Part IV: Homer

August 14th

Passing small towns along the West coast of Kenai Peninsula, we gradually make our way down to Homer-the southernmost point on the Sterling Highway. A trip on a state marine highway is required to visit any of the island communities further southwest. Colloquially known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the world, Homer is famous for its fishing charters and seafood offerings in local establishments.  Homer is home to 5,000 people, more than twice as many as Seward, but the number also varies seasonally.  Driving into Homer we pass through its business district where most hotels and B&Bs are located and continue into Homer spit, the downtown area, with shops, restaurants, and a boat harbor creating a sense of a quaint fishing village.

Right after getting into town, we embark on a sea kayak tour around Peterson bay, which is a part of the Kachemak Bay state park- a popular destination just a short water taxi ride from the Homer Spit with yurts and cabins for rent and several hiking trails, some leading to a glacier.  Our tour group is relatively small, about 10 people and we are further split into smaller groups with one guide per 1-2 kayaks upon arrival to the launch point.  We get to pick between double and single kayaks and choose a double due to more stability though singles are usually faster and perhaps more maneuverable. While we used recreational kayaks before, the fiberglass sea kayaks we paddle for this tour feature a different design and include spray skirts and rudders for steering.  We start off slowly trying to balance the kayak against the waves but gradually keep moving along the bay as the sun reappears and we kayak downstream with the tailwind coming to our aid.  After three days of paddling and rowing in a row, pun intended – a rowboat, a canoe, and now a kayak, paddling against the wind would be pure torture for my arms.

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Nested among relatively young cliffs the bay offers splendid scenery and frequent wildlife sightings, including bold eagles and eaglets, a marmot, harbor seals haulout, and a sea otter.  We paddle for seven miles almost making a full circle around the bay when we go through a narrow rocky tunnel, where we have to lay our paddles flat and push the rocks to keep the kayak moving. The tide keeps rising throughout the afternoon but we still arrive  to our last passage slightly early for it to be submerged under water and have to portage the kayak over a short distance before we continue on to the water taxi pick up point.

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On the way back the water taxi captain passes by the Gull Island, cliffs where almost 20,000 birds nested, mostly black-legged kittiwakes,  common murres, glaucous-winged gulls, and a few puffins standing on top of the cliff in a small group.  A flock of birds launches into the air as the boat approaches and fills it with their loud cries. We are almost at the end of our water taxi ride with the harbor docks visible in the distance.

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Puffins on top

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Partly soaked with a cold and salty ocean water, we check in at the hotel and change before heading to dinner. Majestic B&B in Homer is our first and only hotel stay during this adventure and is a welcome break from travelling with a beautifully appointed room overlooking the Kachemak bay from atop of the hill, complete with a hot tub and a hot tea selection.  The B&B owner is out of town but we make a small talk with a house sitter who took three weeks to drive  4,700+ miles all the way from Boston to Homer in a small car with her dog to spend a summer in her native Alaska.  This drive sounds excruciating but awesome at the same time, something to put on my bucket list.

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Intending to spend more time in the B&B later, we quickly unload our luggage and drive back to the spit for dinner.  Arriving at Captain Patty’s, a famous seafood restaurant in Homer, we find it completely booked and walk around the spit while waiting for the table to open up.  We stop to get a huge slice of Margarita pizza in a local pizza parlor and a cup of an amazingly tasty Alaskan chai, which is sweater than zen chai but not as sweet as chai you would get in an Indian restaurant. A window table overlooking the bay  opened up just as we got back to Patty’s.  We order a plate of calamari for an appetizer and a seafood sampler for entree which includes grilled halibut mm, grilled salmon mmm, grilled alaskan scallops mmmm and grilled prawns ok. The entree also comes with baked potatoes with sour cream and herb toppings, bread and butter, and a green salad. After this delicious and filling late dinner we return to the B&B to relax in the hot tub before going to bed for an early morning flight the next day.

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Night view of the spit

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