Photo: Osprey anchored in Pavlof Harbor
As soon as we entered Chatham Strait, the flat calm turned to 15 knot southerlies. An incoming tide gave us wind against tide and soon Osprey pounded into short steep seas. What we anticipated being an easy motor became an uncomfortable jarring ride.
Steve looked at the chart. "Pavlof Harbor is just a few miles away in Freshwater Bay. Let's go there. We can leave early tomorrow morning for Tenakee Springs and still have time to see everything there. And maybe we'll see some bears." We had anchored in Pavlof twice before and once had seen two young brown bear cubs frolicking on the beach.
Just minutes after our turn into Freshwater Bay, steep seas became wavelets then eventually died to nothing. We motored through calm water along a shore where red-brown rocks contrasted with dark spruce and hemlock.
The chart for Pavlof Harbor shows few details, making anchoring there a challenge. A large powerboat, was already anchored near the stream. We found a spot comfortably removed from the powerboat.
Steve scanned the shore with binoculars, "No bears today."
I remembered from our first visit that a stream that entered the bay had a concrete weir whose purpose we hadn't been able to figure out. I was curious if it was still there, so while Steve relaxed in the cockpit, I pumped up my kayak and paddled off.
As I passed the powerboat, a man came out on deck and waved at me. "Are you Elsie? We have your book." I thanked him and continued on.
I turned the corner into the stream mouth, paddling slowly against the stream current, enjoying staying in place, watching the trees, and listening. A raven clonked from a nearby tree and a varied thrush sang its single long note from the forest. Red elderberries decorated the stream bank backed by dark spruce. It was worth coming to Pavlof Harbor to experience this peace.
Finally, I paddled on, looking for the weir. But when I turned a corner the stream shallowed and I was unable to go far enough to see the weir. I would have to come back when the tide came in.
At 8 pm I paddled back up the stream. This time I was able to approach close enough to see the whole stream bed width. I could see that what I thought was a weir, was actually a fish ladder. No water had been flowing across it on our previous trip but now it was and its purpose was clear. The stream emptied into the harbor across a bluff too tall for fish to jump.
Photo: The stream and fish ladder in Pavlof Harbor
By the next morning two more large powerboats and the National Geographic ship Sea Bird
had anchored just outside the harbor. A gray inflatable dinghy was leading a parade of red and yellow plastic kayaks from the Sea Bird
around the harbor. I was thankful that I'd taken my kayak trip the evening before when I'd had the harbor almost to myself and could hear the ravens clonk and the thrushes sing. That experience was something the Sea Bird's
passengers wouldn't get.
To see where Pavlof Harbor is, search for Pavlof Harbor, Alaska on Google maps.