Whales, Waterfalls and Wildflowers

20140612 8554 baranof falls psrAlthough we arrived to a nearly empty dock at Warm Springs Bay, the activity picked up quite a bit starting a few hours later.  First we had a massive commercial fishing “buy boat” – 95′ long by 32′ wide – dock right behind us while I was reading in the cockpit, blocking my nice view of the waterfall.  Fortunately they only stayed for a few hours to fill water tanks and go for a quick soak in the geothermal pool.  Then a few cruising boats arrived along with a commercial troller with a very nice young couple aboard.  Another buy boat anchored out in the bay, and a few trollers lined up to tie to the buy boat and offload their catch – there was plenty of action to keep us busy.  This is one of the salmon trollers anchored nearby.20140612 8586 troller warm springs bay psrJim was sitting in the pilothouse and looked up to see a humpback right in front of the boat – he had to have come under our boat in order to surface so close – WOW!  Jim shouted to the people on the dock and we all scrambled and grabbed cameras, and eventually the whale made a slow circuit of the inner bay20140530 8154 humpback dorsal  RESIZE, disappearing for periods of time, and then it appeared and cruised along right next to our boat – no more than 5′ off our beam.  It all happened so quickly that we didn’t get any photos of the close action.  Normally when someone calls “whale!” I grab my camera with the long lens.  For this encounter, I needed wide angle.


We ended up having a fun time talking with the other cruisers on the dock, and with the beautiful weather someone had the idea for a “docktail” party.  The wife on the salmon troller is a Native Alaskan, and she brought herring eggs as an appy.  The herring will lay their eggs on anything, so natives stick fir branches in the water and the herring will lay their eggs on them.  I think they’re boiled or steamed in some way, and you eat them right off the evergreen branches.  Not for me – I’m not a seafood person, but people found them interesting.

We asked one of the charter boat captains for suggestions of other favorite coves and bays in the area, and he suggested Takatz Bay only 5 miles farther north.  What a great suggestion – it’s a gorgeous place.20140613 8601 entering takatz psr  Just as we turned to head into the long, narrow bay we saw whales blowing right along the north shoreline.  We had to pay attention to navigation since there was a charted rock in the middle of the entrance channel to avoid, but we were grabbing binoculars and watching the whales as much as the chart.  The whales were “lunge feeding”, where they seemed to be herding schools of herring up against the sheer shoreline and then lunging with open mouths to scoop them up.  We hurried to get the boat anchored in the protected back part of the bay, got the dinghy in the water, and grabbed cameras to zoom back out to watch the whales feeding.  We kept a respectful distance from them, but we ran the dinghy (“Beastie”) out to the mouth of the bay and then shut the motor off to drift quietly on the incoming tide.  The whales put on quite a show – we drifted with them for about 30 minutes and were surprised at how close to the shore they were.20140613 8537 takatz whale mouth psrEventually the tide started to change and the herring moved out into Chatham Strait.  We ventured farther out to watch for a little longer, and then the whales waved goodbye.20140613 8550 takatz whale high five psrWe zoomed back to ADVENTURES, anchored next to a waterfall and surrounded by huge granite cliffs – we have the anchorage all to ourselves.20140614 8606 adventures in takatz bay psr20140614 8638 chocolate lily psr


It was rainy and misty for the two days we spent in Takatz, but it never rained hard and I was able to kayak every day for several hours.  I found a lot of interesting geology – tiger-striped rocks with layers folded upon layers where different materials were trapped in molten rock and shaped as the rock cooled.  There were also a lot of wildflowers along the shoreline, such as scarlet paintbrush, subalpine daisy, shooting star, and the unusual (for me) chocolate lily.  I also love the color and bushy look of the new growth on the Sitka spruce trees…

20140614 8623 sitka spruce growth psrThe second day we headed back out in the dinghy to try and see whales feeding again when the tide was flooding, but all we saw was a salmon troller anchored off to the side.  The fishing has been very slow so far this season, and the commercial fishermen are pretty frustrated.

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