After the bear’s bluff-charge, we rowed back to Celeste to weigh anchor for another try at the passage west along the Alaska Peninsula. The day was raw and overcast, with light wind inside the bay. But out in Shelikof Strait, we once again felt the full fury of a Gulf of Alaska low pressure. Favorable winds, yes, but they sure hadn’t moderated! If anything they’d increased. So back into the anchorage for the second time.
Before turning into the shelter of the mountains (which also cut off VHF signals) we listened to the National Weather Service radio. The forecast was terrible for the indefinite future. The next day, August 25, would bring clear skies but 40-50 knot contrary (west) winds. That would continue through the 26th, peaking in the middle of the night. The 27th would see a return to very strong southeasterlies. Repeat. We sailed into the anchorage very downhearted, not at all sure we’d ever make it to the Aleutians. Should we turn back with the westerlies and try to reach Seldovia on the Kenai Peninsula, the one place with a boatyard where we could haul out for the winter? Or should we keep waiting for better weather? Would better weather ever come? Or were these already the fall gales, which would only turn into winter gales?
The next morning was sunny and calm inside the bay, though we knew it must be brewing up from the west outside. To make sure, we checked our OCENS forecasts over sat phone. They gave a less localized prediction but one that projected out a whole week instead of just a few days. These not only confirmed the NWS, but depressed us further—no good weather in our area, ever. In fact that night, the 25th, was supposed to just howl with wind: the forecast was for an average of 50 knots.
So we put it out of our heads for the day and went to watch the bears again. Because of the clear skies, we were able to get some good shots with the camera despite staying a good distance away from all the bears. There were a few lone bears fishing but no families this time. Instead we saw two youngish bears play-fighting.
After a little while watching them, we figured out they were flirting….
During all this, a beautifully maintained de Havilland Beaver seaplane arrived. I should mention that we weren’t alone in the anchorage, but had been sharing it with what we thought were rather odd fishing boats for the past couple of days. There wasn’t much movement aboard, and we’d been preoccupied with trying to move west, so we hadn’t met the crews. Now, though, someone set off in a skiff from the one of the boats to meet the seaplane’s passengers. A few hours later the second load of passengers arrived in the plane and were met by the skiff.
Soon afterwards, the skiff puttered into shore and dropped off the people. Very slowly they advanced across the mud upstream, getting steadily closer to the bears. Seth and I watched in disbelief as they stopped right on the river bank. Camp chairs appeared. Camera tripods were set up. The people seemed to have settled in as if for a day on the beach!
Nothing happened. They sat there all afternoon completely unharmed, even ignored, by the bears. Eventually they quietly packed up their gear and slowly walked back to the skiff. Seth and I began to feel a bit envious of the amazing up-close bear photographs they must have gotten…. Well, we were here for a few more days, anyway.