Monday, May 25, 2015

Elfin Cove to Yakutat

Departing Elfin Cove
Cell coverage and internet coverage is lacking in the Gulf of Alaska, so for weather reports we are using “Commanders Weather” service, a world-wide service providing specific marine weather forecasts for a nominal fee.  Communication with Commanders Weather is through our satellite based InReach Delorme tracking device, capable of sending and receiving text messages.  We departed Elfin Cove at 7:40am, greeted by whales as typically seen in this area.  “Cross Sound”, named by James Cook on May 3 1778 after Holy Cross day, was rather rough and lumpy – we believe due to the current and cross winds around the islands.  We were re-evaluating the “go, no-go” decision and decided to wait until we were past Cape Spencer to make our final evaluation.  
Is that a Mountain above the Clouds?!
Cape Spencer Lighthouse marks the north side of Cross Sound and the beginning point for the Gulf of Alaska.  As we rounded Cape Spencer, the waters flattened out to gentle ocean swell of 3-4 feet at 12 to 16 seconds.  
Glaciers to the Sea
As we continued west by northwest, mountain peaks towered above a layer of clouds along the extensive Fairweather Mountain Range with glaciers that come down to the sea.  
Mountains and Glaciers
Further to the northwest is Brabazon Mountain Range; these mountain ranges run along the northeast coast of the Gulf of Alaska and are breathtaking to behold.  The clouds dissipated as the day wore on, revealing more mountains and glaciers with unbelievable mass.  
Beautiful Mountains, Glassy Turquoise Sea
We ran three-miles off the coastline in beautiful turquoise water from the glacier runoff, which looked to extend another 5 to 8 miles out. We were thankful that the seas were calm since there is no place to escape bad weather along this portion of coastline.  
Dall's Porpoise
The only option is Lituya Bay, which can only be entered at high-slack water.  Lituya Bay is very narrow with shoals, strong current, and tide rips; at the head of the Bay are two arms, each leading to a glacier.  In 1958, a giant wave caused by an earthquake washed into Lituya Bay striping trees to a height of 1,720 feet!  Giant waves are a recurring phenomenon in the Bay, catastrophic waves were observed in 1853, 1874, and 1936.  Locals say Lituya is an interesting place to visit, but given the timing and good weather window, we continued on, not wanting to interrupt the 20 hours it would take to reach Yakutat.  In addition to the stupendous mountain views, this stretch along the Gulf Coast seems to be a major thoroughfare for whales; we saw numerous whales making their annual migration, breaching and slapping their fins in the distance.  
Mountains at Dusk
Dusk finally arrived around 10pm when we noticed a sailboat heading the same direction; we had caught up with Adrianna and her crew of two guys who had left Elfin Cove earlier in the morning.  Even at 10:30pm we could still see water ahead of us, but by 11pm it was time to set up the spotlight for our four hours of night running.  By 3am it was starting to get light again and by 4am we could clearly see in the distance.  
Morning Arrival, Yakutat
Timing for our arrival in Yakutat was good as we were following with a flood tide.  After rounding the buoy marker on Ocean Cape at Phipps Peninsula, we entered Yakutat Bay (latitude 59 degrees, 34 minutes) and tied-up at the marina; it was 6am, time for a nap!

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