Alaska: Kodiak to Homer

I reunited with Stan aboard Buffalo Nickel in Kodiak, Alaska. And so did our two cats! At two years of age, this was their first plane trip. Three flights and all day… they did not love it, but did amazingly well. 

Their names are Ash (the mackerel tabby and white) and Crooked Hillary (calico with a 90º kink in her tail. Full disclosure, to prevent misunderstanding: I admire Hillary Clinton, but couldn’t resist the name with her crooked tail!) They settled into boat life easily, though Ash got seasick a couple of times when conditions got sporty underway. 

When I arrived, the Buffalo was still on the hard in Kodiak, getting her bottom painted. So we had time to explore the town a bit. Like most towns in this part of Alaska, there is a noticeable Russian flavor to the local history and culture.

Soon it was time to splash, and try out our new slick underbelly and clean props! 

Ash and Crooked love the 360º views in the great room… all cats love window-gazing, right? But when we first start the engines, they invariably settle initially in the absolute most stable point on the boat: in the basement on top of a chest freezer. It happens to be on the midline both fore/aft, and athwartships, and at the low point, giving the least amount of movement. Smart cats! They venture upstairs once they figure we are having a smooth ride.

We spent some time circumnavigating Kodiak Island. Its southern/western portion is more like the outer Aleutian Islands in that it has no tall trees, more of a windswept, desolate feel; whereas the eastern/northern part is heavily forested.

Below is our route through the time period covered in this post. We circumnavigated Kodiak in a clockwise direction, beginning with Ugak Bay which is the very deep bay on the eastern side of the island.

Next anchorage remains universally known by the locals as “Jap Bay,” although it’s been officially renamed “Japanese Bay” to sound a little less rude! 

We saw plenty of wildlife, both on land and in the water, all over the island. The beautiful puffins turned out to be camera-shy, I swear they scooted away from us whenever they detected an iPhone! Here is an absolutely horrible shot of a fox on the beach. We saw several foxes over these weeks and believe it or not, this is the best pic we got.

This is what the foxes look like, almost like coyotes

Sea otters are ubiquitous and a bit less averse to close encounters. 

On the southwestern coastline, the bay is labeled “Alitak Lagoon” on a Google map, but is known as Lazy Bay. We anchored in a channel called “Rodman Reach” that juts off of that bay, and continues around the inside of a narrow spit. The channel looks tight but we had enough room and good holding. At high tide, you can take your dinghy around to the inside of the spit.

Anchor approximately where the Rodman Reach label is.

Next stop was Zachar Bay, an offshoot of the larger Larsen Bay, on the northwest coastline. 

Gorgeous Kodiak Island

After Zachar Bay, we shot across the Shelikof Strait to the mainland for a couple of nights in Geographic Harbor, on the Katmai peninsula. Geographic Harbor is beautiful and dramatic in its own right, but is particularly known for its population of grizzly bears, especially during the month of August. 

We were there in July, and the salmon had not yet arrived to spawn. There were some grizzlies, though, who were anxiously and kind of crabbily awaiting their salmon buffet. They were pacing around, sometimes chasing each other off. There was a large guided group of hikers who walked in and out of the area and got some fine pics I’m sure, but the two of us were definitely too intimidated to try an approach on land on our own. Once the salmon arrive, the bears are happily hunting and distracted and don’t care much about people in their general proximity. But the body language was telling us to play it safe.

Here is a merely semi-horrible pic of a big guy we took from our dinghy.

We had cloudy weather nearly every day of our season. When the sun did come out, we shot 1,000 pics of each anchorage, because that makes up for it, right?

After Geographic, we stopped in Red Fox Bay on the way to Homer. Red Fox Bay is at the northern end of Afognak Island (which is just north of Kodiak Island.) It’s a lovely calm anchorage. And if the wind is blowing the opposite direction, there’s another lovely calm anchorage (can’t remember the name) right on the opposite side of the channel.

Homer was our next dose of civilization. A high-school friend of Stan, Troy, lives in Homer. He and his intrepid service dog Earl gave us a tour of the area, and a warm and helpful orientation to all the local places of interest. Stan was very gratified to reconnect with Troy after many years out of touch. 

Buffalo Nickel, berthed with the commercial fishing fleet as always

We were quite smitten with Homer: friendly people, skilled marine engineer types… and it doesn’t get much prettier than the views across Kachemak Bay to the peaks of the Kenai Peninsula!

Breakfast with Troy and Earl at Wild Honey Bistro

Right at the top of our dock ramp was the Salty Dawg Saloon, open since 1957.

It’s a popular place, of course in the summer season full of visitors to the area on their quests to catch halibut or salmon. 

In a tradition started years ago when somebody left a bill on the wall to buy a drink for a friend expected to arrive later, thousands of dollar bills have been signed by customers and tacked to the walls. I think they clear the $ out annually.

There’s no food, and no drinks menu. We thought the shelves of spirits looked well stocked, so ordered Old Fashioneds.

Them: “Sure! But we don’t have oranges or anything fancy like that.”

Us: “That’s OK”

Them: “And we don’t have simple syrup or any of that.”

Us: “OK, so… it’s just rye whiskey?”

Them: “Yeah, with a cherry. Or with two cherries if you want.”

Turned out to be just what we were hankering for. And they long-pour them to boot. Then we ordered a second one. Because consistency is important! And we wanted to be thorough in our evaluation, since we’d be blogging about them and all. 

On our way out of Kachemak Bay headed for the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound, we stopped in a small bay to anchor in the “front yard” of someone I had met on Twitter, of all things. I reached out on impulse, knowing Shannyn lived in or near Homer.

The whole episode was serendipitous, because Stan and I clicked righteously with Shannyn and Gregor and will not be finished enjoying their company any time soon. 

They are in the process of building a home… a small compound, really… in a lovely inner cove. 

We picked some wild blueberries on the hillside, being watchful, of course, for larger, furrier beings who also enjoy wild blueberries!

Time to continue along on our journey. But we had already chosen Homer as the spot where we’d haul Buffalo Nickel out to spend the winter in the boatyard, getting some more major projects done. So we knew we’d be back soon to this lovely spot and these fine new friends.

7 thoughts on “Alaska: Kodiak to Homer

  1. Thank you for another wonderful encounter with Arctic pleasures. Your vessel looks shipshape, Bristol fashion, and the cats are very happy.

  2. Thanks for the interesting travelogue and pics. I’m sitting on a island in the South China Sea reading it. Remembering an August day in 1975 when I thought Homer was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. And yes I remember the Salty Dawg Bar!

  3. Thanks for great pictures! I really enjoy the adventures of the blue water vessels that Steve Dashew and his wife designed. The FPBs have been a dream of mine, someday.
    Thank you again!

  4. Thank you for the update. I’m sorry I won’t be able to make the reunion onboard this season, if it happens. Hopefully next season. Let’s stay in contact and Diana and I may be able to meet you at an Alaskan harbor and have dinner. Aloha, Jeff

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