Weather and Caves




North 56 degrees, 0.044 minutes West 133 degrees, 16.504 minutes

Underway, Tenass Pass (Prince of Wales Island)

July 24, 2008

Dear friends and family:

At the entrance to El Capitan cave, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
We are beset by weather forecasts that are pessimistic and inaccurate. Today, for example was supposed to be 30 knots of wind and lots of rain. So our goal was to get into a protected anchorage last night. As it turns out, of course, today was sunny with light winds and no rain. Had we known, we probably would have stayed another day in Egg Harbor (On Coronation Island). It looked like there was interesting exploring to do, including several sea caves. The other boat in Egg Harbor came over and presented us with about 5 pounds of halibut fillets. We had the first filet last night, and it was indeed yummy. Craig's disappointment, of course, is that with the freezer full of fish, there's less reason for him to go fishing (and he does dearly love to go fishing!) It would have been nice to socialize with the halibut people, and we simply didn't have time to do that, because of the need to get to a more protected harbor.
Entrance to inner Devilfish Harbor So, today, a strong south wind was predicted. We picked Devilfish Harbor as a good prospect for protection in south wind. In fact the only wind direction that wouldn't be good would be an east wind. We got in there, and, you guessed it, east wind. It looked like a repeat of Kalinin Harbor of several days ago, and we couldn't get a good set with the anchor, so we gave up, and now we're motoring to Sarkar Cove, 10 additional miles south, with the guidebook promise that it's protected from "winds of all directions." That storm which was supposed to arrive today, is now apparently coming in tomorrow. So protection from winds of all directions is a good thing.
Lest you think I am complaining too much, let me tell you where we've been and what we've been doing the last couple of days. Yesterday we entered the El Capitan Passage. This is a series of narrow passages which have been dredged to make them navigable. Together they go in a circle around Kosciusko Island. Each little segment looks like a mountain lake, all very pretty. We arrived at the US Forest Service dinghy dock, which is the start of a steep hike up to an immense cave complex. We found the rangers, and made a reservation to take the cave tour (which can only be done with a guide). We anchored close by, and this morning took the hike and the tour. This involves a climb of 370 stair steps, rising 1100 feet above the dinghy dock. Fortunately, our USFS guides took plenty of rest stops, and told us a bit about the ecology, the plants and trees. We saw Alaskan yellow cedar side-by-side with Western Red Cedar. We learned about the leafless mistletoe which colonizes on hemlock trees. Some of the 370 steps leading to El Capitan Cave
Jess, one of our USFS guides.  The bat gate keeps unwanted visitors out, lets bats (and river otters) in. The entrance to the cave involves climbing over slippery boulders, and then it's a bit easier inside, where you walk in an old river bed, with silt and small rocks underfoot. The USFS supplies helmets, headlamps and flashlights. We walked about 600 feet into a number of different chambers, and watched the dripping stalactites. The cave is much more extensive, but some parts of it require climbing gear, and some scuba gear. The "tourist part" is enough for me, I think. I was glad enough to get out of there, but also glad to have seen it.
Erik, a USFS guide El Capitan Cave: "The Pool Room"
Alaska and BC are proving to be much bigger than we expected. (What were we thinking, when we thought we could do this trip in 3 months?) There are so many places to go and things to explore, but we're well past the halfway point of our available time, and we have to keep moving south (weather permitting). There we are back to that pesky weatherman (with the computer-generated voice).

As I write this, we've arrived in Sarkar Cove, the anchor is down and secure, and several curious seals have checked us out. I'll wrap this up now, and hopefully send it tonight!

Best wishes to all!

Craig & Barbara Johnston

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