Hallo Bay, Alaska

I hate this part. The waiting.

All the endless planning and packing and prep and schlepping mountains of crap to the edge of the continent. And now the boat is packed and ready to go, and I am filled with the gutsick certainty that I have forgotten something very, very important.

I fuel up with $407 worth of unleaded. At least I didn’t forget my wallet. The boat settles in the water under the weight of 125 gallons of fuel. That should be enough to cover 400 nautical miles. Give or take.

It’s about 50 miles to the end of Kupreanof Strait, and I slowly motor along the northern edge of Kodiak Island through flat, protected waters under a t-shirt sun.

The final 27 miles are another matter. Shelikof Strait divides Kodiak from the mainland Alaska Peninsula. It is a narrow passage of water the stirs all manner of exotic tides, currents and Aleutian storms in an ill-tempered cauldron. I can see the mountains across the strait, their glacial peaks glistening, but te prevailing southeast wind sets up a steep chop against the running tide and the boat starts to buck and slam into the waves. It’s feels like some sick rodeo ride. As I try to decide whether to wait or go, a pod of Dall’s Porpoises start to play in my bow wave, racing through the water just beside me.

It seems as good an omen as any.

I’ve done this crossing enough times to remain zen, stare at the distant mountain peaks and try to ignore the battering. Still, the sea scares me more than a coastline full of bears. Which is where I’m bound, Hallo Bay and the Katmai Coast.

In a little more than two hours, I motor into the sheltered waters of Hallo Bay. The afternoon sun turns the verdant coastal slopes an electric green, and the water glows turquoise. It’s like Hawaii. With bears.

I love this part.

– August 11, 2010

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