Leaving Swanson Harbor

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These guys, these teenage sea lions sleeping on the Pt. Retreat bell buoy, show better than words what a joy the morning offers to those willing to find their place on the waters of Lynn Canal. My friend and I understand their message, having spent the last few days fishing and exploring the tangle of land and water around Port Couverton.

Sticking like an elbow into the junction of Chatham and Icy straights, the point can provide a major challenge for boats traveling from Juneau to Hoonah, Glacier Bay or Pelican. Fortunately the winds laid down and the sun shone for most of our visit.

L1210332The folks from Hoonah pioneered a boat trail through the land around the point to save gas and sometimes lives when building storm waters make running outside the point too dangerous. The trail passes through Swanson Harbor, which provides a sheltered anchorage for little boats, like my friends, and the big commercial  power trollers that fish for salmon along the productive Home Shore in Icy Straight.

The place is rich with wildlife. Eagles keep regular watch on the Swanson Harbor mooring floats while pesky land otters keep a constant eye out for any odd bits of food left exposed on a boat deck. Orange beaked Oyster Catchers have colonized quieter sections of the harbor among lichen covered rocks, the tasty Sea Asparagus  plants, and magenta Shooting Stars.

L1210282In the expose waters of the point, Humpback Whales and Dall porpoise feed where we fish for next winter’s salmon.  One whale surfaced 30 feet in front of our slow trolling boat, apparently unaware of our presence. Our slow speed and the whale’s quick response saved both of us from collision. Later, just feet from the boat a sea lion lunged at a salmon that we were trying to net.

The threat of high winds and a small craft warning drove us early from Couverton but we had no problem passing through chock points like Admiralty Island’s Point Retreat and Shelter Island’s North Pass. Waves can stack up there when wind and current work against each other.

The buoy bell sea lions aren’t troubled by the U.S. Weather Service warnings.  They can just slide into stormy seas with their sun warmed bodies and relaxed minds.

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