Ketchikan to Juneau: May 23 - May 31, 2017
12 June 2017
Ketchikan, Revillagigedo Island
55' 21.0" N, 131' 41.1" W
We arrived at the dock in Ketchikan at 11:00 am from Foggy Bay and the sun came out! The way the marinas work in Alaska is you call the harbour master as you are nearing the town either by phone or on VHF Channel 73. After giving them your overall length and draft they will assign you a berth. The marinas in Alaska all seem to operate this way. It works well. We were assigned to a slip in Bar Harbour Marina which is at the north end of town. It was a 30 minute walk into town which we didn't mind as we needed the exercise. Bar Harbour is also close to Safeway which is good for provisioning and to the laundromat. Thomas Basin is the marina in the city center. It's closer to all the action, shops, restaurants, museums and the cruise ship terminal! So it depends on your preference and what's important to you, easy provisioning and walking or being close to downtown.
Clearing in to Alaska was a breeze. We simply called US Customs after docking. A friendly customs officer came down to our boat at the dock, asked us a few questions and completed his paperwork. NO questions about food or alcohol. So don't worry about the produce or meat you are bringing into Alaska.
Ketchikan has lots to offer due to the cruise ship traffic. They often have 4-8 cruise ships per day, 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. We weren't as bothered as we thought we might be by the cruise ship patrons. We enjoyed talking to the locals who owned shops in Ketchikan, the bookstore, the quilt and yarn store, and the gift shops. Creek St. is a photographer's delight with its wooden boardwalk and colourful buildings. The "Discovery Centre" is a must see with excellent displays of Alaskan life, fishing, mining, logging, tourism and native history. Overall we really liked Ketchikan, our first Alaska town. We stayed 2 nights.
Meyer's Chuck, Cleveland Peninsula
55' 44.3" N, 132' 15.5" W
The narrow channel in Ketchikan was busy as we left with float planes taking off, cruise ships arriving, humpback whales "bubble feeding", numerous other boats leaving and a current! So keep a watchful eye. We had fueled up south of town when we arrived so we were good to go. The weather is still cool in May and we continued to wear our toques and gloves. The snow capped mountains of Prince of Wales Island to the west were beautiful as we sailed up Clarence Strait. The Alaskan ferry passed us going south.
We wanted to go to Meyer's Chuck on a recommendation from a friend and really enjoyed its quaint feel. We decided to anchor as there was a good NW wind blowing in the anchorage and we didn't want to get pinned on the dock. Shortly after anchoring a 112' MV "Shadowfax" steamed into the bay and used its many thrusters to parallel park at the dock taking up all the available space! A small Canadian Nordic Tug "Sandpiper II" that came in before "Shadowfax" was left to anchor out like us. Then a local man and woman pulled up to our boat in their skiff to inform us that we had anchored on the "runway"! Apparently a float plane was scheduled to arrive at Meyer's Chuck in 10 min and he needed the whole length of the bay to land. So we quickly pulled up the anchor and sure enough the float plane arrived. He aborted the first attempt to land and circled around and was successful the second time. After he left we reanchored back in our original spot. There weren't a lot of other choices in the bay. We took a walk ashore but didn't meet any locals. It seemed as though most of the buildings were summer homes. There used to be a school here and the government built the beautiful new dock for the school kids. Now it's just used by the cruisers! We became aware of the size of the tides when we were in Meyer's Chuck. It was a 24' tide that day and the bay looked totally different at low tide!
Wrangell, Wrangell Island
56' 27.4" N, 132' 23.0" W
There was a strong NW wind blowing so we decided to take the more inland route through Zimovia Strait to Wrangell. The route up Clarence Strait would have given us NW winds on the nose. We did enjoy a short sail across Ernest Sound and spotted several whale spouts silhouetted in the sun on this bluebird day. We were assigned to the Heritage Marina in Wrangell by the harbour master. It is a nice new marina (2007) with enough depth for us. The downtown marina is closer to town but not good for boats with draft. "S/V Vagabon" was beside us at the dock, Dave & Liska from Seattle whom we had met in Port McNeil. We discussed strategies for transiting the Wrangell Narrows the next day and then we all walked the 30 min into town. There was 1 cruise ship in dock. Wrangell has a western feel to it and is smaller than Ketchikan, only 3,000 people. They have a number of tours available for visiting the nearby Le Conte Glacier or the Anan Wildlife Conservatory where you can observe bears feasting on salmon in the river in July & Aug.
Petersburg, Mitkof Island and the Wrangell Narrows
56' 48.6" N, 132' 57.9" W
Norm figured out the timing for the famous Wrangell Narrows. From all reports it sounded very intimidating...be at the start of the Narrows at Port Alexander 3 hours prior to high slack at the Summit. The Summit is 2/3 of the way through the Narrows. We would ride the flood to the summit and then ride the ebb out to Petersburg. The whole transit turned out to be quite easy. For anyone who has ever dealt with Yuculta or Dent Rapids in BC this was a piece of cake. The current was never greater than 2-3 knots. It was a lovely ride through beautiful countryside with cottages and people fishing. As we turned the corner at the end of the Narrows the most magnificent snow capped mountains appeared as a back drop to Petersburg. There was a 2 kt current running in that channel but we managed to tie up at the fuel dock and then found our berth assigned by the harbour master.
Petersburg is a commercial fishing town. I've never seen so many large fishing boats in my life! Fishing season hasn't kicked into gear yet but when it does I'm sure the town is bustling. We enjoyed a walk ashore seeing some of the Norwegian heritage sites of this town and found a take-out pizza for out dinner.
Snug Cove, Gambier Bay, Admiralty Island
57' 25.3" N, 133' 58.0" W
We decided to leave Petersburg early the next morning at 7 am as we had a 57 nm day ahead. We were whisked out the channel with a 6 kt ebb current! SOG was 12.5! WOW what a ride! We enjoyed a peaceful early morning motor up Frederick Sound keeping our eyes peeled for whales that were supposed to enjoy the cool waters of this area. The humpback whales come to Alaska to feed during the summer months and then return to Hawaii during the summer to give birth. We didn't see any whales until we turned north up Stephen's Passage and then we saw several. AND we saw our first iceberg! We were so excited. We changed course slightly so we could take a good look at it up close and take photos of course! And we picked up some glacier ice for our gin & tonics later that evening.
As we entered Snug Cove we spotted 2 brown bears on the beach and motored over slowly for a closer look and photos. Then a humpback whale was close enough that we heard him exhale! Snug Cove was just as it sounds, snug and safe and sound. Apparently Admiralty Island is known to have the highest population of brown bears in Alaska so it was a good stop for wildlife viewing too.
Tracy Arm Cove, Holkam Bay
57' 48.7" N, 133' 37.8" W
From our weather reports we knew that Tuesday was going to be the last sunny day for a while. We wanted to see the famous Tracy Arm in the sunshine so on Monday we enjoyed a nice sail over to Tracy Arm. This is where everyone anchors to make the day trip up Tracy Arm and back. There aren't any anchorages at the head of the bay so cruisers usually return to Tracy Arm Cove. The trip is 45 nm so it's a full day. We were astounded at the number of icebergs near the entrance to the anchorage. "Do we need to anchor with the icebergs" I asked? We found a spot away from the icebergs and as it turns out most do not enter the bay due to the shallow water at the entrance. The anchorage is lovely with views of snow capped mountains and surf scoters and eagles calling the bay home. We launched the dinghy and explored the bay. We weren't brave enough to go ashore however even though we had our newly purchased bear spray (in Ketchikan).
The day began with grey skies and even a sprinkle of rain and I was beginning to think the forecasters had it all wrong. But then the sun broke through the clouds and it turned out to be a magnificent day. The water was emerald green and the sheer granite cliffs were stunning, carved by ancient glaciers. There were cascading waterfalls everywhere and beautiful snow capped mountains served as a back drop against a blue blue sky. We loved it. The surprise was that we had to dodge icebergs all the way up the inlet. At the turn to North Sawyer Glacier we thought we couldn't go any further due to the amount of pack ice but then a tour boat zoomed past near the shore so we followed his path which was much less constricted with ice. We were able to make it to the last turn to South Sawyer Glacier. The glacier looked like a dam or a rock face. You could see the blue ice and the enormous size of it. We decided not to go further for risk of damaging our boat from the icebergs. With our fin keel and spade rudder Sarah Jean is vulnerable. So we dropped a lunch hook at the waterfall and sat in the hot sun in the cockpit. When we were pulling up anchor a black bear came out of the woods. He looked like he was hoping to find salmon in the stream. It's too soon buddy. Come back in July! On the return trip we saw quite a few more seal pups and their moms on ice flows and I spotted 2 mountain goats up high on the mountain. What a spectacular day!
Taku Harbour, just S of Juneau
58' 04.1" N, 134' 00.8" W
Well after 8 days of sun we finally had rain today. But we are nicely tucked in at Taku Harbour, 20 miles south from Juneau. We're tucked in at the dock here and our friends Fred & Cinda from Juneau arrive on their sailboat "Songline" tomorrow. Can't wait to see them. It's been 4 long years since we've seen them. We both sailed home from the South Pacific and spent some time in Hawaii together on the sail home. They are anxious to share with us this amazing cruising ground they call home, SE Alaska. Stay tuned for some adventures with some "Real Alaskans"!
Central Coast: May 16-22, 2017
12 June 2017
We chose the popular route north through the Central Coast that the ferries and cruise ships take. We had heard it was very pretty and we plan on taking the outside route south, hopefully with NW winds. We also wanted the fastest route as we were trying to make tracks north to meet our friends who live in Juneau, Fred & Cinda on "s/v Songline". We cruised with them in the South Pacific. They had vacation booked June 1 so our goal was to arrive in Juneau by that time so we could cruise together again with them in their native Alaska!
Shearwater, Kliktsoatli Harbour
52' 08.82" N, 128' 05.29" W
We headed up Fitz Hugh Sound after leaving Pruth Bay via Haikai Pass. We motored as we had no wind. We chose Lama Passage to Shearwater. Shearwater Marina is a good stop on the Central Coast. It has a good dock and had lots of space in May but they said they get very busy in the summer. Good store, fuel dock, laundry, showers and a pub with reasonable wifi. Good cell reception from Bella Bella. Even a haul out facility if you need that. We spent a night at the dock.
Khutze Inlet - Princess Royal Channel
53' 05.2" N, 128' 25.09" W
On the way to this anchorage we transited Seaforth Channel we were visited by Pacific White Sided Dolphins. We then took Finlayson Channel, Tolmie Channel followed by Princess Royal Channel. We loved PRC. It's beautiful with its snow capped mountains, waterfall and granite cliffs. We also loved Khutze Bay as we saw 3 grizzly bears, or brown bears as they call them in Alaska! We were so excited to see these bears! The head of the bay has a grassy area where bears feed in the evening. MV "Honu" was using a drone to capture the bear action! Anchoring here is tricky as it shoals up quickly near the mouth of the river and then drops off quickly. Choose a spot closer to the waterfall.
Nettle Basin - Grenville Channel
53' 32.6" N, 129' 35.6" W
We stopped at Hartley Bay for fuel. We were able to sail up Grenville Channel with a SE wind! We decided to anchor at the popular Nettle Basin but it was too popular! Eight boats were in there. Anchoring is difficult in Nettle as the bay is shallow near the mouth of the river (beautiful waterfall) and then becomes quite deep (like Khutze). There wasn't any room for us that we were comfortable with so we headed back out to the entrance to Nettle where there was a small sand spit. The bottom was rocky but we held. There are lots of logs to avoid in Grenville Channel and tugs. No cruise ships? Maybe they took the outside route with the SE winds.
Hunt Inlet, Porcher Is, near Prince Rupert
54' 03.8" N, 130' 26.3" W
We decided not to stop at Prince Rupert as we're making tracks north and we didn't want to pick up a lot of fresh food that might be taken away from us by US Customs when we entered Alaska. We planned to re-provision in Ketchikan. We enjoyed Prince Rupert in 2009 (Cow Bay) when we sailed to Haida Gwaii and we'll definitely stop here on the way south. We sailed all the way up Grenville Channel in SE winds. There was a SE gale blowing on the outside on this day but was supposed to subside by the next day when we hoped to cross Dixon Entrance. We actually had gusts up to 39 kt as we approached Dixon Entrance. We chose Hunt Inlet for an anchorage as it lies on the edge to Dixon Entrance to we could make a quick getaway in the morning. It offered good protection from SE winds.
Foggy Bay, Alaska and Dixon Entrance Crossing
54' 57.0" N, 130' 56.4" W
Foggy Bay lived up to its name. It was very foggy, rainy and generally yucky when we anchored here. Most boats anchor here for the night en route to Ketchikan as it's too far to sail in one day (90 nm). We phoned US Customs before we left the Prince Rupert area to let them know we'd be anchoring in Foggy Bay for the night. We were able to sail across Dixon Entrance in 20 kt SE and then motorsail as the winds subsided. I was glad for the fleece lined rubber gloves Norm purchased for us in Port McNeil as it rained most of the day and we were very wet when we arrived. We were able to anchor in the inner harbour even though Navionics said it was only 10' in the channel. It was actually 16' at a zero tide. There were 8 boats in the anchorage that night. We were all huddled down below with our heaters on trying to warm up and dry out. I kept busy cooking up all our raw meat and making apple crisp with our apples so all this food wouldn't be taken away from us by US Customs. Well I need not have bothered as we discovered the next day. US Customs in Ketchikan wasn't concerned at all about food or booze. The nice Customs officer just wanted to know if we had pets on board and get his paperwork completed. Oh well, I had a lot of precooked meals that would keep us going for a while!
Alaska here we come!
Port McNeil to Pruth Bay
19 May 2017 | Vancouver
Port McNeil - North Island Marina 50' 35.51" N, 127' 05.43" W
Port Mcneil was a convenient and practical place to stop. The Port Hardy airport is only about 1/2 hour away and made it easy for Beth to fly home to visit her mom. While this harbour not particular cute, in the Ganges sort of way, Port McNeil has fuel, laundry, groceries, marine shops, several banks and a good coffee shop all within a few minutes walk from the marina. Steve and Jessica, the young owner/operators of North Island Marina are super friendly and helpful, even letting us borrow their van to run some errands.
God's Pocket Dive Resort on Hurst Island 50' 50.41" N, 127' 35.59" W
We left Port McNeil in wet and blustery conditions with 15-20 knots SE blowing us up Queen Charlotte Strait. With only the genoa for power we still made quick progress up the Strait. Just short of our destination the wind changed from SE to NW over the course of about 30 seconds! Oh well - time to put away the sail anyway, we're almost there! We dropped the hook just in front of the resort in about 50 feet of water in calm conditions. We found the bay pretty tight and were concerned about staying there overnight with only 3:1 scope.
God's Pocket is a little indent on the north side of Hurst Island. It was named by fisherman at the turn of the century who used it for refuge when storms churned up the seas out in the Strait. It then became a steamship stop and then a fishing resort. The present owners, Annie and Bill, bought the place about 20 years ago and changed it into an eco oriented dive and kayaking resort. They greeted us upon arrival and we quickly learned that we both had family on Mayne Island. Small world!
There were no guests when we visited. Annie and Bill were having a short break before the summer season started. They invited us to wander around. We loved the funky character and brilliant colours of the various cottages and out buildings. We are tropical water divers, but for those with dry suits and other cold water gear, this looked like a fabulous place to hang out for a while. The diving is reported to be some of the best on the BC coast.
See photo gallery.
Harlequin Bay - Seeking Refuge 50" 50.43" N, 127' 33.90 W
With a frontal system forecast to produce NW winds of 25 knots around midnight we both agreed that God's Pocket was too sketchy for an overnight anchorage. We liked the look of Harlequin Bay on the SE side of Hurst Island so pulled up the anchor and motored around the island to check it out. Weaving through a minefield of rocks we found a nice spot in the lee of the island where we could lay out lots of scope. We saw no harlequin ducks but did spot some furry sea otters! The forecast was accurate - it started howling at about midnight. While the anchorage provided good wind protection, swell from Queen Charlotte Strait wrapped around the headlands making for a lumpy night and not much sleep.
Passage Across Queen Charlotte Sound to Fury Cove 51' 29.67" N, 127' 45.58" W
Once of the challenging legs of this trip is getting across the open ocean area of Queen Charlotte Sound, located between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and Calvert Island where protection can be found again. The prevailing winds are NW so we decided to work our way up Goletas Channel and then exit into the open salt chuck through Shadwell Passage. This would give us the best wind angle across the Sound to Fury Cove and it turned out to be a good strategy.
The morning of departure was clear and crisp with a fresh NW breeze of about 25 knots kicking up galloping horses in Queen Charlotte Strait. So we motored our way up the more protected Goletas Channel in lighetr 15 knot winds and flat seas, waiting for the wind to settle down as forecast. Once through Shadwell Passage and out into open ocean the wind backed to a moderate westerly, setting us up for an amazing close reach all the way across the Sound. The sky stayed crystal clear all day giving us great views of the endless chain of snow capped peaks along the coast. But all good things must come to an end. After an epic sail the wind died just before landfall. We motored into the well protected inner lagoon at Fury Cover and anchored in about 40 ft. Once again, we had the anchorage to ourselves!
With a small sandy beach and many tree covered islets we found it a beautiful and restful spot after a long day of sailing. The warmth of the sun gave an encouraging hint of the summer weather to come. Happy hour was on the foredeck, followed by dinner in the cockpit! Great to finally be outdoors in the evening!
See photo gallery.
Pruth Bay and West & North Beaches 51' 39.28" N, 128' 07.44" W
Pruth Bay is located on Calvert Island about 20 miles NW of Fury Cove. This makes for an easy morning trip passage, leaving the afternoon to explore the fabulous west coast beaches. We were lucky to have the rare combination of SE wind and sunshine, making for a great downwind sail up Fitz Hugh Sound. When we rounded Wedgborough Point into Kwakshua Channel the wind died and temperature went up. Enjoying the sunny and calm conditions Norm untied the dinghy on the foredeck to get ready for going ashore. That was a mistake! As we approached the end of the channel strong wind gusts off the ocean nearly blew the dinghy off the deck! He won't do that again. We anchored in about 50 feet just east of the substantial dock of the Hakai Marine Institute.
A few years ago this bay was the site of a private fishing lodge. But it is now a privately funded marine research and teaching centre. The good news is they do not mind cruisers walking through the grounds to the beaches on the west side of the island, and even have a designated dinghy dock for visitors!
A well marked trail took us to a massive white sand beach. Dotted with tiny islands, crystal clear water, surf rolling in, West Beach was an idyllic west coast paradise. And it was all ours! We strolled north along the beach and found the trail to the North Beach. This 15 minute hike was a little more gnarly with muddy sections and a few climbs, but there were boardwalks and stairs here and there. The trail opened onto a huge, calm crescent shaped beach. It was well protected from the SE wind making it hot and sunny! Time for T-shirts and a few yoga stretches on the beach!
See photo gallery.
12 May 2017 | Alert Bay on Cormorant Island
Last week we spent a couple of days exploring the interesting First Nations community of Alert a Bay on Cormorant Island near Port McNeil. As we strolled along the rocky beach a lone orca surfaced nearby. This photo celebrates the occasion. Native culture and tradition abound on the this small island that was once home of a huge, bustling fishing fleet of over 1,000 boats. See the Alert Bay album in the Gallery section of the blog for more photos .
07 May 2017 | Alert Bay
We're cruising again! It's been almost 4 years since we sailed home from the South Pacific (2010-2013). Beth went back to work at Access Community Therapists and we moved her mom closer to us in White Rock. Norm spent countless hours volunteering for the Bluewater Cruising Association (BCA) and for the past 2 years ran Ocean Forest Voyaging, our own offshore sailing school operating on the BC coast. We spent lots of time on the water introducing people to the joys of cruising.
But now it's time for us to cruise again! Beth retired (again) and now we're heading north to SE Alaska for 5 months. It feels wonderful to be living on the boat again, exploring new places and being closer to nature.
We left Vancouver on May 1, 2017, stopped to visit family in Comox, and now we are in Alert Bay in the Broughtons. The other day we rode the ebb up Johnstone Strait under sunny skies, taking in the mountain vistas of Vancouver Island, spotted killer whales, delighted in dolphins playing in our bow wake and thrilled to the shrill cry of eagles. The icing on the cake was watching 2 black bears playing on the beach at our anchorage as the sun set.
It doesn't get much better than that!
The Shores We Call Home
06 August 2013
We may have left the South Pacific behind but we are continuing to enjoy spectacular cruising right here in our home waters of the Pacific Northwest. Tonight Sarah Jean II is relaxing on her mooring in Campbell Bay on Mayne Island. This is the view from the deck of Mayneport, the cozy waterfront home of Beth's mom, Sarah Jean I, that looks over the Strait of Georgia and Coast Mountains. Bora Bora, eat your heart out!