From rocky passes to warm tubs — getting in our cruising rhythm

Sliding sideways with the flood current through a narrow, rock-strewn channel called Devil’s Elbow, I watched the depth sounder read 6 feet under the keel then 4 before Jill came out of the companionway as it reached 1.8. The sun was nearing the tops of the mountains on our bow and I held a hand […]

Sliding sideways with the flood current through a narrow, rock-strewn channel called Devil’s Elbow, I watched the depth sounder read 6 feet under the keel then 4 before Jill came out of the companionway as it reached 1.8. The sun was nearing the tops of the mountains on our bow and I held a hand up above my eyes to shield them from the bright light. Picking out the next navigation aid, I waited and gave the engine a burst in forward to ease through the shallow water and around a small island to a perfectly protected anchorage.

Yahtzee’s track through tricky Rocky Pass.

That was the skinniest section of water in the aptly named Rocky Pass, and local fisherman we’d talked to had recommended reaching it at or near high tide. To get there from Port Protection we’d sailed too fast, which is a good problem to have, and chose to anchor short of the elbow to wait for more water to come in. To pass the time, we went ashore to wander around and then made dinner before getting underway again prior to sunset. The days are getting long and with useable daylight from 5 a.m. until after 9 p.m., we had time and flexibility to move the few extra miles if we wanted. Such is life in Southeast Alaska.

Two moose we spotted on shore while waiting for the tide.

The Rhythm of Cruising

What we’re learning about cruising here is that it has a lot in store for those who have time to wander around by boat — more than we ever imagined. We’ve sailed a lot and motored some while playing the 13-plus foot tidal swings and their associated currents to our advantage. We’ve gazed at sweeping mountain views in awe and have relished the sight of whales, moose, seals, sea lions, eagles and every manner of sea bird.

A mountain peak reflects on the water just before sunset.

Along the way we’ve had a mixture of rain, sun, clouds, wind, calms and everything in between. And while the warm sun has been glorious, the rain and associated cold hasn’t gotten us down. After-all, this is a rainforest, which means complaining about the weather would be even more useless than it already is. No matter what it’s doing outside, we’ve kept rolling along, enjoying what makes cruising this area unique.

The boys walking in a mountain lake during a moment of clouds and sun.

Of course, we expected all this to a degree. But what we didn’t realize was how quickly we’d be captivated and lulled into a gentle cruising rhythm. We’ve been in Alaska for over three weeks and have found a near perfect groove of relaxing at anchor, moving to the next spot, enjoying small ports, hiking beaches and forests, fishing and crabbing, sailing the dinghy, having beach fires, working and even getting some things done around the boat. That has especially been true over the past week.

Porter, “The Natural”, takes a turn on Hornpipe’s tiller.

The boys and I relax on a rock in the sunshine.

Baranof Daze

After piloting through Rocky Pass, we made way for the eastern side of Baranof Island and have been continually mesmerized by its sheer beauty and laid-back charm. Pulling into Warm Springs Bay, mountain peeks shot straight up from the water and a rushing waterfall spilled down from the snowfields above. We docked in the outflow of the falls and quickly set out on foot to find the natural hot springs.

Yahtzee moored in Warm Springs Bay.

Walking the small community’s wooden boardwalks, we soon came to a rocky path and took it upward into the forest. Nearing the springs, we could smell the sulfur and hear the loud rush of the river tumbling by. Still early in the cruising season, we were the only people here and took our time soaking in the warm pools while the weather alternated between sun and rain. It was hot springs magic all over again.

Hot springs, cold river.

One of the unique things about Warm Springs Bay and its boardwalk community is that the owners and part-time residents of the summer cabins pipe warm water down the mountain to their own tubs. For visitors and those who don’t have personal baths, the community has a bathhouse with three stalls that have tubs constantly being fed by the springs. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine soaking in warm spring water while looking out at snowcapped mountains above and a rushing waterfall flowing down into the bay with your boat sitting nearby. Yep. The setting is insanely gorgeous. And we took full advantage.

Though not in a hurry to leave, we pealed ourselves away from Warm Springs Bay to head north around Baranof towards Sitka. Along the way, the sun came out in earnest and over the next few days and nights we stopped at several tiny coves that proved to be a perfect fit for Yahtzee and crew. For work, I planned to be in and out of data service range and while that can seem difficult, it’s actually very rewarding. While the Internet is what allows me to keep us going, it’s also nice to step away from it periodically. I tend to get more writing done when I don’t have the omnipresence of social media, the incessant and ugly drone of the news, and the obligation of email. This too, is us being in the groove.

Magnus and Porter play on deck in the sunshine.

Jill and the boys sail home with a fresh crab lunch.

Though the city is near, and we need to take advantage of its services including fuel, provisions and laundry, we’re also looking forward to plugging the boat and ourselves in to see what it has to offer. Exploring the streets of Sitka, getting the boys to kids activities and eating a meal or two out for a change are all on the list. Because after all, returning to some city or another is always part of the cruising rhythm.

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