Alaska Flotilla: Leg 4, Day 5 – Swanson Harbor to Elfin Cove | NW Explorations


Alaska Flotilla: Leg 4, Day 5 – Swanson Harbor to Elfin Cove

We had a late start leaving Swanson Harbor this morning as we waited for the tidal conditions to be optimal.  The night before, those who were able to stay up for it were treated to a spectacular sunset that seemed to turn the whole world a rosy pink and even lit up a full rainbow behind us.  Today, instead of heading south, we set our course for west through Icy straight and toward Elfin Cove.

It was a calm day out on the water, and mist rose from the trees like the exhalations of giant whales.   And, soon enough, we spotted humpback whales near Point Adolphus!  There were three or four adults feeding together, along with a group of harbor porpoise and many diving birds and seagulls!  It was quite the feeding frenzy.  Humpback whales can eat 3,000-4,000lbs of food a day.  They can take huge gulps of over 500 gallons of water at a time.

As we continued along we passed the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park.  If we were here 200 years ago there would have been a massive tidewater glacier dumping icebergs right in the empty waters we traveled through.  As we cruised, we passed a few sea otters floating on their backs.  We even witnessed one mother floating with her baby on her belly.  Sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction for their exquisite pelts, but after a successful reintroduction program their populations are on the rise.

Elfin Cove is like no place any of us have ever been.  It has a year-round population of somewhere between 6 and 18 depending on the year.  It boasts a small pub, school, post office and a general store-which is a liquor store on one side.  You have to enter through a separate door to get to the liquor store, but the cashier is able to work both stores just by turning around.  Wooden boardwalks connect the small stores, houses and fishing lodges that perch right on the edge of the water.  Garden gnomes guard the trail every 50ft or so.  The community is completely isolated other than visitors from small boats and float planes.  Their lifeline here is the sea, and fishing is life.

We docked in the inner harbor of Elfin Cove.  In order to access the harbor, we had to weave our way through a very narrow channel.  We almost could have picked berries off the bushes!  The channel is actually quite deep and so we were able to do this safely and enjoy the thrill of traveling close to the shore.  We arrived in the late afternoon with plenty of time to explore.  Most crews opted to eat out at the pub in town.  As the evening went on, the clouds began to thin and the rain subsided.  We enjoyed strolling the boardwalks, taking in the sites and talking with the locals and the commercial fishermen.

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