With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’ve found myself reminiscing about last year’s Valentine’s Day afloat. Rob was fishing out of Sitka, Alaska, last winter and I had a 3 day weekend so I flew up to spend Valentine’s Day with my valentine aboard the F/V Fool’s Gold.
The first part of the adventure was getting to Sitka. Flying into any airport in Southeast Alaska is always an experience. Usually when you see those articles about scariest airports to fly into, at least one Southeast AK airport is on there. I’ve heard that Ketchikan’s runway is the shortest it could possibly be in order to land a 747. It also has water on either end of it so there’s not a lot of room for error there. I found Sitka’s airport to be a little more unnerving though. It really feels like you’re about to just straight up land in the ocean. It’s pretty much just a runway floating on an island. For someone who already has extreme anxiety about flying, this is not ideal. Luckily Alaska Airlines pilots seem to have a good idea of what they’re doing because we did not, in fact, land in the ocean.
After surviving the flight which is always an accomplish for my nervous self, Rob and I headed to the harbor to set off on our weekend journey. Armed with a GoPro selfie stick that my mom had just given me for Christmas a few months before, mimosa fixins, and lots of bacon (always necessary for boat outings) we set out to find the Goddard Hot Springs. We chugged along in the Fool’s Gold, top speed of about 6 knots (aka very slow), to the springs and spotted plenty of humpbacks and sea otters along the way. Humpbacks are famous for their winter migration to Hawaii where they mate but there are some that don’t make the trek and stay in Alaskan waters instead. From what I’ve heard, it’s mostly young males that stick around because they’re not mating yet. I’m no scientist but it sounds legit to me.
One thing that struck me about being out on the water in Sitka was how different the ocean moves than it does here around Ketchikan. In Ketchikan, we are relatively protected from what you would consider the “open ocean.” Our island is surrounded by other islands that keep us from getting ocean swell. In Sitka, that’s not the case. There’s nothing really between Sitka and Japan and you can definitely feel it when you’re on the water. Even on calm days, the constant swell is noticeable and a bit unsettling at first.
Oh and how could I forget…Sitka also has a freakin VOLCANO that you can see for much of the drive. How neat is that?!
After a few hours of travel and doing what you do on a very slow moving boat- read, nap, snack, repeat- we made it to the Hot Springs Bay where we anchored the boat and paddled to shore in a little inflatable along with our mimosa fixins. When I heard hot springs, I guess I was imagining more of a rocky sort of natural hot tub area. But this was different. Basically there are a couple wooden shelters that each have a big steel tub with a tap. The tap flows from the actual hot springs that is maybe unground? To be honest, I have no idea where the hot water came from. Rob hiked up to try to find the source but I was perfectly content just accepting that there was magical hot water that came out of the tap. I was also in a bathing suit at this point and not so interested in figuring out where the hot water was coming from as I was in just sitting in the hot water. Apparently in the summer it’s more of a hot spot (get it? HOT spot?) But since we were there in February, we had the springs to ourself even though there were a few other boats anchored up in the bay around us. Works for me!
After getting our fill of mimosas and the springs, we headed back to the boat where we spent the rest of the weekend meandering the coastline between there and Sitka. There is just so much beautiful untouched nature here to explore and we even caught a few fishies along the way!
We’re spending this Valentine’s Day on land but it’s only a matter of time before we’re back out there on the water doing some more adventuring!
Thanks for reading! Float on, friends