Sailing in Peril. Sitka to Hanus Bay via Peril Strait. July 20-21.
03 August 2011 | posted at Metlakatla
Photo: Boats under sail through Deadman Reach, Peril Strait.
When we first talked of sailing to SE Alaska, I read a memoir by a halibut fisherman that made Peril Strait sound so dangerous it was downright terrifying. The author described raging currents, a twisting channel and passages between the shores so narrow boats risked catching their masts in overhanging trees. So imagine my surprise on our first trip through the Strait to discover a wide body of water. Sure it made some right angle turns but there was plenty of room and no danger from trees. And the only place where the currents are really swift is a short stretch near the west end called Sergius Narrows. By following the current tables and going through at slack water, even the currents there aren't dangerous.
Our trip through Peril Strait this year was west to east, starting from Sitka and was remarkable because we sailed most of it. Our friend Joyce Swanson joined us in Sitka for the trip to Craig. We had first met Joyce in 2006 facing off a bear in Blue Mouse Cove (see Glaciers, Bears and Totems). We figured anyone who could be so calm in front of such danger would be a good sailor so invited her along.
As we left Sitka the sun was shining and the wind blowing, albeit from the north, the direction we had to go to get to the entrance to Peril Strait. We tacked among the islands of Sitka Sound, then motored through the narrow passages of Olga and Neva. As we entered Salisbury Sound a fresh breeze from the ocean and accompanying swells met us. We rolled out the jib and sailed through Kakul Narrows into quiet waters. We anchored for the night in Schulze Cove near the entrance to the Strait.
The next morning we timed our departure to arrive at Sergius Narrows at slack before the flood. But instead of going through Sergius Narrows, we took Canoe Pass, a narrower pass off to the side. We'd seen commercial boats larger than Osprey use it so knew it was safe.
As we sailed north through the first leg of the pass, we realized the wind was from behind. We could sail! Soon we were sailing through Deadman Reach, the inspiration for the Raven's Brew brand of coffee called Deadman's Reach ("served in bed, raises the dead.") The wind followed us around the turn and we sailed all the way to Hanus Bay where we anchored in a cove behind Moses Point. There we found a delightful little beach and a patch of ripe blueberries in the woods.