My wife and I spent six days on Prince William Sound this month, cruising, fishing and escaping the franticness of the Kenai Peninsula in July.
This was mainly a do-it-yourself trip. No fishing guide furnished our tackle and showed us where and how to fish. No lodge, air taxi or water taxi carried us to our destination. No one cooked our meals. Relying on my boating and fishing experience, we went where we wanted to go in a rented boat, and spent nights ashore in a comfortable, rented cabin.
The planning began last Christmas when I surprised Sue with the trip. She had never been on the sound, but had fished on charter boats and liked it, so I took a chance that she’d like being on relatively protected Prince William Sound in a small boat. Renting the boat cost $3,108, and the cabin cost $2,250, so I hoped she would like it.
I had contacted Whittier Boat Rental and reserved a 22-foot, hard-top Hewes Craft with a 150-hp outboard and an 8-hp kicker. The boat had an 85-gallon fuel tank, so we’d have a range of 200 miles with a third for reserve. Its equipment included a GPS/depth sounder, VHF radio, compass, dinghy, anchor, flare kit, fire extinguisher, life jackets, propane heater and portable toilet. Well set up for fishing, it had a landing net, gaff hook, rod holders and a large fish box.
We could’ve slept and cooked aboard this boat — it would sleep six people — but I opted for the comfort and convenience of a cabin. Having stayed at Port Ashton Lodge a few years ago, I knew they rented cabins. On their Web site, I noticed that owners Randy and Lia Talvi had added a kitchen and dining room onto the Lookout Cabin, where I had stayed on my previous visit, so I reserved it for five nights.
Having read some of my stories about fishing the gulf, Sue had a few fears about the trip. To allay these, we attended the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary class, “About Boating Safely.” A few weeks later, Sue attended the “Suddenly in Command” class. Knowing what to do in an emergency made her more at ease, and made both of us safer boaters.
I estimated that we’d use one tank of fuel getting from Whittier to the lodge and back. I knew we’d need more if we wanted to do much fishing and exploring, so I arranged with the lodge to have a 55-gallon barrel of gas delivered there in June. The lodge would bring it to the dock when I needed it. That fuel cost $375, which was $122 more than if I’d bought it at the fuel dock in Whittier, but it was worth every dime. I wouldn’t have to carry that 450-pound barrel to the lodge, or buy any containers, or strain anything loading and unloading all that fuel.
On Departure Day, the staff at Whittier Boat Rental helped load our gear aboard the boat, showed us where everything was, how it worked and soon had us launched and on our way. The day was sunny and warm, and the water was smooth as glass. We took the easiest, straightest course to Port Ashton — Passage Canal, Wells Passage to Perry Passage, and Knight Passage to Elrington Passage. Cruising on flat water at about 21 miles per hour, the trip took us three hours.
When we pulled into the quiet cove behind the lodge, Lia Talvi welcomed us at the dock and took our gear to our cabin in a trailer pulled by a 4-wheeler. We decided we’d traveled enough for one day, so we sat in the sun and drank a toast to being in that wonderful place.
The six days flew by. We spent time fishing — of course — but we also walked on the beach, explored an abandoned fish saltery/cannery, sat in the sun and read and talked. One day, we ran the boat over to Icy Bay and netted a 40-pound block of glacier ice, which chilled our two coolers for the duration of our trip. While fishing and exploring, we saw seals, sea otters, sea lions, whales and a variety of sea birds. When we’d come “home” at night, we’d fillet and vacuum-pack the lingcod and rockfish we’d caught, and put them in the lodge freezer.
I highly recommend this trip to anyone who is experienced and competent with handling a small boat in Cook Inlet or other relatively protected waters. If you’re lucky enough to have good fishing and good weather, it’s a trip of a lifetime.
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Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.