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Kassa Inlet and Hunter Bay | Prince of Wales Island

From Hydaburg we headed south in protected inside waters. After the coldest and wettest summer we can remember in SE Alaska, today’s sunshine was welcome!

It looks like the sunshine is going to stick around for the foreseeable future…an Alaskan heatwave!

Our first stop was Kassa Inlet. Its long shoreline with several bays looked like great exploring. We arrived in the evening and saved the dinghying for the following day. The shoreline lacks some of the grandeur of anchorages further north—no snowcapped peaks or deep fjords—but the thickly forested hills dip down to placid waters in a beautiful way.

We spotted a black bear trundling through the grass, munching here and there. It looked up at us as we approached, then continued its meal.

Sam watching a black bear on shore
En route to Hunter Bay a humpback surfaced between Safe Harbour and Airship. We slowed to let it pass.

Our next anchorage was Hunter Bay, just a few hours distant. Joe, the fisherman we’d spoken with in Craig, recommended it and it looked great on the chart. Well protected, with a lagoon and rock-studded inlet to explore nearby.

Kevin and Sam both took their copters up for some overview photos:

Hunter Bay from the air

On the way in Sam spotted a mama bear with a cub, then another. As soon as the anchor was set, we launched the dinghies and set off for Biscuit Lagoon. We were near the bottom of a not-very-low low tide (about 5 feet) and didn’t know if there’d be enough water to get past the rapids. The cruising guide made it sound like this was a high-water-only deal, but we made it in just fine. Inside we spotted another bear and a bunch of Sand Hill Cranes.

Through the rapids into Biscuit Lagoon
Sand Hill Cranes on shore
Back through the rapids
The worst of the rapids at Biscuit Lagoon

We then headed for Klinkwan Cove. The cruising guide said this was a kayaks only kind of place, which we took as a challenge. Would the dinghy work? Yes, easily as it turned out. Some thick kelp blocked much of the entrance, but we picked our way through and then followed the meandering shoreline around the cove.

Just outside Kilinkwan Cove, we spotted another black bear on shore. We motored toward it slowly and then shut off the outboards and drifted while watching this guy.

He soon became accustomed to our presence, and we were able to talk between dinghies while the grass-eating bear did his thing without paying much attention to us. For those keeping score, today’s bear count now reached seven.

Back near where we’d anchored, there’s what looks to be a relatively new dock (metal rather than wood pilings and joists, wood decking without much moss or other growth) and some cannery ruins. We beached the dinghies to investigate.

We couldn’t find a road connecting the pier to anything, nor did we see any signs indicating its purpose. It’s obviously far too new to be a vestige of the cannery.

Back at the Airship/Safe Harbour raft, we made dinner and enjoyed the peaceful location. Dinner was beer-battered halibut and zucchini…delicious! We found a simple beer batter recipe that is fantastic and can be modified to fit your taste with whatever herbs and spices you like. (You’ll find our recipe at the end of this post.)

Throughout dinner we watched a black bear on the far shore, and after dinner we decided to get a closer look by dinghy. As we slowly motored over, another black bear caught our attention on the opposite shore, so we watched him before saying hi to the original bear.

The tide was fairly high and the waterway snaked in towards a river quite a bit further than we expected. Beautiful in here!

Sunset with seal

Pictures never convey the whole feeling of being in a place. The smells and sounds go unnoticed, even if the sights are there. This was especially true in Hunter Bay. As the wind shifted direction in the evening, the smell changed from the briny ocean smell so familiar to mariners to a loamy, damp, foresty smell. Occasionally a guttural, growly shriek emanated from the woods, disrupting this otherwise silent anchorage…bears mating, perhaps, or protecting their young. Whatever it was, we were glad to be safely onboard our boats!

Beer Battered Halibut (and Zucchini sticks) 

1 lbs halibut filets
1+ lbs zucchini sticks
2 egg whites
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp Penzey’s roasted garlic powder
A few shakes of Penzey’s chipotle powder
2 tsp canola oil, plus more for frying
1 cup beer

Cut halibut into pieces (we did ours in about 2×3 inch pieces, about an inch thick. Pat dry.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

In another (medium) mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, spices, and oil. Pour in the beer and whisk until smooth. Fold in egg whites.

Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large sauté pan, then reduce heat to medium-low. Dip each piece of fish into the batter and fry for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on size and thickness. Drain on paper towels and serve.