18 Jul Port Wrangell, Geographic Harbor, and Kodiak
After leaving spectacular Castle Bay we headed for Geographic Harbor, about 170nm away. This is too far for a single day. We have no cruising guide for this area, but a place called Port Wrangell looked good on the chart–reasonable depths and good protection. It turned out to be a beautiful anchorage:
After one night we continued towards Geographic Harbor. We could spend years cruising this coastline, exploring the many anchorages along the way, but we’ve been enjoying unusually calm weather. Although our days have been calm, we’re traveling in the open ocean. We know that it’s not always this nice, but while it is, we want to make some miles.
Approaching Geographic Harbor we spotted quite a few spouts from whales, some heading towards us:
Several humpbacks passed close enough that we stopped the boat for a better view:
Geographic Harbor is one of those places we’ve heard about for years but never visited. It is located in Katmai National Park and is reportedly an excellent bear viewing spot. We arrived in cloudy weather, which did little to dampen the beauty of the area:
After many long days underway, we took a day off from travel to enjoy dinghying around the many bays that make up Geographic Harbor. We found eagles, seals, and otters:
We found a group of fly-in visitors on the beach with a bear (their floatplane is just out of the picture below). We weren’t bold enough to approach the bear on foot, but enjoyed watching from a distance in the dinghy.
In another bay, we found a mama bear and her cub. We drifted for half an hour watching the two bears forage. These bears are clearly used to seeing people–periodically they looked up at us, but neither our presence nor the sound of the outboard scared them off.
A sailboat named Sillage arrived during our stay and anchored nearby, the first time we’ve been anchored with another cruising boat since…a long time ago, probably sometime in Hawaii. We took the dinghy over to say hello and invite them to Starr for happy hour.
Olivier, Ugo, and Ramon are French sailors who had just arrived from Noumea via Hawaii. We had a wonderful time visiting and learning about their travels and life in Noumea, where they each now reside.
After two nights in Geographic Harbor, we crossed Shelikof Strait to Kodiak Island. Along the way we passed “Last Timber Point,” which was more like first timber point for us, approaching from the west. Trees do not grow west of this point.
Kodiak Harbor is the busiest port and biggest town we’ve been in since Japan. Kodiak is home to 5500 people, 3500 brown bears, and the largest US Coast Guard base in the country. The town has multiple restaurants, several museums, a large Safeway grocery store, even a Walmart! Compared to Dutch Harbor or King Cove, it felt vibrant and bustling.
We spent two days in Kodiak enjoying meals out, reprovisioning, and visiting local museums. Walking to the grocery store took us past this lake with many waterfront homes with seaplanes out front–very Alaskan!
The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Center has exhibits about the bears and whales that live in the area. Kodiak brown bears are the largest in the world, a distinct subspecies of the grizzly bear. Kodiak bears can weigh up to 1500 pounds, more than twice the weight of grizzly bears that live inland, thanks to their diet rich in salmon. Up in the rafters is a humpback whale skeleton that washed ashore in Kodiak several decades ago.
The Kodiak History Museum is housed in the oldest building in Kodiak, a small wooden structure that has survived earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries. Exhibits explain the history of the area, from the first inhabitants to Russian occupation and then US acquisition.
We learned that the natives at Attu were widely regarded as the finest grass basket weavers on the coast. The baskets had both practical and ceremonial uses. Compared to natives further south and east, natives in the Aleutians dealt with harsher weather and fewer natural resources. All the timber they used had to be traded for or scavenged from beaches, for instance.
Next: Overnight to Seward, a week at the dock, and on to Prince William Sound!