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2022 Wrap Up

Upon returning to our winter moorage, we are often asked what was the highlight of our cruising season.  I think this year the ability to leisurely cruise the British Columbia coastline stands out.  The previous two years, 2020 and 2021, were races up and down the coast between the BC-WA border and the BC-AK border.  In the Covid years we did those routes in six long days with only four or five anchorages along the route.  This year, it was 12 days/11 stops northbound and 36 days/35 stops southbound. 

Another highlight was the number of new (to us) places we visited. We went to 14 new anchorages, one new mooring buoy (Bailey Bay on Behm Canal) and one new marina (Port Browning on Pender Island).  Many of the new anchorages were on Southeast side of Kuiu Island. Its nice to know that without much effort, we can visit places we haven’t been before.

We are getting totally accustomed to cruising with our ship’s dog, Drake, on board. While he is a good trooper, has never been sea sick (yet) and knows exactly where on the boat to do his “business” (the bow near the windlass where it is easy to clean), it is absolutely clear from his joy when we drop the kayaks to paddle to shore or tie up at a dock, he’d prefer that we never leave the dock. His explanation is that we could then play with him and his ball several times a day. We’ve reached a compromise and now try to spend an extra day at the dock beyond what our shore tasks might require.

The final numbers for the trip are 139 days/138 nights out (88 nights at anchor, 3 nights on mooring buoys, 47 nights at the dock). We were fortunate to have the solitude of being the only boat in the anchorage 41 nights.  We traveled 3584 nautical miles and put on 613.6 engine hours.  Of that, 42.9 hours were idling associated with fishing or sightseeing.  We only had to run our generator for 18 hours.

The map below shows all of our stops this last cruising season. Clicking on one of the “drop pins” will pull up some information about the stop. At the top right of the map is an icon which will open a separate window that may be easier to navigate.

Port McNeill to Eagle Harbor – The Last Leg

We departed Port McNeill on Monday, 8/29 with blue skies and calm winds. Timing the currents in this run down Johnstone Strait so that they were favorable (or at least not horribly adverse)  pushed us towards mid-day travel rather than our preferred morning hours. 

Our destination for the night was Port Harvey on Cracroft Island. While in Johnstone Strait 2022-Cruise-346xand approaching the turn-off for Port Harvey, we saw ahead what we first thought was a sea lion cruising by but turned out to be a black bear swimming across Johnstone Strait from Vancouver Island to Cracroft Island. We’ve seen bears swimming across channels in Alaska and BC before but this one was paddling across waters that are frequented by orca (i.e., killer whales).  The orca here are probably focused on the migrating salmon but there could be the odd-ball whale that might want to expand its diet a bit.

2022-Cruise-350xThe next morning, again because of the current timing, we didn’t leave the anchorage until about 10 AM.  While waiting, we watched some of the migratory fowl paddle by.  While mostly Canadian geese, we did see a lovely pair of Trumpeter swan.  According to Wikipedia, they are the heaviest living native bird in North American.  Seeing them next to a Canadian goose, the size difference is striking (forgot to take a picture).

While we hit Race Passage exactly at slack (or more precisely, “slack-ish”), our timing at Seymour Narrows was early.  Rather that jetting through with 7+ knots of current we killed an hour by checking out Small Inlet in Kanish Bay on Quadra Island.  We still had 5+ knots of current boosting us through Seymour and got twisted and turned by boils and whirlpools that extend for a mile or two downstream of the narrow section.  We joined several other boats in Gowlland Harbor for the night.

The next day we slogged our way south down the Strait of Georgia and anchored in Northwest Harbour about 10 miles north of Nanaimo. It is well protected from the SE winds that were blowing at the time.

An early start got us to Dodd Narrows about a half-hour after slack but fortunately it was the slack before the ebb.  We scooted through in no time and made our way to Montague Harbour on Galliano Island.  The presence of a marina, with restaurant and store serving ice cream, and a BC Provincial park, with a grass field for ball play, made it an attractive destination for all onboard.  We spent three nights here.

Continuing our leisurely cruise style, on Labor Day, 9/5, we traveled 11 miles to Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island.  We’ve often used this anchorage as our jumping off point for a short hop across to US waters, but in all those times we never taken the dinghy over to the public dock in Lyall Harbour and gone to the pub just above the dock.  We enjoyed a delightful lunch on an outside and dog-friendly deck with a view of Plumper Sound.

The next morning we made and even shorter 4-1/2 mile trip to Port Browning Marina on North Pender Island.  Our yacht club designates Port Browning as a satellite outstation and we are able to moor at a reduced rate.  It too has a pub with an outside deck.  It also serves ice cream in its onsite store and has ample fields in which we could engage in ball play with Drake.  Once again, everyone is happy.

In the small world category, while in Port Browning, we met Chris and Sandy who own the classic Diesel Duck Moken which is in Langkawi, Malaysia. On account Covid they have not visited the boat for two years.  They were on the boat when Covid first began an epidemic and spent several months on board before being able to return to their home in Canada on Pender Island.

2022-Cruise-352xWe finally made the return to the US on 9/8, anchoring briefly in Roche Harbor in order to go to shore, mail an oil sample for analysis taken during the oil change in Port McNeill, get ice cream and play with Drake in the local dog park.  After those “chores”, we continued on to Garrison Bay for two nights.  The English Camp National Historical Park is situated on Garrison Bay and has a dinghy dock giving shore access to several miles of trails. One of the trails goes to the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company which, during the summer months, has a restaurant serving lunch. Not surprisingly, oysters are featured on the menu. Marcia did a excellent job of shucking a half-dozen of the raw oysters we had.

2022-Cruise-353xOur penultimate cruising destination was Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. Our yacht club leases dock space at the Deer Harbor Marina and we ended up having that space to ourselves for three nights. The rest of the marina, however, was quite busy and we watched boats come and go.  One of the boats that arrived was the “older sister” ship to ours “Kwakatu.”  The folks we met are the second owners who bought it about three years ago.  They live in Minnesota but the boat stays in Sidney, about ten or so miles north of Victoria, BC.

We took the final leg of our summer cruise on Tuesday, 9/13 and crossed, with generally favorable currents, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, plodded down Admiralty Inlet, and found our way into Eagle Harbor.  We were secured to the dock where the boat will spend the winter and the engine off at 1845.

Ketchikan to Port McNeil

Our 2022 southbound journey was a return to our pre-Covid cruising practice. We typically like to cross Dixon Entrance into British Columbia the end of July or first part of August. Our experience is that August weather in SE Alaska is a transition to more Fall like conditions with increased wind and rain.  That was certainly the case this year.

We left Ketchikan on Wednesday, August 3.  We stopped at the fuel dock as we left and took on 300 gallons of diesel.  When we compared SEAK fuel prices with those in Puget Sound, we saw it was nearly a dollar a gallon less in Puget Sound so only took on enough for an ample safety margin for the trip home..

The general flow of cruising boats is south and as we headed out, we saw via AIS five other boats positioning to cross Dixon Entrance. It is about 85 miles from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert so most boats like ours split the trip up so that they aren’t arriving in Prince Rupert too late in the day.  Foggy Bay, about 38 miles from Ketchikan, is a popular stop but we prefer an anchorage closer to the border.  We headed to Sitklan Passage Cove which leaves us with only a 39 mile trip the next day to Prince Rupert.

The last two years, when we were doing direct transits through Canada, we’d did a “touch and go” immigration clearance in Prince Rupert and did not stay the night. This year, we made reservations at the Cow Bay Marina for two nights so that we could reprovision in Prince Rupert with “freshies” (Canada prohibits the importation of certain vegetables, fruit and raw meats) for our slower southbound journey.  Additionally Drake could get ample ball play on some of the lush grass in the Prince Rupert parks.

After two nights, we took off from Prince Rupert and headed out to Bell Passage, about 18 miles west so that Marcia could try her hand at catching a Coho salmon.  Alas, after 2 hours she’d only hooked a pink salmon which she released and we moved onto Kelp Passage Cove for the night.The weather forecast was indicating sunny weather in the upcoming days but they would be accompanied by strong northwesterly winds.  While they would have been generally on our stern, which is usually a more comfortable direction, we decided we’d pull a long day before the winds arrived and head to McMicking Inlet on Campania Island.  In 2020, we stopped at McMicking after our 236-mile overnight dash north up the coast and found such rest and relief in the anchorage that we’ve been wanting to go back ever since (first impressions matter).

We spent two nights at McMicking and found it lovely but our activities were restricted by the strong NW winds that arrived as forecasted.  The lovely sand beach at the entrance of the inlet was about 2 miles from our anchorage and we decided that using the dinghy in the choppy conditions that the wind was kicking up in the inlet would not be pleasant so we never got down to them. Perhaps next time.

2022-Cruise-293xOur next stop was Chapple Inlet on Princess Royal Island. On the way we trolled along the SE shore of Campania Island and Marcia landed a Coho salmon.  We spent a couple of nights at the head of Chapple Inlet before continuing the southbound journey through Laredo Channel. That night, we anchored off Quigley Creek at the south end of Laredo Inlet.

While we had hoped to spend more time fishing the outer channels, the weather forecast was suggesting we’d have better conditions further south near Bella Bella and Shearwater. The next morning, despite some fog, we made our way through Meyers Passage, across Finlayson Channel to Jackson Passage and anchored in Rescue Bay on Susan Island.

Our change in fishing venue was vindicated when the next day, after exiting through Percival Narrows into Seaforth Channel, Marcia caught a large Coho. The next four nights we anchored in various spots in the Seaforth Channel area while fishing with some success.

2022-Cruise-287xAs a reward to Drake for putting up with our fishing schedule, we headed over to Ocean Falls for two nights where Drake would have shore access for walks and ball play. He even got to cool off in a small stream on one of our walks.

At this point, we were nearly two weeks out from Prince Rupert and decided to head over to Shearwater 2022-Cruise-297xMarina and forage for some fresh fruit and produce. While there, we crossed paths with fellow Queen City Yacht Club members Barbara and Tom Wilson (MV Toba). Also spending the night at Shearwater Marina was the seven boat flotilla from NW Explorations (one trip leader boat and six charter boats).

From Shearwater we continued south into Fitz Hugh Sound where we spent six nights. We fished many days in the area and Marcia continued to catch salmon. 

2022-Cruise-340xOne of our nights at anchor was in Pruth Bay from which, through the courtesy of the Hakai Institute, you can access some lovely beaches on the ocean side of Calvert Island. While returning along the trail from North Beach to West Beach, we had a very close encounter with a wolf. Marcia was in the lead, followed by Drake then Kurt, holding Drake’s leash, in the rear. Marcia heard running ahead of her and looked up to see a wolf running towards her along the trail. She made the decision to start shrieking in her loudest voice to startle the wolf. The wolf gets about 10 feet away from her and darts to Marcia’s right (the wolf’s left) up a shallow drainage. Within five or so seconds of Marcia first hearing the wolf’s foot fall, it was out of sight into the vegetation along the drainage. We made continued (briskly) to West Beach and saw multiple wolf tracks in the sand that had not been there when we traveled it an hour or so earlier.

Since the wolf exhibited no aggression during our brief encounter and made haste to get away from us, we figure it was simply happenstance our paths crossed.  The under growth is quite thick so the trails are the preferred route to travel when trying to get somewhere. The sightlines were blocked by vegetation, the wind was light and we weren’t talking so the wolf may have not known we were on the trail heading toward him until he turned the corner on the trail as it wound its way through the forest.

2022-Cruise-344xFor our last anchorage before rounding Cape Caution, we used the very popular Fury Cove on Penrose Island. We took Drake to shore for play on the sandy beach on one of the small islands bordering the cove.

While not bad conditions, we did keep our stabilizing “fish” in the water for about six hours from north of Cape Caution until we were well into Queen Charlotte Strait and sheltered from ocean swell. The winds were out of the north and strong enough that when we docked in Port McNeill, we were glad the marina had a spot on which we were blown on to rather than off of.

We are spending three nights in Port McNeill for boat chores (its time to change the engine oil again), relaxation and better weather (strong SE winds are forecasted). We are happy to find out that two new eateries have opened up in town (Lata’s Kitchen and Devil’s Bath Brewing) and are trying both of them while here.

Juneau to Ketchikan

After six nights in Juneau we headed out of Auke Bay on July 12 headed towards Gambier Bay, on Admiralty Island. It turned into a real slog between Douglas and Admiralty Island as we had an adverse current instead of the predicted favorable current.

Once in Gambier Bay, we anchored in the SE arm of Snug Cove which is smaller and less used than the larger area to the west. We ended up spending three nights here while we tried to find a productive prawn area.  After six pots in three locations with mediocre results, we’re scratching Gambier Bay off the list of prime prawning areas..

The weather at this point has become more unsettled with a series of weak fronts separated by only modest sun breaks.  At least the temperatures are moderate and we haven’t had to run the furnace to heat the boat.2022-Cruise-247x

Fortunately, one of the sun breaks coincided with a stop at the lovely West Brother Island anchorage.  Drake got to play on the beach there before high tide took it away.

With another soggy front forecasted, we headed to the village of Kake on Kupreanof Island for a couple of nights where we’d have shore access for walks.  While there we reconnected with our yacht club friends, Ann and Craig on Shot-8, whom we had last seen in Sitka about a month earlier.

2022-Cruise-250xFrom Kake we headed to a rendezvous in Security Bay on Kuiu Island with Kathleen and John who cruise on our sistership Laysan.  While we’ve met up with them in Petersburg several times we’ve never anchored out with them. The next morning, we first fished for halibut near them by Kingsmill Point (they were successful, we weren’t) before going our separate ways. They were headed out towards Sitka while we headed back into Fredrick Sound..

With another front coming through, we decided to spend the time in Cannery Cove at Pybus Bay. While very scenic and often with good bear viewing, Cannery Cove is  open to the east and doesn’t offer great protection from weather out of the southeast.  It was a little bouncy and slightly annoying at times.

After two nights in Cannery Cove, we headed out to fish for halibut at a spot than had worked for us last year.  Unfortunately, the spot is not at all protected and the weather hadn’t quieted down enough for us to fish it so we headed over to fish Cleveland Passage just north of Cape Fanshaw which is relatively protected.  Marcia managed to pull in one halibut before we left for our anchorage that night at Read Island Cove in Farragut Bay.

An early start from there saw us through Wrangell Narrows with the morning high slack and we docked in the Reliance Harbor in Wrangell that afternoon. Once again, another front was forecasted for SE Alaska and we decided it’d be more pleasant at the dock than in an anchorage.

After three nights in Wrangell, we headed out with better weather forecast in hand down the East Passage and anchored in Berg Bay.  We had stopped there in May on the northbound part of the trip and enjoyed it because of easy shore access to an area for Drake to play, which he did again on this return visit.

We continued a down East Passage and into Blake Channel and anchored in Fools Inlet. Part of the reason for our taking the route we did was to look for new prawn sites so we dropped prawn pots hoping to stumble on the “motherlode” of prawn sites (spoiler alert, we didn’t find it). Next we went to Santa Anna Inlet for a night and finally to Vixen Harbor. 

We had looked at the write-up for Vixen Harbor every time we had passed it during our travels in Ernest Sound.  The charts suggest is virtually impassible but the guides say it is doable but requires careful navigation.  Recently, I came across the very complete description provided by Kevin Morris of the Slowboat website.  Fortified by his description and overhead drone images, we entered its narrow channel and anchored uneventfully. 

2022-Cruise-259xAfter watching the entrance channel through a tide cycle and taking the kayak through it with a handheld depth sounder, its least depth (zero tide) seems about 8-feet.  A mid-channel route is probably safe but at high tide, favor (ever so slightly) the west side of the channel (starboard side while entering) as it seems to be a bit steeper.  When exiting, we waited for a rising tide and a tide level of about 6-feet before leaving.

From Vixen Harbor we headed down a docile Clarence Strait and, rather than arriving in Ketchikan in the evening, we went to Deep Bay off of Moser Bay.  Friends Brenda & Pete have a cabin here and Brenda came out to our boat in her skiff and we caught up on things going on in our lives.

The next morning, July 30, we headed into Ketchikan arriving shortly after 9 AM.  From here we’ll wait for suitable weather to cross Dixon Entrance and clear into Canada at Prince Rupert. 

Ouch!

2022-Cruise-238xOn Friday (7/8) evening, while we were tied to the dock in Auke Bay, a commercial tour boat coming in to raft with its partner boat moored directly behind us, inadvertently clipped our port stern corner. The impact popped a roughly 3” x 9” chunk of paint and fairing compound from our boat. Marcia was chatting with the skipper of the boat being rafted to and saw and heard the impact.

2022-Cruise-237xAs mentioned in the previous post, the transient moorage in Auke Bay (Statter Harbor) during the summer is a bit of a free-for-all.  The transient boaters (commercial fishing, commercial tour operators, local recreational boaters and non-local recreational boats) are all coming and going on widely varying schedules.

Mooring is all on linear docks (i.e., they are not individual boat slips) but the linear space is along open U’s about 100 to 150 feet on each side. The Harbor Office does not assign dock space to incoming transient vessels. Instead you must look for an open section of dock space sufficiently large to accommodate your vessel.  Rafting of vessels is permitted to the extent that it doesn’t prevent other vessels from departing.

Given all of this, it isn’t surprising accidents happen. Fortunately no one was injured and nothing was done to impair the safe operation of any vessel. We expect to get this “owie” repaired in Spring 2023 during our regular haul-out.

Sitka to Juneau

We left Sitka with only a general outline of what we were going to do besides “going north”. We had hoped to travel up the outside of Chichagof Island into Cross Sound but the offshore forecast “persuaded” us it was not the best routing.  That meant retracing our path through Peril Strait (the channel between Chichagof and Baranof Islands) into Chatham Strait. 

We then considered heading back down to the southern part of Chatham Strait for fishing and prawning but it seemed that the best weather in SE Alaska so far this season had been in the northern half. So after all that hand-wringing we did traditional routing of going out Peril and turning left at Chatham towards Icy Strait.  Along the way, we stopped at Appleton Cove in Peril Strait then Long Bay in Tenakee Inlet before stopping in Flynn Cove in Icy Strait.

2022-Cruise-089xWhile in Icy Strait, we wanted to revisit Dundas Bay, a location we hadn’t been to since 2011. We crossed over to a fishing area SW of Gustavus where Marcia caught a small halibut.  Afterwards we proceeded to the North Arm of Dundas Bay.  It is quite a trek (~8 miles) from Icy Strait to the head of the North Arm so it is more a “destination” than an intermediate stop but it is lovely, despite the wind from Cross Sound that funneled up through the SW Arm into the anchorage.

2022-Cruise-100xMarcia wanted to troll for salmon outside Dundas so we headed out to Icy Strait the next morning. No fish was caught and at the end of the session, we decided to use a closer anchorage in the Inian Islands at the junction of Icy Strait and Cross Sound.  The description for Mosquito Pass mentioned a “beach” and Drake said we needed to check it out as it had been too long since he went to shore. He gave the beach a 5-star rating.

The next morning, we started out for Excursion Inlet but as we neared Gustavus, we phoned the Glacier Bay Visitor Center and were able to get a one-day permit to enter the park.  We anchored in Bartlett Cove east of the fuel dock which is not part of the waters managed under the 2022-Cruise-232x“25 private non-commercial vessels” limit so we did not need a permit to anchor there overnight.  The next morning we obtained a permit under the short notice program to enter park waters two days later for a longer stay.  Bartlett Cove is the only place in the park where Drake can go to shore in limited areas.  We managed to find a quiet section where we put Drake on a long-lead and played his favorite thing in the world, “chase the ball.”

2022-Cruise-110xThe weather now had turned warm and sunny and the Fairweather Range of mountains were out in all their glory. It also meant the bugs, horseflies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums, were out in all their fury.  The warm weather also meant afternoon sea breezes were kicking up which was making Bartlett Cove a bit bouncy in the afternoon until the sun set. We managed to tack another one-day permit on in front of our 7-day permit and headed up to South Fingers Bay for the night for a calm night at anchor.

From there we headed up bay to Tarr Inlet. 2022-Cruise-134x The amount of ice in the water as we approached the head appeared light and we decided to anchor in the bight on the west shore a little over a mile south of the Margerie Glacier.  We had some anxiety in the late evening as the tide changed and large amounts of ice began to float by our anchored boat and periodically skitter across the hull.  A back eddy is formed in the bight and a stream flows out into the bight so the currents are both strong and somewhat non-intuitive. Fortunately, nothing untoward occurred and we pulled our anchor uneventfully2022-Cruise-124y the next morning.

The Tarr Inlet Bight is a stunning anchorage with fabulous scenery and the sounds of sea birds and rumbling ice. In the future, ror our peace of mind, we may use it as a temporary anchorage and relocate further south towards Russel Island for the overnight anchoring.

From there, we headed to Shag Cove in Geike Inlet. The abundance of bugs was making it difficult to relax peacefully on the flybridge and take in the good weather.

From 2022-Cruise-182xShag it was across the bay past South Marble Island and to the always lovely North Sandy Cove. With the time and weather, we decided to head up Muir Inlet and then Wachusett Inlet. Since the weather remained stable and winds generally light, 2022-Cruise-212xwe tried an anchorage on the south side of the channel about 2 miles west of the entrance at Rowlee Point. The next morning we were rewarded by a lovely sunrise and a “bear show” by two brown bears on the beach.  We headed to Berg Bay for the evening.

2022-Cruise-231xFor our last night in the park, Drake insisted we head back to Bartlett Cove.  We managed to squeeze in 4 ball play sessions in the 24 hours we spent in Bartlett Cove before exiting the park.

At this point, a change in the weather started.  A halibut fishing session near Gustavus was cut short by increasing west winds and chop.  We headed up Excursion Inlet to Sawmill Bay where we found calm waters (and bugs) tucked out of the main channel.

Our original thought when leaving Glacier Bay was to putz around Icy Strait for a few days and head to Juneau on July 10. After reviewing the weather forecast we accelerated the plan and headed to Juneau sooner.  From Sawmill Bay we went to Funter Bay, encountering a variety of wind and sea conditions as we approached Point Courverden, where Icy Strait, Lynn Canal and Chatham Strait all meet.  Our final stretch into Funter Bay was SE15-20 and 3-foot chop on our beam making for unpleasant travel. SW winds blew into the anchorage all night, keeping us at the end of our anchor circle until the next morning.

2022-Cruise-234xWe arrived in Juneau early on June 6 so that we could beat the gill-netters into port before the 12pm closing on their fishery.  Even then, we were barely able to find a spot on the dock into which to squeeze.  We know many boaters who avoid Statter Harbor in Auke Bay because it is a free-for-all of boats (commercial fishing boats, commercial tour boats, local recreational boats, and transient pleasure boats like ourselves).  We’ve managed to get a spot on all our visits but we dread the day when our luck runs out.

We’ve passed the halfway point of our cruising season and from here we are starting slowly southwards.

Petersburg to Sitka

We headed north from Petersburg on the morning of June 7 shortly before the turn to ebb tide. The building ebb current gave us a boost until we were partway across Fredrick Sound heading towards Point Gardiner. W2022-Cruise-073xhen reached Point Gardiner and started north up Chatham Strait we picked up the flood current and the boost until we entered Ell Cove. The cove was vacant when we arrived but shortly after our anchor was down, we were joined by the classic yacht Westward for the night.

The next morning we got an early start to catch as much of the dying flood current up Chatham Strait and into Peril Strait. Our original goal was an anchorage just short of Sergius Narrows, but soon we realized our early start allowed us to transit Sergius Narrows at slack current and continue on to Sitka the same day. When we reached Sitka in the afternoon, the wind was blowing in the upper teens inside the breakwater.  Rather than risk an awkward docking in challenging conditions, we continued past Sitka and anchored south of town in Leesofskaia Bay, a very protected location.

2022-Cruise-077xAfter a calm night, we returned to Sitka and were secured in a slip shortly after 9 AM.  This thrilled Drake as being in town allowed for frequents walks and visits to a dog park a short distance from the harbor.

After three nights in town, we headed out of town southward along the western shore of Baranof Island and anchored in Scow Bay on Beauchamp Island. The next day we continued south along the coast into Whale Bay where Marcia did some salmon fishing. We anchored the night in Kritoi Basin.

The next morning the forecast was for a low swell and light winds but for the swell and wind to increase the following day. Rather the deal with that, after Marcia fished the morning bite, retraced our route north in good conditions anchoring in Herring Bay on Elovi Island. Along the way, we passed Shearwater, a “classic” Diesel Duck owned by David Cohn.  We agreed to meet back in Sitka in a few days after they returned to town.

2022-Cruise-075xFollowing a calm night, we made an early departure on a falling tide through the shallow entrance to Herring Bay. We arrived back in Sitka shortly after 9 am so that Drake would have a full day of walks and ball play.

When we arrived in Sitka we discovered fellow Queen City Yacht Club member, Ann & Craig Wilbour were here on their Ocean Alexander 45 Shot-8. We spent an evening with them catching up on each others travels.

2022-Cruise-082xThe next night, after David Cohn on Shearwater returned, he invited us to a halibut dinner on board with his crew mate Mary Kay and friends Wade & Betty. Lots of stories were told.

We’ve grown to appreciate the trail system in Sitka that is easily accessible from the harbor yet takes you into some lovely terrain surrounding Sitka.  We’re use to walking in the various towns in SEAK but Sitka is certainly at or near the top of the towns we visit in “walkability:.

From here we expect to head back to Chatham Strait and eventually work our way north. Glacier Bay NP and Juneau are expected destinations but were not sure when.

Wrangell to Petersburg (the long way)

For most boats travelling from Wrangell to Petersburg it is about a 40 mile journey, often as a single days journey if the tide cycle works in Wrangell Narrows.  For us, it was 300 miles in 10 days.

We left Wrangell on May 25 with an excellent weather forecast, light winds and no rain. Since we had been thwarted in our attempt to explore the east shore of  Prince of Wales Island, we thought we’d explore the east shore of Kuiu Island along Sumner Strait. We’ve passed that area a number of times but we’ve always done it directly as to minimize our exposure to the ocean swells that can travel into Sumner Strait.

2022-Cruise-045xOur first anchorage was Port Beauclerc, a poorly charted area.  We followed the directions in the Coast Pilot and entry wasn’t difficult. While heading to our anchorage we passed by many sea otter mothers with their pups suggesting that boating traffic was light. The anchorage was a huge area with good depths and scenic. Our only complaint was that its size meant it didn’t feel “intimate” and it might not be protected from wind.

2022-Cruise-047xThe next day we continued south, then turned a corner into Affleck Channel and proceeded to Bear Harbor for the night. The charting was better but entry was tighter. Fortunately the entry tips from the Coast Pilot were spot on and we were soon anchored for the night. True to its name, we saw a black bear foraging along the shore as we entered. It too was a lovely anchorage but not one I’d choose to sit out a storm with forecasted south winds as the terrain was relatively low.  The winds we saw in the anchorage were pretty much the same winds as were in Affleck Canal.

We continued our exploring by backtracking about 6-miles to Kell Bay.  We spent two nights here. First in the basin formed by several islands on the SW arm of the bay.  It was quite lovely and the islands gave visual interest and intimacy to it.  The next day, we passed through the very narrow (30-35 yards wide) channel into “land locked” basin south of the arm.  While narrow, it is steep-to and the least depth we saw was about 4 fathoms (24 feet) at a +2 foot tide.  The inner basin felt like you were in a mountain lake.

Both of these anchorages seem well protected but we experienced southerly winds that were only slightly diminished from those winds that were reported at the Cape Decision light house 7-miles away.  While the fetch was short so the chop was minor, we were surprised at how consistent the winds were in the afternoon from sea breezes,  The winds apparently blow up the various drainages on the windward side of Kuiu Island, over the low passes then back down the drainages on the leeward side.  The wind simply follows the direction dictated by the terrain.  We’ve notice this same phenomena in some of the inlets and bays on the east shore of Baranof.  An anchorage looks like its well protected on the chart but wind comes whistling down the mountainside following the terrain.

2022-Cruise-052xWith a good forecast in hand and an early start, we rounded Cape Decision on the south tip of Kuiu Island and made our way to Port Malmesbury.  We put our stabilizing “fish” in the water as we cruised up the west shore of Kuiu Island since we were beam to the prevailing SW swell. We anchored in the “Mud Hole”, a misnomer as it is quite nice.  A humpback whale later came in to feed so it had the whale’s approval as well.

2022-Cruise-055xOne reason we wanted to be in Southern Chatham was that it was one of the few areas open to King Salmon fishing.  The next day, after waiting of fog to burn off, we fished the mid-day bite along the shore south of Port Cosmos.  No king but a pink salmon was hooked and released. We anchored in nearby Gedney Harbor.

From Gedney Harbor, we fished the early morning bite then crossed over2022-Cruise-058x Chatham Strait to the east short of Baranof Island and fished mid-day bite north of Port Walter.  We anchored for the night in Denmark Cove in Port Walter.

With a forecast for bigger seas in Southern Chatham, we fished the morning bite than proceeded north. We encountered 15-25 knot winds and unpleasant head seas (3-4′ with a very short period) as we motored north.  They only started to moderate about the time we turned into Gut Bay.  Conditions were markedly better inside and we anchored in our preferred spot.  Soon the temperatures reached the 70-degree mark for the first time during our trip. 

2022-Cruise-064xAt this point we decided to head to Petersburg to reprovision, do chores and visit with friends there. From Gut Bay we back across Chatham strait to Honey Dew Cove, a lovely and popular anchorage at the NE corner of Kuiu Island. We arrived early enough to make forays to shore which have areas suitable for play with Drake.

The following morning, June 3, we made the push to Petersburg, arriving about 40 minutes ahead schedule on account of current boost.  Petersburg is notorious for the fast currents that whip by its docks making docking a challenge for the unwary.  We came in on a finger pier with several folks working on fishing vessel tied to the opposite side, who were kind enough to take our lines and make us fast before anything could go haywire.

2022-Cruise-070xWhile in Petersburg, we spent the evenings socializing with Kathleen and John Douglas who own Laysan, a sistership to Alpenglow. They keep their boat in Petersburg during the off season. They had returned a few days earlier and were still doing chores to resuscitate 2022-Cruise-071xLaysan from its winter hibernation.  One afternoon we traveled in their dinghy across the channel to Kurpreanof Island and walk a lovely boardwalk loop trail through the forest.

From here our goal is to head to Sitka via the relatively direct Peril Strait route.

Miles covered this leg was 300 NM over 10 days.

Ketchikan to Wrangell

To ease into our more leisurely Alaska cruising practice we started on a loop of Behm Canal, the body of water which circles around Revillagigedo Island where Ketchikan lies. Our original plan was to then cross Clarence Strait and spend additional time exploring the east shore of Prince of Wales Island (PoW)..

2022-Cruise-010xOur first stop after Ketchikan was to a new (to us, anyway) destination of Bailey Bay where the USFS has a public buoy.  The buoy is intended to support access to a 2-mile trail to a USFS shelter at the hot springs near Lake Shelokum.  The buoy looked in good repair so we tied to it for the night.  As is often the case where the USFS buoys are sited, anchoring is difficult because of the steep-to nature of the bottom.  I went ashore with the kayak and found the first few hundred yards of the trail in good shape.  Since I was travelling by myself, I elected to not go far but noted it for a return stop.

The next day we back tracked a bit to anchor in Yes Bay for two nights to wait the passing of a short stint of wet and windy weather. 

From Yes Bay, we headed to Walker Cove in Misty Fiords National Monument where again, we tied to a USFS buoy located in front of a perfect bear beach.  Unfortunately, like last year, the sedge grass had not grown enough to make it bear country and we didn’t see any bears.

At this point, we abandoned our original plan to explore the east shore of PoW because the weather forecasts begin to suggest that the good conditions in Clarence Strait, which borders the length of PoW’s east shore, was short-lived.  Over the years, we’ve learned to respect Clarence Strait and to be elsewhere when the conditions are poor. 

2022-Cruise-015xFrom Walker Cove, we returned to the Bailey Bay buoy but this time the whole family paddled to shore and Drake went for a hike.  We covered a little over half a mile along the trail and turned around when it became a little more ragged, wet and muddy.  Using the freshwater washdown hose we got the accumulated mud off of Drake, avoiding a more time consuming full bath.

The sea conditions were good the next day and we made the 73 mile journey down Behm Canal, up Clarence Strait and up Ernest Sound  to Santa Anna Inlet and ended up about 10-1/2 miles west of the Bailey Bay buoy we started from..

We spent 2 nights in Santa Anna, dropping and retrieving our 3 prawn pots twice.  Our 2022-Cruise-025xefforts rewarded us with our first seafood catch of the season. The next day we went along the east side Wrangell Island and anchored in Berg Bay.  There is a USFS cabin there and a clearing in front of it that served as Drake’s much appreciated “dog park”.

The next day, Sunday May 22, we headed to Wrangell were we tied up in Heritage Harbor, about a mile walk into town’s main business section. It had been several years since we last visited Wrangell but it didn’t take much time refamiliarize ourselves with it.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the previous two years had a near absence of cruise ships.  The schedule of Alaska cruise ships in 2022 is very similar to years past although we are unsure of the occupancy.  A new addition to the vessels visiting are the larger luxury “expedition” style vessels.  Two of them happened to be in Wrangell on the same day, the Roald Amundsen (Hurtigruten Line) and the Ocean Victory (American Queen Voyages). Both are recent builds with designs radically different from traditional cruise ships.

2022-Cruise-030x

We covered 274 miles in 9 days of travel on this leg.

Regression to the Mean

2022-05-10 Dixon East

During the first two COVID years our direct transits to/from SE Alaska along the British Columbia coast went remarkably smoothly and quickly. We had no weather delays and even had some very calm days that allowed us to take more direct routes outside of the protected inside channels. .The weather so far for 2022 is very different and is moving us back closer to the average conditions we’ve had over the years.

We departed our homeport on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, April 28. First night was Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  The next morning we cleared into Canada at Van Isle Marina next to Sidney.  The interaction with the Canadian Border agents was done via telephone but they must have been very busy because Marcia was disconnected several times while on hold and the phone wait was about 30 minutes each time she called.

The weather was soggy and forecasts not great so we spent two nights at the Salt Spring Marina before crossing the Strait of Georgia and continuing north.  We had to wait another two nights in the Broughtons on account of weather before we could get around Cape Caution north of Vancouver Island.

For the last major hurdle, Dixon Entrance separating BC from Alaska, we departed from Brundage Inlet on Dundas Island.  While the swell was not large, about one meter, the period was short and steep, and we were beam to the swell and wind.  We put our roll stabilizing “fish” in the water shortly after leaving Dundas and didn’t take them out until we were north of Mary Island.  The ocean swell was mostly gone at that point but the wind had picked up and pulling the stabilizers in rough conditions is difficult.

As we entered Ketchikan, we stopped at the fuel dock and took on a little over 600 gallons of diesel fuel.  The price per gallon as pretty similar to that in Puget Sound, about $4.94 per gallon with all the taxes and fees.

Our arrival at Bar Harbor Marina in Ketchikan was a bit later than we like and the wind was now blowing briskly up Tongass Narrows.  Since it is early in the season, most fishing boats were still in port so the only slip available was one we needed to back-in.  We tried once and failed.  With the wind now blowing 15kts gusting 20kts, we decided to go anchor for the night and try the next day. 

Our first night, May 10, in Alaska was spent at Deep Bay, a small bay off of Moser Bay (~10 miles NE of Ketchikan).  The next morning we returned to Bar Harbor and managed to get ourselves secured to the dock despite the wind again blowing in the ‘teens.

As we watch the rain showers roll through, we study the long range forecasts looking for hints of a pattern change to this cool, wet and windy weather we’re in.