Two Bear Bums in Alaska

The last three weeks in Alaska have been jam packed full of new discoveries; 60% amazing wildlife, 30% spectacular scenery and 10% chocolate.  On our first day travelling from Sitka through the Sergius Narrows to our anchorage at Deep Bay in Peril Strait, we had sightings of humpback whales, sea otters, harbour seals, eagles and deer.  As we were hanging about at the narrows entrance waiting for slack tide we watched a single humpback whale surfacing and diving around the bay, then he headed for Joy like a torpedo through the water and dived underneath us, resurfacing the other side a few minutes later. When we reached our anchorage I started to drop the hook when I glanced back at the cockpit and noticed Jez and my Mum had abandoned stations and were standing on the aft deck with binoculars looking at the shoreline.  We thought we had ticked many boxes in one day, but adding brown bears to the list went one unexpected step further.   Not just one bear but three, grazing on grass in different areas of the shoreline as the tide dropped.   After taking a few photos of them once the anchor was set, we decided to get in closer on the action and launched the dinghy.  With now only one bear visible we slowly edged our way in as close as we could get, the tide was going out and the mud flats were drying quickly and sadly prevented us from getting close.  When we got back to Joy, Mum and I reviewed our piccies. “Have you got any good ones?” Mum asked, “No, all I seem to have is a bear bum”. We did laugh especially when she said she had a bear bum too!


Two humpbacks say farewell to Joy in Sitka Sound


The sea otters are just adorable


A wave and a round of applause!



A family outing, a baby otter is being carried by one of its parents


A seal comes to investigate the intruder in his fishing patch


Thick fog in Salisbury Sound on the West coast of Barinof Island


A Humpback dives under Joy



Entering Sergius Narrows where currents run strong, we timed our transit at slack water




Day two of our expedition was even more rewarding, as we entered Hoonah Sound in Peril Strait we spotted several humpbacks blowing and as we were almost at our lunchtime anchorage we decided to slow down and hang around for a while.  We could see a lot of splashes in the distance and before long a pod of striking Pacific White-sided Dolphins left their feeding frenzy for ten minutes to race around Joy, absolutely magical.


As the dolphins departed we started to watch a humpback not too far away just laying quite still on the surface of the water, cameras poised at the ready convinced he was going to dive and give us a tail fluke.  It was a total shock when he suddenly disappeared under the surface and launched himself out of the water in just a matter of a few seconds. We weren’t expecting a breach, what an awesome sight!






After such an amazing morning we were able to get the sails out as a gentle north westerly wind set in, glorious sailing in a flat calm sea.  After a very brief glimpse of three Orcas racing on by, we continued out of Peril Strait and into Chatham Strait and hopped along the east coast of Barinof Island staying in some wonderfully protected anchorages. Every anchorage had spectacular scenery with flat calm water and an abundance of bald eagles, sea lions, seals and a couple more bear sightings.  Some even had waterfalls, a dream to explore in the dinghy at all states of the tide.



Anchored in Ell Cove



Such clear water



The narrow entrance to Ell Cove makes it very protected


We paid a visit to Barinof Warm Springs after finding a beautiful secluded anchorage close by.  As we left the dinghy on the public dock we noticed a sign warning of a resident bear that browses the berry bushes along the boardwalk to the springs.  It didn’t stop us berry picking along the way, calling ‘Hey Bear’ all the while as I had forgotten the airhorn and intruder spray doubling up as bear deterrents.  My days in the girl guides are long gone and I’m not often well-prepared. The dock’s moorage pay envelope came in handy though as a berry holder, we found salmonberries, blueberries, raspberries and something similar to our blackberry.  The short hike through the woods to the springs was worth the bear-dodging efforts. Mum and I both said we definitely weren’t going to climb the rocks above the falls, but with some encouragement and hand-holding from the more adventurous Jez we clambered across anyway and were rewarded with amazing views.



The falls generate hydro-electricity for the few residents here



Anchorage in a small cove at Warm Springs Bay


A stunning anchorage surrounded by so much wildlife


Not quite dinner for three!


Watching a Bald Eagle catch his supper right by the boat



I never expected to see so many jelly fish in cold waters


and they are huge!



We watched this Murrelet for ages circling a fish ball and diving, the water was so clear we could see him swimming under water amongst the fish and catching his prey.



More exploring in another stunning anchorage



Anchored in Takatz Bay, Barinof Island



Watching another brown bear in the binoculars catching a salmon for his breakfast





Red Bluff Bay


Bear hunting up the river early morning


Tucked up in a small cove in Red Bluff Bay at low water



This is the second Bald Eagle we have watched collecting grass and moss for their nests


After several warm sunny days reaching 26º C we had an unusually chilly day sailing across Chatham Strait and into Frederick Strait heading for our next anchorage at Honeydew Cove on Kuiu Island.  A whale surfaced right in front of Joy and I shouted at Jez to change course and (apparently) jumped for joy!


Thermals and woolly hats back on!


Good shelter from a clocking wind


A Pigeon Guillemot takes off




We decided to stretch our legs in the late afternoon sun so beached the dinghy on the small beach for a walk, but after tying up to a tree we noticed some bear prints in the sand and after a little deliberation we decided to back off and retreat.  Just half an hour later whilst embracing beer o’clock back on Joy, Jez noticed a black bear appear out of the woods onto the beach. It was bear o’clock. We were pretty pleased we hadn’t gone for our walk.  That evening a late visitor arrived into the tiny cove, it was the charter boat “Snowgoose’ – the very same boat my Mum had been on the last time she came to Alaska several years ago!


Sailing away from Kuiu island across to the north shore of Frederick Sound we passed a few sea otters bobbing along on their backs riding the current into the bay. A few more sitings of humpbacks too.


When we reached our next anchorage called Cannery Cove and rounded the point into the bay, I thought we had arrived in heaven.  The name certainly doesn’t do it justice (the Cannery has long gone) the valley at the head of the bay is stunning with several small waterfalls leading down from the melting snow remaining on the peaks and joining the gentle stream which meanders across a meadow.  The stream was alive with salmon, bringing dozens of Bald Eagles, gulls, seals and sea lions in for their dinner.  We stayed an extra day here just because it was so special.


Looking out of the bay, what a view




A Golden Eagle swoops from a tree


Early evening mist rolls in across the bay



The resident seal was much more successful at catching salmon than we were



A fishing boat checking his crab pots


Even the flies are beautiful in Alaska!



On the road again – getting closer to the glaciers means a chilly wind but spectacular scenery



Two sea lions fishing in Frederick Sound


The cold waters of Frederick Sound affords good fishing and attracts Humpback Whales, we had many sightings in this stretch of water





Anchored off Ruth Island in Thomas Bay we explored the river which runs from the Patterson Glacier.  Currents were strong and the river full of debris with no visibility in the opaque green glacial water so we turned back. A family of seals came to investigate us so we drifted in the dinghy for a while and watched them. Priceless.


Our next stop was the small town of Petersburg, we took a berth at the marina as there isn’t a suitable anchorage close by and we wanted to do some exploring.  It was not only the end of my Mum’s holiday but the end of our cracking spell of hot weather, with drizzly rain forecast for a few days. It was a shame to discover that there is no restaurant open for evening dinner in the town, so we made do with a wonderful lunch at the Salty Pantry and a very late afternoon halibut and chips.


One of the three harbours in Petersburg at low tide



The town was founded by a Norwegian and is proud of its heritage. This memorial was dedicated to all the towns folk who had been lost as sea, it was shocking to see hundreds of names all around the boardwalk.



This Rufous Hummingbird migrates from Mexico for an Alaskan summer, apparently they return each year to the exact same plants to feed


Discovery Park didn’t have much of a view with thick fog and drizzle in the air


The last three weeks have been the best days of my life, discovering Alaskan wildlife and remote protected anchorages, witnessing the daily feeding routines of a variety of sea birds, Bald eagles, seals, sea lions and whales all going about their business not only unaffected by Joy and her crew but seemingly unaware of our presence.  Sharing all of this with my Mum who has the same interest and passion for wildlife and photography has made it extra extra special.

The next part of our Alaskan discovery will take us through the Wrangell Narrows continuing south towards Ketchikan.

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4 Responses to Two Bear Bums in Alaska

  1. Rachel says:

    What amazing photographs, absolutely fantastic and to share with your mum is so special (hello Sandy, how wonderful you have an adventurous daughter) .. take care. Love to you all… 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susie says:

      Thanks so much Rachel, it certainly has been a fantastic experience. Shame the Alaskan summer is so short and we have to head south! Hope you are all well, lots of love to you xx


  2. florence1924 says:

    Such a special time with you both in Alaska! An unforgettable trip of a lifetime with such fantastic wildlife and scenery and great company too! Miss the dominoes!! xxxx Can’t thank you both enough for sharing the magic with me!! xxxx


    • Susie says:

      It’s been the most amazing experience, more so as we have shared it with you. Thanks so much for coming out to see us, we are so lucky to all love the same things! Missing you already xxxxxx


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