At 8:30am a van showed up at the hotel asking for Kim and Matt. Turns out they were looking for us. It took us to the seaplane port where our group of six were all weighed en masse to avoid embarrassment for yours truly. The pilot scornfully said, “You all weigh too much. Your luggage will have to come later.” Without giving us a chance to retrieve essentials, we were bundled onto the plane. We used better strategy on this flight than the last one in Kennecott; we both sat on a different sides. We were wedged in so tightly, I worried that the door I sat next to might pop open. Check that seat belt!
The flight was smooth and the waters of Shelikof Strait were smooth as well. We flew at 500 feet over land and went up to 1000 once we hit the water. That meant we stayed below the cloud cover and could see quite well. Homer looked much prettier from the air than it does when you’re there. The pilot asked us which boat we were on; we didn’t know. He asked us where it was; we didn’t know. But somehow we ended up landing in Kulak Bay and there was the Waters, our home for the next five nights.
The six of us are sharing three cabins, two bathrooms and one shower. Quarters are close, but good enough for a good night’s sleep. We went out on a brief tour of the bay. Without all those warm clothes we brought along it was cold, cold, cold. Some folks had not brought their cameras; their lenses were so large they were also packed away. Eventually we heard the plane engine and were grateful to see the luggage once again.
A professional cook on board whipped out a great lunch and we bundled up for the afternoon. I wore long winter underwear, a sweat shirt, jeans, rain pants, a fleece layer, a rain jacket, wool hat, mittens, and two pairs of socks under the hip boots the boat provided. It rained lightly and I was still cold. Since there are no docks, we jumped out of the boat into the water and waded ashore.
Our guide led us to a salmon river where a bear lay snoozing on a sand bar. You could tell that he knew we were there, but we didn’t bother him at all. Eventually, he roused himself to start fishing. At times he reared up on his hind legs to see, but mostly he just splashed around. We sat in a row on little camp chairs and clicked away. He fished and fished to no avail. Finally, he wandered away. We all got up to stretch our legs and chat a bit. Suddenly Ken noticed a bear behind us. We sat right back down on those camp chairs. As I clicked away the bear’s face grew bigger and bigger in my viewfinder. The guide had warned us not to run as the bear grew closer and closer. I watched him in my viewfinder and pretended that I was watching a bear on TV. He kept on going totally oblivious to us. This is the way to view animals. If they aren’t afraid of us, they act naturally and we can see them as they really are.
The die hards decided to stay on shore, but the less dedicated and more cold (another couple and me) returned to the boat to warm up and look at the photos we had taken. We sat in the galley with the cook and she entertained us with stories about previous passengers. Wonder what stories we will star in, in the future. Finally at almost 9pm, the radio crackled and the die hards returned to the boat and dinner. They were beaming and told stories of more bear sightings. Because the weather is bad (what else is new?) we are not in the most productive bay for viewings, but after half a day here I am content with what I’ve seen.
Now if it would just warm up and stop raining....