(16 August 2019) This is our last full day of cruising, and Colin decided to take us exploring to Seal Rocks, which is south of the Chiswell Islands. The weather continued to cooperate and the seas were calm. The forecast was for high winds coming up later tonight and tomorrow, but there were no signs of trouble today.
We saw Steller Sea Lions aplenty. These are the very big ones; males can grow to 11 feet long and 2,500 pounds. Females are much smaller, weighing a mere 1,000 pounds. The Steller Sea Lions remind me of prehistoric creatures, and especially so as they huddled up in the Seal Rocks.
Lou was happy as we cruised along, because he saw rocks …
After that slab of sea lions, we saw more … rocks.
We found a bunch of puffins, high on a cliff, but also diving into the water and searching for lunch.
And there was a sea otter who was not as skittish as most had been. He appeared to be just as curious about us as we were about him.
We enjoyed watching the wildlife, and then headed to our anchorage for the night. Another beautiful location. Colin and Alex went for a swim, and Colin gave the kayak a workout. Needless to say, we were probably not the most active guests ever to board the Darby. 🙂
You can see how calm the water is in our quiet anchorage. This would change in the middle of the night …
Click HERE to read about our adventures on the high seas.
Before jumping into Day 3, I want to share a photo taken before falling asleep the previous night. This was the view outside the boat. Taken at about 8:30pm, you can see how light it is outside. It did get almost dark around 10:00pm.
(16 August 2019) The views we woke up to on our third morning were nothing short of spectacular. While I’m not positive, I think we were in a cove near Southwestern Glacier, down from Northwestern Glacier. Southwestern Glacier isn’t marked on the map, but it may be a local’s name for the location we were in. Anyway … back to spectacular!
The guys cooked breakfast for us … tasty and filling as always. This pic shows some of the food we had during our journey:
Now that our tummies were full, it was time to enjoy a morning cruise. Note … we had pancakes for breakfast on this morning – the brownies, chicken taco, and snacks are from previous days.
I hope you will agree – it was a perfect day, and the sights were spectacular. The other thing I should mention is how great it was to be free of cell phones and internet. We were out of range since the first day, and I think this is the most relaxed I’ve seen Lou in ages.
Pretty nice, huh? Well, it gets better.
Captain Colin wanted to take us to one of his favorite spots. I can’t recall the name, or perhaps he didn’t tell us because it is a secret. I call it Magic Cove – I think it was near Granite Passage. Note – Colin shared that the real name for Magic Cove is Taz Basin.
We left Magic Cove and cruised south to Seal Rocks. It took a while to get there, but the sights were worth it. This was a first time to the area for Colin and we were happy to explore. We’ll break for lunch and pick up with the trip to Seal Rocks when we return.
Click HERE to see if there are seals and rocks at Seal Rocks.
(15 Aug 2019) We woke up after our first night on the Darby to more incredible scenery at our anchorage in Abra Bay. During the night, we could hear the thunder of calving at the Aialik Glacier.
Alex prepared a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, and fresh fruit. During the morning cruise, we saw some puffins, a few sea otters, seals, and more.
Another great day! We anchored in a quiet bay, surrounded by mountains. We saw many glaciers … I wrote down some of the names in my notes – Holgate Glacier, Surprise Glacier, and Northwestern Glacier. We cruised through Harris Bay as well as the Northwestern Fjord.
After lunch, we continued cruising, just enjoying the scenery and the occasional sea otter.
We spent an hour plus in front of Aialik Glacier, watching for calving and just soaking up the quiet and the scenery. We also watched the seals, mostly sleeping in front of the glacier, occasionally having to jump off an ice floe to swim back to more stable ice.
We had a nice dinner of chicken tacos, went to bed early, and woke up to a glorious morning in Abra Bay.
(14 August 2019) Up early and ready to go for our 9 am meet up with Captain Colin. We took the shuttle to the small boat harbor, and found our way down D Dock to find Darby, our home for the next four nights. The name of the charter business is Alaska Fjord Charters. Captain Colin is one of the few to offer multi-day charters.
Darby is a 38 year old boat, originally used for charter fishing, then repurposed as a family cruiser. Captain Colin has had the boat for a few years, having previously worked as a Captain for one of the major tour boat operators in the area. He is from Maine, so that lead to lots of common ground.
The boat is not a luxury boat, nor was it advertised as such. It is fit for purpose, and is actually pretty comfortable. The main salon area is taken up with the dining table and bench seating. This converts to a bed at night, and a curtain is hung to separate the guest quarters from the crew who are tucked away in the v-berth in front.
A real plus were the wrap around windows and seating options inside, which made it possible to ride in comfort if the weather was bad, or if someone needed a nap.
After a safety orientation, we were soon on our way, leaving Resurrection Bay in search of adventure.
We passed the Cruise Ship terminal:
We saw several fishing charter boats going out, large and small.
We were underway less than an hour when Colin heard about an Orca sighting. Sure enough, we saw an Orca jump out of the water right by the side of the boat. I’m still trying to get my camera ready for that shot. We then moved to another location and saw a lone humpback whale. It dove a couple of times, showing us some tail.
Whales weren’t a priority for us on this trip. It was at the tail-end of the season for humpbacks, plus we didn’t really want to spend a lot of time chasing from one spotting to the next. We thought we might run across a few more, but this was the only one we saw.
We began to see cliffs and rocks, the type of scenery we always think about when we remember cruising in Alaska. Lou loves rocks. We saw some harbor seals, and some eagles high on a rock.
Let’s close this post with lunch. Alex, the first mate, prepared our meals and helped Colin with the boat. He did a nice job, generally serving something light for lunch like a salad. There was always fruit available for snacks as well. This was a nice change from the heavier fare we’d been tempted by in Seward.
Click HERE for more of our first day onboard the Darby
The Alaska RR train arrived in Seward before lunch. Disembarkation, luggage location, and transfer to the hotel all went seamlessly. Seward is a Cruise Ship port, and this was evident in how efficiently they moved people around.
We were taken by shuttle to our hotel, The Windsong Lodge, which was a few miles outside of town. Fortunately, the shuttles ran regularly and made multiple stops in town, so transport wasn’t an issue.
Our room wasn’t ready, so we stored our luggage and went back to town for a look around and lunch. The shuttle driver recommended The Breeze restaurant for lunch … and that was one of the best tips we received the whole trip. This restaurant / hotel complex doesn’t score high on TripAdvisor, but I had the best fried halibut chunks ever – to die for! Lou said the cheeseburger and onion rings were good too. Obviously, we are in Alaska, the land of >>> fried food and great beer!
We walked around Seward by the small boat harbor. Lou wanted to take some photos of the large Puffins – Seward is known as the city of murals.
The small boat harbor was filled with small boats (!!!), tour boats, and fishing charter boats.
I missed an opportunity here. Apparently the best place to get photos of sea otters is along the docks, where the fish cleaning stations are. I was grumpy, for some unknown reason, so didn’t do a very good job of exploration.
Seward is an interesting city. Commercial fishing is the primary enterprise, with seasonal tourism being the second money maker. There are less than 3,000 full time residents. It was founded in 1903 and named after William Seward, the guy who bought Alaska for 7 million dollars. Dang – too bad he is not still around to help us buy Greenland. Seward was essentially wiped out in 1964 by an earthquake of 9.2 magnitude on the Richter Scale. It is now a thriving city, and the Alaska hub for many of the major cruise lines. Seward prides itself, not only on its natural beauty, but as Alaska’s only deep-water, ice-free port with rail, highway and air transportation to Alaska’s interior and major urban population centers. (last sentence stolen from the city website)
After dilly dallying around, we took the shuttle back to The Windsong Lodge. This hotel is highly rated on TripAdvisor, but we probably wouldn’t give it more than 3 stars. Very uneven customer service – some employees were super, others not so much. It is also very spread out … a compound of two story buildings located in a large circle around the reception area. The restaurant is good, but takes a bit of a hike to get to it. This worked for us on this trip, as for once we were both fairly mobile.
We decided to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, and it was good – not as good as The Breeze, but fine for our needs :). Lou said his King Crab leg appetizer was very good. It was cloudy and overcast when we walked to the restaurant. I don’t believe we saw more than a few drops of rain the entire trip.
Tomorrow was a big day. We were to meet up with Captain Colin at the small boat harbor, and set off on our 4 day cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park.