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pomkiwi

7 Nights on a Small Boat in Alaska

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pomkiwi

@Zim Girl, @TonyQ Thank-you. We were very lucky on both the afternoons we spent at Hallo Bay.

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pomkiwi

Playtime and Running From the Weather

 

We were picked up from the beach by Mike and then it was decided that some playtime was in order.

 

Patti, my companion passenger, was extremely keen on photographing birds in flight - any bird, from any distance in any weather.  The Single Star was moored close to a small island on which there was a puffin colony.  It was a beautiful evening so we headed over to practice photographing much smaller animals moving much more quickly.

 

We spent a fun 40 minutes circumnavigating the island a couple of times. Puffins came and went:

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There were cormorants:

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As well as a 'bonus bear' who had clearly swam out nearly a mile from the beach for some meditation time alone:

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Eventually it was time to head back for some dinner:

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The evening light was beautiful:

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However the breeze was getting up and the forecast was that the expected increase in wind blowing out from the mainland was likely to be earlier than anticpated. With that the decision was taken by Mike to move from what would be an exposed position and return to Kukak Bay.

We left at about 10pm as the sun set behind the clouds:

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Towing our skiff behind us we ran before the wind, finally anchoring at around midnight.

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pomkiwi

Expectations

Dawn broke on our anchorage at Kukak Bay:

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This was to prove a difficult day in part and on reflection I think it was all about expectations. Neither my fellow guest or I had spent much time on boats and our crew essentially lived on them. I think we all forgot this at times and as such we did not ask the questions we should have done while at the same time were not given explanations that would have been useful because nobody thought to do so.  Although we had been incredibly lucky with our two days at Hallo Bay what I haven't emphasised is that the time available for bear spotting was around 4 hours each day, rather less than might be expected on a land based safari. This is because the large tidal range made accessing the beach difficult and this was further influenced by the wind and sea conditions. The rest of the time we were on the boat which at times was amazingly relaxing (see the image above) but could also be a little restricting at other times. 

The plan for Wednesday was to head up the coast before the wind got too strong and to anchor up in Geographic Harbor about which we had been given enthusiastic reviews (more than justified as we would find out over the next couple of days). In the end the wind was such that we went all around the harbor, exited and ended up anchoring in the outer portion. We had seen quite a few bears in the distance but it was never the correct place or time to stop and see them. 

I think we were frustrated and a bit quiet (there is nowhere to have a discreet and confidential discussion on a small boat!), this upset our crew who were used to having bubbly guests. Anyway it settled and we had a clear the air discussion over dinner - the lesson for me was to be much more detailed in my questioning in the future so I fully understand why some decisions are being made - the lesson for the team was (I was told later) to volunteer much more information to there landlubber guests.

It was not a big issue and the rest of the trip continued to be as amazing as the first few days. This will become clear in following posts.

 

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kittykat23uk

Wow, what a fantastic trip so far! Love the bears, otter and those cute tufted puffins!

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pomkiwi

@kittykat23uk Thank-you - a few more bears and puffins yet to come!

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pomkiwi

To Geographic Harbor

 

The day dawned still without any evidence of the wind that we ran from the night before. The forecast was still that it would arrive. We watched a couple of bears play on the beach before we had breakfast.

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We set off and were accompanied along the shoreline by another young bear.

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The Katmai coast was spectacular in the sunshine.

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Midway along the coast we passed a colony of harbor seals with a dispute for primacy going on.

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There were a couple of stellar sea lions in the colony who dwarfed the seals:

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Geographic harbor is a natural harbor felt to be the remains of an ancient volcanic caldera. It is named after the National Geographic Society who launched an expedition here after the huge eruption 1912 that created the Valley of a Thousand Smokes. The eruption was 15 miles away but left boulders the size of houses on the beaches and large depths of pumice which show as the light grey patches on the mountains - initially mistaken by me as snow. The harbor is beautiful and the geoplogy as interesting as the wildlife.

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After quite a frustrating afternoon we went out late in the evening when intitailly we saw both a mother with cubs and a fairly young bear take fright from each other:

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We then saw another bear on a beach and waded ashore to spend half an hour with it as it dug for clams in some beautiful evening light:

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Finally we saw another bear on the rocks heading for some salmon berries:

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The smoke from the forest fires 80 miles away added colour to our sunset:

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Atravelynn

You got your bears and so much more, both wildlife and scenery!  Those juveniles are so lanky, just like teen aged boys.  You did well with birds in flight too.  Hope your cabin mate is not jealous.

 

How many people were on your trip?  Looks like good weather so far. In a boat you are so dependent on weather and winds.  Any comments from the staff on the temps which I have been reading were record high this summer? 

 

You are a seafarer after 7 nights!

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pomkiwi

@Atravelynn Thanks for your comments. We had mixed weather. We missed the heatwave and were told that it had been very negative in terms of bear sightings as they tended to hide up in the shade of the woods until late in the evening, even then they would tend to come down, dip into the water and head back again. The first couple of days of this trip were extremely wet and kept us on the boat all of one day. winds were an issue in the middle but we had lovely still weather at the end which was not too hot.

This will be covered shortly!

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Atravelynn
1 hour ago, pomkiwi said:

@Atravelynn Thanks for your comments. We had mixed weather. We missed the heatwave and were told that it had been very negative in terms of bear sightings as they tended to hide up in the shade of the woods until late in the evening, even then they would tend to come down, dip into the water and head back again.  Just like people.  That would have been disappointing.  Lucky you missed it. The first couple of days of this trip were extremely wet and kept us on the boat all of one day. I was holed up for 2 days due to rain on a similar boat trip and we did not have an entire week.  winds were an issue in the middle but we had lovely still weather at the end which was not too hot.

This will be covered shortly!

 

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