Airship | Icy Strait: Hoonah, George Islands, Inian Islands, Excursion Inlet

After our trip up Lynn Canal and back, we met up with friends/flotilla folks Ralph and Jeanette (on Rubicon) and Scott (on Impulse) over in Swanson Harbor (where Lynn Canal, Chatham Strait, and Icy Strait all converge). We all got space on the dock and had a nice visit. In the morning, we cruised over to Flynn Cove for one night (Ralph and Jeanette caught a halibut!) and then split up again as Rubicon headed for Glacier Bay, and Impulse and Airship went into Hoonah where we stayed two nights.

Hoonah Harbor

We took a walk up to the market for some produce (slim pickings on this particular day), but it was nice to stretch our legs and see a bit of town.

The next morning we went over to Fisherman’s Daughter (which has moved, but is closer to the marina now) for breakfast (delicious, as usual), and then after breakfast we set out for Icy Strait Point (about a mile and a half from town). We had company during most of our 1.5 mile walk…a humpback!

Icy Strait Point is the touristy part of Hoonah, but we think it’s actually pretty cool, as far as cruise ship terminal areas go.

We flowed along with the other tourists around the point to check out the new additions to the area, and decided to ride the free green gondola up to…”Wilderness Landing.”

This forest obstacle course looked super fun, but there was no one doing it…so maybe it wasn’t open, or isn’t finished yet. Not sure.

Once at the first gondola stop, we found a booth for the zip line and the red gondola (I think it’s called something else), which is brand new, and goes all the way up to where the zip line starts (previously you needed to take a small tour/old school bus to get to the zip line). We’d tried a few times to find out if non-cruiseshippers could ride the zip line but were unsuccessful gathering any information. This might be our chance! Phyllis, the very helpful lady checking people in, told us that yes we could in fact ride the zip line, and she just happened to have three spots available at 1:00pm (an hour and a half from when we asked) and that she would give us the local rate ($80 per person) rather than the cruiseshipper rate (I think it’s $140 per person). So we decided that we WOULD ride the zip line and take the red gondola way way up the side of the mountain to get there.

Looks kinda take from here, right?
Here’s looking back where we came from
Huge ship so tiny!

This entire upper area just opened opened in May of this year.

The views from the top were incredible!

That point off in the distance is where we just were…Swanson Harbor!
The brand new cell tower which will really help with the cruiseshippers taking the whole town’s internet when there’s a ship in…but it’s not working yet.
Zip line here we come!

We’d never done a zip line before, and this one was a great first ride. Also, from the platform there, and continuing the entire ride down, we could see a big humpback off to our right breaching and fin-slapping — the whole time. Awesome!

We walked back to town, called it an early night, and planned to meet in the morning around 8am for breakfast to-go at Fisherman’s Daughter. Our plan was to head out to the Inian Islands, and anchor in Mosquito Cove. But here in Hoonah we met up with boat friends Greg and Marilyn (on a Selene called Moonstruck) and they told us about an anchorage in the George Islands, just out from Elfin Cove, where you could hike up to see a WWII cannon that’s still there, and said there was also a big arch you could dinghy through at high tide, etc., and it sounded like everything we wanted to be doing! We’d go there first, then spend the next night in the Inian Islands!

In the morning we grabbed breakfast and left Hoonah for a calm and scenic cruise west in Icy Strait. We came through Inian Pass with a couple knots of current helping us along and experienced mild swell as we neared Cross Sound. We anchored in Granite Cove and took the dinghys ashore to find this cannon!

Dinghy ashore at Granite Cove on George Island
The entire beach is granite. For real.

The trailhead was easy to find.

There were several old rusty things (boiler, misc. equipment) still to be found in the forest.

The trail is very well maintained.

Along the way there are several side trails that take you out to the Pacific side of the island.

And, ta da, the big gun!

And a quonset hut full of moss and stuff.

Here’s an article about the gun, and the place, if you’re interested to know more.

After our hike, we got in the dinghies and circumnavigated the island. We found the gun from the water, too! (It’s up where those two vertical trees show, behind the rocky outcropping).

We also found the big arch our friends told us about and though the swell was a little large, we sat and timed it to go through at a pretty good time (though that rock on the left wasn’t anticipated…we avoided it and pushed off the wall…well, you’ll see in the video below).

After the Arch Dingy Experience™ we went out to get a closer look at this big group of sea lions hauled out on a rock just a little way from the arch.

Sound on if you watch the video.

I heard some unfamiliar motor sound at around three in the morning, and when I got up to find the source of the sound (it was two more packers coming in and anchoring/rafting quite…very near us) I was treated to this view of the moon (which of course the photo doesn’t capture, but it looked HUGE).

Breakfast with the packers. (This was after they’d swung so they were double the distance they were when I first got up.)

After breakfast, we pulled our anchors and cruised the five miles or so back to the Inian Islands, through middle pass, and into Mosquito Cove. We anchored and then set out in the dinghys for exploring.

Airship and Impulse in Mosquito Cove.
So much kelp as we transited Mosquito Passage. This will come into play later.

We dinghied around to take a look at the Inian Cove anchorage, and although it has this view, we preferred Mosquito Cove for its charm and smaller size (and proximity to about a hundred boisterous sea lions).

The sea lions were everywhere in our anchorage…they’d pop up right next to the dinghy as we motored around and made tons of noise. They were such fun to watch!

We tried to poke into Hobbit Hole to check it out earlier in the day, but the current/rapids were rushing just a bit too fast, so we came back later when it was calm. What a great spot back in there!

Hobbit Hole

In the morning when we pulled our anchor, well….this:

A ~500lb ball of kelp, attached to our anchor.

It took about thirty minutes to get it all off using the boat hook, muscles, and dipping it down and then back up with the windlass. But I’d come back here and anchor again in a minute, so it was totally worth it.

Passing the sea lion haulout area on our way out of Mosquito Cove
Gorgeous view of the Fairweathers as we exit the Inian Islands
More view
Icy Strait was downright glassy

We saw many otters along the way:

And then pretty soon we slowed to watch a humpback that was making its way alongside near shore.

No sooner did we slow up to take a couple pictures, the whale began to tail slap like crazy. I (and my long lens) was ready!

It slapped a few times, then turned over onto its back and slapped its tail down on the top side a few times. We’ve never seen that before!

I was able to get a couple photos of Scott’s boat with the whale fluke (don’t worry, the boat is much further from the whale than it looks).

It lay on its back and slapped both fins out side to side a few times.

So much fun to watch!! We continued on and anchored in Excursion Inlet, in Sawmill Bay, passing many more otters along the way.

As soon as we turned into the little bight we usually anchor in, we saw a black bear on shore:

The view from this anchorage is so beautiful when the weather is clear!

We only caught one crab here, but it was a HUGE one.

We left Sawmill Bay in the morning and headed for Funter Bay over on Admiralty Island, where we stayed for two nights waiting out some lumpy weather. We had crap traps down but caught nothing. Mostly, we just played ukulele and games and cooked food (and Kevin did some fishing), and it was kinda gray and rainy most of the time.

Yesterday morning, we pulled our anchor and headed for Juneau. As soon as we exited Funter Bay we saw a humpback spout in the distance, near Kitten Islands. We watched it as we continued north, saw another one out a bit further also heading our way, then noticed a larger group over near shore that was (YAY!!). bubble net feeding (apparently attracting some others to join in!) We watched a group of what ended up being thirteen (!!!!) humpbacks bubble net feeding. It’s been a couple years since we’ve seen humpbacks bubble net feeding, so we were thrilled to happen upon them this morning.

We reluctantly continued our cruise into Juneau, where the scene was quite different!

There were five cruise ships in town (one is anchored, out of frame on the left) and another enormous brick of a ship (Norwegian Bliss) passed us heading south in Gastineau Channel as it made room for its sibling, Norwegian Encore).

We quickly hustled up to the market to reprovision (fresh produce!! yay!!) and this morning we’re heading down to Ford’s Terror for a few more days. We’ll be timing to enter for the 7:35pm slack, and it’s about 8 hours to get down there, so…a long day. But conditions are calm and it should be a nice cruise.