip when the tide began to ebb, we had to be careful. After a quick mental calculation of the tides we gathered that for every hour that passed we lost two feet of water under the dinghy. After three miles upstream, sometimes during under fallen tree limps close to the banks, our oar finally hit bottom on our last depth reading.

“Okay, we’ve gone far enough and I’m soaked,” said I.

“Roger, let’s play it safe and head back. Sure is purdee, though,” Jordan agreed. As he pressed the tiller over, the bow swung us around one-eighty facing downstream and we began our passage back home. I remember thinking to myself how beautiful the fjord walls had been cared with so many spruces clinging to the steep-sided walls. The sitka alder shrubs splashed the hillside with vibrant greens all the while the sky remained monochromatic with gently rolling cloud banks concealing magical summits of wonder from our dinghy. This is a true, off-the-beaten path expedition.

As the two of us motored onward to the mouth of the river we saw another dinghy roll up. It was the Steele brothers, Joe and David from Bonum Vitae. They had the same idea as us and wanted to try to get up the river before the tide made further efforts impossible. Using a large driftwood log as an impromptu “dinghy dock” we saddled up alongside the timber and lassoed the painter line to the root ball. Stepping ashore was nice with the lush vegetation, small wildflowers, and really big animal tracks. By the size of the prints, bear and moose wandered these parts frequently. One bear track was three times the size of our footprint, a grizzly bear. I am positive i would be more than nervous coming face-to-face with one of these animals and I was partial glad we only saw tracks whilst ashore.

The rain picked up from a soft mist to a drizzle and we were more than drenched through our layers. The Steele brothers came back sooner than expected. I guess the tide was moving out faster than we anticipated, so we raced our dinghies back to the flotilla zig-zagging side-by-side, having a good time. They soon left us to doddle on our own with their 15-hp outboard propelling them smartly ahead in comparison to our standard 9.9hp. No complaints though, I enjoyed every minute playing around the wilderness and savored the moment a bit longer with our slow dinghy progress. These are the times I will remember when people ask, “How was Alaska?” If you’ve never been, then my reply would be a small smile as I would say, “Oh, amazing! But to truly understand the beauty of Alaska, you have to see it for yourself.”

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