Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Sand Point, Shumagin Islands


Beautiful calm, Alaska PeninsulaThe gorgeous calm sunrise that ended two days of strong winds heralded a perfect day’s sail to Sand Point.  Listening to the VHF National Weather Service forecast, we learned that those high winds had not abated in the more eastern zones we had just come through.  Nor did it sound like they were ever likely to.  But in our zone and further west, both wind and sea state were much calmer.  A breeze filled in enough for us to sail and soon we were in the bare and beautiful Shumagin Islands.

Big rocky headlands rose out of the sea, topped by tundra-like vegetation.

Shumagin Islands headland

Even at Matinicus Rock in Maine I’d never seen so many puffins and other little seabirds.  There were murrelets, kittiwakes, murres, gulls, horned puffins, and tufted puffins, in the air, on the sea, and nesting in the cliffs.  We noticed that many of the murrelets were transitioning to their winter plumage.  Fall was here already, even though it was only August 29.

This is the bottom-right corner of the photo above. See all the birds!

This is the bottom-right corner of the photo above. See all the birds!

Tufted Puffin, Sand Point

By evening we’d reached Sand Point, the end of our 3-night and 320-mile passage.  Sand Point is a fishing and fish-processing settlement of about 900 people, first founded at the end of the 19th century.  The state of Alaska has helped remote hamlets like this (as well as less remote towns like Petersburg in SE Alaska) build really first class boat basins, with big strong breakwaters and beautiful new marinas, complete with water and electricity.  We called the harbormaster on VHF, pulled into the vacant slip he assigned us and, when all was secure and shipshape, went ashore for a short walk along the harbor basin before heading to bed.Celeste at Sand Point

The next morning, we set off past an old Russian Orthodox chapel to the only paved road and climbed the hill to the little grocery store where we bought some fresh milk, meat, and a few veggies (we’d eaten most of the fruit and vegetables we’d bought in Seward by this point).  Then—after putting the food away on the boat—we just wandered around the little town.  There was the fish cannery, fuel dock, and company store, and then a collection of brightly painted houses on gravel and dirt lanes.  They gave a nice splash of color to the tundra landscape.

Sand Point

Sand Point was having its annual Silver Salmon Derby that day and everyone we met on our walk kept telling us to come to the dinner and party that evening.  (The Derby is a contest to land the biggest silver salmon.)  Unfortunately the long daylight hours plus getting involved with changing our engine oil meant that we lost track of time and didn’t reach the festivities until dinner was over!  We stuck around for a little bit anyway and learned that the biggest fish had actually been caught by a little girl entered in the kids’ division.  Good for her!

Sand Point boat basin

Sand Point boat basin

Eventually we headed back to Celeste for dinner and bed.  We were going to be up early to make the passage to King Cove (75 nautical miles away) in one daylight day.

Route down the Alaska Peninsula

Route down the Alaska Peninsula

7 thoughts on “Sand Point, Shumagin Islands

  1. Pingback: King Cove, Part 1: New Friends | Gone Floatabout

  2. Wow, that is one majestic looking puffin!

  3. Pingback: Puffins and Whales en route to King Cove | Gone Floatabout

  4. What a bright and sunny place, and to have a lucky passenger going with you, half his luck. YOUR BOAT LOOKS GREAT

  5. Love the puffins! They are such weird and colourful looking birds.