After a rainy day anchored in Chenega Bay near the mouth of Prince William Sound while a gale raged outside, we made a break for the open sea. As the National Weather Service had predicted, the wind moderated in the early hours of August 14, so we set off after breakfast. It was still pouring rain, but we were pretty used to that by this point.
Celeste coasted along before light winds out the last channels to the Pacific, passing waterfall after waterfall, many of which we suspected only appeared after a torrential rainfall such as we’d had since sailing to Whittier. We had to start the trusty Yanmar at the exit to the Sound in order to make enough progress around a headland before the tide turned against us.
The next few hours drifted by in uneventful sailing in a gray drizzle, the time marked by snacks and then dinner. As night fell we set the watch and I went to sleep for a few hours.
At 0100, halfway through the dark hours, Seth woke me, showed me our position and current course and bearing on the chart as usual, mentioned a fishing boat he’d seen ahead, and then went to sleep.
Celeste sailed herself beautifully for about two hours before the wind started to die and I had to adjust her sails and autopilot (the wind had grown too light for the wind vane) constantly. I had to keep us on course because we’d set a waypoint to pass between two clusters of islets and I wanted to give both of them as wide a berth as possible. Finally, around 0600, we’d passed them and I woke Seth. The sky had lightened and I could see forbidding cliffs reaching high into the clouds off to starboard: the Kenai Peninsula. Indented among them were the fjords and tidewater glaciers we were sadly having to miss because of all the low pressure systems we had waited out in Prince William Sound. We were both disappointed and kept telling ourselves we would just have to come back.
We reached the end of the Kenai Peninsula and our anchorage—a bay recommended to us by sailor friends from the Aleutian Islands whom we’d met on Mauritius on our circumnavigation—by mid-afternoon. The entrance was narrow and then the bay opened and fanned into several different inlets. A couple islets studded the center near the bay’s head. Once again, our chart wasn’t great so we were a little unsure where was best to anchor. At the head of the bay was a stream that spread out into a big tidal mudflat: it’s always good to anchor in mud, but we weren’t sure how quickly this bank shelved. An indent in the bay to the southwest looked better protected from wind and chop but we worried it was too tight for us to swing and we didn’t particularly want to launch the dinghy to stern-tie. In the end we chose the head of the bay, thinking the islets about a furlong away would protect us sufficiently. Another strong gale was forecast to slam into the coast again that night, so we put out all our 175 feet of chain. We set the alarm on our depth sounder in case our chart was terribly wrong, and then we turned in for hot dinner, hot chocolate, and bed. The gale arrived that night in force and our islets were definitely not enough protection. Celeste was yawing back and forth on her anchor, pushed this way and that by gusts, and even in just 200 yards a chop had set up that was bucking Celeste up and down: the wind was that strong! Our depth alarm hadn’t sounded but we saw when we went on deck that we had swung towards the land on our starboard side and had only 15 feet of water under us. And this was high tide: at low tide we’d be aground!
We got up our Mantus anchor (which of course had held marvelously, just as it had during the williwaws in the Queen Charlotte Islands) without trouble and motored through the driving rain towards the southerly inlet, resigned to launching the dinghy and stern-tying. The indent was indeed much better protected. Once inside we could see a wind line at its entrance where spray was whipping off the chop. The water was calm in our new anchorage and the wind no longer whistling in our rigging. Happily, we had underestimated the space in the inlet: we could swing with no problems so didn’t need to stern tie. Once we were sure Celeste was happy and secure, we settled down to a hot breakfast of eggs and toast and bacon from the groceries we’d bought in Seward. The low was supposed to pass that evening, so we hoped to set off on our next passage to Kodiak Island the following day.