This is the seventh in our ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics including marina showers, cruise-in breweries, parks of the Gulf Islands, the joys of winter cruising, fun things to do, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests” or to rank things, but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at what we’ve enjoyed while cruising the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Out of all the “5 Favorites” articles I’ve assembled, this one was by far the hardest to put together. How could I choose just five of the many spectacular places we’ve dropped our hook since arriving in Alaska in April? It was an especially arduous task given that we cruised Southeast Alaska, Kodiak Island, the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound, and favorite anchorages seemed to come nearly every time we set the Rocna.
Alas, the five that I decided on aren’t necessarily the most popular, because it would have been far too easy to write again about Reid Inlet in Glacier Bay, the west arm of Ford’s Terror and others. Instead, they are five anchorages that were obscure, not listed in a cruising guide, found due to necessity or simply held fond memories based on what we did there.
Here we go, our 5 favorite anchorages in a Alaska this summer:
Kitoi Bay, Afognak Island:
Just north of Kodiak Island lies verdant and wild Afognak Island. We’d been told by numerous fishermen at the docks in Kodiak City that a visit to Afognak’s Kitoi Bay should be on our list while hopping north towards the Kenai Peninsula. We weren’t disappointed.
After a foggy sail across from Kodiak, we poked our bow into Kitoi with an eye out for the best spot to drop the hook. Like many places in Alaska and along the Inside Passage, little nooks and crannies to swing safely at anchor are abundant. But a small cove on the north side of the bay proved to be our best option. As we set the anchor in about 30-feet, salmon jumped all around us and we could hear the rush of a waterfall spilling into the sea from a nearby lake. The kayak and paddleboard were soon in the water and we paddled around watching fish leap before heading to beautiful black sand beach to poke around and stretch our legs. From the beach, we hiked a game trail up into the woods above the cove, which afforded stunning views of the water below. Note: There is also a fish hatchery in the bay that we we were told provides tours to cruisers.
Point Astley, Stephens Passage:
Stephens Passage is a well known body of water in Southeast Alaska. At over 100-miles long, it runs between the mainland and Douglas Island to the east, and Admiralty Island to the west. Juneau is located on its northern end and to the south is Frederick Sound. It’s one of those places that commands attention, because when the wind kicks up out of the north or south, you can quickly find yourself searching for a safe haven — which is exactly where we found ourselves.
When we departed Ford’s Terror and Endicott Arm to continue south into Stephens Passage, a strong southerly breeze built quickly in Holkam Bay creating a wicked chop. After rounding Point Astley and heading out into the passage, we motor-sailed into an uncomfortable deluge for about mile before thinking, “Why fight this? We have nowhere to be, lets go anchor in that little bay we just passed.”
It was a good call. The anchorage was not only well protected, but it had a beautiful sand and pebble beach that we scoured for hours. Its tide pools held an immense amount of sea life, reminiscent of so many places we love on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Emerald Cove, Prince William Sound:
Prince William Sound is a flat out amazing place to cruise on a boat. Part of the reason is the incredible plethora of anchorages that are available to the few who ply its waters. Choosing one here was especially difficult, but Emerald Cove near Columbia Bay and Glacier was certainly special.
With my dad aboard with us for a week, we’d spent the day sailing up to Columbia Glacier. But wanting to sail as much as possible, and having to weave our way through the bay’s ice-choked waters, we ended up short on time to choose an anchorage at day’s end. Fortunately, accessible Emerald Cove sits at the southeast corner of the bay and affords protection from the north or south. Depths are good throughout and we tucked into the eastern corner, dropping the anchor in about 40-feet. The northern portion of the cove also seemed fair, but it was high tide and we were weary of swinging near charted rocks.
Once settled in, we grabbed our wood bag, cooler and beach toys and made for a small rock and grass spit to have a fire, cook dinner and play. While enjoying the last vestiges of the day’s sunshine, the boys climbed rocks and waded in the clear water. Icebergs drifted by far out in Columbia Bay and we devoured a tasty dinner made over searing hot coals. It was one of those memorable moments of summer that we certainly didn’t want to end.
Keku Islets, Kuiu Islands:
I can’t count how many times this spring and summer that we left an anchorage in the morning with no real planned next stop. We love the adventure of picking anchorages that we find throughout the day, and at this tiny spot in the Keku Islets near Kake, Alaska, it actually happened twice — once while transiting from the south and once from the north.
The first time we stopped at this little nook near what is know as “Lords Pocket”, it was for a quick overnight in snotty weather. But the second was one of those stunningly gorgeous days that wiped away all the rain and gloom Southeast Alaska can offer. After a quick stop in Kake for provisions, we made it back to this diminutive cove and were welcomed by a humpback whale who nonchalantly swam through the anchorage feeding while we set our ground tackle.
Like many spots in Alaska, depths here go from deep to shallow in a hurry, so tucking in tight towards shore was a necessity. When we were dug in, though, it was full on summer. We dropped boats in the water for a foray to shore, paddled around for some whale watching and then grilled a delicious dinner on the stern. The Keku Islets are a place where you could drop the hook in nearly any location and take to kayak or dinghy to explore the splendor that is Southeast Alaska. Awesome.
Fox Island Spit, Resurrection Bay:
Honestly, this might be our favorite anchorage ever. Given that we’ve cruised far and wide in the Caribbean, east coast of the U.S., Pacific Northwest and other places, that’s a tall statement, but it’s just one of those spots that is seared deeply in our conscience. But the thing about Fox Island Spit is that, as far as great anchorage goes, it’s not perfect. It’s too deep close to shore and it’s relatively exposed. Undeterred, we employed a tried and true trick we’ve been using in deep anchorages all summer and dropped about 100 feet of chain down and then backed towards shore, effectively setting the anchor on a slope before letting more rode out. Then, to keep us facing into the sometimes raucous swell created by tour boats from Seward, we hitched a stern line to shore.
When set, the adjectives to describe this spot — and Resurrection Bay in general — are many. Tall mountains jutting abruptly from the sea created a stunning backdrop on all sides. Crystal clear water had us skinny dipping with delight. A pebble beach was ripe for combing. And, with an abundance of driftwood, beach fires to warm our bones were a perfect end to the day. To be sure, the Kenai Peninsula is magical cruising, and this spot embodied all of that and more. Images will have to say the rest…