Although gales were still raging to the east when we left Sand Point at 04:30 on August 31, 2014 we encountered only moderate wind in our area. We picked our way out of the boat basin in the fog and pitch dark and hoisted sail once clear of the entrance. Celeste sailed along happily on a beam reach. The brisk north wind coming over the Peninsula from the Bering Sea was cold and raw but not more than about 20-25 knots, great conditions to fly along at about 8-9 knots.
The fog lifted throughout the day and the wind gradually lessened. We followed the navigation markers through this stretch religiously: there is a big reef of rocks that extends a long way out to sea and the passage close to the mainland is the only way through (unless one were to go way out and around). Even the fishing boats with their great store of local knowledge follow the channel carefully.
We had lots more seabirds to watch along the way. I liked the puffins best, especially when they ran along the water with their bright orange feet to take flight.
By the afternoon, we were in among more barren islands, some with rock pinnacles standing out from their headlands, broken off by ceaseless wind and waves. The bird life here increased even more since the auks and other birds have nests in the cliffs. We kept trying to spot Pavlof Volcano, the 8000ft peak that had erupted back in June, but its top was shrouded in cloud.
The sun burst out as we entered Deer Passage, the last stretch before King Cove, and we were very excited to get a good view of the volcano after all!
And then, as if to crown a great day’s sail, we spotted a big pod of humpback whales, our first whales since the belugas in Cook Inlet! They were spouting a little ways off but coming steadily closer until one or two were just yards away from Celeste!
Not long after that part of the pod had moved on, a whale breached ahead of us, coming down with a thundering splash that reverberated off the cliffs. He kept it up, again and again and finally we got close enough to get a shot with the zoom lens! Very exciting!!