Day 10 | Alaska Flotilla Leg 3 | Explorer Basin to Egg Harbor

If there are two highlights on this leg of the trip, Coronation Island is one of them (the other is Endicott Arm/Ford’s Terror). Coronation Island sits just south of Chatham Strait, out in the ocean. It’s a big island—about 30nm around—with a dramatic, bold coastline and bare peaks. Because it’s in the ocean, it’s “off the beaten path” and seldom visited. Thankfully, the weather for our visit cooperated perfectly.

We left Explorer Basin in the fog. Dense fog, about 1/8th mile of visibility. Radar, chart plotters, and AIS made it easy, but it’s always a little spooky navigating by instruments only. The fog persisted most of the way down Chatham Strait.

This was our view for most of the day, minus the land and the sky

Fog, it turned out, was a good tradeoff for calm seas. NOAA predicted light winds building to 10 knots and four foot seas. They were right about the winds, but overestimated the seas. We’d call them two feet, widely spaced, gentle. 

Coronation Island, rising up out of the fog bank
We saw a couple of humpbacks on our way into Egg Harbor

When we arrived at Egg Harbor, we dropped the anchors (huge, easy anchorage…room for a hundred boats!) and launched the dinghies. First, we explored the caves on shore:

Some of the caves have evidence of mining: rotten wooden skids along with thousands of cylinders that look to have been bored out of the rock. Exploratory drilling? Drilling for blasting? Something else?

Then, with the exceptionally calm conditions, we dinghied along the western shore of the island. The coastline is almost impossibly rugged, lined with caves and sea stacks, carved by centuries of waves carrying an ocean’s worth of momentum. 

As we made our way around the shoreline, we noticed some splashing in the distance, and heard the unmistakable growling sounds of sea lions. There were maybe 30 to 40 of them swimming together. They were curious about us and swam closer for a look.

Even on such a calm day, the power of the swell is evident close to the rocks.

Sea lions weren’t the only wildlife: we also spotted dozens of puffins, more than we’ve ever seen before in a single place.

Puffins are difficult to photograph!

The puffins flew in and out of this giant cave, circling our dinghies overhead on their way in and out as if trying to figure out what the heck we were doing there. 

Back on the raft, Kevin took the drone up and got some aerial photos of the anchorage:

The group came over to the raft for dinner (rice bowls) and then several of us decided one more dinghy trip to the west side of the island was warranted.

We went to see the sea lions and puffins, but orcas distracted us along the way. The group of sea lions was still out there as well, but they were less impressed with the orcas and kept their distance. Perhaps because the orcas had eaten (parts of) one of their own, leaving the floating carcass for scavengers (kinda gross, we know):

As the sun set, we sat in our dinghies and watched the orcas swim, splash, and leap out of the water. Magical!

Exhilarated, we watched the orcas until the sun dipped into the horizon before motoring back to Egg Harbor. What a night!