The coastal Alaska art print “Heading Out” captures a quintessential Southeast Alaska experience: being on the water.  The dynamic waters of Cross Sound pictured here are located just off the Gulf of Alaska.  It is the northernmost passage from the open ocean into the more protected waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage.  As such its nutrient rich and frigid waters are visited by a host of marine life, from humpback whales to bottom feeders to all five species of Pacific salmon making their way back to their ancestral streams draining into myriad bays and inlets and coves.  Cross Sound is bordered by wild and rocky shores, and the narrow North and South Inian passes separating it from Icy Strait.  Those two passes on the north and south side of the small Inian Islands archipelago funnel a massive amount of water between Cross Sound and Icy Strait, two times every day.  The tide comes in, and the rip currents get boiling.  There’s a slack period as the water slows down, and then the tide goes out, rushing past the Inian Islands again, out through the sound and to the open ocean.  Throw the wind and weather into the mix and there is never a dull moment!

Here’s the story behind the image:  Completely on a lark, I’m on the ferry for a day trip to the community of Pelican, returning to Gustavus late in the evening.  The ferry serves this fishing community only once a month, but normally it will head all the way to Juneau after leaving Pelican rather than stopping in Gustavus again on the way back.  This schedule of a return stop in Gustavus is a rare treat, and something to jump on.  I had been to Pelican once before at the conclusion of a two week paddle up from Sitka with a stop at White Sulphur Hot Springs.  But the ferry route today takes me into new territory, and I’m excited to experience the big water of Cross Sound.

Instead of turning east from the Gustavus dock to head to Juneau, we head west to sail past Lemesurier Island and through the Inian Islands into Cross Sound.  The first couple of hours it’s misty and foggy on quiet water.  Then we enter the sound and there’s ocean swell as well as chop created from the wind shearing along the wave tops.  It sends the fog packing, and the wild shoreline is revealed.  I hit the deck with my camera, oblivious to the spray, exhilarated by the ship’s motion, while hanging on to the railing and taking all sorts of shots… water and rocks and forest and more rocks and more wild crashing water.  The power and magic on display is indeed awesome, in the best sense of the word.

Even at just one hour, the stop in Pelican is long enough to explore the boardwalk town from one end to the other.  Late in the afternoon we sail back up the Lisianski Inlet to enter Cross Sound again and retrace our route to the Gustavus dock.  Hours later, at home in my office cubby, I’m impressed again with the forces of nature evident on my screen.  I choose the ‘prism’ filter for this print, drawn to the chock-a-block effect that so cleverly reflects the energy of the water and rocks.  The clouds above and a wisp of fog at the water’s surface do their thing as well.  This lark has been truly delightful, and I look forward to my next adventure on the water.

Coastal Alaska artwork by Gustavus Alaska artist Lillian Ruedrich.  Love this print?  Click here to purchase it now.  Enjoy it as a blank notecard or matted print.