June 6, 2016
Sunny skies and falling tide whisked us smoothly out of Klag Bay and into the labyrinth of protected passages that lead northward along Chikagof’s western coast. Small groups of lightly built, tawny colored Sitka Black-tail dear roamed the banks, picking on new growth and nibbling at bits of seaweed. Otters watch sleepily and the occasional humpback whale make their presence known within the confines of Portlock Harbor. Having left Sitka far in our wake yesterday, we share the passage with few humans only the occasional itinerant sailboat or far-flung fisherman.
Our route leads us to Imperial Channel and beyond into open water, where curtains of mist drape down off the mountains and speckle our windscreens with glistening droplets. After an hour or so in the swell we thread between the Urey Rocks, monolithic stones that thrust up imposingly from the surface; wreathed in great manes of white foam. Seabirds circle in great clouds here, soaring easily on the westerly breezes.
Lisianski Strait provides a change of scenery and a respite from the swell, and a quick side trip into Stag Bay offers glimpses of immense waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, and at its head a broad grassy plain from which emerges the braided channels of a number of good sized streams.
Once more into open water, a dash along the southern side of Cross Sound where Puffins and porpoises herald our coming, and we are into the calm waters in the miniscule town of Elfin Cove. Founded in the 30’s as a remote fishing town, it hasn’t changed too much since then. We raft two deep to the town dock and head up to explore the wooden boardwalks that serve as streets for the six full time residents. A handful of sport fishing lodges and visiting commercial fishermen round out the scene, and along with the local landing craft delivering construction supplies and the floatplanes brining in visitors and the mail, it makes for a lively place!
Rain falls heavily at times as we top off everyone’s diesel at the community’s cooperatively owned fuel dock, but it doesn’t seem to dampen the pace of activity here, or the spirit of Todd the attendant, who waxes poetic about winter life here, when the whole town can sit down for Christmas dinner at one table.
Tomorrow marks the start of our crossing of the Gulf of Alaska, and so with a great feeling of anticipation and perhaps a butterfly or two in a couple stomachs, we call it an early night.