Written by Missy Johnston
Board in Juneau, the Capital of Alaska, which has a population of around 20,000. Before boarding, enjoy the Alaska State Museum and Centennial Hall for background on this great state in which you will be cruising. After boarding cruise up Gastineau Channel past Taku Inlet, anchoring just outside of Tracy Arm in “no name” bay and watch the huge chunks of ice drift by. This is a terrific location to sea kayak around big ice floes for a close up view of ice that is thousands of years old and are beautiful, and have various shades of blue and green that have been captured in the ice, over the thousands of years of ice compression within the glacier.
Spend a day cruising up Tracy Arm, a Norwegian like fjord 23 miles long, with ice floes passing by. The scenery is beautiful with waterfalls tumbling over the fjord cliff sides. While cruising, carefully watch the fjord cliff sides to try to spot eagles, brown bears, mountain goats and moose. At the head of Tracy Arm, anchor at either of the twin Sawyer glacier faces, where great chunks of ice calve, dropping into the waters below at least hourly. Listen for the loud thunderous roar as the ice breaks off of the front of the glacier and falls into the waters far below, sending waves radiating out and down the fjord. Watch the little harbor seals sunning on the ice flows scurry into the water with each calve. For the experienced, this is a good location for sea kayaking or perhaps exploring with the crew in the ship’s tender, even gathering a bit of glacier ice for evening drinks. As glacier ice is so dense, drinks are kept cold much longer as the melting rate is slower than freezer ice. Return back down Tracy Arm and into Stephens Passage, while viewing the snow-covered mountains of Admiralty Island.
Sea Plane Arriving
Head up Stevens Passage, with fishing lines set as this area is packed with salmon, and hopefully salmon can be caught for a very fresh fish lunch or dinner. This might also be a great location in which to try a float plane flight back up Tracy Arm to fly over both of the Sawyer Glaciers with a close view of the huge size of these glaciers and the sight from air of these glaciers calving. While cruising in the afternoon, pound on the side of the hull to draw dolphins to visit and play in the wake of the yacht off of the bow. Most likely you will also see killer whales that might cross right under the bow. Take a ride in the in the ships tender to check to see if the salmon have returned to spawn, which means that they literally jump upstream as they go home to lay their eggs and finish their life cycle. Watching these mighty fish jumping up streams is a sight rarely seen. Perhaps set crab pots and shrimp pots to see what might fresh shellfish might be caught. And depending on the tides, this might be a great location to head ashore and try clamming on the beaches.
Brown Bear Family on Admiralty Island
In the morning, perhaps try your hand at fly fishing, or cruise through these small islands, watching for whales and sea lions. Throughout the summer, hundreds of sea lions sun themselves on the rocks in this area and are quite at home in the waters. Explore in the ship’s tender, where it is possible to sit right off of the rocks and watch these large mammals cavort in the water, as sea lions are really quite playful and very curious. Anchor for the night in Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay on Admiralty Island. Cannery Cove is home to the remains of an old fish canning company, however more importantly, Admiralty Island is a primary summer nesting ground for eagles and has the densest concentration of brown bears, also known as grizzlies, in the world. Over 90% of Admiralty Island is a national park, and this is a location where there are more bears than people. This is a great area to stay on watch for bears and bald eagles. Perhaps you will see a bear fishing for salmon for his dinner. Fishing for your dinner is also an option here along with sea kayaking, or perhaps setting a crab or shrimp pot. Keep watch as bears and bald eagles are everywhere and this could be a great photo opportunity.
Humpback Whales Bubble net Feeding
Head further down Chatham Strait and into Frederick Sound, an excellent location for whale watching. Watch for Humpback Whales as this is the summer feeding ground for hundreds of Humpbacks that have migrated up from the warmer summer waters south. Sit close by and watch whales perform the bubble net feeding “dance”, where a group of whales, working in conjunction, round up dinner. Together, whales will dive and then surface, with their great mouths open, having forced hundreds of fish into the air, to be caught in their gullets. With the right equipment, you might also hear the whales “singing”. Later, spend the night in one of the most tranquil of anchorages in an island group called The Brothers, with terra ferma on the islands covered with virgin forests. It is a must to go ashore for a hike, as this area is home to one of the last stands of virgin forests in the U.S. While hiking, sink into moss covered forest floors, on islands virtually untouched by man. Or hop into the ship’s tender to visit the sea lion colonies, if they are at home on the nearby rocks. Fly fishing and sea kayaking are also great activities in this area. Cruise to Warm Springs Bay to overnight in front of the thundering waters of Baranof Falls.
Alaskan Brown Bear Fishing for Salmon
In the morning, it is an easy hike partially along suspended walkways to the hot mineral springs, so wear your bathing suit. A natural soaking hole has been created in the rocky shoreline to soak in these warm waters surrounded by nature. Cruise along the west coast of Baranof Island, considered to be one of the nicest coastlines in Alaska and keep your eyes open for the Magnificent Alaskan Brown Bear along the beach and streams fishing for dinner. Cruise through the Narrows at Peril Strait, perhaps fishing for salmon or big barn door halibut, watching for eagles and the little Sitka Black Tailed deer. Try sea kayaking and keep your eyes open for Cruise through Sergius Narrows out Peril Strait, where you’ll see eagles and perhaps the little Sitka Black Tail Deer and the magnificent Alaskan Brown Bear. After fishing and whale watching, cruise down the west coast of Baranof Island, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and home to many Alaskan Brown Bears. So keep your eyes open for bears along the beach or at the mouth of streams, fishing for dinner. Anchor in Kalinan Bay, north of Salisbury Sound for the evening.
Totem Park, Sitka National Historic Park
Cruise towards Sitka through Olga and Neva Straits. This is a great location to fish for salmon, by either trolling from the yacht or from the ship’s tender. Arrive in Sitka in the early afternoon. Its natural beauty and history make Sitka one of the most interesting of the Alaskan southeastern towns. Walk to the Sheldon Jackson Museum to view Tlingit and Aleut artifacts. Continue to the Visitors Center at the Sitka National Historical Park to see more native artifacts and an impressive collection of totem poles arranged along the walk that leads to the site of the battle between the Tlingit and the Russians. It was the Tlingit Indians that were the builders of Totem Poles. The Russian occupation period is featured in the Russian Bishop’s House, the Russian cemetery, Castle Hill, the Isabel Miller Museum in the Centennial Building and St. Michael’s Cathedral. Take some time to shop in the gift and specialty shops for native and Russian-influenced modern arts and crafts. Enjoy cocktails and dinner on board.
Sitka Russian Orthodox Church
Disembark in Sitka