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Ketchikan to Port Townsend

Like so many boaters we followed the monthly announcements out of Ottawa as to whether the Canadians would reopen their borders to foreign visitors entering for non-essential reasons. or at least those who are fully vaccinated. The July 19 announcement, while allowing fully vaccinated US citizens with a current negative COVID test to enter for any reason, was a bit of a disappointment because it didn’t go into effect until August 9, the scheduled date for our haul out in Port Townsend.  Sadly it would be another quick transit through British Columbia.

After 3-nights in Ketchikan (we now regularly spend an extra day in port so that Drake can get “just one more shore experience” before being stuck on the boat) we departed on July 27.  So that we clear into Canada at Prince Rupert as early in the day as possible, we anchored one more night in Alaska just north of the border. 

The next morning started our transit through Canada in earnest and we arrived at the Customs Dock at Cow Bay Marina at 1028 PDT (losing an hour from AKDT).  The transit clearing process went smoothly and we departed the dock at 1118. The table below shows the transit travel days with anchorages between our last anchorage in Alaska and our first anchorage is Washington.

Date Anchorage NM Traveled Engine Hours
July 29 Lowe Inlet, Grenville Channel 93.7 14.4
July 30 Bottleneck Inlet, Roderick Island 74.6 11.5
July 31 Fury Cove, Penrose Island 91.9 14.0
August 1 Mist Islet, Port Harvey, Cracroft Island 95.7 14.1
August 2 Tribune Bay, Hornby Island 103.0 14.3
August 3 Lyall Harbor, Saturna Island 76.0 11.1
August 4 Prevost Harbor, Stuart Island 11.4 2.4

On our last night, rather than arriving in the late evening at a crowded San Juan Island anchorage, we chose to stop a little early at a quiet and uncrowded anchorage in BC.  The next morning we started leisurely, traveled a short distance, cleared back into the US along the way, and arrived at Prevost Harbor after many of the previous night’s boaters had left left .

The total distance travelled during the transit (last US anchorage to first US anchorage) was 546.3 nautical miles in 81.8 engine hours (that includes the time to drop and retrieve the anchor).  The clock time from our departure from the Alaska anchorage to our arrival at the Washington anchorage was 149.1 hours.

We relaxed a couple of nights in Prevost Harbor before positioning ourselves on the southeast corner of Lopez Island. On the morning of Saturday, August 7 we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca and moored in Boat Haven at Port Townsend.  Arriving early gave us time to prepare the boat for the yard work that begins Monday, August 9.

Juneau to Ketchikan

After three nights (and three milk shake lunches from Hot Bite across parking lot from the harbor2021-06-156x office), we left Auke Bay on June 29 and headed out towards Icy Strait.  We anchored in Couverden Island Cove, which is just east of Swanson Harbor.  We took Drake to a small island in the middle of the cove for a place session on the beach.  Later, our friends Billie & Mike Henry (M/V Peachy Keen), who were already anchored when we arrived, returned from fishing in their tender and we caught up on each others travels during the cruising season. 

Our original plan was to do some halibut fishing in Icy Strait but the strong westerlies persuaded us to head south down Chatham Strait. Before heading into Pavlof Harbor, Marcia dropped the hook trying for halibut but came up bare.  

2021-07-002xThe next day we headed into Tenakee Inlet.  On the way in, we passed fellow Queen City Yacht Club members, Barbara and Tom Wilson (M/V Toba), who had just departed from the Tenakee Springs dock.  They encouraged us to take advantage of the relatively protected spot on the Tenakee Springs transient dock they had just vacated.  Having never been to Tenakee Spings or ithe nlet.we decided to grab the opportunity. Tenakee Springs is noted for its laid back life style and the community hot springs bathing house. A small lane, suitable only for ATV’s, bicycles or pedestrians runs about 1-1/2 miles along the inlet through town..

After our one night in Tenakee Springs, we continued up the inlet, dropping prawn pots in an area that was recommended by David Cohn (MV Shearwater, a “classic” Diesel Duck).  The depths were on the deeper side of the range we normally drop and, it turns out, I put them too close together.  After spending a night anchored in Long Bay, we pulled the pots and while getting a respectable haul on one pot managed to lose the other one when it got hung up on the bottom and came off the line when we tried to yank it free.

2021-07-007xThe next day, July 6, we continued down Chatham spending one night in Ell Cove before going on to Gut Bay the day after.  We had been trying to connect with Jim & Rosy from Sea Venture who had recently returned from Prince William Sound.  We had communicated our plan to go to Gut Bay to them and shortly before 8 pm, they motored into Gut Bay.  They tied to us for the night and we chatted until 11 pm before breaking for the night.  The next morning they headed out to continue their southbound journey to Puget Sound while we headed out to try to catch a salmon, preferably chinook or coho.  After fishing (but not catching) we returned to Gut Bay for another night.

We decided a change of scenery would be good so we crossed Chatham Strait to anchor in the Bay of Pillars on Kuiu Island.  It had been eight years since our previous visit and we anchored in a location on the north shore that we had noticed another boat using on that visit.  We planned to fish near Point Ellis the next day so Bay of Pillars was a good base from which to operate.

2021-07-011xOn July 8, with a forecast for a weak front and rain coming through, we headed deep inside Tebenkof Bay to Shelter Cove for two nights. Tebenkof Bay is quite large and has numerous islands and protected anchorages.  It is also slightly off the beaten track being part way down Chatham Strait about 20+ miles away from the busy Chatham Strait-Frederick Sound junction.  You have a good chance of finding solitude down here. As we worked our way into the bay, we encountered a humpback whale 2021-07-019xwith her baby.  The “baby” (probably 10-12 feet long) was very active with frequent breaching and slapping its pectoral fin on the water

While anchored, I paddled the kayak to a small nearby island (potential “dog park”), was shadowed by sea otters and watched a black bear relaxing on the shore of a back bay. After our two nights in Shelter Cove, we headed out and fished outside the Tebenkof Bay entrance without any luck.  From there we traveled the short distance back to Bay of Pillars for the night.

The next day, Sunday, July 11, we started back towards Frederick Sound, trying to fish off of Cornwallis Point near Halleck Bay before dropping the anchor behind the island a mile NW of Honey Dew Cove. The next day the SE winds began to pick up and we had to deal with 15-20 knot winds as we docked in Kake, a small community on Kurpeanof Island.  We were approaching 200 engine hours since our last oil change and I prefer to do the oil changes in towns where I can dispose of our waste oil (also, I hate to “break” the boat where I don’t have resources nearby to bail me out if necessary).

2021-07-024xAfter two nights in Kake and lots of walks for Drake, we returned to Frederick Sound and some of our favorite anchorages. There is one very nice beach on an island west of the West Brother at which Drake gets to chase his favorite ball around until exhaustion. We also did some halibut fishing and after some effort, found success.

During this time we communicated (with difficulty via satcom equipment) with our friends Don & Natala, who were flying their float plane into SE Alaska lakes having USFS cabins. We arranged to meet in Petersburg on July 21.  En route, we stopped at Sanborn Canal in Port Houghton and Read Island in Farrugut Bay.

After arriving in Petersburg, some cloudy weather moved in and kept Don & Natala earthbound an extra day at Swan Lake cabin (15 miles NE of Petersburg).so we didn’t meet up until July 22.  After a long evening of story telling, we departed the next day to continue our souththely journey.  We had two stops, Roosevelt Harbor and Meyers Chuck, enroute and tied up at Bar Harbor in Ketchikan on Sunday, July 25.

Sitka to Juneau via GLBA

We departed Sitka on Sunday, June 20 with the intention of being in Juneau a week later. In addition, we wanted to get in a short trip to Glacier Bay along the way. To do that we submitted a short-notice (48 hours) permit application for entry into Glacier Bay National Park waters (they limit the number of private vessels in park waters to 25 at a time).  By the time we lost cell coverage from we still hadn’t heard but the next morning, our confirmation notice was in my e-mail box, so we didn’t have to come up with a plan “B”.

Our first night out from Sitka was Appleton Cove and we were glad to be there.  As soon as we rounded the top of Baranof Island (Nismeni Point), the easterly winds started picking up.  Soon we were pounding through 4-foot steep chop powered by 20-knot head winds. Not unsafe, but certainly unpleasant.

The next morning was calm and early start allowed us pick up favorable currents and make it to Flynn Cove on the north shore of Chichagof Island.  It was a busy place that night with four other boats (three trollers and a charter cruise yacht, Alaskan Song).

The2021-06-129x park was still operating with Covid-19 rules, so the mandated annual boater orientation was completed via a video presentation prior to submitting the application.  This allowed us to bypass Bartlett Cove and go directly to our anchorage for the night at North Sandy Cove.

Along the route, we did a slow pass by South Marble Island.  This is one of the highlights of a park visit because of the Stellar Sea Lion colonies and the nesting birds.  We thought the sea lion colony populations looked very healthy and the number of tufted puffins greater than in recent years.2021-06-083x

Since we were only spending four nights in the park, one of which was going to be in Bartlett Cove on the way out, we decided to forgo a trip to Tarr Inlet and the calving Margerie Glacier. Instead we spent two nights in North Sandy Cove, one in South Finger Bay and the final night in Bartlett Cove.  We tied to the NPS dock at Bartlett Cove for our permitted 3-hours and took 2021-06-092xDrake ashore, the only portion of the park he is allowed to.  Sadly, it was raining so our walking was brief.

From the Glacier Bay we headed to Funter Harbor on Admiralty Island for the night. An early start on Sunday, 6/27, had us in Auke Bay shortly before 9 AM.  We were enjoying our first (of many) Hot Bite milk shakes later that day.

From here we will start a slow meandering cruise southward, fishing along the way. 

Sitka to Sitka in only 491 Miles

We started the morning of June 5, thinking we were going to head south along the west coast of Baranof Island. After checking the current weather forecast, we changed our mind and decided take the longer but more protected route back out Peril Strait and down Chatham Strait to near its southern end..

2021-06-017xWe anchored the first night in Hanus Bay on Baranof Island’s northern shore and our second night in Denmark Cove in Little Port Walter towards Baranof’s southern end,  Fishing for Chinook salmon was permited in this area and Marcia wanted to give it a go.  We fished the morning bite just north of Little Port Walter but came up empty handed. We later fished the mid-day bite near Mist Cove, but it seemed that only pink salmon were biting.  After releasing a few “pinks”, Marcia called it a day and we anchored in Patterson Bay.  The 2021-06-048xanchoring grounds weren’t great but the scenery was spectacular and the weather settled.

From Patterson Bay, we headed north up Chatham Strait to Gut Bay for a couple of nights to wait for the Pacific Ocean swell coming into Chatham Strait to lay down. Gut Bay is another of the many scenic Baranof Island anchorages.

2021-06-062xAfter a couple of nights in Gut Bay and with calmer conditions we headed across the Chatham Strait and fished south of Tebenkof Bay.  A fishing gear equipment failure cut short our efforts short and we anchored in Gedney Harbor for the night.  With the gear back online, we decided to head back to Fredrick Sound and visit some dog-friendly anchorages.  The weather was lovely and Drake enjoyed his time on the gravel beach, a short kayak paddle2021-06-063x from our anchored boat.

After our break from fishing, we headed back down to Gut Bay.  On June 15, the areas open to recreational salmon fishing expanded and we were able to fish areas further north in Chatham Strait than previously.  Sadly, after a couple of days with only pink salmon on the hook, we called it quits headed back towards Sitka.

With one intermediate stop at Baby Bear we returned to Sitka on June 17. After 12 days of travel, 86.6 engine hours and 491 miles we were back where we had started.

Ketchikan to Sitka

After last year’s strange, hurried and very wet Alaska cruising season we hoped to return to some normalcy in this year’s season.  We started off with our “traditional” half loop around Behm Canal.  Ketchikan is on Revillagigedo Island which is surrounded on three sides by Behm Canal and Tongass Narrows/Revillagigedo Channel on its fourth.  We dislike retracing our entrance route into Ketchikan along Revillagigedo Channel so instead we continue out Tongass Narrows and work our way north along the west leg of Behm Canal, around the top of Revillagigedo Island and partway down the east leg of Behm Canal.  It is usually less crowded and it visits many sites that have yielded crabs or prawns for us in the past.

2021-05-001xOnly a short distance (~12 NM) from Ketchikan, we encountered an unusual sight.  The US Navy has an acoustic test station at the south end of the west channel of Behm Canal.  In all our past trips, one or two large barges sit lonely in the middle of the channel.  This year there was a buzz of activity, including a Coast Guard Cutter patrolling the perimeter.  The hub of the activity was a Trident nuclear submarine sitting on the surface between the two barges.  We have no idea of the kind of testing being done (and wouldn’t tell you if we did).  When we returned by the area a few days later, all was quiet again.

While we saw a half dozen cruising boats when we 2021-05-007xstarted up Behm Canal, they were all exiting and we saw only a few other boats along the way.  We did manage to get on the USFS buoy in Walker Cove in Misty Fiords National Monument.  We usually see bears on the beach foraging on the sedge grass but they weren’t there this year.  When we went to shore, we understood why. The sedge grass had only just sprouted, was sparse and only a inch or two high.  Hardly enough to feed a hungry sow and one or two cubs.

2021-05-017xWe attribute the grass’s stunted condition to the cold and wet weather.  Since we’ve been in SEAK, we’ve had above normal rain and below normal temperatures.  We’ve gone several days in which the high temperature we see on our outside thermometer never cracks 50°.  Our furnace is getting a workout this season.

After our Behm Canal foray we headed up to Ernest Sound and spent a couple of nights at Santa Anna Inlet, prawning nearby.  We then positioned in Roosevelt Harbor on Zarembo Island for our transit of Wrangell Narrows.  While there we met a couple of boaters from nearby Wrangell who knew our friends Jim & Rosy on Sea Venture who wintered over in Wrangell.  An attraction of Roosevelt Harbor is the USFS dock and access to logging roads.  We took Drake ashore in our kayaks for a well deserved walk (we were 8 days out from Ketchikan at this point).

Our arrival in Petersburg was at high slack and the notorious currents were quiet so the docking was uneventful.  We secured a slip just down from our friends, John & Kathleen on our sister ship, Laysan.  They wintered their boat in Petersburg but wisely return to their home in Hawaii for the winter.

After a couple of days in Petersburg and with 2021-05-048xoutstanding weather (but a poor forecast for the next day), we made the long day’s journey to Takatz Bay on Baranof Island.  We sat out the poor weather in Takatz and spent part of the day watching a helicopter ferrying loads from a frontloading craft to some nearby location.  After talking with a guide from a small (<200′) cruise ship (it was taking its guests on excursions in Takatz), we believe the activity was the stocking of a nearby lake with smolt.  The fish were carried in the water tanks of tanker trucks which were driven onto the front loader.  The front loader beached itself and pumped the water and fish into canvas bags in a frame structure.  The helicopter would lower a short haul line down while hovering, the crew attached the short haul to the frame structure, the helicopter would fly off and dump its load and swap its empty load for a new load (they had two bag structures).  This went on for 2 to 3 hours.  The helicopter landed on the beach at the beginning and ending of the process and once in the middle (not sure if the helicopter refueled from a tank on the front loader).  It was all very interesting.

After our two nights2021-05-063x in Takatz we continued to Appleton Cove and then to Baby Bear Bay.  In Baby Bear we took Drake to shore on an island (at least at high tide) since it was several days after leaving Petersburg.  After two nights in Baby Bear (again sitting out some rainy, blustery weather), we transited through Sergius Narrows and make our way to Kalinin Bay for the night.  An early start had us fishing the morning bite along the north shore of Kruzof Island outside Kalinin.  No luck.

Our final night before Sitka, was in the outer cove of DeGroff Bay on Krestof Island.  We find that anchorage to be well protected and convenient for an early arrival in Sitka.

We’re planning three nights in Sitka, tending to chores and attending a concert associated with the Sitka Music Festival taking place this year after last year’s hiatus.  After that, we’ll go cruising for a week or so and return to Sitka for another concert later in the month.

Direct, Continuous and the Most Reasonable Route

The 2021 cruising season has begun and it bears a resemblance to last year

but also to the pre-Covid-19 cruising seasons.

In 2020, during the early phases of the pandemic everything was locked down

and we were confined to Puget Sound. But in late June 2020, the Canadian

government began allowing boats to transit their waters, even for “non

essential” purposes (e.g., recreation), if going from foreign port to

foreign port. The transit had to be “direct”, “continuous-uninterupted”,

and “by the most reasonable route.” The most important aspect of the policy

was the ability to stop for essential or safety reasons (e.g., anchoring at

night). The rules the Canadians have in place this year are pretty much the

same. The process is a bit more routinized this year but the intent and

operation is pretty much the same.

We are currently in Ketchikan having completed the trip abiding by the

Canadian rules as best as we could. We cleared into Canada at the Van Isle

Marina near Sidney, BC on May 8. We cleared back into the United States in

Ketchikan on May 14. We anchored the night before in a US anchorage about

20 miles from Ketchikan. From our last US anchorage in Washington to our

first US anchorage Alaska we made five stops in British Columbia and covered

585 nautical miles. During the six days we averaged over 97 miles per day.

The difference we are seeing between 2020 and 2021 are the numbers of US

boaters availing themselves of the opportunity to transit. Last year, the

Canadian transit policy went in effect with little fanfare and relatively

late in the cruising season. This year US boaters have been chomping on the

bit and planning for summer 2021 in SE Alaska all winter and spring. On the

day we arrived in Ketchikan, we counted at least ten other US boats doing

likewise.

Our itinerary in Alaska is not set in stone but we hope to get to Sitka, a

stop we didn’t do last year, and do more fishing. We’ll try to get to

Glacier Bay but will focus on a short notice permit rather than an advance

notice permit. Beyond that we’ll let conditions and opportunities direct our

route.

Cruise 2020 – Recap

After three relaxing nights at Prevost Harbor it was off to Anacortes for two more nights at Cap Sante. The last day of our cruise, September 2, was a bouncy crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a windy run down Admiralty Inlet & Puget Sound to Eagle Harbor, where our cruise started on July 2.

Our cruise was 63 days long.  We anchored 42 nights, tied to mooring balls 4 nights, to a dock 14 nights, and traveled through the night twice (once northbound through BC and the other southbound).  We had the anchorage to ourselves 19 times. 

Over the cruise, we covered 2527.3 nautical miles (NM) and accumulated 399.7 engine hours.  For the purpose of calculating our average speed, I exclude hours in which the engine was idling for extended periods such as when trolling or drifting while sightseeing.  We had 11.5 hours of that time.  Using that method gives us an average speed of 6.51 knots (2527.3 NM / 388.2 Hr).

Below is a map of the places we visited on our 2020 cruise. If you click on a mark it will name the location and the distance and time needed to get there.

When you chat with anyone about 2020, words like “strange”, “unusual” or “weird” will be part of the conversation. All of those describe our cruise as well. The table below shows our ten trips to SE Alaska. Our 2020 cruise clearly stands out from all the rest.

  Year  Days  Miles Traveled Engine Hours
2010 129 3221.3 517.1
2011 115 3465.3 577.4
2013 151 3666.9 630.0
2014 141 4052.0 720.8
2015 104 3580.1 629.2
2016 141 3978.7 700.0
2017 140 3816.9 656.5
2018 112 3169.5 528.6
2019 118 3815.7 649.5
2020 63 2527.3 399.7
Totals 1,214 35,293.7 6,008.8

Our transits through Canadian waters were the fastest we had ever done. The northbound journey was 581.3 NM (from last anchorage in WA to the first anchorage in AK) accomplished in 134.1 clock hours and 85.5 engine hours. The southbound trip was 531.6 NM in 126.3 clock hours and 78.6 engine hours.

The trip was short by historical standards, and hard when you look at the miles covered per day. The weather was crummy much of the time (Petersburg had 16.4 inches of rain during the 46 days we were in SEAK while Ketchikan had 17.9 inches). Nevertheless, we are glad we did it and grateful that the Canadian government loosened their non-essential travel regulations to permit the transits that we made.

We are hopeful for 2021 and that it will return more normalcy to our lives.

More Wet Weather and Time to Leave

In our first trip to SE Alaska in 2010, we continued cruising through August and did not depart Alaska until September 4. The next year we planned to cruise through August but after three consecutive storms over about 8 days in the middle of the month, we skedaddled out of Alaska on August 26. Ever since that year, we’ve made it our practice to be south of Dixon Entrance sometime around the first week of August.

With our late arrival in SE Alaska this year, we thought we should make the most of the effort to get here and continuing cruising into August. After leaving Glacier Bay (and a storm), we traveled in pleasant conditions down Chatham Strait to Pavlof Harbor the first night (8/11) and then to Gut Bay the second night.

The next day (8/13) we fished east shores of Baranof Island where Marcia caught a couple silver (coho) salmon.  From there we continued to an anchorage at the north end of Keku Strait to position ourselves for transiting through Rocky Pass. Our goal was to go to the area on the SW corner of Prince of Wales Island (PoW) near Craig for more fishing.

Rocky Pass is a shallow and intricate route going from the Frederick Sound area to Sumner Pass that is best done at high slack. By August the bull kelp has grown during the long summer days to be dense as you travel Devil’s Elbow and it is unnerving hearing it bump along the sides of your hull as you see you depth sounder read only 20 feet of water. Later that same day, after a bouncy crossing of Sumner Passage, we entered El Capitan Passage for another shallow route before anchoring the night in Devilfish Bay on Kosciusko Island.

It was a short day to Kaguk Cove the following day (8/15) where we thought we’d wait out a forecasted front before continuing south to the area we wanted to fish. Besides fishing, our plan was to continue SE around Cape Chacon at the bottom of PoW Island and cross back over the border to Prince Rupert without diverting back to Ketchikan.

After reading the morning’s (8/16) forecast:

8/16 – A broad surface low in the Gulf with associated troughs and smaller scale lows circulating around it will continue to bring dreary and wet conditions to SEAK during the forecast period.

We changed our plan to a more conservative one. Instead we would head back north around the top of PoW Island, follow Sumner Passage to Zimovia Strait where we’d head down to Ernest Sound, back to Clarence Strait and down to Ketchikan. Having been beaten up by Clarence Strait on a couple of occasions, we do our best to avoid it in anything greater than 15 knot winds.

Anchorages along the way back to Ketchikan were Labouchere Bay, Santa Anna Inlet and Meyers Chuck. We did some prawning near Santa Anna and would have done more but the weather forecast urged us to get to Ketchikan before another storm.

8/18 – Most solutions now converge over a gale force low developing south of the Panhandle Wednesday night and near the southeast gulf Thursday.

We arrived in Ketchikan on 8/19, and prepared ourselves for starting the journey south as soon as the weather permitted.

8/20 – The forecast for the weekend has come into somewhat better consensus, featuring more rain for the panhandle.

On 8/21, between incoming fronts, a window of calm winds arrived and we headed down to Fillmore Inlet for a few days before crossing the border into Canada.

8/22 – The forecast for the upcoming week is one dominated by rain.

On 8/23, we cross Dixon Entrance and head to Prince Rupert in order to clear customs. Afterwards, we continue to Kumealon Island Cove for the night. From here it is a very quick (by trawler speed standards) southbound trip with stops at Bottleneck Inlet, Fury Cove, Growler Cove and Yeatman Bay, before running the length of the Strait of Georgia at night and arriving at a crowded Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island on 8/28 at 12:30 PM.

8/29 – The jury is still out on whether or not Southeast Alaska locations will wind up August with the wettest summer (June, July, August) on record. Some, like Ketchikan, seem more likely than others.

From here we’ll head to Anacortes for some preventative maintenance and a fuel up before returning to our homeport in Eagle Harbor.

Juneau to Glacier Bay

While on the dock in Taku Harbor before we went to Juneau, we chatted with several local boaters. They often asked how far north we were going and our reply, Glacier Bay, often elicited the response “have you been to Tracy (or Endicott) Arm.”  We have been to both and while both are spectacular, they capture only a portion of what makes Glacier Bay so enjoyable. Tracy and Endicott are long winding fiord-like features with tide water glaciers at the end that calve ice into the water. Glacier Bay also has glaciers that calve ice but it offers more.

First, it encompasses a larger area than either Tracy or Endicott Arms, with more cruising opportunities and a wider range of environments. It has a fascinating natural and human history as Glacier Bay was created in relatively recent times having its origins during the “little ice age” of the 1700’s. The native Tlingit people have oral history that tell of the advancing glaciers that pushed them from their lands that were 2020-08-013xfirst covered by ice than by water when the glaciers receded. The wild life is extensive, with many marine mammals (e.g., sea otters, sea lions, whales), birds (e.g., eagles, puffins) and land animals (bears, moose, wolves). While the permitting process for entry is a nuisance, it ensures a quality experience and protects the environment from being loved to death.

Because of Covid related changes, we did not have to do an in-person orientation at the Visitor Center in Bartlett Cove prior to going up bay into the park. With that flexibility, on Wednesday, August 5, we decided to make the long push from Juneau to one of our favorite anchorages, 2020-08-027xNorth Sandy Cove, for the night. The route took us by South Marble Island where we saw the requisite sea lions and puffins. While no bears on the beach greeted us, we did have a resident pair of sea otters paddling about and later were serenaded by a pack of wolves, yapping, yipping and howling for several minutes.

Given a forecast of deteriorating weather in future days, the next day we continued up bay to the head of Tarr Inlet and the Margerie Glacier. The absence of cruise ships and the closed Glacier Bay Lodge meant there were no large vessels up bay. Besides the handful of recreational vessels like ourselves, the only commercial vessels operating in the park were small (~30 feet) and fast boats hauling kayakers or taking guests from Gustavus lodges on tours. The ice in the water wasn’t difficult to navigate through, mostly easily dodged large car/truck sized pieces rather than vast swaths of smaller pieces covering an area.

2020-08-056

After leaving the Margerie Glacier, we anchored the night at the NE corner of Russell Island, an exposed location with poor holding. The next day, Friday 8/7, we 2020-08-057xreturned to North Sandy Cove. The forecasts were becoming increasingly dire for the weekend, and on Saturday we returned to Bartlett Cove to sit out the storm. We did paddle to shore and give Drake an opportunity to feel something not rocking under his paws.

As this is being written, we are on the tail end of the storm that brought gale force winds to most of the inner channels. We saw gusts in excess of 30 knots and sustained winds in the 20’s. Bartlett Cove is reasonably protected from southeast and south winds which were the initial predicted direction. Unfortunately after we settled into Bartlett Cove to sit out the storm, the track shifted slightly and the tail end of the storm brought 30 knot west winds and 6-foot seas to Icy Strait, a direction to which Bartlett Cove is exposed. This (Monday, 8/10) morning, in the anchorage, we are getting 3-foot rolling waves coming from Icy Strait. We are counting on the forecasted afternoon change to east winds in Icy Strati bringing more settled conditions to the anchorage.

The weather on Tuesday, 8/11, for most inner channels is 10 knot winds and 2-foot seas and we will begin our meandering journey southward.

Ketchikan to Juneau

While our Alaska quarantine requirements were met by our time enroute to Alaska and our circuit around Behm Canal, we still had many chores to do in Ketchikan. One of them was collecting the many packages we had shipped to us in Ketchikan. Sadly a couple of them were a bit tardy and we had to wait until Tuesday, July 21 before departing.

The first stop was Santa Anna Inlet, a lovely and secure anchorage, on the north side of Cleveland Peninsula and off of Seward Passage. We dropped 3 prawn pots for an overnight soak before going into the anchorage. One other cruising boat preceded us into the anchorage for the night.

Our routine is to use the weather forecasts, which we retrieve using satellite communication devices, to guide our planning. With the unseasonably cool and wet SE Alaskan weather we were having, and a forecast for several days of light winds, we decided to position ourselves to transit Wrangell Narrows on Thursday, July 23. We retrieved our 3 prawn pots, collecting several meals worth of prawns, and headed to Roosevelt Harbor on Zarembo Island, a new anchorage to us. We knew there was a US Forest Service float cabin there but didn’t realize there was also a road head to old logging roads on the island. While there is no active logging, there was a bustle of boats picking up/dropping off folks who were going elsewhere on Zarembo Island. A sailboat also came in and anchored in the harbor. Other than the surprising amount of activity, it was a perfectly fine anchorage.

The next day (7/23), we ended up getting to Wrangell Narrows a little sooner than planned (the flood was still building rather than dying). The narrow channels were fine but we ended up facing a lot of flood current on the north end from Turn Point to the exit buoy east of Petersburg. Once in Fredrick Sound, we headed to Read Island Cove in Farragut Bay for the night. Once again, we shared the anchorage and once again it was a “local” boat (i.e., Alaska homeport) rather that a visitor like us.

2020-07-042xNow in Fredrick Sound, we first headed to Pybus Bay where we dropped 3 prawn pots in our usual area then headed to the West Brother anchorage for the night. The forecast called for a front to move in the following afternoon. West Brother is lovely but fair weather anchorage and we thought we had time to retrieve our prawn pots and head to a more secure anchorage ahead of the front (an atmospheric river promising considerable rain) coming in. While in the West Brother anchorage we paddled to shore with Drake where we walked a trail leaving from the kayaker camp here and played with him on the gravel beach.

Early the next morning, 7/25, we were awakened by waves moving the boat and wind rattling the rigging and realized the front had come in more quickly than the 7/24 forecast on which we relied. We quickly pulled anchor and pounded out through short 3-foot choppy seas and headed up to our “storm” anchorage, Henry’s Arm in Pybus Bay. On account of conditions, we did not retrieve our prawn pots set the previous day.

A2020-07-046xfter spending two nights (7/25 and 7/26) in Henry’s Arm, we left the anchorage with some trepidation to retrieve our 3 prawn pots that had soaked for 3-nights. When we got to the area, we could only find two of our pots. The missing pot had the most line (over 400’) and was dropped in less than 300’ so I was surprised that it had gone missing. Searching both north and south of the area turned up no missing pot and we sadly said good bye to it and had to be satisfied with the prawns in the two pots we retrieved. We did a lunch break at the San Juan Island anchorage and took Drake to the beach to play. Afterwards, we pulled the anchor and tried halibut fishing nearby but came up empty. Since the weather was now calm, we returned to San Juan Island anchorage for the night and enjoyed the expansive views from it.

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2020-07-058xOur plan was to stay in Fredrick Sound for several more days before continuing towards Juneau. On July 28, we headed down (SW) Fredrick Sound, fished for halibut at the mouth of Woewodski Harbor, then anchored the night in Chapin Bay. The weather sunny and winds calm made for a pleasant night.

Since the fishing had been poor in the area, we headed back towards Pybus Bay and an area that had been successful in 2019. Before fishing we headed in to the set the two remaining prawn pots we had. As we headed in, just off of our route was a wad of bull kelp with the top end of a yellow float amongst it. We drove by and found our errant pot with its floats nearly totally submerged from having been fouled with bull kelp. After one failed attempt, Marcia managed to snag the elusive floats and we pulled up the pot which, after a five 2020-07-085xnight soak, had about as many prawns in it as its two mates did combined. We gave the previously missing pot a rest and only set the other two. From there we headed to the fishing site. After a couple hours of effort, we headed to our anchorage, West Brother cove, with two halibuts in the cooler.

The next day, July 30, we took a rest day from fishing but did retrieve the two prawn pots set the day before. Returning to West Brother for our last night in the Fredrick Sound area, we took Drake to the beach on the south shore of the cove.

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As we departed the next day, the weather was clearly changing. Not long after starting up Stephens Passage towards Taku Harbor, our destination for the night, we were fighting head seas and 20-30 knot head winds. Our already, slow 6-1/2 knot speeds were reduced to 5 knots. It was a slow 50 mile journey to the public dock in Taku Harbor. Shortly after 10 pm when the dozen boats on the dock had all settled in for the night. One of the rare thunder storms that SE Alaska gets, passed nearby and with it a violent wind storm. The winds in the harbor went from a few knots to a gust of 45 knots and sustained winds around 30 knots. There was much pandemonium on the dock as people tightened or added lines to secure their boats. One vessel anchored out in the harbor begin to drag its anchor then pulled it and came into the dock with the help of the folks on the dock securing lines before it got blown off or onto another boat. After a few hours the wind calmed down and everyone was able sleep soundly.

After two nights in Taku Harbor, on 8/2 we headed to the Statter Harbor in Auke Bay, NW of Juneau. We planned our arrival for Sunday when both the purse seiners and gill netters have openings and are absent from the harbor. This has been a successful strategy in the past for the first-come-first-served free-for-all that is Auke Bay. We weren’t prepared for the significantly different character of the harbor which was loaded with sport fishing boats. Fortunately, after about ten or fifteen minutes of poking around we found a fine spot that was easy to get in and out of and had access to 30A power.

We’ll spend 3-nights here doing chores and shopping before heading to Glacier Bay.