Shaking off the rust, we left Petersburg in bright sunshine, the peaks hanging over Frederick Sound seemingly close enough to touch. A few bergy bits drifting north from Summit Glacier bobbed in our path. After 30 nautical miles we made our first anchorage in 14 meters at a place called Cleveland Passage. The anchor scraped bottom for a bit, then dug in for a good set.
Wind and waves were non-existent overnight and we slept soundly, despite anxiety about a small leak in the watermaker flow meter, a spurious cooktop igniter, and a possibly misbehaving refrigerator thermostat. What did we expect after a two-year layup? Everything to be peaches and cream? I guess that’s why they call the first leg of the season a shake-down cruise.
Dawn came early and our problems seemed less ominous. Fixing the igniter only required a fresh AA battery, everything in the fridge was cold, and the watermaker leak seemed tiny, certainly manageable. We resolved to stop worrying and enjoy ourselves. Anchor weighed, we pointed north again.
Tracy Arm is reputed to be more spectacular than Glacier Bay and our route to Juneau took us right by. We set anchor our second night in No Name Cove, a.k.a., Tracy Arm Entrance Cove, among six other boats. We launched the dinghy to explore the immediate area and perhaps stretch our legs on shore.
Trolling the perimeter of the cove, we searched for a suitable place to land. As we passed a red Nordic Tug 37, the owners waved us over. It was an older couple from Seattle. We rafted alongside. They immediately pointed to a bear sunny lazily on the rocks not 100 meters away right next to where we were headed in the dinghy. We gawked in wonder. This was the first bear Jocelyn had ever seen in the wild!
Spectacle acknowledged, the couple proceeded to tell us all about how they had been coming up to these waters each year for 23 years. When we finally waved goodbye, we carefully approached the dozing bear in the dinghy, gliding slowly by at a safe distance. She didn’t seem to pay us any attention. Jocelyn decided not to go for a stroll on shore after all though.
Two main features attract attention in Tracy Arm. First, the spectacular scenery along the way. Wildlife, waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, icebergs all beckon visitors. Second, at the head of Tracy Arm are two forks, each an outlet for Sawyer Glacier. Massive walls of glacial ice calve into the sea creating a show of nature for those who venture the 20 nautical miles up the fjord.
Our good juju building, the morning dawned uncommonly clear and bright. It seems we were blessed with a Colorado bluebird day for our trip up Tracy Arm. With unlimited ceiling, the 5,000-foot peaks soared above us, many with waterfalls cascading into the sea. The icebergs, few at first, thickened as we proceeded up to the head, eventually requiring the helmsman’s best slalom skills. At the headwaters, seals sunned on icebergs as we watched the calving from a safe distance, concerned about waves generated by the falling ice. A tour boat from Juneau blasted by, motoring right up to the glacier, or so it seemed. From where we were, it looked really close, but it must have been a safe distance. I was reminded of the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls, but the consequences of a shower here were quite a bit more extreme! The afternoon warmed as we continued to soak in the scenery on the return trip to No Name Cove.
It was still nearly 60 nautical miles to Auke Bay just north of Juneau and we didn’t feel like a long day, so we opted to stop in a place called Taku Harbor to break up the remaining miles. Taku Harbor is a popular destination for Juneau boaters and the Port of Juneau maintains a couple of floats there. One has a ramp to shore, which makes all the difference. Phenomenal scenery aside, one of the negatives about this cruising ground IMHO is the lack of shore access. The shores are often steep and the forests so thick that it is nigh impossible to get ashore to explore or just to stretch your legs. So the shore access at Taku Harbor was most welcome.
On the way up Stephens Passage we finally had some following breezes for a spell allowing us to set sail. It felt good to finally shut the motor off. The wind kicked up enough to set the wind generator spinning. Everything functioned flawlessly. Now, all the boxes had been checked on the gear shake down.
We pulled alongside the Taku Harbor float and headed ashore. There we found the ruins of 19th century cannery built and operated by the John L. Carlson Co. Our pilot book tells us a post office operated here as late as 1923. Much earlier, in 1840, the Hudson’s Bay Co. raised the English flag here and built Fort Durham manned by two officers and 22 company employees. Even earlier, the Russians used this harbor as an anchorage for their steamers and sailing vessels.
We arrived in Auke Bay on the north edge of Juneau the afternoon of June 10th. First order of business? Wifi, of course!