Susan C. Anthony

Tufted PuffinResurrection Bay

July 26 - 30, 1989

Even before we bought the Bayliner, we had some great adventures on the water. In the summer of 1989, we loaded a 12-foot aluminum boat with food, gas, and a foldable Klepper kayak to make a late-night dash across Resurrection Bay toward Agnes Cove. At times we could have seen clear to Hawaii had it not been over the horizon. We were exposed to the whole Gulf of Alaska. When daylight faded and icebergs from a nearby glacier began to float by, Dennis decided to stop and camp at Bear Glacier, somewhat short of our destination. The following day was sunny, so we enjoyed a pleasurable ride before continuing to Agnes Cove and hoisting the aluminum boat above the high tide line. An orca breached in the distance and a minke whale swam not far from the boat. There were rafts of puffins.

At Agnes Cove, we packed our camping gear to the top of a steep pass and carried the kayak on over to Paradise Cove. Hundreds of sea gulls use the low pass to transit from Resurrection to Aialak Bay. Occasionally as we hiked up and down getting everything to where we wanted it, we heard what sounded like a whirr, a thunk and a dying scream. We found freshly killed gulls on the ground with their innards torn out. What was happening?

Soon I saw what was happening! A medium-sized dark-colored bird dove with incredible speed and struck an unsuspecting gull. It fell to earth in a flurry of feathers as the raptor swooped down for its meal. Everything happened so fast that I could not positively identify the bird, but peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons and a host of other raptors nest in the cliffs here. It was a first for me to witness an aerial hunt.

We set up the kayak in the evening and paddled out on silky smooth water. The sun stays up late in the summer so we continued to Aialak Bay, rounding a point through a sea cave at low tide. Waves belched and gurgled in the cave and sloshed up and down cliffs covered with kelp and starfish. Gulls screed and reeled overhead. Waterfalls brushed the surface of the sea and I drenched one arm filling our water jugs.

The next day was clear and hot. We packed a lunch and paddled across the cove. Looking down through crystal clear water, we saw thousands of small white jellyfish suspended at all depths and fading into inky darkness below. A pair of otters splashed and played. We paddled south toward open ocean. A seal silently slipped his head above water a few yards behind us, investigating our unfamiliar appearance. Hundreds of seabirds took wing as we neared their roosts.

Around one point and then another, we looked for a place to put in for lunch. No beaches or quiet coves here. To the south lay a string of sparkling islands and the great Pacific Ocean. Dennis spotted a rocky cove with a waterfall and a fairly good place to put in. I was terrified to get close to the rocks, but we disembarked without incident and pulled the kayak up a slick kelpy ramp. We ate, then showered in the warm waterfall. An otter was diving for food and cracking shells on his stomach just below us. As we sunbathed and surveyed the beautiful scene around us, the thought occurred that if I died tomorrow, I would have experienced as much perfection as this world has to offer.

After a timeless hour or two of sunbathing, we noticed the tide had turned. We should be on our way. Embarking again safely could be tricky. We packed, I got in and Dennis was in but not quite seated when, without warning, the kayak flipped upside down. Dennis fell right out, but I was trapped underneath. The life jacket and spray skirt impeded my efforts to kick myself free. The water was amazingly warm and comfortable. I didn't panic, just kicked and struggled until I found air. Dennis panicked when it took me so long to surface.

We recovered everything but a bag of candy and had no trouble getting off on the second try. We could see no reason for the mishap, except perhaps the rise and fall of the water caused the bow or stern to touch a rock momentarily. It was a sobering lesson.

The next day was moist and silent. Clouds, black and ragged, hung low on the cliffs. We decided not to venture far. In the next bay north we put in on a sandy beach and filled our water jugs at a fall. We started a fire, using only flint, steel, a small piece of cotton and what little dry wood we could find. I gathered salmonberries and boiled them into a tasty tea. The dark clouds finally surrendered their rain, in soft sprinkles at first that blurred the boundary between air and water. It was warm as we paddled back. I felt like a seal slipping silently through liquid air. As we neared Paradise Cove, we were surrounded by dall porpoise fishing for salmon.

That night, the next day, and the following night, it poured and poured, sheets and buckets of rain. Our teacups, sitting outside in the open, filled twice. I feared the steep trip back to the aluminum boat and the open water crossing ahead. I swore to kiss the ground once we were safely back to the car.

Sunday, the weather improved. Dennis made a decision to go. We hauled our gear down the muddy hill, loaded, and changed into the last of our dry clothing. We asked fishermen in Agnes Cove to radio for a weather report and they showed us their catch—two seven-foot sharks!

The trip home was easy, but there were so many fisherman near our car at Lowell Point that I was too embarrased to kiss the ground.

I thought five days back to the night we left Seward. A Coast Guard cutter was in port and we'd been invited aboard. Upon hearing of our plan, one of the guys shuddered and said he wouldn't go where we planned to go in anything smaller than the cutter! It is indeed exposed to the northern ocean. Weather is the variable.

I can't express how much I love the clean wildness of Alaska! I am so fortunate to have a companion who has turned my dreams of adventure into realities.

Go on to read The Inside Passage
Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony