Airship | Icy Strait (and finally, moose!)

Last week we left Juneau to do some buddy boating with Dog Star for a week or so. (Our grandkid is along with us this week, and has requested lots of bumpy dinghy rides and fresh crab and maybe some fishing.) Our first stop was Swanson Bay/Couverden Islands. There was plenty of room on the public float with only one boat, but we opted to anchor out and raft together.

Dog Star leaving Juneau
Coming around Pt. Retreat

We settled in Swanson Bay and put out some crab and shrimp traps, and explored the area by dinghy afterwards. We grilled up some burgers for dinner, and in the morning headed across Icy Strait toward Hoonah. Dog Star was out first and called us quietly on the radio as they neared the exit. A mama moose and calf had been on shore and decided to swim across the channel right in front of Dog Star (as in, they had to stop the boat to let the animals cross!!)

Moose with calf following behind, crossing in front of Dog Star

Mama got to shore and waited patiently for her baby to come along:

We were pretty psyched to have finally seen moose! In all our years coming up to SE Alaska, it’s the one animal we hadn’t seen. Humpbacks, orcas, seals, sea lions, brown bears, black bears, eagles, puffins, wolves, mountain goats….and now, finally, moose!

We arrived in Hoonah and found space on the transient dock.

Hoonah Harbor
Hoonah Harbor

We wandered up into town and over to Fisherman’s Daughter to get a late lunch, but they said unfortunately their kitchen was on hold — their power was out. So we looked at the menu and opted to walk around town for a bit and then come back, hoping the power would be back when we were. We weren’t very far down the road when a man named Howard pulled up beside us and said he’d heard we were waiting for the electricity at Fisherman’s Daughter, and that he was a local tour guide with a half an hour to spare and would be happy (no charge) to help us kill thirty minutes. Fun! We got in and had a great time hearing Howard’s stories about the town and culture and random businesses and wildlife, as we drove the length of Hoonah and back. Howard Diamond and his son Jack (a Yupik Eskimo, and bear guide) run tours out of Hoonah, and can gear them toward photography, culture, wildlife…whatever you like! Rivers Alaska is the name of their company, and if you’re in the market for something extra when you visit Hoonah next time, give them a call!

Howard returned us to Fisherman’s Daughter and we were happy to see their power had returned as well! (One of the things we did while driving around town with Howard was pick up a guy named Leroy, giving him a ride up to the power plant…he was the guy to fix the electricity, so that was productive!)

After lunch, we walked around town a bit more, and then headed back to the boats for some relaxing.

Dinner on Airship tonight: Laura’s homemade clam chowder, sourdough bread, and caesar salad.

In the morning, we returned to Fisherman’s Daughter for breakfast, which was very good! We left Hoonah later that morning and headed into Port Frederick and on to Neka Bay (the north bight) for the night.

We put out crab traps again (we were catching a lot of crab, I just don’t remember which spots got the crab, but we had plenty).

For dinner in Neka Bay, David and Julie made homemade pizza — so so good! We had three different kinds: smoked duck, cherries, and goat cheese (pictured, delicious), another with prawns, jalapeños, and ham (also delicious) and one (slightly more traditional) with fennel sausage, mushrooms and olives (of course, delicious as well).

Our next stop for the night was Flynn Cove, where we didn’t really take many photos, but we had a great time. For dinner we grilled some steaks, baked some potatoes, and served those with a caesar salad (so traditional!)

Looking out of Flynn Cove toward Icy Strait
Some things (besides crab) that we pulled up in our crab traps

In the morning, we cruised back across Icy Strait to anchor in Sawmill Bay for two nights, the easternmost arm of Excursion Inlet (and technically part of Glacier Bay National Park, but not the part where you need a permit). The view from this spot is great, with tall snow-covered mountains in the distance, but when I took this photo they were covered up by some clouds temporarily.

Airship and Dog Star rafted in Sawmill Bay, Excursion Inlet

We grilled the salmon we caught (a pink) after we anchored, and then made some salmon cakes to use for brunch the next morning. We made the salmon cakes roughly following our recipe for crab cakes, and they came out really great! Topped with an over easy egg and some hollandaise and chives it made a wonderful brunch.

Salmon cake Benedict for brunch in Excursion Inlet

Kevin caught a small halibut while out trolling for salmon, so we had halibut tacos for dinner.

Exploring by dinghy

After brunch, we dinghied around into the other arm of the inlet, and then up to the public dock. They’ve replaced most of the old dock with a nice new one (it was definitely time).

We thought we might pop into the little store and maybe the small cannery museum, but things seems to be closed to everyone but locals right now, so we returned to our dinghies and returned to our anchorage.

We were having such good luck catching crab, so tonight was crab dinner! We started on Airship with crab toast and caviar and cocktails, and moved over to Dog Star (a progressive dinner!) for cooked crab with dipping sauces and grilled baby bok choy with miso butter and lemon vinaigrette.

Crab toast (with crab we caught) topped with caviar, served with Manhattans (and one Boulevardier)

Right before dinner on our first night at anchor, David caught a perfect-sized halibut, so for dinner our second night here, we made beer-battered halibut with homemade tartar sauce and two salads.

We left Excursion Inlet in the morning and cruised out to Icy Strait, expecting it to be a bit breezier than it actually turned out to be, which was a nice surprise. Our plan was to spend one night in Funter Bay before going back to Juneau for a couple days.

On our way past Couverden Islands, we spotted a few humpbacks lunge feeding. We didn’t get photos of that part, but captured a few flukes (and a group of sea lions) along the way.

We anchored in Coot Cove in Funter Bay (on Admiralty Island), and went right out to set crab traps, since we’d had great luck in here on prior visits. We also dinghied over to the Unangax̂ (Aleut) cemetery. During World War II, the U.S. government forced the Unangax̂ people to live in an internment camp here in Funter Bay, and almost 40 people died and were buried in the cemetery. (It turns out, just two days ago, a bill was signed to protect this cemetery, adding it to the Funter Bay Marine Park so the land cannot be sold.)

The trailhead to the cemetery is not too hard to find…in the next bay over from Coot Bay

We also found a jawbone, and some slime mold during our hike through the woods.

We dinghied around a little after our short hike, and at the head of Coot Cove came upon a bubbling area in the shallow water. We didn’t smell any sulphur, so figured it might not be geothermal activity, and instead perhaps coming from some part of an underground spring (or maybe just some REALLY big clams!!)

In the morning, we checked crab pots and between us we brought in four more big male Dungeness. Score! (Dinner tonight will be crab enchiladas and salad.)

We’re back in Juneau now (at Auke Bay, since the wind down around Douglas Island was 28kts gusting to 34kts). When we arrived it looked like all the space on the guest docks (first come first served) was taken, and we were weighing the option to either anchor out and wait, or tough it over to Juneau proper, but in the meantime a very large boat left the outside breakwater dock and left space for both Airship and Dog Star. Dog Star will pick up a guest here, and we’ll say goodbye to ours, and we’re not sure what’s next yet!