Saturday, June 1, 2019 was the day we began our Alaska bound trip! One of our dream trips, bucket list item, a promise made long, long ago. It is now December and the trip is only wonderful memories, but I thought I’d share some of our adventures, photos and the fun people we met along the way.
So here we go, welcome aboard! We departed from Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle and cruised to Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Marina (Blaine, WA) to visit our friends who are making a life change for the summer months (selling their 44 DeFever Aft-Cabin and purchasing land in Concrete, WA). Semiahmoo Bay is beautiful with walking trails along the bay and a spectacular Mt.Baker back drop. Marilyn and Bill Hoober (Zula and Zeek are their traveling pups) have been boating friends for a very long time and we have enjoyed both cold and warm water diving with Bill. We will miss them on the water but are excited for them and their new adventures as dirt dwellers!
We spent a couple of nights anchored on San Juan Island, Roche Harbor and Sucia Island in Echo Bay. We departed Echo Bay early in the morning. Mid-morning (I was taking a nap in the pilothouse and Scott was at the helm) Scott yelled, Ab, Ab, get up! We have someone here!! I woke quickly and looked out the pilothouse confirming that we were in the Strait of Georgia. Somehow, “we have someone here” just didn’t make sense. Scott slowed our boat down and opened the pilothouse door. A large inflatable boat with US and BC police markings came along side and asked us some questions – did we own the boat, what was our destination and how many crew were on board. Our answers must have been satisfactory or we weren’t who they were looking for so they thanked us and took off! Very strange.
We checked into Canadian Customs in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The process required we dock at the Customs Dock and call the Customs telephone number. After a 15-minute wait on the phone, they cleared us. We anchored that evening off Newcastle Island and dinghied to the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island for supper and of course, cold beer. Very fun!!
From Nanaimo we continued to the upper end of the Strait of Georgia to Discovery Passage. Discovery Passage and the channels above Desolation Sound, known for their rapids, is the beginning of the wilder and less traveled wilderness of the north! We anchored in Gowlland Harbour, a large protected bay with considerable log booming activity. We planned a 12:45 pm entrance the following day into Seymore Narrows.
Seymore Narrows is the narrowest portion of Discovery Passage. Mariners are advised to navigate Seymore Narrows only at or near slack water. I read currents can run 16 knots on the flood and 14 knots on the ebb, flooding south and ebbing north. Interesting. Almost in the middle of the channel is Ripple Rock, an underwater mountain which had two peaks. It is known to cause considerable turbulence when tidal streams are running at strength. In 1958, the top portion of Ripple Rock was blown to smithereens in the biggest non-atomic explosion of that time. The explosion is still considered a major feat of engineering.
We continued on to Johnstone Strait. Johnstone Strait extends 54 miles and has a mean reputation for strong currents and choppy seas. And we experienced some choppy seas. We started the strait with 5 knot winds which picked up to 20 knots and some chop, so we ducked into Port Neville to anchor for the night. The following day the strait was “behaving nicely” so we cruised to Port McNeill enjoying sunshine and calm seas. Port McNeill is described as a small modern city with grocery stores, liquor store, auto parts, restaurants, banks and recycling! We were assigned a slip in the Port McNeill Municipal Harbour for a couple of days. We visited with Neil and Dianna on Plamor N50, cruisers we know in Anacortes Marina and the crews of Starina and Car’d Away.
Traveling with Plamor, we traversed the Queen Charlotte Strait and anchored in Blunden Harbour. From Blunden Harbour we rounded Cape Caution to Fury Cove. Cape Caution is known to be a fearsome barrier to exploring the remote northern areas of British Columbia and on into Southeast Alaska. In fact, we have met experienced cruisers that were resolute that this is the last time they would round Cape Caution. We had flat conditions and safely anchored in Fury Cove at the southeast entrance to Fitz Hugh Sound.
We anchored two days in Pruth Bay at the head of Kwakshua Channel. The entire area of Pruth Bay is part of the Hakai Beach Institute which is used for research – Archaeology, Ecology, First Nations Culture. In 2010 the area was a luxury fly-in fishing resort! We hiked the beaches with the Dianna and Neil and enjoyed a late afternoon happy-hour.
The north end of Fitz Hugh Sound divides into two channels. We continued to Fisher Channel which is a continuation of the “Inside Passage” route then to Lama Passage into Shearwater Resort and Marina. The day was nasty, rainy and cold and we were fortunate to get a slip in the marina. We enjoyed a happy hour with Neil and Dianna on Plamor, Park and Carol on Akeeva N50 who we also know from Anacortes, and new friends Toru and Chizuru on Chisato N40, and Larry and Monica on Gryphon N46. A Nordhavn gathering of sorts!
The following day we said our good byes to Plamor and headed to Rescue Bay via Mathieson Channel. We saw lots of whales and tried to get photos, Scott yelling “Get the tail. Get the tail!”
A note about “Get the Tail!” I have read that humpback whales are known for their aerobatics. They may grow 50 feet in length and reach 45 tons. Humpback whales cruise at 5 knots, but are capable of 10 knots. Faster than Epoch! When sounding (diving), it raises its tail flukes high. Once you see the tail, the whale will be under the water for a time. So the tail sight is usually the last of the whale sighting. Until next time!
It was a sunny day in Rescue Bay and we were visited by Gryphon crew and Chisato crew on kayaks.
It is around the 21st of June, the sun is rising at 4:15 am. Sunset is after 10 pm so we had plenty of daylight cruising. We weighed anchor early and set out to Klutz Inlet on the east side of Graham Reach. We took Finlayson Channel to Klutz Inlet. Klutz Inlet has very steep rocky walls, snowcapped mountains and waterfalls. Gryphon and Chisato where also anchored in the inlet near the waterfall. We put a crab pot down at the suggestion of Gryphon as they found the spot to be a good place for crabbing. Later in the evening a sailboat entered the bay and decided to anchor between Epoch and Gryphon, a little close we thought. First the gal on board tossed the anchor over the bow. The anchor didn’t grab. Then the man on the sailboat pulled up the anchor and saw the anchor rope tangled. He tossed the anchor over in frustration and went inside the cabin. The following morning (we slept with one eye open in case they drifted) we had a giggle. As Gryphon weighed their anchor, the sailboat began moving closer and closer to Gryphon. The man on the sailboat came out and tried to hold his sailboat off Gryphon. He was in his skivvies! I clicked a photo or two. The name of the sailboat was Dazed and Confused. And indeed they were!
Our cruise up Grenville Channel, part of the main Inner Passage route leading north to Alaska was spectacular. The channel is very narrow at one point, only 0.2 miles wide. The channel is deep with steep mountainous sides. We encountered white sided porpoises swimming on the bow. For dinner we ate our fresh crab caught in Klutz Inlet!
The following day we entered Chatham Sound to East Dixon Entrance and ALASKA! It was in East Dixon Entrance Scott began his “Rig for Sea ” command when the sea state became unsettling. The Dixon Entrance is the second of the two main bodies of open water to be crossed on the Inside Passage and can develop nasty chop or breaking waves. When we “rig for sea,” I pad the cabinets with towels and empty cardboard egg cartons, secure the coffee maker, install the refrigerator rails, lock cabinets, freezers and lay the rocking chair over. This is when I remember the saying – The difference between adventure and adversity is Attitude! Right? We anchored in Foggy Bay for the night after traveling 78 n.m. We were looking forward to a couple of days rest once we got to Ketchikan. Our clearance into Alaska from BC was performed by Roam App.
Tongass Narrows is the transition from crossing Dixon Entrance to arrival in Ketchikan. As we got closer to the city, changes from remote and unspoiled to civilization began to appear. When we arrived, 5 cruise ships were moored in Ketchikan. Cruise ships are an imposing sight, towering 10 stories high and dwarfing the city. The cruise ships can carry 2000 passengers each. You do the math, that’s a lot of people! We were assigned a slip in Bar Harbor South, not too far from town. We stayed 3 nights, visiting the town in the afternoons, after the cruise ships departed. We enjoyed exploring town, shopping for t-shirts, and visiting with the locals. We also made a trip to Safeway to stock up on produce and liquor store for beer.
From Ketchikan we crossed Clarence Strait into Kassan Bay, a very small village on the east side of Prince of Wales Island. I read that the Kassan village had a cannery and some boom and bust periods with a population of 500 when the cannery was operating years ago. We tied up to a Public Dock and headed up to investigate how to pay for the moorage. Here we were, back to remoteness. We finally located someone who told us moorage was free and to be sure to visit the longhouse and cemetery along the boardwalk. We walked the boardwalk, past the Trail Café, open only on Friday and Saturday, to the long house, totem poles and the cemetery. The first tribal Chief of Kassan, Chief Sonihut is buried in the cemetery. Returning to the boat, a man sitting on his front porch yelled a greeting to us. We stopped and chatted for a time. “Skip” built his home many years ago, by hand, out of materials he brought by boat to Kaasan. His little home was decorated with crabbing buoys and driftwood he found on the beach. He invited us in, insisted we listen to his Bose Speakers, and gave us a tour of his garden. He had “wacky plants” growing in his garden along with tomatoes, lettuce, squash, beans. Skip was certainly living off the grid, but looked forward to the infrequent visitors he encountered. Thank you Skip for your hospitality!
We anchored a couple nights before heading to Wrangell. In Wrangell we were assigned a slip in Heritage Harbor. Wrangell has the feel of the Alaska Frontier. The dock hand at Heritage Harbor, a young man, was very helpful and provided suggestions for taverns and food. Fewer cruise ships call at Wrangell and compared to Ketchikan, the town appeared more laid-back and less commercialized. We quickly learned that Wrangell is known for its 4th of July celebrations so we decided to stay a few days and enjoy the celebrations.
We signed up for a jetboat tour on the Stikine River. The Stikine River has its source in a small lake in BC and is about 200 miles long and flows through glaciers and gorges. During our adventure in the jetboat we saw so many eagles and got close up to a glacier but the bergs were more interesting to me with their beautiful turquoise coloring.
The 4th of July activities were quite interesting. A greased pole contest, lumberjack contest, axe throwing. In between contests Scott and I would walk to the Elks Lodge for Moose Drool! Like I mentioned, Wrangell has the feel of the Alaska Frontier! We spent time with Toru and Chizuru on Chisato, Monica and Larry on Gryphon and our new friend Frank on Island Greeter.
From Wrangell north to Petersburg, our next destination, we traveled the Wrangell Narrows, 21 miles in length. Essentially all water traffic (ferries, cruise ships, barges, commercial and recreational boats) must pass through the Wrangell Narrows which connects the lower and upper portions of Southeast Alaska. Wrangell Narrows reportedly has the highest concentration of navigational aids in the world with 67 lights and buoys. The passage is jokingly referred to as Christmas Tree Lane for its red and green blinking lights.
Petersburg is famous for its Norwegian heritage. Also known as the halibut capital of Alaska. Its economy depends on its fishing fleet and seafood processing plants. In the marina, we were surrounded by fishing vessels. The town is quaint and we spent two nights enjoying the company of Jan and Tom on their Defever Sunchaser and Darlene and Jeff Gidley on their Krogen 44 Mana Kai.
From Petersburg we cruised Clarence Strait. We were enjoying the long days, beginning the day at 5:00 am, docking at Thorne Bay by 7:30 pm. Still day light! We read that the city of Thorne Bay was once the largest logging camp in the US and used by cruising boats as a communication and supply center along this part of the Inside Passage. Fun and maybe supper in town! So we tied up to the dock and started the short walk into ‘town’. We were greeted by the Liquor Store owner who barked “You are late!” And I guess we were. The town was closed up tight! Supper on the boat.
From Clarence Strait we decided to circumnavigate Revillagigedo Island via Behm Canal. Behm Canal was magnificent! Remote wilderness, hemlock, spruce and cedar growth on vertical granite slopes. Waterfalls and wildlife! So many whales! We anchored one night in Saks Cove, another night in Manzanita Bay. Both anchorages in the Misty Fiords National Monument. Just beautiful scenery! We explored Rudyerd Bay, Punchbowl Cove. Amazing steep gorges!
We spent two nights in Prince Rupert located on Kaien Island. Prince Rupert is the first port of entry from Alaska into Canada. We enjoyed some shopping and the Wheelhouse Brewery.
We cruised the 45-mile Grenville Channel. Grenville Channel, similar to Behm Canal has steep, granite mountains, snow-covered peaks and waterfalls that tumble thousands of feet. We anchored in Baker Inlet. To enter Baker Inlet, a large, sheltered anchorage, we needed to travel Watts Narrows. Watts Narrows is reportedly 200 feet wide and surround by overhanging trees which restrict maneuvering room. The cruise manual said the tidal streams can be turbulent and suggested boats wait for slack water. Our afternoon navigation through the narrows was uneventful but we thought very beautiful! The next morning, we were fogged in. The sun came out and finally at 9:00 am we weighed anchor and began our ‘adventure’ though Watts Narrows. Scott had me on the bow with the video camera. Gosh, I thought, now the water is running scary fast and boiling and ……here I am on the bow videoing the whole journey! When we successfully maneuvered the narrows, I came back into the pilothouse. Scott said “that was scary!” What an understatement and for Scott to think scary! Yikes!
We traveled Grenville Channel, Wright Sound, McKay Reach, Ursula Channel to Bishop Bay and the Hot Springs! Air temperature 71 degrees F, porpoises, whales. Around 8 pm we tied to a buoy in 100 feet of water and ate a late dinner. The following morning we dinghied to the hot tub, hiked around some and relaxed in the tubs.
We traveled Fraser Reach and Graham Reach and saw so many whales. We continued to Finlayson Channel, Oscar Passage, Mathieson Channel and hit huge seas coming around Ivory Island.
We continued to Seaforth Channel and into Shearwater Marina where we provisioned, recycled, disposed of garbage, and Scott changed the oil in the lugger. Scott invited most of the dock over for cocktails and we met Bob and Maria on their Seahorse Pilot Trawler, XTRA Tuff.
We traveled with Bob and Maria the following day to Fury Bay, then weighed anchor the following morning very early to get around Cape Scott. We were heading to the west coast of Vancouver Island, Bob and Maria were planning to cruise the Queen Charlotte Strait, the more traditional passage. The seas were so calm, we could clearly see Cape Scott this time; last time it was so foggy. Since the seas were calm, we headed around Brooks Peninsula to Columbia Cove and anchored for the night. This was our longest day of travel, 111 n.m., 16.5 hours.
Our next stop was Tahsis, Westview Marina. We spent two nights, caught up on laundry and talked with John Falavolito, the marina owner. We stayed at Westview Marina last summer and used a photo of our boat docked at the marina for our Christmas card. John thought the photo grand!
We anchored at Hot Springs, then cruised to Bamfield for a night. The boardwalk in Bamfield is always delightful. We also stopped in Port Renfew for a night before heading to Victoria.
We had an easy cruise to Victoria. We spent two nights taking in the sights and celebrating my birthday. We visited with Mike and Jenna on R Lil’ Ship, N40.
We were back in Anacortes on July 29, in time to visit with my sister Julie from Athens, Ohio who was visiting her daughter Molly in Seattle.
Thanks Scott for a super, awesome, spectacular trip! You are “Captain Extraordinaire!” Or as my brother Joe would say – a very excellent driver!