China Poot Bay
Alaska. I was born here. I grew up here. I’ve lived here my entire life. I was even born in Homer, one of America’s happiest seaside towns! Despite this, like many other Alaskans, we often get caught up with the busyness of life that we often forget to take the time to enjoy our state, explore new areas, and have new experiences in places we’ve always wanted to go. Several years ago, my brother and I decided to put plans together to attempt an annual trip somewhere on the salt water to do just that…explore, make memories, spend time with our families, and love more of Alaska. The first few years we put these trips together, we launched out of Whittier, and with a slight change of plans for this venture, we drove farther south and decided to begin our voyage from the end of The Spit in Homer, Alaska, and just a few miles across Kachemak Bay is where you’ll find China Poot Bay.
Though China Poot Bay is only a few miles from the shores of Homer, we decided to hire Dave from Ashore Water Taxi to haul ourselves and all of our gear, including our 12′ inflatable raft and 18hp Tohatsu outboard motor safely across to our destination. After we completed the arduous chore of unloading the pickup, hauling all of our gear down to the docks, and then loading the 24′ landing craft named ‘Blackfish’, we motored out of the Homer small boat harbor and were already met with tons of bird sightings, a few otters playing in the harbor, and lots of other big exciting boats to look at. Being raised throughout my adolescent years in Cantwell, Alaska, the sea, sea life, and the lifestyle around sea-side communities have always had a sense of wonder about them to me.
Being very tide sensitive, China Poot Bay can often go dry at low tide, inhibiting larger boats from getting all the way back to the end of the bay, where we needed to unload, so we made sure to get back toward the Yurt, where we would be staying, right at high tide. The other benefit of arriving at high tide is to not have to haul your gear an extra few hundred feet! Its certainly recommended to make plans for these kinds of things well in advance, but as luck would have it, there was an opening on this particular weekend for us to rent this yurt, which meant we could leave the tent at home this time, and have a bit more room to spread out! Anytime you get to ‘camp’ in Alaska and you aren’t sleeping in a tent is quite the luxury.
We waved the Blackfish goodbye and began to make ourselves comfortable on the beach, in our fancy yurt, and I decided to throw a spinner from shore to see if I could catch anything. After a few minutes, I was able to reel in a little Dolly and we cruised up and down China Poot Bay in the boat exploring and enjoying flat calm waters on a gorgeous Alaskan night.
The next morning was met with sunny skies, hot pancakes, and packing a lunch since we were planning on being out for the entire day. We loaded up our day gear, our fishing poles and tackle, and set off to see what we could find. We didn’t get much near the mouth of China Poot Bay before realizing the low-tide issues which plague mostly the mouth of the bay. Even in our 12′ boat, I had to guide our path in some pretty shallow water before I realized we were surrounded by literally hundreds of starfish! We spent the next several hours being in wonder around the sea life caught in the immense tide-pool. All shapes, sizes, and colors of starfish were found along with crabs, jellyfish, small fish, and a host of other creatures. Just when we’d found the coolest one, someone else would yell “Come check THIS ONE out!”. We spent several hours here and took way too many photos before loading back up and continuing on.
We found a great beach for lunch, found an old abandoned cabin, saw a black bear on a nearby cliff, and then continued on to explore in and around Halibut Cove before continuing on toward Halibut Cove Lagoon. Having the little inflatable boat doesn’t add much in the weigh of too much gear to the trip, but allowed us to explore dozens of miles of shoreline, coves, and see way more of the surrounding area versus just having a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
The afternoon winds had kicked up a bit, causing the ride back toward China Poot Bay to be less than ideal. Even 2-3 foot rollers in that small of a boat can make you feel like you’re getting beat pretty good fighting the waves for a few miles. About half of a mile directly a head of the boat, I saw a whale spout from a humpback whale. Several minutes later, we saw it again, at about half the distance. I figured that if we stayed on our current course at the current speed, that if the whale surfaced again for another breath, we would be very near it. Sure enough, a while later, about 20′ off the bow of the boat, one of the largest mammals in the world came up and out of the water, blew its breath out, and was close enough to where you could just about look down inside the whale’s blowhole! I cut the power, everyone aboard squealed, and almost instantly we felt very, very small. What an incredible way to end our first day of exploring!
After our second night in the yurt, we wanted to do some fishing to see what we could catch! We had heard of good jigging around Gull Island, so that’s where we headed. Drifting with the tide and the wind, we setup several rods with jigs and the kids enjoyed pulling up whatever would bite from the dark depths below us. Pacific cod, small lingcod, rockfish, sculpin, and even a small halibut were able to be brought to surface for a quick photo before being released back into the water.
South of the entrance to China Poot Bay is a beach exposed to the main waters of Kachemak Bay was a very sandy beach which had been slightly warmed by the sun all day. The kids enjoyed digging in the sand, burying their feet, and the place offered a great place to relax and take a break from being pretty crammed in our tiny little boat.
After our final night in the yurt, we explored for one last run up and down the bay where we found more starfish and made one more trip to Gull Island to catch a few more of whatever was biting. We had incredible weather for the entire trip and were reluctant to want to head back to pack up and leave. With a little less food, water, and fuel to haul back to the beach, we waited for the Blackfish to arrive for our quick trip back toward the Homer Spit.
Exploring in Alaska doesn’t have to be out of reach, super expensive, or too labor intensive if you’re willing to rough it a bit, do some planning, take advantage of great local services like a water taxi, and be willing to disconnect from normal daily life and really enjoy the true sights and sounds of nature. We certainly won’t forget this adventure and I never regret taking too many photos.