Adventures in Alaska Aboard SV Maple Leaf
Trip updates from our 92-foot schooner, the Maple Leaf, on an Alaska Adventure .
After leaving Petersburg on Friday afternoon, we sailed to Thomas Bay enjoying our first hours aboard the Maple Leaf. Baird Glacier spills from the northern reaches of the Stikine Ice field on the mainland of Alaska and marks the entrance to the Bay. Our first full day of the voyage began with a forest walk where we learned about the ecology of the temperate rainforest of coastal southeast Alaska.
Our afternoon was spent out on the deck of the Maple Leaf looking for whales. We spotted many humpback whales in Frederick Sound, some even came so close that we could smell their breath and see their entire length below the water’s surface. For Teresa, one of our guests, it was her first encounter with whales in the wild and to sum it up in one word she says it was ‘magnificent’.
Before dinner Captain Greg took us for a small boat cruise of the inter tidal environment and a walk along an island covered in the white crushed shells of barnacles and clams. A sea otter was spotted lounging in the kelp beds and bald eagles in the tops of the western hemlock and sitka spruce trees. Our evening anchorage was shared with the infamous crab fishing vessel ‘Time Bandit’ from the television show Deadliest Catch.
On Sunday, we transited west through Frederick Sound where we encountered more humpback whales. We took to the tender to explore a small group of islands along the way encountering many sea otters and a humpback whale.
In the late afternoon we arrived at the entrance to Red Bluff Bay and made our way through the narrow turns of the coastal fjord on Baranof Island. As we dropped anchor for the evening we spotted a brown bear in the estuary at the head of the fjord. Seizing this opportunity we went ashore and watched as this bear made its way into the forest while another bear walked along the river towards the beach.
Kayaking and estuarine exploration occupied our morning on Monday. Brown bears were spotted near the river. On shore we followed bear tracks across the exposed low tide mud, measuring their imprints against the size of our hands.
After leaving the beautiful estuary we sailed towards Yasha Island hoping to catch a glimpse of more sea otters and sea lions. The island did not disappoint! As we approached the island we were greeted by large groups of gregarious Steller sea lions that appeared just as curious about us as we were about them. Face-to-face with the sea lions, we watched them cavort and cartwheel around us in the small boats.
We returned to the Maple Leaf and made our way to Warm Springs Bay where we hiked to a beautiful sub alpine lake and then were treated to a soak in the hot springs right next to a rushing river.
When we left Warm Springs Bay early in the morning the air was still and a soft drizzle blanketed the sea surface. We enjoyed a leisurely morning with lots of coffee and tea as we made our way around the southern tip of Admiralty Island. The clouds parted in the early afternoon in time for lunch on deck while we watched foraging and resting humpback whales as far as we could see across Frederick Sound.
After lunch we went ashore to the historic Five Fingers Lighthouse where we climbed the four flights of stairs to a 360 degree view. A short walk along the trail brought us under a bald eagles nest and to a viewpoint where we spotted a lone male orca that swam through the shallow waters below us. A circumnavigation of Fingers Island by small boat permitted sightings of many shorebirds and a humpback whale.
We end our day at Wood Spit where we anchor for the night and prepare for another fantastic day tomorrow.
– Report by Jill Harvey, naturalist aboard the SV Maple Leaf