July 4, 2014 - Jean and I planned a 3 day trip over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. It has been a few years since I paddled in the Sound. Last year we paddled in Kachemak Bay and the years before that I paddled the Kongakut, Hula Hula, and East Fork of the Canning rivers. I contacted the water taxi operators in Whittier a few weeks before and asked if they had any extra space on a charter going out over the 4th. We hoped to get dropped off within 3 days paddle and were not too picky about where we went since there are great things to see all over the Sound.
Epic Charters had space on a day-long sight seeing trip that went eastward to East Flank Island then northward into Harriman Fiord. We jumped at the chance to get dropped at East Flank Island since it is one of our favorite campsites in the Sound. The island is at the southern end of Esther Passage and has a protected beach that has views on either side of the island. It is also well placed to visit the Dutch Group or Bald Head Chris or for jumping off to trips farther to the east.
We met Brooke, the owner of Epic Charters, after driving through the Whittier tunnel. He and his crew loaded our kayaks and gear on the boat. I parked the car, payed for the water taxi, and we were on our way in 20 minutes. We met the two other couples who were vacationing in Alaska and had a full boat. The weather was sunny and warm and seas calm.
Porpoises swam back and forth across our bow as we cruising down Passage Canal. Our driver sighted a whale off Pigot Point. He stopped the boat and we watched as it spouted 3 times before it sounded. The whale sounded two more times before we moved on to East Flank Island.
There were two fawns on the beach of East Flank Island and they move back into the brush when the boat approached. Jean and I saw two fawns on the same beach 9 years ago when we camped on this beach. It must be a safe place for deer to raise their young.
The boat is a landing craft and the driver gently landed on the beach and open the front ramp. We unloaded our boats and gear with out getting wet boots.
Jean and I packed the boats and were on the water by noon. We paddled along the southern side of Esther Island dodging the commercial fishing nets that were strung out from the shore and tended by bow-pickers. Salmon were seen in the nets as we paddled over the nets through the clear water. There is no glacial silt in this part of the sound to obscure the water.
We took the afternoon to paddle over to a long beach about 1 1/2 miles north of Esther Point. The beach has a stream at the southern end and lots of great flat tent sites. A sea otter cruised off the beach before the commercial fishing boats started to come into the bay to anchor for the night. There were 8 boats anchored in the bay by dusk. They were there to rest and it was a surprisingly quiet night.
July 5, 2014 - Clouds moved in overnight and there was a light breeze. We had a leisurely breakfast and packed up for the 2 hour paddle across Port Wells. The weather forecast was benign and the tide range relatively low so we felt it was safe to make such a long open water crossing. The seas and winds can be quite challenging because the tides and winds from 4 different directions can converge in this location.
We headed to the nearest landfall, the north side of Pigot Bay, about 6 miles away. About a mile or two offshore we began to feel the 1 to 2 foot waves coming from several directions. The seas were probably a combination of the long northerly fetch of Port Wells and the tidal current that was running near its peak. We kept up a steady pace and landed on the far shore in 1 hour and 55 minutes. The only incident was an errant wave that slapped the side of my boat and splashed a lot of water over the top of my spray skirt. It throughly soaked me and I was glad to dry out on the warm rocks of the beach. As we approached the beach we saw the first group of kayakers on the trip.
After a long break we paddled over to Pigot Point light to stay on the little beach nearby. This is a great site in fair weather and small tide ranges. It is very exposed and gives great views of the sea in all directions. It also had a constant breeze that kept the biting flies at bay. The point was patrolled by a seal that eyed us carefully. A whale spouted and we were buzzed by a hummingbird during the evening. We put up a tarp in preparation for the rain forecasted the next morning.
July 6, 2014 - It rained off and on overnight. In the morning we packed up and ate breakfast between light showers. The weather was threatening during the rest of the days paddle back to Whittier but it didn't rain until we had loaded our gear in the car. The wind was light and at our backs for a pleasant paddle. We saw paddlers again near Shotgun Cove, the second group of the trip. I was surprised how few paddlers we saw on the trip.
We arrived at Whittier harbor at low tide and landed at the steep rocky beach near the boat launch. It is not a bad place to unload on a higher tide range but at this low tide it mostly riprap except for a small section near the north end with a little gravel. We lugged the gear and boats up the steep face and got everything loaded just as it started to shower. All in all a great get-a-way over a long weekend on short notice.