Sunday, July 19, 2015

Punchbowl is Truly a Bowl -- 6/29/2015

In Winstanley Island anchorage it is so light at 4A that Herb gets out of bed and starts the coffee.  “What time is it?” I say through my sleepy eyes.  “Well, actually, I see 4A, but there is a nice sunrise beginning.”  Once my brain gets in gear, I rise and peer outside to search for an eagle.   Thinking I see one, I take a couple of photos just in case the early dawn light is not playing tricks on me.

Yes, it is an eagle. 


I get a cup of hot, steaming coffee and watch Herb row to check his crab trap.  He doesn’t want to use the noisy gasoline engine at this hour.  Rain starts to fall.  Where did that almost sunrise go to? 

It is a busy morning for Ray with six crabs in his trap.  When all the cooking is done, we weigh anchor at 9:40A.  Tide is eight feet, so it is better going out through the shallow area of Shoalwater Passage, than when we came in last evening.  Herb reports seeing a depth of 12 feet, and Ray a depth of 13-14.

The rain stops for a time and we have clouds above and fog in the distance. 

On our way to Punchbowl Inlet we get photos of New Eddystone Rock, a 230 foot rock sitting on a partly visible shoal in the middle of Behm channel.  Atop is a small forest of healthy evergreen trees.  Willie’s Tug and Nudibranch circle around to take photos of each other by the Rock.  


Willie's Tug by Ray Perry

There are a few silent moments near here, as just to the west of us is the mountain holding Ella Lake, where a plane crashed last week, killing all aboard. 

The float plane, bringing its passengers to view the Misty Fjords, was caught in the fog. 

Seas are rippled as we cross back toward Punchbowl entrance and we see a tour boat, Saint Nona, coming out, clipping along at 30 knots.  We have light fog and seas a gentle swell inside Rudyerd Bay.  Ray alerts us there is aircraft above us, very high and following the curve of the channel – not going over the mountains and not too close to us!  Tourists who don't choose to cruise the water will take the tour boats or low flying float planes to see the incredible beauty nature has given us here.

In Exploring Southeast Alaska authored by Don Douglass & Reanne Hemingway-Douglass, Punchbowl is described as the quintessential Misty Fjords, with a 3000 foot granite face on the east side of the cove.

As we turn into the bay, I am spellbound.  The scenery is magnificent with the steep walls and many, many cliffs.  In front of us, on both sides – all around us.  It is truly a bowl.    The granite mountains rise dramatically from the ocean floor.  

Soft Blankets of Vegetation on the Cliffs

A bare area appears to be where a rock slide or avalanche has taken place in the past.  

A collection of downed trees is caught near the bottom, possibly stopped by a more pronounced jagged rock.

Garmin shows contours of a precipitous drop down to the hole in the middle of the bay – hence the name of Punchbowl.  I am wide eyed.

Dotted line shows our path to anchor near the head of inlet.


                                                   Willie's Tug, courtesy of Ray Perry

The contours of the ocean floor drop off rapidly from shore in more or less concentric half circles.  We cruise around the perimeter of the bowl to establish the depths for possible anchoring, and get a call on Zero Nine from Dave on Invictus of Bellevue, giving local knowledge.  He and two others anchored last night found where the rocks are.  He is on the one mooring ball today. 


We thank him and he comments on conditions where we test suitability for anchoring.    Herb drops the hook in 70 foot, letting out 120 rode.  Happily, we feel the anchor grab, but unhappily, it lets go – repeatedly.  Not gonna set it right here.  So he moves out a bit deeper and lets out more rode, gradually backing up until he sees it move no more.  We are home for the night!  Because it is so steep here, he stern ties for the first time this season. 

He gets the line ready to take ashore, then is shown pulling it back to tie off.

                                                                Photo courtesy of Ray Perry

Navionics on the iPad shows the blue shallow (as opposed to the dramatic drop-off) area where we anchor, and the deep hole rapidly dropping off on the left.  The red arrow represents Willie's Tug.

After Ray secures his boat, he dinghies with Lilly to the trailhead, but soon comes back with the news that it is not safe to leave the dinghy there with the tide dropping.  So Herb rides over to drop him off and brings the dinghy back to Willie’s Tug

A strong wind descends upon us for a couple of hours and we see it push us to the east.  We hold fast.  Herb dinghies around with the portable depth sounder to see what we would face if conditions deteriorate.  Depths are fine.
We expect a tide swing of 16 feet tonight, so will watch our lines carefully. 

The rocks creep out from under the forest and lend even more beauty to this magical place.

I am reminded about Herb's comment -- how insignificant we seem when we look up at the sheer cliffs.  The two tiny dots against the shoreline in the photo below are Willie's Tug and Nudibranch.

With such an early arrival today, Herb thinks about taking an afternoon nap, and says this is as close as he can get to a proper sofa today.

At Happy Hour Ray tells about his hike up the trail to Punchbowl Lake.  As the literature predicted, it was truly a slippery scramble on an old trail with cedar planks.  The lake was quiet and serene and he could hear the drumming of a grouse.  The shelter had a row boat with a leak.  Lilly got in the canoe, but the wind picked up and they aborted the cruise.  He says I would not have liked the climb or descent.  I tend to agree!

I use the blueberries he picked on the trail to make my blueberry Cole slaw for dinner, and he brings a meal of Dungeness crab.  Yum.  No one goes hungry!

More magic.

Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake

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