Prince William Sound- to Valdez

June 4 


The crossing, which took around 50 hours, was remarkably and delightfully uneventful. The seas were the predicted 6-8 foot swells with a twelve second period… and the skies were a consistent, beautiful blue. Daylight lasts about 20 hours here so night watches were done in relative brightness, a huge change from our standard night runs  down in Mexico where the sun sets around 6 pm and doesn’t come back for 12 hours. And the nights are black there, especially around a new moon.

We were treated to a distant display of leaping whales, and there were frequent sightings of otters and even jumping salmon. We stayed relatively close to shore, giving us a constant view of the mountains – glorious!

We entered Prince William Sound early in the morning, a beautiful sunrise staining the mountains pink.

 I had the pleasure of being on the last watch, alone at the helm, with the other two boats being captained by the ladies too. It’s always fun travelling with a group of boats, and sharing the experience of night watches with a girlfriend. As we neared Cordova, the captain and the rest of the crew woke up – in time to watch Tanglewood, Peter and Laurie Hayden’s Nordhavn 68, sister ship to Daybreak, leave Cordova. Lots of photos snapping and arms waving….although I was very sad to see them heading in the opposite direction to us. 

Heading into unknown territory is  nerve wracking for most  of us – fenders and lines deployed, we slowly approached the entrance to the harbour, where we had been told by Tanglewood the fleet was out on a twelve hour opening and there would be space at the transient dock.

The harbour is large, with a number of docks and fish boats of every size and shape… after a few missteps we found a place to tie all three boats up, although we were not on the same dock. Not an easy thing to do, given that all together the three boats measure around 190 feet.

Very cool tugboat!

So here we are. Even as I write, the sun is shining down on me as I sit on the back deck of Daybreak. Numerous fish boats, bow pickers and large seiners and tenders, are moving about, in and  out of the harbour. Almost everyone smiles and waves – and many have an admiring word to say about the boat. It’s a constant ebb and  flow, sometimes you can hardly hear yourself think with the noise of the jet boats revving up their engines as they head out, but it doesn’t phase me in the least. Being in the middle of a busy working fishing harbour actually is a lot of fun! ( mind you when the fleet leaves at 3 or 4 in the morning that does make it hard to get back to sleep…)

The little but noisy guys never seemed to stop!

We have been shopping, walking around the town and exploring. There are two very decent grocery stores, at which we have done considerable damage. We found a second hand-consignment thrift store, something Karen is very good at – you paid 5 bucks for a large white garbage bag and could stuff it full of almost anything you found that you wanted….. I found shirts that I just had to have and a beautiful big mug that I also really wanted… the others found Christmas plates, more tops, and goodness knows what. Definitely a great place – and we were lucky, as later in the day the guy running it drove by, waved at us, and said “see you next week” – apparently we lucked out on finding him open that day! 

Behind me in the salon the guys are having a captain’s meeting… I made muffins and another pot of coffee…. The muffins taste good but completely flopped… dang….Floyd from the N46 is giving  the guys a lesson on where to fish, and prawn, which is great. We have 20 days left on board, so excited to see what they plan for the next couple of weeks. 

High tec route planning

The ladies had their own planning meeting one morning when the guys rented a truck and went exploring. We met at the Baja food truck and had great meals. Missing Baja, i enjoyed a fresh-caught salmon taco.. yum!

Very cool place inside and out!

A Cordova Car Wash!
Always seems to be nets to mend..

Last night in Cordova… duck dinner courtesy of Jerome!

June 7

We left Cordova on the 5th, with all three boats heading to Beartrap anchorage. It seemed like an obvious choice for looking for bear! Beautiful weather, and the anchorage was ( surprise surprise) gorgeous. As Daybreak headed in to drop her anchor, Jerome pointed and said “there’s a brown bear” way off in the distance. And sure enough…. Binoculars and telephoto camera proved him right. As soon as our thrusters came on for anchoring maneuvers, the bear high-tailed it out of there. Too bad, as the other two boats didn’t get a chance to see him… and it probably was a he, judging by the size.

This of course meant that we were all on the lookout for bear!

At last! a Brown bear! aka Grizzly!

We ate on our own boats, and Daybreak enjoyed soup night with home-made white clam chowder. Karen also made a huge pot of red clam chowder for the next night… clams courtesy of the Daybreak clamming crew who worked hard before we arrived on the boat.

The dinghies were deployed for some explorations, and the next morning when we left they stayed down. Next anchorage was Saint Matthews, another pretty spot flanked by huge mountains, numerous waterfalls, and beaches that looked as though they should be swarming with bears. There were also meadows up the hill, all a bright acid green that looked as though they too should be lousy with bears. Again, Jerome “Eagle Eye” spotted several black bears  up the hill and the crew tentatively corroborated his report.  They too disappeared quickly and that was the end of the bear sightings

Piredmus, Daybreak, and Sea Level .. another glamour shot!

However there were plenty of otters! We took the dinghy out for a ride and found one that seemed oblivious to our presence, although when we got too close ( within two feet) he sculled himself away. Otherwise he didn’t look too concerned, and seemed to be clutching something between his paws that he  was nibbling on. 

Thats what he thought of us!

Very very cool! We took lots of pictures and  then we left him alone. My feeling was he was old, maybe a little weak in the eyesight, and judging by his tummy food was more important than stranger danger! 

The next morning we left for what was supposed to be  prawn heaven. The weather had taken a turn for the worst but I wasn’t complaining, much, as we had been so lucky up until now. Our journey took us past Bligh Reef, of Exxon Valdez fame…

and later on a real live bergie bit floated past us. I’ve seen wonderful paintings of icebergs by various artists depicting a colour of blue I never could believe existed in nature.. I’d call it Blueberry Slushy Blue..and lo and behold… that was the colour of this bergie. We gave it wide berth and admired it from a distance

Very cool, very blue!

The bay that had been marked as a potential prawn spot was another beautiful place, but try as we might as we watched the fish finder probe the depths, we couldn’t see signs of them. Now, none of us was sure of what we were looking for but there have been times when there has been  something on the screen that had a definite “school of prawn” quality to it ( what is a group of prawns called anyway… not sure it’s school… maybe “cloud”?) Anyway…there was nothing really definite that screamed “pots full of prawns”…

So we abandoned the prawn idea and went across to the anchorage that had been chosen for the evening. It was still drizzling but the sky was lightening up, and the bay, Sawmill Bay, was gorgeous with lots of potential for bear sightings. However the tent and kayaks and paddle boarder on the beach made me think I’d be happy not to see any brown bears here. Brave and hardy souls that they obviously are, I’d rather them not have a big hairy scary visitor. 

Piredmus with a glorious backdrop!

Lone camper in a little tent and a paddleboard for company…..
Beautiful morning for our cruise to Valdez… pronounced ”Valdeeeez” for those who are thinking ”valdez rhymes with pez”

From there it was a quick trip to Valdez. I should be getting used to seeing massive snow-covered mountains carpeted at the bottom with emerald green, but it just never gets boring. Add the water, all shades of colour from Sea of Cortez green to glacial blue – it’s always gorgeous.

A row of Nordhavns, taken at 10:15 at night

Valdez is very intriguing… after the earthquake in 1964 destroyed the original town, they rebuilt in a new spot and their marina and harbour are very new and very nice! There are a lot of non-commercial boats docked here, as well as a lot of fishing vessels. It’s a different place from Cordova- in fact every town we have visited has been different…and that’s what makes it fun. Just before we arrived the locals celebrated pride week with a parade and bright flags around the town. That would have been fun to see, although I did find one flag left flying at the consignment store which was, to our great dismay, closed for restocking.

Tomorrow we may be doing a road trip with some of the gang, exploring the area.
We could actually drive to Valdez, from home, and as we plan to do a road trip to Tuktoyuktuk, maybe, in the future, I think Valdez could be on our itinerary too.

Meanwhile Daybreak is being washed, indoor chores are being done, oil is being changed… and tonight everyone from the four boats are going out for dinner…. hurrah! no cooking! Sea Level arrives with their new crew this afternoon so the gang will be all together again, with Tanglewood rounding it out as they chose to stay in Valdez for while longer as it is now their new favourite Alaskan town.

Jerome does the highwire act..

You know Lawrence is almost done when he reaches the back deck….


3 thoughts on “Prince William Sound- to Valdez”

  1. Oh wow. I mean really BIG wow. Great blog as usual Pen. Thank you for sharing this terrific journey xxxx

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