What to watch for out of Whittier
Can anyone give a brief synopsis about what to watch out for when paddling out of Whittier to Blackstone Bay?
Whittier to Blackstone bay is a really nice trip. I recommend Paul Twardock’s book “Kayaking and Camping in Prince William Sound” for a description and maps. It is at just about every bookstore in Anchorage.
Most of the Hazards of this trip are in Blackstone Bay. Watch out for the moraines that extend from either side of Willard Island. A nasty tide rip can form there. Two kayakers have died in that spot.
And of course, stay a good distance from the calving glaciers.
The whole bay can get really choppy in easterly, southerly, or west winds. A localized catabatic wind can also come tearing out of Blackstone bay while the rest of Prince William Sound enjoys a calm sunny day.
In my opinion the biggest hazard here is paddling in wind or waves above your ability. Be prepared to wait for the weather to improve. Have a VHF radio along for the weather forecasts.
I’ve seen good camping on the northeast side of Willard Island, and also the South Shore of Blackstone across from Willard Island. I do not remember many good spots to camp along the North or West sides of Blackstone Bay.
- Keep an eye out for the ferries, especially the Chenega. If you don't pay attention and the wake hits you before you can paddle into it, you can end up upside down. A buddy learned this the hard way.
- As you exit Passage Canal, keep an eye out for boats running close to the south shore, which you will likely be hugging. They come tearing by fairly frequently and can make things interesting. Often, they aren't watching for paddlers as closely as they should.
- A fog blew in when I was paddling back to Whittier from Cochrane Bay one day, obscuring the shorelines while I was transiting the mouth of Blackstone Bay. Carrying a GPS is a good idea.
- The Tortilla Bandit. If you leave beer or gear too close to the tideline, the Tortilla Bandit will come under cover of night and steal it away. Keep a watchful eye out for that rascal.
If you're not entirely sold on Blackstone, you should consider heading down to Three-Finger Cove at the far southeast corner of Cochrane. Great camping and a wonderful area to explore.