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Hoonah, Elfin Cove, and Bubble Net Feeding Humpbacks

Airship Goes to Alaska

Before we left Hoonah this morning, we went up to Chipper Fish and had breakfast. A local recommended it to us, and specifically, she recommended that we try the “Right On” which was biscuits, covered with mega tots (tater tots kicked up with bacon and green onion), covered with sausage gravy, and topped with a fried egg. We ordered half an order to split, and it was STILL too much. But it was darn good. (One-quarter serving shown in photo below.)


Our cappuccinos came with a nice message, too:


We got back to Airship and waved goodbye to Hoonah (and the internet sucking cruise ship anchored out by the cannery. Seriously, each morning we had great internet until the cruise ship came in, then basically no internet again until the cruise ship left.)



The seas in Icy Strait were relatively smooth and we were cruising along happily when we heard someone talking on the radio about humpbacks bubble net feeding at Pt. Adolphus. We were not far from Pt. Adolphus and could see boats over there, so I upped our RPM to 3200 and we headed for the point. I watched with the binocs and could see the action from afar…super exciting!! Bubble net feeding is something we were really hoping to see while we were up here, and today we spent about two hours watching it. 

Bubble net feeding is a cooperative way of feeding where the whales dive down and form a circle, exhaling to create a cylinder of bubbles to trap the fish. The whales then rise up through the circle of bubbles with their mouths wide open catching thousands of fish on the way up, emerging at the surface like a bunch of gigantic baby birds. It’s dramatic and incredible to watch! Here are some photos:









We spent two hours hanging out near Pt. Adolphus with a few other boats coming and going, and then eventually headed on our way toward Elfin Cove. Once while I was sitting out on the bow with my camera, we were just drifting and waiting for the next group of mouths to pop up somewhere, and a humpback came very close to the boat as I watched it pass by. Kevin leaned out and said something like “So, there’s a whale 10 feet from the boat and doesn’t even rate a photo anymore??” Ooops. 



This boat got a good view of this one:


We saw quite a few porpoises today, too. Also, otters:




Kevin put a couple lines in the water and fished for about an hour but didn’t catch anything, but we did come upon another feeding humpback (just one this time):




It was off and on cloudy, sunny, rainy today, and made for some beautiful skies:


As we got closer to North Inian Pass at the Inian Islands, we started getting some smooth ocean swells coming in from the Gulf and Cross Sound. We went through Middle Pass and Mosquito Pass…super scenic! And tons of sea lions on ALL of the rocks:



We heard the small cruise ship Wilderness Explorer telling the AK State Ferry that was heading west through South Inian Pass that there was a pod of orcas near Dad Rock, and we happened to be really close to Dad Rock, so guess what? We finally saw Orcas in Alaska:


The passengers on the ferry got a good view as well:


Near South Inian Pass:



Arriving in Elfin Cove:


The outer public float at Elfin Cove was filled (and boats were rafted three deep…there were maybe only 9 boats…it’s a small float) so we headed into the inner harbor to try our luck. To get to the inner harbor, you go through a narrow, shallow channel. You can kinda see the corner of it here…heading around the boardwalk and then turning to the left.


This is the far end of the inner harbor (where apparently the locals don’t like you to anchor unless the docks are completely full, and really not even then):


We found a spot on one of the floats and asked the local guys working on the boat behind us if it was okay for us to tie up there (they said it was). I’m pretty sure the inner harbor is a “locals only” operation most of the time. I read one review on Active Captain from a cruiser who said they came from Hoonah to Elfin Cove and there was no room for them, so they made the 5 hour trek back to Hoonah.

It’s a little hard to navigate where to go in Elfin Cove because the harbor (in the summer) is super busy with fishing boats and locals and there’s no harbormaster to tell you what you can and can’t do, and there are no signs. But all was cool. We walked up to wander around the boardwalk village and ended up grabbing a beer and some pizza at the only restaurant in town (Coho Bar & Grill). The whole village is connected by boardwalks heading every which way, so we explored a bit more after dinner.


Arriving in Elfin Cove feels like being dropped into a place that was never meant for you. It’s adorable and quirky, but really feels like it exists in a little bubble. The people we’ve run into are nice but a little distant…not at all like that “please, spend money here, we need it” feeling you get in the more tourist-welcoming towns. (They do have a gift shop though, and it’s open until 9pm, so there’s that bit of contradiction.)

Looking toward the inner harbor floats from the boardwalk:


Photos from around ‘town” (which has about 50 residents in the winter):




Not much data or cell service inside the cove here, so we’ll probably do the online part of our work on the way to Pelican tomorrow.