(Sea) Lions and Whales and Bears, Oh My (or – Sailing in the Time of Covid)

Being the intrepid (synonym – stupid) explorers that we are, we braved (synonym – foolish) the flight from Oakland to Alaska at the end of June. Face masks, hand sanitizer, and antiseptic wipes got us through. Alaska requests (politely but authoritatively) a Covid test prior to travel, so we shoved swabs up our noses at the Kaiser Center in Oakland a few days before we left. Even so, we were supposed to keep to ourselves. So we ordered groceries delivered in Petersburg, the store guy left the boxes on the dock and walked away, then we fetched the food aboard. We then hid out on the boat in self-isolation for a week, taking care of the chores that needed doing after a winter of disuse. There weren’t many, Wasco came through in very good shape (thank you Jake) and needed little attention. We’d have been ready to go sooner, but part of our agreement with the State of Alaska was getting another swab up the nose a week after arrival. So a week later we wandered up to the airport and had the test again.

Then we headed off to Thomas Bay for some real isolation. Our goal was the hike to Falls Lake, something that in the end kicked our sedentary Oakland a$$es quite roundly. The sign at the bottom says “2.5 miles”, and we’ve done the first half-mile a couple of times before, so we allocated four hours for the round-trip.  Timing is everything, the tide waits for no man (or person of any gender), and getting stranded for a 12-hour tide cycle with the dinghy high and dry is no fun. The first half mile, it turns out, is the maintained part of the trail. After that first half mile things deteriorated rapidly. After three hours the GPS said we were half way into a 2.5 mile hike, so we turned around, tails between our legs, and returned to the dinghy before we were forced to camp for the night. Next time….

From there we have made our way back to old haunts, namely Seymour Canal and Pack Creek that were highlights of our travels last year. The text below was written at that time and never posted, but still applies.  The photos are from this year.

Still night
Aeolian susurrus of whales breathing
drifting across the canal
Fusillade; an asthmatic symphony
Orange moon rises above the spruce
Reflected in the mirror of the bay
A bird squawks, interrupting the quiet
There is no one else but us
to hear.

Or, to put it more crudely, our entrance into Seymour Canal was like stepping into a New Bedford wet dream. There were humpback whales everywhere. Cavorting. Lolling on the surface. Diving. We easily saw a hundred as we traversed the first five miles of the canal. When we anchored for the night it was so still that you could hear every breath, even those miles away


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