We left Explorer Basin on Kuiu Island early this morning…7:00a.m. It was foggy as we pulled anchor, but as we got out into Chatham Strait, it cleared up and turned into a beautiful day.
Why the early departure? Currents run strongly in Chatham Strait. Having adverse current for a short time isn’t a big deal, but losing three knots of speed for 30 miles is a frustrating waste of time and fuel. Leaving at 7:00a.m. would give us a boost from the current AND would put us at the south end of Chatham Strait, where the ocean swells would be biggest, near slack. That’s important because when ocean swells coming from the southwest meet current flowing from the north, they quickly go from lazy to fierce.
The plan worked. We had a reasonably smooth ride down Chatham Strait. Perhaps the least comfortable conditions were right after leaving Explorer Basin, as the swell fought with three knots of opposing current. Thankfully, the seas died down quickly as the current dissipated.
Our destination was Coronation Island, south of Kuiu Island, off the northwest coast of Prince of Wales Island. It’s about 45 square miles and has five bays. We aimed for Egg Harbor.
Egg Harbor gets its name from the Henyakwan Tlingit. They traditionally used this harbor as a campsite while they waited for fair weather to travel out to the Hazy Islands to gather bird eggs. Egg Harbor also once had a lead mine that operated on the west shore from the early 1900s until the late 1960s. In the 1960s, biologists introduced wolves to Coronation Island as an experiment. Unfortunately, none remain today (that we know of).
Coronation Island is in the Gulf of Alaska, and its shoreline is subject to raging storms and never ending surf. A handful of big sea caves, carved by millennia of pounding waves, lie along the rocky, white granite beach on the west side of the harbor. High above the caves, rising well above tree line, is 1400-foot high Pin Peak. It’s a picturesque spot in a totally different way than the placid fjords further inland.
We anchored, decided to get another hour or so of sleep and a shower, and then headed out in a dinghy to go get a closer look at those caves.
From a distance it’s impossible to sense the scale of the caves. They look like pockmarks, maybe big enough for a person to stand erect in the entrance only. But up close, they’re huge! Some extend well into the mountainside, and rise to more than 30 feet once inside.
In one cave we found rotten skids surrounded by perfectly round cores pulled from the rock, evidence from long ago mining operations.
Coronation Island is way off the beaten path and now rates among our favorite anchorages in Southeast Alaska. We look forward to returning!