Cruising Southeast Alaska - 2009

By Linda Lewis


11. Whitestone Harbor – Hoonah – Auke Bay


When we left Tenakee, we had our sights set on Hoonah – but only if the wind and seas allowed. They didn’t. So we pulled off into Whitestone Harbor. It was a good place to be in the NW winds. We slipped way in to the cove right where it said “0” depth and anchored in 35 feet of water. Chart accuracy is always an in issue for cruisers in SE AK. Careful reconnoitering is always called for.

While we were in Whitestone Harbor we witnessed an amazing ELEVEN purse seiners milling around, anchoring, and off-loading to two fish packers who were waiting to take on their fish. Here’s a photo of three of them in the light of the setting sun.

On the way out I got a photo of my favorite seiner, the “Lovey JoAnn.” I had looked for this boat in Ketchikan where it is usually berthed and was disappointed to not find her. Now I know why. She was out fishing!

As we approached Hoonah, we heard a Securite' call on the VHF radio. It was the cruise ship “The World” announcing its approach to Hoonah.

Later we learned that the ship paid $54,000 to Hoonah for that one day in port. Their guests had access to any activity in Hoonah for the day: the cannery tour, the zip line, charter fishing boats, kayaking trips. The cruise ship is all condominiums and carries four times the number of passengers and crew as the population of Hoonah (836). "The World" is always moving so you can be a peripatetic world traveler – or you can rent out your condo.

The ship gets 1/3 of what the passengers spend in Hoonah, 1/3 goes to the Cannery owners, and 1/3 goes to the merchants who sell their goods. The Cannery museum/shopping center was financed by a $20 million federal grant. Hmmm. Who is getting the best deal here?

Hoonah Harbor is a wonderful spot for recreational cruising boats like ours. Here is the harbor. It's also a great place to store boats over the winter.

Watch for the shoal at low water between the breakwater and the transient dock.

The harbormaster, Paul, is legendary for the great work he does. In this photo Dave is pointing to a picture in the harbormaster's window of Paul next to a 300 lb halibut. OK – Paul says – he didn’t catch it himself; but it’s sure a great photo.

Here is a typical Alaska sign – this one is in the harbormaster’s office.

And here’s some fun with weather forecasting instructions. In case you can't interpret your barometer, here is the scoop.

David was talking with a Hoonah charter-boat Captain filleting halibut and said: “You are the second-best halibut filleter I have ever watched.” That comment drew a stern sideways glance. David then noted that the best he’d ever seen was a woman who worked for a large charter fleet and filleted 50 or 60 halibut every afternoon. She did it mostly by feel while looking upward and chatting with the guests. The Hoonah filleter replied: “I have more respect for my hands than that.” Whereupon, David admitted that the lady wore chainmail gloves.

We always appreciate this good grocery store in Hoonah.

Hoonah does not get too carried away with their totem pole.

The Cannery tour was open the next day to the rest of us who were not a part of “The World.” We loved this ancient boat they have on display.

It is a traditional wooden troller.

Dave insisted on this picture. He says it is his dream catch.

Now THIS is a big king crab pot.

And so are these.

This is the gear real Alaskans use to go berry hunting in bear country. I especially like the blue towels on the muzzle of the rifle.

The entrance to Auke Bay was very hazy the day we arrived. But it wasn’t from fog. It was from the smoke of forest fires. The fires were reported to be in British Columbia. The smoke was being reported on the VHF weather station and was present all the way from Ketchikan to Sitka to Juneau. Very spooky.

Here is the hazy entrance to Auke Bay. That's smoke haze you're looking at.

We watched a setting sun that night that was surrealistic. It was truly a glowing orange ball in the sky. I didn’t do any photo-shop editing on the next picture. This is what the sun looked like through the smoke.

We heard a Securite’ from the Coast Guard today that we have never heard in our travels up here. Boaters were being warned of big icebergs in the vicinity of Tracy Arm – Holkham Bay. Mariners were being urged to use extreme caution because the icebergs could not easily be seen - due to the smoke!

The conditions in Auke Bay were better today. I was finally able to get a nice picture shooting towards the Mendenhall Glacier (which can’t really be seen from our dock). I especially like the rainbow-colored hull of the boat near us.

We’re leaving Auke Bay tomorrow morning. We hope to make our way down to Holkham Bay and turn down Endicott Arm and go all the way to its end. The prize is Dawes Glacier, which we have never seen. There are some challenges in doing this. Not the least is the smoke. We hear that there is lots more ice in the water due to the unusually hot summer here in SE AK. Smoke, icebergs, murky glacier water. We'll see. I'm in to 'prudent adventuring' not risk taking. We'll look out the window and make our decisions based on the real conditions we encounter.

Who knows what we’ll find? This is what’s called: an adventure.




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