Photo: Egg Harbor on Coronation Island.
"We're in trouble whichever way the wind blows," said Steve, looking at the chart. We were anchored in Gedney Harbor on Kuiu Island in Chatham Strait planning a passage to Coronation Island the next day. "If it blows from the south, we have a long miserable slog to weather in open water; if it blows from the north, the anchorage will be exposed." Coronation Island, off the south tip of Kuiu Island, was directly south. Thirteen miles of the 26 mile distance would be open to the winds and swells of the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, the winds could have been calm, as they had been for most of the summer, but that was not to be. "NW winds 15 knots, increasing to 20 knots in the afternoon" was the forecast, and that's almost exactly what we got -- a little less at the beginning, a little more in the afternoon.
We sailed south on an easy reach, but as we cleared the end of Baranof Island and entered more open water, the wind shifted more to the west and soon Osprey was barreling along at 7-8 knots with wind and swells on our beam. Ahead we could see the humps of coronation Island, like some Alaskan Bali Hai. Streaks of fog streamed across it, but when we arrived at the harbor entrance, the view was clear. We rolled in the jib to slow us down when we sailed through the rocks at the entrance. The wind and swells curved around into the harbor, but greatly diminished. One sailboat was anchored ahead of us. It looked like a good anchorage.
It was also an interesting anchorage. Pin Peak stood to the west of us with a strange brown cap of bare earth on top. Sea caves and arches lined the shore below it. Sea otters swam among the kelp off shore.
After anchoring we took the dinghy ashore to the head of the inlet and walked in the old growth forest on a thick carpet of moss. A man on the other sailboat, from Juneau, had assured us there were no bears on the island and it was nice to walk without looking over our shoulders all the time.
That night Osprey swung in the gusts and rolled in the swells. But we were secure in our knowledge the wind was blowing from the west outside and we were safe. In the morning, the wind had died and a fine mist was falling. We took the dinghy ashore again, but this time to the west shore where we'd seen not only the sea caves but a series of what looked like white sand beaches separated by headlands. Once ashore we discovered that the sea caves were actually arches that ran through the headlands and we could walk from one beach to another. The arches, caves and sea stacks on the beaches are all limestone. Mosses, ferns and flowers grow on the sea stacks in rocky crevices. It was an amazing place. I was glad we had taken the risk and come.
Photo: Arch between two beaches. Note Steve at the bottom for scale.