We pick up our guests at their B&B and board Home Shore at 1:00 p.m. While gear is stowed, acquaintances with crew are made, guest chart logbooks are given out, then lines are cast off for departure. Heading south along the protected outer coast, we conduct a safety orientation around the hoer d'oeuvre platter, noticing commercial salmon boats pass on their way to town. We anchor near a hot springs, and our guests decide to delay their first paddling excursion and take advantage of the chance to soak. We launch the outboard and make two trips so all guests can stroll the beach and lounge in the tub. Two hours later we ferry a very relaxed group of guests to the mothership for showers, barbequed king salmon, and a sound sleep in the
Following a leisurely breakfast we weigh anchor and travel south through narrow channels, barrier reefs, and semi-protected bays. We arrive at a placid, beautiful cove and outfit guests with kayaking gear. Kayaks are launched, adjustments are made, and guests depart with guide on an excursion out of the cove through protected waters to a beautiful beach for a lunch stop. Since this is our first visit here this season, we fill a couple garbage bags with plastic ocean debris, leaving the beach as clean as when Tlingits were its only visitors. Our paddling party returns to the mothership, exploring rocky cuts on the way, and reboards for hot showers and an exchange of stories over another fine meal.
Day comes warm, bright, and still. We depart our anchorage and continue south, gradually leaving behind the islands that dampen the gentle ocean swell. The day is ocean perfect, so we anchor in one bay, launch the kayaks, and discuss our rendezvous in another bay five miles to the south. Our party paddles through patches of sea foam along the spectacular shoreline, exploring between side-by-side rock fingers that are sprinkled on South Baranof, creating a fascinating paddling environment. They see sea otter in the bay entrances and several humpback spouts in the distance. Reaching the second bay, the paddlers explore there for an hour before returning to Home Shore. Our day ends with the usual amenities, alone in a setting of incredible beauty, with ocean murmurs as a lullaby.
Three guests arise early for transport in the skiff to shore for a short uphill scramble and a view of the ocean. Our shore party returns for breakfast, then we depart through an ocean that is not as quiet as yesterday - fine for boat travel, but not for paddling - so we plan an inner fjord excursion. Again we see a few humpbacks in the distance. We arrive at an amazingly protected sublime anchorage near the fjord entrance, and our paddlers point eastward through the protected waters, entering a long, narrow channel, finally arriving at the head of the bay teeming with salmon schooling by a spawning stream. Home Shore has caught up, and we reunite on board, passing up the short hike upriver to the lake because a mother brown bear on the delta is teaching her two cubs to fish. Telephoto lenses and a fishing pole are deployed, and some great photographs and one sockeye salmon are captured. Dinner follows, with Alaskan wildlife pulsing around us.
We weigh anchor and travel south, rounding spectacular Cape Ommaney under the boisterous supervision of foraging sea lions. Realizing we've seen only a couple distant salmon trollers during the last two days, we turn northward along the "Waterfall Coast". Our first stop is the small fishing village Port Alexander, where guests notice the touches of whimsy near some of the cabins along the rustic rainforest boardwalk. Soon after our departure we are treated to nature's extravaganza - bubble feeding humpback whales! After an awe-inspiring twenty-minute show we move on and anchor in a bay near a cairn constructed by Captain Vancouver's crew over two centuries ago. Several guests choose to visit the small island with the cairn by outboard, while our hunter-gatherer stays on board to prove his mettle, successfully jigs a halibut, and we gratefully reunite over a superb barbecued entree featuring nature's bounty.
Continuing northward along the Waterfall Coast, we reach a wonderful stretch of shoreline, set our prawn and crab pots, and anchor to deploy kayaks. Our kayaking party paddles and drifts northward with the flood current, exploring nooks and crannies, nosing up to a massive waterfall, and fending off jumping chum salmon that threaten to board the kayaks. We rendezvous in tiny enchanted anchorage, surrounded by waterfalls tumbling down steep rock walls. Transported by outboard to a nearby white sand beach, we enjoy a dinner featuring fresh prawns skewered over a driftwood fire. We return to Home Shore after a long and very satisfying day.
Day begins with a fresh crab and shrimp omelet, served while underway with the bold Baraboo shoreline sliding by the lounge windows. We travel through the storied Sergius Narrows, and anchor in an isolated island group not far from Sitka. In a departure from our South Baraboo experience, we now see ample traffic on the main passages, but we are alone in our anchorage as usual. Kayaks are launched for an exploration of the tiny channels and islets. Our paddlers return to the mothership to gather for the last on-board dinner, featuring much reminiscence and contact information exchanges.
On the last morning of the eco-tour a short run takes us to St. Lazaria Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in the shadow of the volcano Mt. Edgecumbe. St. Lazaria, an artistically sea-carved chunk of lava, is home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins. Center of an incredibly rich eco-system, the island also attracts seals, sea lions, herring, and salmon. We see all these nearby, along with several humpback whales, and recall seeing orca cruise around the island, a treat that is denied us today. After slowly motoring around the island two times, close to its steep rock sides with notches that protect the nesting birds, we regretfully turn toward Sitka. Arriving in Sitka, we say our goodbyes and transport our guests to their lodging or the airport.