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Airship | Sokolof Island, Wrangell 4th of July, and Berg Bay

We left Point Baker and headed toward Wrangell, stopping to fish for halibut around Vank and Sokolof Islands in the afternoon. We didn’t catch anything and thought we’d fish again the next morning, so we anchored for the night in a little bight on the SE corner of Sokolof Island — a decent anchorage with a distant view of Wrangell. In the evening we saw a small brown bear on shore.

We assume this small island doesn’t have enough in the way of food to support any bears, so perhaps he swam over from somewhere larger.

In the morning, we headed back out toward Grey’s Island near the entrance to the Stikine River to fish. Right at slack tide, boom, boom, we caught two small halibut (one 28″ guy and one 33″ — about 9 and 16 pounds). Perfect!

Heading into Wrangell on July 3

We called the Wrangell harbormaster to ask if there was room in Reliance Harbor for us (the marina closest to town) and we lucked out! We’ll have a great front row view of the fireworks tonight!

Coast Guard ship Osprey in town for the holiday. (Airship just up from its bow in this photo, on the long transient dock.)
Docked in Reliance Harbor as the sun sets

In every one of the SE Alaska towns we’ve visited for the 4th of July (Sitka, Juneau, and now Wrangell), they’ve started their fireworks sometime late on the night of July 3rd (usually between 11:30 p.m. and midnight) so that they can have fireworks ON the 4th of July while it’s dark enough to see them properly.

This couple in a canoe waited next to us for a while

This 4th of July (as usual) prior to the official fireworks show (as soon as it was dark enough to see fire–well, earlier than that, really), people began setting off their own fireworks. The house on the point as you enter Reliance Harbor had a good supply of fireworks and put on a respectable show directly across from town.

The beginning of the official fireworks
Answering fire with fire from the neighbors on the point

Yeah, the finale looks a bit like Armageddon in this photo, but Alaska takes their fireworks seriously!

In the morning, we wandered into town to catch the Fourth of July Parade. We ran into friends (happens more and more every summer!) Rich and Tracy (S/V Delphina) who we’ve met up with now almost every summer we’ve been in SE, and their friends PK and Julia (on S/V Havfruen, which we saw yesterday on our way to Wrangell and the name, I think, means “the mermaid” in Danish). We watched the parade with them and had a great time catching up. 

There’s something very charming about the parades in the smaller towns in Alaska, especially when the weather cooperates (78 degrees and sunny!) So often, we visit these towns when it’s gray and rainy and there aren’t many people out, but when you happen to be here for a festival of any kind, the energy is magical. We’ve tried to describe this before, but one clear gorgeous day in SE Alaska is such perfection that it has the ability to erase a month of dreary days. It’s true. Mostly. 🙂

After the parade, we walked back to the harbor, filled Airship with fresh water, and left the dock. Yeah, there were more events going on today, but we got a permit for Anan Bear Observatory for the 5th so we wanted to get a few miles further on. 

Oh, this is interesting: the charts and current/tide tables (both Garmin and Navionic) show that at the time we’d be going through the Narrows behind Wrangell Island that we’d have about 2.5 knots of current against us. No big deal, but we did NOT have 2.5 knots of current against us. We had 1.5 knots of current WITH us and in fact we had current with us the entire way from Wrangell to Berg Bay. So that was weird…maybe the heat (which warranted a “Severe Weather Alert” on our iPhones, heh) and the increased ice melting and water rising and such is the cause of the discrepancy (does that happen with current??) but it’s interesting to note. 

We anchored in Berg Bay (past about a zillion commercial crab pots!) with a terrific view of Devil’s Thumb.

The last time we were here (a couple years ago) the weather was horrible and we only saw gray and a ton of rain. We had no idea this place was so beautiful! Once our anchor was set we launched the dinghy and cruised around the corner to explore Aaron Creek and the giant marshland there. We went all the way up both arms that show navigable on the chart.

We saw blue glacial waters, tall mountain peaks, and lush green meadows…but no wildlife to speak of besides birds. 

Some aerials of our Berg Bay anchorage:

Back on Airship we sipped champagne, made fresh gazpacho (yay produce stop in Wrangell!), and grilled up some baby back ribs which we had slow-smoked, vacuum sealed, and frozen before we left home, served with a couple ears of corn. A very nice Fourth (and Third) of July!

Oh yeah, earlier this morning before leaving Wrangell, we thought we’d see if we could get a permit for Anan Wildlife Observatory for tomorrow. Permit availability for such prime time in the season was definitely a long shot, but we lucked out and got one for tomorrow, so that’s where we’ll go in the morning. Fingers crossed for bears!