With the time of our departure from Cordova predicated by the high tide and the limiting depths of Strawberry Channel, we spent the morning making final preparations for our trip and taking advantage of a last opportunity to take in the charming town of Cordova, including many a last minute stop at the Copper River Fleece Company, a small local business that make truly excellent fleece jackets and vests fitted out with a wide variety of trims and borders inspired by Alaskan Native artwork and the local wildlife.
At 2:30 pm after a final meeting for all the sippers we left the dock and passed out through the breakwater into Orca Inlet, where the big Bering sea crab boats familiar to anyone whose watched “Deadliest Catch” sat tautly behind their anchor chains in the stiffening breeze. The weather forecast for the next few days is not, perhaps, the most ideal one could ask for, but then again in the Gulf of Alaska it rarely is. The crew of Deception spent the morning making sure all the boats were as shipshape as possible, adding extra lashings to tenders, davits, kayaks and any loose deck equipment.
The seas remained calm as we worked our way slowly through the narrow channels that lead south from Cordova between Hinchinbrook Island and the mainland. Sediment from the Copper and Eyak Rivers has nearly filled the passage, and with our fathometers registering single digits below the keel we crept out towards the gulf. The charts state unequivocally that this passage is not to be attempted without the benefit of local knowledge, which is just what Deception has amassed over the years. By 6 o’clock we gained the open sea and made our course southeast towards Cape St. Elias and the rock strewn southern end of Kayak Island, where a lonely lighthouse stands as the solitary vestige of civilization along hundreds of miles of wild coast.
We rounded the point after midnight in a challenging and confused sea that made for slow going. All the boats and their crews performed admirably however, and we cruised east through the night and into the next day towards the sheltered anchorage behind Moraine Island in Icy Bay, which we arrived at around three in the afternoon, thankful for chance to ease down our anchors and get some well deserved rest.