Reaching south out of Resurrection Bay past the Rugged Islands, an easterly swell rolls from our port side like small grey hills and a dense rainy fog envelops jagged Aialik Cape to the southwest. The glorious weather we basked in days before is but a fleeting memory, as a gale has been turning up the Gulf of Alaska ever since. Our true welcoming party back to cruising, then, is a washing machine ride around the cape. A rip-off-the-band-aid sort of sail that opens our eyes, turns our stomachs and makes us say, “Hello again, ocean”.

The ominous cape we’re rounding deserves the wide berth we give it. Rain pours off my hood while I steer through the 10-plus foot swell and mixed up sloppy seconds reverberating off the rocky headland. To be sure, it proves to be a sporty rounding that is invigorating in an odd way that only a sailor can appreciate. But once we tuck around the eastern side of the peninsula into Aialik Bay, our crew (including Jill’s mom Donna for this leg) finds relatively calmer seas and what will turn into five up and down truly Alaskan days of cruising. The payoff is worth it.

Ups and Downs
I sit in Yahtzee’s companionway staring across a glassy cove. A waterfall plummets from a verdant forest and tumbles into the sea. Clouds swirl between mountaintops and a heavy mist reminds me that indeed, we are cruising in a rainforest. Just in case I wasn’t fully aware.

From this nook in Three Hole Bay, we motor-sail northward to Coleman Bay and then Abra Cove. Though Aialak Bay (pronounced I-al-ick) is named as such, it is actually a glacial fjord—hence being part of Kenai Fjords National Park. Moving north or south in the bay, mariners quickly notice steep mountains rising from a deep sea. Razor-sharp ridge lines and impressively twisted coves and valleys make up the eastern and western shores where hanging glaciers reside in cirques and three huge glaciers creep seaward down self-made valleys like fingers of ice: Holgate, Aialik and Pederson. The former two are tidewater glaciers, meaning they terminate in the bay and we watch as they do just that, calving with a thunderous roar into the water. Motoring carefully between bits of ice, we dip a net in to collect our fair share for coolers and cocktails before anchoring with a stunning view of both Aialik and Pederson glaciers looming in the distance.

 

 

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