Downeast in Southeast Alaska

Vessel Name: Cimarron
Vessel Make/Model: 1976 32' Downeast
Hailing Port: Auke Bay, AK
Crew: Diane and Harry
About: We've been cruising SE Alaska waters on the Cimarron since 2001. Our home port is near Juneau.
Social:
15 July 2019 | Shearwater
14 July 2019 | Codville Lagoon
13 July 2019 | Pruth Bay
12 July 2019 | Millbrook Cove
11 July 2019 | Miles Inlet
10 July 2019 | Enough of Port McNeill already
09 July 2019 | Port McNeill
08 July 2019 | Port McNeill
07 July 2019 | Growler Cove
06 July 2019 | Blinkinsop Bay
05 July 2019 | Octopus Islands, Waiatt Bay
04 July 2019 | Gloucester Pt.
03 July 2019 | Cochrane Islands
02 July 2019 | John Henry Marina & Resort, Pender Harbour
01 July 2019 | John Henry's Marine & Resort
30 June 2019 | Nanaimo City Harbor
29 June 2019 | De Courcy Island
28 June 2019 | Horton Bay
27 June 2019 | Friday Harbor
26 June 2019 | Friday Harbor
Recent Blog Posts
15 July 2019 | Shearwater

Fishers fishing in Fisher

Leave Codville Lagoon 7:45a

14 July 2019 | Codville Lagoon

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Leave Pruth Bay 8:45a

13 July 2019 | Pruth Bay

Who's navigating?

Leave Millbrook Cove 8:15a

12 July 2019 | Millbrook Cove

APRICOT BEER?!

Leave Miles Inlet

11 July 2019 | Miles Inlet

Then the seas aren't lumpy

Leave Port McNeill 8:20a

10 July 2019 | Enough of Port McNeill already

Let's go!

Port McNeill

Fishers fishing in Fisher

15 July 2019 | Shearwater
Diane Meador
Leave Codville Lagoon 7:45a
Arrive Shearwater 12:30p
52 8.84:-128 5.21

What VHF channel does BC broadcast commercial fish openings? We certainly didn't hear any announcements on the weather channels. Of course, all the fishing boats in the lagoon's cove last night may as well have been a neon sign. When we popped out of the lagoon, the gill net fleet was jostling for position and stringing out their nets in Fisher Channel (hmmm ... not someone's name after all, perhaps?). We could have hung a left into Lama Passage on the south side of Denny Island, but it was choked with fog. So we ran the gauntlet up Fisher, jogging up the middle, then towards the west shore, then the east, back to the middle. I'd clear one buoy/net/boat trio while Harry glassed ahead looking for which side of the bright orange buoy the next net lay. It was a minefield of bright orange buoys, there were dozens of boats, and all of them were changing up their speed and direction. A few miles up, we found ourselves amidst seiners. Holy cow! They must be scooping up sockeye and chums at the same time.

We left them behind when we took the off ramp to Gunboat Passage, a twisty, narrow, scenic (and fog-free) route into Shearwater on the north side of Denny Island. Fortunately, we made a reservation for overnight moorage early this morning. We thought it was busy when we came through here on the way down, but it's super busy now. We hailed the harbormaster from around the corner, and he told us where to tie up. When we got here, the whole dock was full. We hailed again. He needed to check on when a boat planned to depart. I took a lap around the breakwater, and then we tied to one of the broken docks strung between barges to make the breakwater. Another boat had done the same thing. Then harbor crew skiffed over and evicted us both within minutes. More pacing outside the breakwater, until the harbormaster said everyone was waiting for the store to open at 1:00p, and they wouldn't budge without their groceries, check-out time be damned. (The store gets its stock by barge, and has to wait for the boat to come in. And, it's the only place to provision for 100 miles. So there you go.). He said he'd put us into a temporary spot, but we'd have to move later. As we were heading to that spot, one boat left, and he changed us to that one just as I was about to pass it. I put on the brakes, dodged the sea bus full of passengers, made a T-bone approach, and pivoted in because Harry rocks the breast line fandango. I really think he should try his hand at calf roping.

So, that was 45 minutes of tooling around after we'd arrived. Figuring everyone was gonna sweep the store at 1:00, Harry and I dashed to the laundry and showers instead. Score!

We had hoped to explore the islands on the outside coast after Shearwater (Aristazabal, Princess Royal, Campania, Pitt), but the long term forecast is for high winds out there for several days beginning Wednesday. Drats! We'll stick to the more prudent inside route for now. We might pop out through Meyers Passage if the forecast changes. Otherwise, we'll head up to Bishop and maybe Weewanie hot springs. We got a start on routing north of here on the inside this afternoon (after having spent a few hours yesterday plotting the outside): Refuge Cove, Goat Cove, Khutze Inlet, then the hot springs. We'll probably be off grid for a week or so, but will be checking the sat phone more regularly. We probably won't stop at Prince Rupert (no point in provisioning so close to the border), but we'll seek permission to set in Foggy Bay and then clear through at Ketchikan the next day. That is where, by the way, one can get a proper amber beer.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

14 July 2019 | Codville Lagoon
Diane Meador
Leave Pruth Bay 8:45a
Arrive Codville Lagoon 2:05p
52 3.55:-127 51.12

It was a beautiful morning, with broken clouds backing rugged islands. Beyond the islands, ocean. It was calm on their east side, the swell consumed by their west sides. Some humpbacks breached, and others were fin slapping, or just snoozing on the surface. Some daredevil Dall's porpoises raced in the bow wave. Not much traffic. These are the sorts of things that put me in a really, really good mood. I grinned our way up Fitz Hugh Sound.

We put into Codville Lagoon, which is surprisingly large and deep past the narrow, shallow entrance. In the SE corner past a sizable middle island is a cove filled mostly by commercial fishing boats. We went on around the island, dropping the hook uncomfortably close to its east shore to find a reasonable depth, but the shore is a wall. We kept the engine running to gauge our swing, and hauled back in some rode, but it was fine. We measured the depth again at low tide - still good. Just a little disconcerting to see the trees looming so close out the windows.

All afternoon, one arrival after another paced around the lagoon, looking for a shelf. Most of them gave up and crammed into the little cove with the fishers. Out here, it's quiet, save for the seals that are thrashing their fish on the surface.

There are a lot of deer flies, and therefore a lot of deer fly corpses, but this still doesn't suck. Plus, I'm not wearing socks!

Who's navigating?

13 July 2019 | Pruth Bay
Diane Meador
Leave Millbrook Cove 8:15a
Arrive Pruth Bay 2:05p
51 38.8:-128 5.51

The other little sailboat picked up fairly early this morning, while we were still gearing up for a beach walk (coffee, rain gear, oars, the otter box with a patch kit and spares for the inflatable and motor, air pump, bilge pump, shore bag with the kind of stuff you need if you get stuck on shore). That sounds like a lot, but we can pull it together half asleep with boisterous encouragement from the dog. This morning, she was delighted to find clam shalls, tossing them into the air and chasing after them. She fell out of the inflatable as we were shoving off. Neka doesn't do anything half-assed.

So, lots of bucketsful to wash all the mud off, well, everything. Good morning!

As we rounded the corner around Brown Island through Irving Passage, we discovered two humpbacks breaching and fin slapping. I liked their attitude. Big bad Queen Charlotte Sound is rolling gentle, well-spaced swells beneath the hull. The fog banks are stacked way out on the horizon, the dog towel is drying on the back deck, and the coffee cup is topped up. Life is good.

Sea otters today! Once we entered Fitz Hugh Sound, we were in the commercial traffic again. But today, it was a BC ferry, an Alaskan ferry, an Alaskan Marine Lines tug and barge, and a cruise ship. It's beginning to feel more... north. We were in the traffic just for a short while, running up the inside coast of Calvert Island. Our objective after this: visit outer coast islands and stay the hell away from the big boats. The cross wake from two passing ferries wreaked havoc. Let's just say I'm glad our new monitor is still working.

We hung a left into Kwakshua, a six mile channel dividing Hecate Island to the north from Calvert Island to the south. We were heading to Pruth Bay on the recommendation of one of the cruisers we spoke with in Port McNeill. With the help of binoculars, we could see five boats anchored on the shelf in front of the Hakai Institute's (private) dock. The Institute conducts research and holds conferences, working with Canadian universities and funding graduate and postdoctoral student research. Their focus is on the archaeology and cultural history in the area.

We are the lone boat in Keith Anchorage off Calvert, a couple miles from the dock. It was a good call, even though it was a 30 minute inflatable ride to the institute's public dinghy dock. On the way in the Anchorage, we saw what we both thought was a kayak at first. It turned out to be a rock with a family of seals sunning themselves and belching and tooting. A couple little guys were in the water, trying to jet propel themselves up the rock.

By the time we made it over to the dock, several other boats had come in, filling the anchorage by the institute, and over flowing into another anchorage just around the corner from them. We followed a well-used path through the woods for another 20 minutes or so until we popped out on the ocean side of the island onto a beautiful, large, white sand crescent beach, the sand and water twinkling in bright, warm sunshine. It was gorgeous. I looked at Harry, and said, "how did we end up in Tahiti?" He replied, "I thought *you* were navigating."

We freed Neka from her leash, and she ran, rolled in the sand, tossed sticks, and jumped through the surf, tongue lolling, and delirious with unbridled joy. A lesson from the dog: immerse oneself in the moment.

APRICOT BEER?!

12 July 2019 | Millbrook Cove
Diane Meador
Leave Miles Inlet
Arrive Millbrook Cove
51 19.63:-127 44.22

It was a short run today, in good conditions. There were a number of sport fishing boats around, probably out of Port Hardy. They were mostly anchored over humps, most likely fishing for halibut. We didn't see any cruising boats, so we figured our chances for finding room at Millbrook were pretty good. Just in case, Harry set us a route across Smith Sound to Takush Harbor.

Saw a puffin!

Navigating a serpentine entrance around rocks and islets and islands and points, we found a large cruiser at anchor in the lagoon. The anchorage didn't seem very big to me when I was plotting our route, and I was thinking it was a one-boat anchorage. But there was lots of room. No one was on the cruiser, and they had fenders out. We figured they were using Millbrook as a base for fishing. We were enjoying an anchor down beer when a cute, classic 25 foot sailboat came in. Her people were laughing and giggling their way in to the lagoon.

The clouds were broken, and it was still and calm and warm and scenic and idyllic. Eagles and cormorants were fishing within and without. We kicked off our crocs, smiling and laughing ourselves, and Harry offered me another beer. "What would you like?" "Anything on the bottom that's still remotely cool." So he fished one out and said, "here, try this."

APRICOT BEER?! WHO WOULD DO THAT TO A BEER?! Heads turned on the other sailboat, which was proudly flying a Canadian flag. Canadians would do that to a beer, that's who.

Then the seas aren't lumpy

11 July 2019 | Miles Inlet
Diane Meador
Leave Port McNeill 8:20a
Arrive Miles Inlet 2:50p
51 3.9:-127 34.71

I had set my new phone to unlock via face recognition, because the thumb print reader is covered by the protective case, and a pin is hard to input on lumpy seas. My phone didn't recognize me this morning. My working hypothesis is if I have clean hair and am not wearing a hat, then the seas aren't lumpy.

Pretty foggy ths am, especially through Broughton Strait, but there were some pretty thick patches out in Queen Charlotte Strait, too. I watched a blip on the radar steadily closing in on me. We have our chartplotter displaying split screens on the monitor we picked up down south: a long view and a short view. Harry could tell on the long view that it was a large commercial fishing boat going slightly faster than us by means of its AIS (automatic identification system) signal. Then he went forward working on some project. The fishing boat's blip edged into my quarter mile range ring on the radar, but I still couldn't see him over my shoulder. His projection vector lined up more closely with mine, and I started to get concerned. Every time I looked behind me, I went off course - it's pretty hard not to in the fog even looking ahead - but I wanted to be as predictable as possible. His heading certainly wasn't. I blew our horn over my left shoulder, and - I wasn't going to wait two minutes - I blew it again over my right, keeping my eyes on the instruments. Then I heard his engines, just before he popped into view less than a hundred yards back, and closing fast. He obviously didn't know we were there and nearly ran us over! I veered to starboard out of his path. I was dumbfounded. We have a radar deflector up our mast with no obstructions aft so we should have been showing up bright on his radar, we have an AIS signal that should have been alarming on his bridge, our running lights were on, and I was blowing our fog horn. Dude was asleep at the wheel. I was wide awake.

Saw a pair of humpbacks - a sow and calf. The sighting was like greeting old friends. There were also large flocks of pidgeon guillemots amassing amongst the Walker group of islands, and a few porpoises.

Big bad Queen Charlotte Strait was a mill pond (thanks, Neptune!).

Put into Miles Inlet, the T- shaped anchorage we stopped at on the way down. The cruiser we followed in set down at the middle. There was a sailboat to the left, upstream from the rapids, and a sport fishing boat tucked a good ways up to the right. We set between him and the middle boat. We didn't have enough room to swing, so we set the stern anchor, too.

Let's go!

10 July 2019 | Enough of Port McNeill already
Diane Meador
Port McNeill

Our plan: if we couldn't get the shop to commit to sending a mechanic out today, we'd shove off. We needed to know by 9 am or so, since our next leg is about 8 hours, and we had a weather window to make and a popular Anchorage ahead of us. Fortunately, the mechanic could make it down after he finished up another small job. We didn't tell the harbor we were looking at another day, because we didn't know if it would be one night or 7. Should've talked to the harbor. We were being evicted just as the mechanic called to say he was on his way. We didn't have a reservation for tonight, boats that did were coming in, and the check out time is 11 am, thank you very much, come again.

But on the bright side, after inspecting the engine under load and not, the mechanic agreed with Jerre: change the oil and we should be fine. So, some peace of mind there. We moved over to the other marina (cheaper anyway), changed the oil, and while we were at it, replaced the alternator belt. It was just starting to split. Good thing we noticed that, because our spares - from the dealer - were the wrong size. Had the belt broken while we were out and about, we'd have had to had one flown in. Phew. And phew again!

It's looking like our weather window is going to last just one day. We'll listen in to the updates at 4 pm and again tomorrow morning. We're guessing we can cross Queen Charolotte Strait tomorrow, hole up at Miles Inlet a couple days, then up to Milbrook Cove, then over to Pruth Bay for a night or two, then Shearwater. We haven't decided after that. Some pretty cool bits ahead!

The wooden garbage shed was taken away today.
Cimarron's Photos - Main
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Created 21 June 2016

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21 June 2016
61 Photos