Below is a map of the places we visited on our 2019 cruise. If you click on a mark it will name the location and give some numbers associated with the visit.Excluding our time in Port Townsend while having work done, our cruise was 118 days long. …
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We left Port McNeill on Monday, 8/19, and scooted across Queen Charlotte Strait, heading to Turnbull Cove in the Broughtons. The weather forecasts were for strong winds along the inside waters and we thought Turnbull offered excellent protection. Either it did or the winds weren’t as strong as forecast because over the 2 nights at Turnbull we never saw anything over 10 knots.
We then stopped at the marine resort Pierre’s at Echo Bay for a night to attend one of their prime rib dinners. While there we reacquainted ourselves with Kathy & John Youngblood owners of Mystic Moon (Selene 53). They have spent the last 12+ years cruising down the coast, through the Panama Canal, around the Caribbean Sea, back through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific to New Zealand and Australia, through SE Asia, up the eastern coasts of Japan and Kamchatka Peninsula, through the Aleutian Islands, and back down the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia (I am exhausted just writing that route). Enjoy their travels at Mystic Moon Voyages.
We also met at Pierre’s, Peter and Sue the owners and builders of Kama Hele, a 54 foot Diesel Duck. They live in the San Francisco Bay area and cruised up to Alaska this year. We saw their boat in Petersburg but weren’t able to meet up before they went north and we went south. I’ve been following their building efforts at their blog BuildingKoloa and their cruising at KamaHeleCruising so it was a treat to meet them and tour their lovely vessel.
From there we positioned ourselves the night of 8/24 at Port Harvey so that we could get an early start along Johnstone Strait and take advantage of favorable currents and winds. This year, as we have the last several years, we used the route through the Octopus Islands to move from the northern waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland to the southern waters of the Strait of Georgia. After a night in Waiat Bay we continued down to Gorge Harbour and a lovely lunch at the Floathouse Restaurant.
An early start and surprisingly favorable currents allowed us to scoot the length of the Strait of Georgia past Nanaimo Harbour to a spartan anchorage a mile north of Dodd Narrows. The NW winds blew all night long but the bottom was sticky and we just weather-vaned at the end of our anchor chain and didn’t budge.
The next morning, 8/28, we joined the parade of boats through Dodd Narrows. Our winter dock mates, Barb & Eric Wood, were also southbound and allowed us to pull in ahead of their vessel BarbEric through the passage. We continued to Montague Harbour for the night while the Wood’s headed off to Thetis Island. A surprise to us at Montague was the strength of the wind. The harbor seems landlocked but the NW wind blowing down the Strait of Georgia seemed to pop right over Galiano Island blow right through the anchorage. Fortunately, it calmed down in the afternoon and we paddled the kayaks to the marina and had an early dinner at the restaurant.
The next day, we crossed back into USA waters and, after clearing in through the new CBP phone app, headed to Echo Bay on Sucia Island. We arrived early enough to paddle to shore a take a hike along one of the many trails on Sucia. Even though we were coming up on Labor Day weekend, the anchorage and island did not seem to be excessively crowded.
We headed into Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes to spend the first two days of the holiday weekend. Other than a few provisions, the main reason for stopping in Anacortes was to take on fuel. An additional attraction is the Lopez Island Creamery trailer at the marina’s entrance scooping out generous portions of ice cream.
On Sunday we headed over to Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. Our yacht club, Queen City, leases dock space at the marina for its members to use. The marina was buzzing with activity from holiday boaters at first and then with a flotilla of classic wooden boat attending the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival a few days later. While at Deer Harbor we continued our bad habit of having ice cream for our “lunch” as the marina store served Lopez Island Creamery ice cream.
After four days in Deer Habor, we traveled the short distance to Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. We met up with our friends, Barb & Eric Wood on BarbEric who were anchored in Reid Harbor on the south side of Stuart Island, and hiked out to the light house at Turn Point.
After two relaxing nights, we headed to MacKaye Harbor at the south end of Lopez Island. David Cohn who owns a “cousin-ship” to ours, the classic Seahorse Marine Diesel Duck Shearwater. David and his wife Rachel own a vacation home a few hundred yards from the beach in MacKaye Harbor. We anchored, near Shearwater then paddled the kayaks to shore. Dave prepared a wonderful meal which we enjoyed while catching up on how our respective summers went. We got back to the boat just before the rain and lightening started.
Besides visiting with David & Rachel, MacKaye Harbor was the perfect jumping off point for crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend. Although we weren’t hauling out until Tuesday morning, 9/10, we wanted to arrive on Sunday so that we could take care boatyard paperwork and any in the water tests ahead of time.
After 9 days hauled out and another 2 days at the dock, we departed Port Townsend at first light on Saturday, 9/21 and arrived at the dock in Eagle Harbor at noon, closing out our 2019 cruise.
The journey south went smoothly with one pleasant surprise along the way. We chose the “outside-inside” route from Prince Rupert along Petrel and Principe Channels. Whale activity in Squally and Whale (I wonder how that name came about) Channels was brisk. During one early morning start to reach a fishing area for the first bite of the day, three or four whales came vertically out of the water 200-300 yards away in a tight column with mouths open gathering their breakfast of herring and other bait fish. Of course no photo was taken as it happened and ended so quickly. Lots of whale tails, however.
While in this area, I received an e-mail from friends Don & Natala saying that they would be flying in their float plane (see Echo Bay Aerodrome) in the area exploring lakes on the islands and could I suggest a possible rendezvous. After exchanging several satellite messages and phone calls we managed to work out a time and place. Amazingly, it all worked perfectly as though we had planned and rehearsed it in advance. It is a bit odd to look out the rear doors to the salon and see an airplane propeller 6 feet from your stern. The weather was calm and Don & Natala spent the night flying off the next day while we continued south at a more measured pace.
We fished our usual places along the route and caught six nice silver (aka, coho) salmon for the freezer. Our stay north of Cape Caution was abbreviated by a long range weather forecast for a period of windier conditions which would keep us from rounding Cape Caution. While not having a rigid schedule we weren’t willing to risk a prolonged delay to our journey south. Others had similar concerns as there were more than a dozen pleasure craft transiting Cape Caution along with us.
From here we’ll head into the Broughton’s for a few days before transiting the constrictions south of Johnstone Strait.
Getting a good action shot of our boat in a remote location can be difficult unless you’re as fortunate we were to have two kind people share their photos with us.
The first photo was taken by Deb from Anacortes who was on the Glacier Bay tour boat Baranof Wind entering Johns Hopkins Inlet as we entered. Deb was good enough to hunt me down on the internet and share her photo with me.
The second photo was taken by Marge as we entered Windfall Harbor. Marge and husband Jerry had been cruising SE Alaska on their vessel Dream Catcher and we had arranged to meet them in Windfall Harbor.
Breaking out of this narcissistic trend, the last photo is of a starfish wrapped around the bait and hook at the end of Marcia’s line she dropped to attract a halibut. After Marcia pulled the starfish out of the water and it slowly unwrapped itself and dropped away.
After a leisurely week of bicycling and milk shakes in Juneau (see Juneau 2018) our friends Debbie & John joined us on July 7 for 3-weeks of cruising. We’ve known Debbie & John for about 30 years and have done climbing, kayaking and cross-country ski trips with them. We felt like we could be confined in a boat together for 3-weeks and still be friends at the end.
After a major provisioning in Juneau with stops at Costco, Fred Meyers and Safeway, we left for Glacier Bay on July 9, spending our first night anchored in Bartlett Cove. The next day we rode the building afternoon flood current through Sitakaday Narrows and visited South Marble Island in the late afternoon. The winds were calm and the seas flat so we were able to drift with the engine off as two whales worked along the shore of the island feeding. Throw in the sea lions and the tufted puffins and it was quite an introduction to Glacier Bay.
Since John enjoys fishing as much as Marcia, we built in a few opportunities to drop the hook in search for a halibut. Fortunately for Deb & I, halibut fishing usually involves slowly drifting with the engine off or sitting over mound with a deep anchor, both pretty pleasant when in Glacier Bay.
Similar to our 2018 visit to the head of Glacier Bay, the ice in the water was quite thin and sporadic. Not only can you travel Tarr Inlet with only minor dodging of floating ice but we felt comfortable in anchoring the night about 1-1/2 miles from the snout of the Margerie Glacier. John & I even snagged a couple of ice chunks floating by the anchored boat for ice in the evening beverages.
The next day we made another pass by the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers before heading into the Johns Hopkins Inlet. The inlet is closed to motorized vessels until July 1 to provide harbor seals who birth on the ice the time to raise their pups undisturbed by the noisy human traffic. Again, the ice was quite thin and we got closer to the glacier’s front than we have previously. What ultimately stopped us was not the ice but a belt of ice with seals and pups. We felt there was no way for us to transit further without getting to close to the seals. A conservative count of the seals on the ice was about 200.
While heading to our evening anchorage, we traveled past Gloomy Knob. We had seen some mountain goats high on the ridge the day before but on our return trip the goats dropped down much closer to the water and were easily viewable.
After a couple more nights anchored out, we headed into Bartlett Cove for a hike along the Bartlett River and evening visit to the Tlingit Tribal House for a program. We heard a fascinating talk by a Tlingit clan member explaining the relations between the Tlingits whose traditional home included Glacier Bay and the National Park Service. He also brought some traditional Northwest native carved halibut hooks which are both functional and beautiful.
From Glacier Bay we headed down Chatham Strait and tried some salmon fishing. The pink salmon (aka, humpies) were running strong and frequently caught and returned but only one silver (aka, coho) was caught (and not returned).
While the whale viewing had been excellent, we had not seen many bears. So we headed to the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area on Admiralty Island. We also arranged to meet our former neighbors from West Seattle who were cruising SE Alaska on their own vessel. While we saw about five bears, it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as our 2017 visit that included 16 different bears. The Pack Creek stream flow was way down and the fish hadn’t really started running upstream yet.
Before heading into Petersburg and Deb & John departing home, we tried for halibut around Pybus Bay. Despite pesky bottom fish stealing the bait off their hooks, both John & Marcia managed to hook halibuts on different days.
Debbie & John departed Petersburg on July 28 and we left the following day working our way south to Ketchikan (where this is being written). From here we’ll cross Dixon Entrance, clear immigration in Prince Rupert and work our way south, fishing at a few sites along the way. Before returning to our homeport in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, we have an appointment in Port Townsend for our regular maintenance and a few upgrades.
With a forecast for 4 foot seas on the outside waters, we departed Sitka on Friday, June 21 to fish near Cape Edgecumbe. Marcia had heard that it was the current “hot” area. The several dozen boats, about half of which were guide fishing boats, certainly confirmed that a lot of locals thought it was the place to be. Sadly, the salmon did not think it so “hot” and had gone elsewhere.
After a night in the cove outside the entrance to De Groff Bay, the next morning we tried Dog Point for the early bite, but nobody bit. We were “oh for four” with our Sitka fishing efforts so we decided to head back to Chatham Strait which had proved productive a week earlier.
We retraced the previous steps we took to Sitka, this time substituting Ell Cove for Takatz Bay, before we reached the fishing area in Chatham Strait on Monday, June 24. After about an hour of trolling, Marcia had a hit on her line and reeled in a 32-inch, 15-pound chinook salmon.
The Alaska annual non-resident limit for chinook salmon is three fish if caught before July 1 but only one if caught after. Marcia figured she had six more days to get that last fish and was determined to try.
After anchoring the night in Gut Bay, we went back out into Chatham early the next morning. The weather pattern had changed and a blocking ridge in the Gulf of Alaska brought an end to the rain that we had seen earlier. Unfortunately, better weather often means higher winds on inside waters. The winds can either be afternoon sea breezes driven by warm land and cool waters or the prevailing northerlies of building high pressure. In any event, the forecast for Chatham Strait was now 15 knot winds and 3-foot seas. Where we were fishing it was a steady 15-20 knots with short choppy seas because the flood current was opposing the wind. After about 2 hours of fishing with no action, we called it.
We tried again the next day but the winds and seas were the same or a little bit worse so we decided to head into Fredrick Sound looking for quieter conditions and perhaps a halibut. While we found light winds and calmer seas, after fishing two locations we had no halibut to show for the effort.
With Marcia’s chinook salmon clock running out, we headed back into Chatham on Friday, June 28 and anchored the night in Security Bay on Kuiu Island. A half-hour after we dropped the anchor, the 5-10 NW winds in the anchorage clocked around to 10-15 SE winds and stayed there the entire night.
The next morning, we headed out hoping for the best but by the time we reached Kingsmill Point on Kuiu Island the 15-20 S winds convinced us that it wasn’t safe for us to fish. Even if we were lucky enough to hook a fish we couldn’t safely land it as it requires standing on the swim step to net the fish.
With two king salmon in the freezer, we changed our plans and headed up Chatham aiming for Juneau. After stops in Ell Cove and Funter Bay we arrived in Juneau on July 1.
Last year we had an extended stay in Juneau necessitated by waiting for a furnace part to be repaired. We ended up having a wonderful time. We’ve decided to repeat that this year voluntarily. Our guests, Debbie & John Wick, arrive on Sunday July 7. We plan on departing Tuesday, July 9. We’ll do a week in Glacier Bay, do some more fishing in Chatham and Fredrick Sound, visit the Pack Creek Bear Observatory and end their visit at Petersburg on Saturday, July 27.
The last couple of years, it seems like the weather during our time in SE Alaska has been extraordinarily nice bordering on record setting. The recent stretch of weather during our travel from Ketchikan to Sitka has restored my sense of normalcy to the world.
After we arrived in Ketchikan on June 4, we decided to do a partial loop around Revillagigedo Island and hit some of our favorite anchorages along the way. We departed on June 6 and stayed at Yes Bay, Fitzgibbon Cove, Walker Cove and Klu Bay before returning to Ketchikan on June 10. We did some crabbing and prawning along the way, enough for some meals with more to go in the freezer for later.
We raced back to Ketchikan a day earlier than planned to beat a strong couple of fronts passing over SE Alaska (I read the dreaded word “atmospheric river” in one of the forecast discussions put out by the Juneau weather office). We were glad the slip we were assigned in the Bar Harbor marina was next to a purse seiner fishing boat whose heft protected us from 25 knot winds blowing across the channel,Tongass Narrows, running in front of the harbor. We were In the section that only had a floating breakwater for protection and not “real” rock breakwater barrier.
After about 36 hours of stiff winds, they relented and we were able to start the next leg of our trip towards Sitka on June 12. To cut a day or so off the journey, we took the most direct route through Keku Strait/Rocky Pass. Our first night out of Ketchikan was in bight outside of Red Bay on the north side of Prince of Wales Island and the second night was at an anchorage about a mile WNW of Honey Dew Cove on Kuiu Island bordering Frederick Sound.
Our destination for June 14 was Gut Bay but Marcia wanted to fish the mid-day bite in Chatham Strait along the east shore of Baranof Island. Her instincts were good and after about an hour of trolling, she hooked and landed a beautiful 25-pound Chinook salmon. To say she was overjoyed was an understatement.
The next day, we tried to see if “lightning would strike the same place” but to no avail and we moved on to lovely Takatz Bay. Shortly after we anchored, rain began in earnest. The way the clouds threaded their way through trees and past ridges was reminiscent of our time in Misty Fiords during rain.
Fortunately, the heavy rains were not accompanied by high winds and Chatham and Peril Straits were not uncomfortable when we headed to Douglas Bay in Hoonah Sound. The next day, June 17, we ran Canoe Pass next to Sergius Narrows, fished the north end of Kruzof Island outside of Kalinin Bay then headed to the cove outside the entrance to DeGroff Bay for the night (and more rain).
On June 18th, the winds and waves in Sitka Sound convinced us that fishing Viskari Rocks was not a good idea, so we took the protected water route through Sitka Harbor and the islands to the SW over to Biorka Island where we again fished unsuccessfully. We anchored the night in Samsing Harbor just a few miles south of Sitka.
Despite the leisurely start that morning, we were tied off in Sitka by 10 AM. We’ll spend a couple of nights here before heading out on our slow journey to Juneau…
After our return from England on May 2, we quickly turned our attention to getting ready for our cruise (the ninth, Yikes!) to Alaska. Once again, an astounding amount of stuff found its way from grocery shelves to our lockers.
A predawn start on May 15 allowed us to maximize the benefit of currents and arrive at Reid Harbor on Stuart Island mid-afternoon. The next day we went to Port Sidney where we cleared customs, ran an errand in Victoria and did our Canadian provisioning of fruits and vegetables we aren’t permitted to bring across the border.
The next day we motored over to Tod Inlet then dinghied to the boater’s entrance for Butchart Gardens. They were lovely as always and we enjoyed a high tea meal at the restaurant (they should provide more clotted cream with the scones, IMHO). It was early enough that we decided to pull anchor and spend the night at Montague Harbor to better position ourselves for slack water at Dodd Narrows the next day.
The trip up to Port McNeill went smoothly with generally smooth waters (Lasquiti Island, Gowlland Harbour and Port Harvey). While at Port McNeill, we took part of a day to visit the U’mista Museum in Alert Bay.
Rather than stay in Port McNeill while waiting for suitable weather to round Cape Caution, we headed into the Broughtons for a couple of nights (Waddington and Turnbull) then positioned in Blunden Harbor. Conditions were pretty good around Cape Caution and we ended up not putting the stabilizers in the water (but the poles were out and the stabilizers were ready to be dropped overboard).
Unlike in past years, we decided to try our luck with fishing in BC on the way up rather than race through. We did pretty well with prawns in Fish Egg Inlet but struck out with salmon fishing in Hakai Pass. After three night’s in the Fitz Hugh Sound area (Joe’s Bay, Lewall Inlet and Pruth Bay) we decided to keep heading north. Fishing attempts were made in Laredo Channel and Otter Channel but no luck.
The next area we tried was in Chatham Sound west of Prince Rupert. On the final troll through the area and minutes before we were going to call it quits, Marcia felt the tug on the pole and reeled in a lovely chinook salmon. Within a few minutes of bringing the fish on board, a Canadian Fisheries patrol boat came by and inspected our fishing licenses. I think they were impressed with the efficiency Marcia presented them with the just caught salmon already recorded. The winds and seas were calm so we drifted in the channel and rain while Marcia cleaned and fileted the fish.
We tried for a repeat success in the same area the next morning but to no avail. We headed north and with the permission of the CBP we crossed border to spend the night in Foggy Bay before arriving and officially clearing in Ketchikan the next morning, June 4.
We’re going to do a short trip around Revillagigedo Island (the island on which Ketchikan is located) then return to Ketchikan for a day or so. After that we’ll start heading towards Sitka.
Our normal process for the Spring is to leave Arizona when it starts getting hot (>80° by my wimpy PNW standards), return to the boat, take care of chores and start north. We are doing something different this year by squeezing in some foreign travel during April between our return to the boat and summer cruise.
Rather than distract from the cruising nature of the MVAlpenglow blog-site, I’ll be doing posts about our April trip on OldTripsRemembered blog-site. We return on May 2 then putting our efforts towards readying ourselves and the boat towards a May 15 departure.
At the end of the 2018 cruising season we could see that it was Maggie’s last voyage. The chronic kidney failure that claimed her sister, Annie, two years earlier was taking its toll on Maggie. She ate specialized prescription cat food and was medicated with an appetite stimulant, anti-nausea and Calcitriol, but her weight loss continued.
In recent weeks the weight loss increased. She had lost over 20% of her weight since we arrived in early November. She became not much more than fur, skin and bones. Her gait was wobbly and her jumps to laps or chairs uncertain. Rather than have her suffer any further, we decided today would be her final visit to the veterinary office.
Both Maggie and and Annie joined us in 2002, adopted through Purrfect Pals. Maggie (short Magellan) was always more adventurous than her sister. She was the kitty who would sneak into any “forbidden” room or area if the opportunity presented. More than once, we’d search through the house calling her name, getting no response, only to find her tucked quietly in a closed drawer or cabinet than had been opened briefly.
Being an indoor cat, the out of doors, were a particular attraction. Fortunately, she did not have a strong hunting instinct. The few times we took her outside, she was content to find a bit of greenery she could munch on. We grew many containers of cat grass which she thoroughly enjoyed (often to excess based on the number grassy “urps” we’d find afterwards).
She was first introduced to boating in 2006 on our first boat. Since then, she has traveled with us on virtually every boating trip longer than a few days. While initially fearful of the loud noise of the “monster” in the engine room, later that sound would signal her to head to the pilot house anticipating the lap that would appear for her at the helm chair.
Even on our drives to/from Arizona, she became a good traveler. While she had a large enclosed “den” in the van, most of the time she rode shotgun style, curled up on the front-seat center console. She was comfortable enough with car travel to use the litter box while we drove. Even the motel rooms became an opportunity to find a new hiding spot.
The 2019 cruise will be a quieter and lonelier voyage without our ship’s cats.