North to Alaska !
Three Southern California skippers -- all seasoned boaters with capable cruising powerboats -- are embarking on the Adventure of a Lifetime... we're cruising our boats this May 'on their own bottoms' from Channel Islands Harbor in Ventura County, Southern California, to Alaska! We'll spend the summer in the Pacific Northwest and return home in the fall...
These web pages are intended to be a Log of our Adventure... to keep our friends and relatives informed of our progress and entertained by our experiences; these pages will be updated and added to as we continue along this journey. Some of the information will be of more interest to our boating friends, but we're not going to make it too technical; most of the pages will consist of narratives and photos we take along the way... we hope you enjoy them!
Jim & Marge Curley
Ron & Carol Peterson
Bill & Carolyn Chowanec
Our planned route is up the West Coast of the United States ("outside") past California, Oregon, and Washington, then east at Cape Flattery through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (at the northern edge of the state of Washington) to the vicinity of the Puget Sound. We'll be helped by friends as crews aboard each boat, about four or five to each boat. The three boats making this passage in a 'convoy' are Kodiak (a 65 Grand Banks Aleutian), Gaelforce (a 55 Fleming), and Loose Wire (a 55 Tollycraft); we will attempt to remain within visual range, or at least within VHF range, of each other.
All three boats have the ability to cruise at 14 kts or faster but the plan is to operate at about 9kts. This should yield an average for the trip of 7-8kts, since we're going 'uphill', into the prevailing current, winds, and seas. We plan to keep moving as weather conditions permit. It is conceivable that the entire trip can be done in 5-6 days, although 10-14 will more likely be the case. The goal is to have an enjoyable passage, albeit at as brisk a pace as weather allows… if we get good weather windows, we’ll press on, but if the weather shuts down, we’ll just have to wait it out in the nearest port. We’re not going to try to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with Mother Nature!
65 Grand Banks Aleutian Kodiak
Ron Peterson (skipper) has made the trip to the
Pacific Northwest numerous times in several of his previous boats; Ron is a seasoned Alaska veteran and holds a USCG 100-Ton Master's License.
55 Tollycraft Loose Wire
Bill Chowanec (skipper) shipped his boat Loose Wire to BC last year, spent the entire summer cruising there, and then brought her home down the coast on her own bottom; Bill is a well-seasoned cruiser.
55' Fleming Gaelforce
Jim Curley (skipper) brought his boat Gaelforce down the Intracoastal Waterway from Maryland to Florida, and has been aboard Loose Wire in the Pacific Northwest and to San Francisco. An experienced boater, he has crewed on Kodiak to Cabo, and also holds a USCG 100-Ton Master's License.
We intend to leave on May 5, late in the day; that date was chosen because May 9th is a full moon. Since we intend to run through the night several times -- weather permitting -- the moonlight will be helpful. All the crew are welcome (and encouraged) to spend the night of May 4th aboard, so that they can familiarize themselves with the boat and its systems. Regarding the passage, present plans are to have 2-man, 2-hour rotating shifts, with each crewman spending an hour at the helm and the second crewman being his ‘assistant’ (keeping him awake, getting coffee, etc.); at the end of the hour, the helmsman would be relieved and hit the sack, the ‘assistant’ would become the helmsman for an hour, and a new crewman would be awakened to become the new ‘assistant’. Based on crew preferences, this might get slightly modified, but this format has worked well on previous passages.
Upon passing through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Gaelforce and Loose Wire will be putting into Port Townsend, where Carolyn Chowanec and Marge Curley will catch up with us; they're driving up with our dog (Yankee, our Golden Retriever) and possibly one other passenger. Plans are to notify the ladies about a couple of days before our arrival, so that they reach Port Townsend a couple of days after the boat (mid-late May?), giving the crew a chance to relax, kick back, and enjoy the area before the ladies arrive. Port Townsend is a quaint place; populated by a lot of former hippies, there are great shops and restaurants, and the marina is a short walk to town. Kodiak has indicated that at this point he may continue on to Vancouver and discharge his crew there.
Port Townsend has a bus service to SeaTac airport for those crew members who are planning on taking a flight home. For info on the bus, see http://www.olympicpeninsula.com/gettingaround/seatac.html. Marge and Carolyn's rental car will be dropped at SeaTac, so one of the crew who is flying out of SeaTac could return that car, but that should be decided soon so that the return driver is listed on the rental agreement. The other option is for a couple of crew members to stay aboard and fly out of Vancouver where we will be several days later. Southwest flies out of SeaTac, making scheduling into Burbank or LAX easy.
The intention of the three boats, after the crew departs, is to press on to our northernmost destination -- at present that’s Glacier Bay, AK – and then return southward at a far more leisurely pace, taking the rest of the summer to enjoy the wonders of the Inland Passage. It will take several weeks to cover the sizeable distance from the top of Vancouver Island to Glacier Bay;Gaelforce is weighing the merits of spending that time instead in the British Columbia region of the Inland Passage (between the top of Vancouver Island and the San Juans, including Desolation Sound, the Broughtons, and the Canadian Gulf Islands). In reality, that decision may be made ‘real-time’, when we reach Queen Charlotte Sound!
We all also hope that the crew members (and wives) will each be able to join us later, at some point along our route during the summer, to spend at least a few days or more enjoying the Inland Passage with us. As you can imagine, our summer schedule is rather ‘fluid’ at this point and will be constantly adjusted, and visiting guests may have to travel at a few days or a week’s notice, but there will also be some areas (such as around the city of Vancouver) where we may spend some considerable time. We all plan to depart the Pacific Northwest on Labor Day and return home down the coast in a leisurely fashion; the ride home -- down wind and down sea -- should be enjoyable, and will hopefully allow us time to 'linger' in a few nice ports!
At present we're primarily involved in the 'preparation and provisioning' stage (early February), doing planned maintenance items, laying in spare parts (filters, drive belts, etc.), and bringing food provisions aboard. Kodiak is the expert on this, Loose Wire has 'been there' and Gaelforce is the Alaska neophyte!
Jim and Bill have been preparing their boats by making minor overdue repairs and laying in supplies of spare parts; as Kodiak is a new boat, there is not a lot for Ron to do in the way of vessel preparation, other than stocking spares; as preparation for the trip, he and Carol are lying in the sun in Barra Navidad, Mexico, but will soon return to California to join us for our May departure.
Some typical vessel prep tasks include having liferafts re-certified, changing oil in the main engines and generators, changing fuel and oil filters, replacing windshield wiper blades (minor, but the rain/drizzle could be significant), and making minor repairs about the boats. We are stocking sufficient spare filters to make several fuel filter changes, and oil (and filters) for at least a couple of oil changes. We have bought larger medical 'first aid' kits, since we will often be hours or more from emergency medical treatment. Our libraries of charts and guides is expanding rapidly, and we are purchasing numerous paper charts and chartbooks as back-ups to our electronic navigation systems; we've installed digital charts into our nav systems for the areas from Anchorage, Alaska, to the Mexican border! We have each opened up our vessel insurance coverage areas; typical expanded yacht insurance coverage areas extend to 51 degrees North latitude (the top of Vancouver Island), but we have had our insurance carriers extend this to 61 degrees North (Glacier Bay); one of the insurance carriers did this for no increase in premium, but the deductible changes to 2% of face value while between 51 North and 61 North, reverting back to 1% when we return below 51 degrees North. We have spare main anchors/rodes; also, our stern anchor gear is being checked and supplemented, since we may be doing quite a bit of stern anchoring, although often the stern will just be tied off to a handy tree ashore!
~~~~~~THE ROUTE NORTH~~~~~~
Bill, Ron and I met last week (March 7th) to rough-out our steaming plan for the journey north. After much discussion (over several glasses of wine!) and a couple of further iterations, we tentatively arrived at the following:
This Plan will cover the 1045 miles from Channel Islands, California, to Port Townsend, Washington, in eight days (as always, weather permitting) with 120 hours of steaming, for an average speed of 8.7 knots. We realize that we may have to adjust our Plan along the way depending on wind, seas, etc., but we have considered alternate plans. For example, if we lose time heading to Eureka, we may stop short of Eureka and spend a night in Brookings, Oregon; other similar adjustments may be made along the way.
Below are some of the Internet Links we utilized while planning this voyage...
(Be sure to check out the last link on this list... it's amazing!)
NOAA Home Site:
NOAA Weather Forecaster:
Weather Underground Interactive Map:
The Weather Channel:
NOAA National Data Buoy Center:
Sailflow Weather Site:
Medical Assistance On-line:
Maritime Medical Access:
BC Marine Parks:
And for all the Internet geeks, the Mother of All Maritime Links (check this out, it's incredible!):
The lists below constitute the crews aboard the three boats for the trip north, from Channel Islands Harbor to Port Townsend, Washington, which provides easy access to SeaTac Airport for travel home by the crew members. Several crew members will, however, be staying aboard until Vancouver, BC, to fly out of that city.
Most of the crew members are experienced boaters, many having made this same trip before. The prime prerequisite for being aboard for this northbound leg was common sense, reliability, some experience with offshore passagemaking, and compatibility with other crew members. Minor 'tweaking' of these Crew Lists will possibly occur prior to the departure date, but at this point all of listed crew members have committed to the trip.
Consolidated Crew List
Ron Peterson - (AKA "Captain Pedro") - USCG 100 ton Master; five times veteran of this passage; age 64
Bill Leistner - USCG 100 ton Master; four times this passage with me; retired; from South Carolina; age 57
Marvin Filik - Retired diesel mechanic; Cat specialist; Canadian; three passages with me; age 57
Phil Glass - Retired real estate developer; lives across from me; four passages with me; sailboater (but we won't hold that against him!); age 67
Joe Van Guse - Edward Jones stockbroker; classic boat rebuilder; three passages with me; Int'l Falls, Minn.; age 47
Gary Ralston - Retired from IBM; Boulder,Co.; charter captain in Pacific N.W.; 4 passages with me; age 66
Bill Chowanec – Captain, brilliant boater and world’s nicest guy (according to Bill); M: 818.426.3200, H: 818.597.8836
Tom Chowanec - Girl magnet, reasonable cook, M: 818.419.4330, H: 805.530.1134
Bob Babcock – Jokester and highly experienced boater, retired Commander, USCG Reserve; M: 559.287.4000, H: 559.732.4506
Ted Willoughby – Friend and roommate of Tom Chowanec, terrific young man, race truck mechanic (Baja 1000); M: 818.216.7774, H: 805.530.1134, email@example.com
Virgil Landry - Retired American Airlines captain; highly experienced sailor; age 80 (but he hides it well!)
Jim Curley: retired engineer; USCG 100-Ton Master; experienced passagemaker (but not this route); age 68 – (H) 805.482.5806; (C) 805.796.1404, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Baskerville: retired F-4/F-14 Naval Flight Officer (NFO), veteran of a Channel Islands to Sequim WA passage aboard a 40 Nordhavn; age 67 – (H) 805.484.9604, email@example.com
Bob Dalby: USCG 100-ton Master; boat broker in Gig Harbor WA; veteran of this coastal passage (numerous times); age 63 – (C) 253.219.8980, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dick Wisenburg: retired WaMu executive; former USN submariner; Owner of a 48' Angel P/H powerboat; Gig Harbor resident; age 68; 253.851.9610; email@example.com
During the final week before departure, all three boats are involved in last-minute preparations for the trip. Kodiak has returned from months in Mexico, and has completed some "warranty work"; she had a drive shaft 'trued up' and had her water-line paint raised several inches (too much wine aboard, Ron!). Loose Wire had a canvas canopy fabricated for the cockpit (Bill's expecting a lot of sunshine in the PNW) and spent a few hours in the harbor turning basin swinging the compass. Gaelforce replaced a plumbing system accumulator and spent many frustrating hours trying to get the engine room blowers to respond to the Fireboy Shutdown System, with no success... they'll finally be made to operate independent of the Fireboy System (just like the 'old days'!) to make the trip, and will be further investigated during 'down time' up north.
All three boats have brought enough provisions aboard to out-do Noah! Gaelforce and Loose Wire will have their 'boat dogs' with them during the summer, and we had to make sure that the dogs had enough of their favorite kibble so that their culinary preferences will be satisfied... can't upset their sensitive tummies, you know!
We're naturally keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts, and discussing contracting with a 'weather router' to supplement our somewhat tenuous meteorological skills. At 4 days out, the forecast is not great (possibly breezy and damp). Our plan is to leave on the scheduled evening and go at least as far as Coho Anchorage (just under Point Conception) and assess going around the Point at daybreak. If the weather doesn't cooperate, we'll make the trip in short bursts, during daylight hours, and relax in slips or at anchor each evening.
Keeping our fingers crossed and offering our supplications to the Weather Gods...
~~~~~~ BON VOYAGE! ~~~~~~
LAT: 34 10.765 N
LON: 119 13.321 W
On the evening of the fleet's planned departure, we held a casual dinner party at the Peterson's home in Channel Islands Harbor, to enable the members of the three boats, crews to get together and meet each other; for most of us, this was the first time we met each other. The major topic of discussion was whether we would be leaving at 10 PM that evening, as planned. The weather was not cooperating... nasty seas and strong winds were predicted, but we took hope in the fact that wind had calmed every evening during the previous week, so we decided to go, with a 'bailot' option of Santa Barbara. As previously decided, we were going to proceed even if the weather was only barely tolerable and not wait for it to be really comfortable; we would not go if it was unsafe, but if we waited for perfect days, it could take us forever to get to the Northwest! So we decided to go!
~~~~~~ POINT CONCEPTION ~~~~~~
LAT: 34 26.450 N
LON: 120 27.503 W
The weather was not fully cooperating … small craft warnings were predicted, and threatening to escalate to gale warnings. Several of the crew members had schedule commitments which did not allow them to sit around indefinitely, waiting for the ideal weather forecast; after assessing the on-site and down-range weather, the decision was made to take off anyway, knowing full well that it was going to be a bumpy ride! The first leg of the journey was scheduled to take us to Coho Anchorage, beneath the protection of Point Conception, the first of several gnarly corners along the route. The Points along the California coast can be very difficult, since their winds achieve high velocity while rounding them due to the venturi effect. Enroute to Conception, the seas and wind grew tougher and tougher; when we came abreast of Santa Barbara, the decision was made at 1 AM to divert into there to get out of the weather and into a slip until daybreak.
The next morning, with the seas and wind somewhat abated, we set out for Cojo Anchorage. When we arrived, Kodiak was first in and anchored; the skipper told Gaelforce and Loose Wire that the anchorage was not comfortable, so the decision was made to continue on after Kodiak weighed anchor. We rounded the infamous Point Conception and Point Arguello without incident and spent the night on a mooring can at Port San Luis (5/6), near San Luis Obispo; San Luis is a mooring field, well-protected from the prevailing north/northwesterly winds we were experiencing, but open to weather from the south. We came in late at night and left before dawn, but called the Harbor Patrol to provide them with our personal information so that they could bill us for the night’s stay (which they never did).
The seas are starting to kick up behind Gaelforce... Getting a little 'sloppy'
Kodiak taking some nasty weather
~~~~~~ SAN SIMEON & MONTEREY BAY ~~~~~~
LAT: 36 36.237 N
LON: 121 53.466 W
Leaving Port San Luis the next day, we again encountered winds reaching 30 knots and 6’-8’ seas. Plowing thru this weather, we quickly learned that our three boats are very capable passage-making vessels; although the seas and wind were very ‘challenging’ to the crews, the boats handled them very well, and our confidence in them was reinforced numerous times during the coming days. We had been told that the anchorage below Hearst Castle was quite comfortable on most northwest conditions, so we decided to stop there for a look-see; it indeed was idyllic, calm and inviting,
Hearst Castle atop the hill above San Simeon Bay Baskerville checking out the anchorage
We finally – after about 15 hours -- reached the shelter of Monterey Bay, where we spent the night, after surfing into the poorly marked and confusing marina on huge following seas. When you enter a marina at night, it is imperative that you pick out the red and green channel and jetty markers and buoys and separate them from the background clutter, to find your way in the right direction; by now, 12’ waves and 35 knot winds were becoming routine, but when you add darkness and confusing light arrangements into the mix, nothing is more nerve-wracking!
We finally found the marina, and had a cocktail party with the two other boats and hot dogs for dinner to celebrate our victory!
~~~~~~ HALF MOON BAY ~~~~~~
LAT: 37 30.092 N
LON: 122 28.962 W
“Half Moon Bay”… the name itself conjures up romantic island images, but we didn’t dally long enough to fully enjoy the area. We met with the other two boat crews to fine-tune our schedule for the next few days. Kodiak had two crew members from Canada who needed to be in Vancouver by the 15th to catch a plane for home, and Loose Wire needed to drop off two of their crew along the route by the 13th to attend a wedding… aside from those crewmembers, everyone else was ‘in for the duration’. We revised the schedule to make up for the slight delays we had experienced so far, to accommodate these crewmembers, and resumed the trip on the next morning; as was the case with most of our daily departures, we left at dawn to get the best weather of the day. Unfortunately, up to this point (and beyond) the ‘best’ weather consisted of 30-35 knot winds and steep 12-15 foot seas! When we left the next morning and crossed in front of the Golden Gate at San Francisco Bay, after dodging several large container ships we again encountered these steep 15-20' seas while rounding Point Reyes. Several miles above the Point, the seas gradually calmed down, which was a welcome relief.
Rough seas behind Gaelforce Freighter traffic off San Francisco Bay
~~~~~~ BODEGA BAY ~~~~~~
LAT: 38 19.825 N
LON: 123 03.445 W
To reach the marina at Bodega Bay, we traveled down a long, well-marked channel for about two miles, taking care not to stray outside the markers. On the way in, we were ‘checked-out’ by a huge flock of ravens… probably the great–grandchildren of stunt extras from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”, which was filmed here. After fueling and navigating a short distance to our assigned slips in a stiff breeze, we enjoyed a bowl of delicious local clam chowder (“the Best in Bodega Bay” according to the sign!) that evening at the clam shack at the foot of the pier. When we left the harbor the next morning, we noted that the acres and acres of apparently navigable harbor directly outside the channel were actually shallow clam-beds being worked by local diggers standing in one or two feet of water… good thing that we hadn’t strayed from the channel, and we saw one large sailboat which wasn’t quite so lucky, hard aground and heeled over!
We refueled in Bodega Bay, and during this operation, Dick, one of our crew on Gaelforce, took a nasty fall onto his knee on the fuel dock. He was in quite a bit of pain for days afterward, but ‘toughed it out’ for the remainder of the trip.
Upon leaving Bodega Bay, we headed for Fort Bragg, but were told that the tiny harbor could not accommodate our three big boats, so we opted to proceed on to Eureka. After traveling about 10 miles, Loose Wire ran over a floating net or crab-pot line, causing a severe vibration in its drive shaft. This made it necessary for Loose Wire to divert back to Fort Bragg, where the skipper had a diver cut the line free of the shaft; seeing no damage to the running gear, the boat continued on the next morning towards Newport, Oregon, while the other two boats did a 345-mile overnight passage to Coos Bay, Oregon, bypassing our original destination of Eureka because the weather was tolerable, and we had long ago learned to take advantage of decent conditions while we had the opportunity. The indomitable trio reunited (two days later) in Newport, Oregon.
~~~~~~ COOS BAY ~~~~~~
(5/10 - 5/11)
LAT: 43 20.947 N
LON: 124 19.440 W
Cape Mendocino has the reputation of being the “Cape Horn of Northern California”, a passage which can be very dangerous; as we approached the Cape, the seas were a little sloppy, but improved quite a bit after we rounded it... so much for ‘reputations’! The entrance to Coos Bay (Charleston Marina) is very tricky, and particularly at night, which was when we entered; after navigating a slow bend to port, a hard starboard turn heads the boat towards the marina, but don’t stray from the very narrow channel… one of our captains found that his boat (Kodiak), with a five-foot, six-inch draft, didn’t handle too well in a shoal area with a four-foot depth, and immediately warned Gaelforce about the shallow depth; but – no harm, no foul – he quickly backed off and proceeded to the marina, muttering something about the boat’s waterline being ‘miscalculated by the manufacturer’.
Local color: while settling their slip fee charges with the Dockmaster’s Office, two members of our contingent were greeted by a young lady at the desk who was drop-dead gorgeous! She was a refreshing sight in this out-of-the-way harbor. After some super-sophisticated suave banter about our destination and the availability of passenger space aboard the vessel, they returned to the boat with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads!
~~~~~~ NEWPORT ~~~~~~
(5/12 – 5/13)
LAT: 44 37.254 n
LON: 124 03.087 W
Our next destination, Newport Harbor (Yaquina Bay), was interesting. To enter the harbor, you must pass over a significant bar, which can make the entrance quite hazardous. After listening to the VHF for conditions at the bar, we called the Coast Guard at Yaquina Bay for permission to enter, which they granted, after asking the number of ‘souls’ aboard and advising us to don our life jackets (intimidating, huh?). You have to approach the bar straight-on from a buoy a mile or two out of the entrance, acquire the range which leads you down the centerline between the two jetties, and be ready to apply power to keep headway and prevent broaching. After a few minor scares, all three boats safely crossed the bar and proceeded to Yaquina Marina.
Approaching the Newport Harbor Bar
The crew is ready to 'run the bar'!
Approaching the breakwater
Inside the breakwater, things start to get 'gnarly'!
Inside, a great view of the famous Newport Bridge
Celebrating their successful first run 'across the Bar'!
We all departed the following morning, after fueling, and headed out across the bar again towards Cape Flattery at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca; the Strait, at the top of Washington state, about 75 miles long and 10 miles wide, leads eastward to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. About two hours out we began receiving weather reports which indicated another gale was bearing down on us from the west. After much discussion among the skippers and crew, we decided to consult with the experts and called Don Anderson in Oxnard. Don is a meteorologist who provides weather advice to cruisers such as us, but primarily in Mexico and the South Pacific. PCYC members may recall Don; he gave a presentation to PCYC cruisers a year ago about weather. Don immediately knew about the impending gale, and when we told him of our position and intended route, his immediate response was “WHY?”. He was gracious enough to provide us with all the details about the arriving gale system, which we patched into our three VHF radios so that the three skippers could hear it simultaneously; after hearing the details, we decided to turn around and head back to Newport and across the bar again – a very fortunate decision. The weather gradually deteriorated during the day, and the gale crossed over the coastline during the night just as Don had predicted, with 41-knot winds, 13-14 foot seas at 6 second intervals, and rain.
By mid-morning the weather system had dissipated (as Don had also predicted), so we checked hourly with the Coast Guard to determine if they had relaxed restrictions on crossing the bar. The Coast guard monitors bar conditions from a tall tower at the entrance, and also sends one of their motor lifeboats out periodically to check conditions first-hand. Commercial vessels familiar with the bar passage are usually the first ones allowed across the bar, then larger recreational vessels, then smaller vessels. By late morning the Coast Guard allowed large recreational vessels such as us to cross “at the skipper’s discretion”; after refueling we resumed our cruise to the north, heading out again across the bar… apprehensively, but without incident.
~~~~~~ Strait of Juan de Fuca ~~~~~~
(5/14 – 5/15)
Lat: 48 23.410 N
Lon: 124 43.866 W
The final leg of our northbound cruise was a 40-hour overnight run up the coast of Oregon and ending at Anacortes, Washington, in the San Juan Islands. When the three boats left Newport Harbor, Oregon, the gale had left some residual winds and rain, but the weather gradually improved during the day, and we headed on to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, arriving finally at the ‘Hole in the Wall’, at the west entrance to the Strait. “Hole in the Wall” is a rock-strewn quarter-mile-wide gap between the mainland and Tatoosh Island, which has a navigable channel several hundred yards wide; the ‘safe’ passage around Tatoosh adds about a half-hour to the passage, but on a calm day it’s easy to pass between the island and the mainland while being aware of the many rock hazards.
Once inside the Strait, the seas became flat calm, and the final hundred-mile trip to Anacortes Harbor at the eastern end of the Strait was refreshingly peaceful and a welcome change from our previous ten days! We passed by a surfaced submarine midway down the Strait which was being guarded by a Coast Guard cutter,
...and Gaelforce took a ‘strike’ from a floating timber which we estimated to be about 15’ long and 4” x 12” when it appeared in our wake. The strike reminded us that we’d have to be aware of flotsam and jetsam on the waterways for the next several months, as the Pacific Northwest waters are rife with these hazards to navigation; the worst are ‘deadheads’, water-soaked logs which float vertically, mostly submerged, awaiting to take their toll on passing boats’ propellers and hulls! Needless to say, it’s not advisable to travel at night in these waters, and a sharp lookout must be maintained at all times. We suffered no apparent damage from this strike, but it was a sobering reminder!
All in all, though, the trip along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Anacortes, Washington, was --- for a change --- in very calm seas!
~~~~~~ The 'Admirals' arrive in Anacortes ~~~~~~
Lat: 48 30.795 N
Lon: 122 36.373 W
Gaelforce and Loose Wire were to reunite with wives Marge Curley and Carolyn Chowanec in Anacortes. Marge and Carolyn (and Gaelforce’s ‘boat dog’ Yankee) drove for three days from Southern California to join us, stopping in San Francisco to visit Carolyn’s son’s family. Kodiak departed from the group after refueling in Neah Bay, just inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to head for Sidney, BC, allowing two of their crew to take a ferry to Vancouver to catch their plane connections. Carol Peterson was to be picked up by her husband (Kodiak’s skipper) at a relative’s home in Washington state, and the three couples would be rejoining several days later to continue their trip up the Inside Passage.
After arriving in Anacortes, the skipper of Loose Wire had his boat hauled to assess and correct damage from the pot line mishap near Fort Bragg, while Gaelforce remained for several days in Cap Sante Marina. The Cap Sante Marina is comfortable, modern, and very accommodating; as a bonus, there was a festival underway, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our first few night’s slip fees were complimentary to encourage visiting vessels to attend the festival, which we did… a fitting beginning to our Pacific Northwest Summer Cruise!
Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes
~~~~~~ Sidney, B.C. ~~~~~~
(5/23 - 5/25)
Lat: 48 39.151 N
Lon: 123 23.663 W
On Saturday, May 23, Gaelforce left Anacortes (Cap Sante Harbor, one of the best marinas we have ever been in!) after fueling at $2.00/gallon! We crossed through the San Juan Islands and passed Friday Harbor and Roche Harbors to our final destination for that day of Sidney, B.C. There we rejoined the Petersons on Kodiak who had returned from their family trip in Washington State. The weather was warm enough for Bermuda shorts! The Chowanecs on Loose Wire were finished with their boatyard repairs in Anacortes in the afternoon and arrived in Sidney several hours behind us.
Islets on the way to Sidney, BC, thru the San Juan Islands
Clearing through Canadian Customs was a ‘non-event’… it involved only a phone call from a phone on the Customs Dock, and answering a host of questions. Even though we declared that we were bringing in slightly more alcohol than technically allowed, this was not an issue, and the entire process took only minutes. The three couples got together that evening for dinner at the Beacon Landing restaurant for a delightful meal,
The Captains and Admirals celebrating in Sidney, BC
and the next day the three skippers met to plan our trip to the next destination, Desolation Sound.
Planning the day's route
Before heading across the Straits of Georgia to Desolation Sound, the ladies and Ron took a bus ride out of Sidney to Victoria; the capital city of the province of British Columbia, this beautiful city is famous for its stately government buildings and cosmopolitan atmosphere, the magnificent Empress Hotel, and nearby Butchart Gardens.
A bus trip to Victoria (Parliament House in background)
~~~~~~ Nanaimo ~~~~~~
(5/26 – 5/27)
Lat: 49 10.612 N
Lon: 123 56.407 W
A tricky and intimidating passage, Dodd Narrows -- on the inside route to Nanaimo -- has a tidal rise and fall of more than 17' and the maximum current flow exceeds 9 knots, so the Narrows must be travelled at or near slack tide to minimize the current encountered! Current flow at any time other than slack or flood creats rapids several feet high, and eddies and whirlpools which can make it nearly impossible to control your boat's progress! Our timing and boat speed on the 40+ mile run to Dodd Narrows, about 5 miles south of Nanaimo, was nearly perfect... we arrived about 15 minutes before slack, throttled back, and motored through with no incident, although we were a bit early and had to power up to overcome a several-knot opposing current; a fellow boater in a slow trawler found himself unable to overcome the current and was advised -- quite strongly -- by several other boaters to get out of the other boaters' way, turn around and wait for the tide to turn completely!
We arrived mid-day at the Nanaimo Yacht Club, where we were given reciprocal privileges (with the assistance of Michel), and -- since the weather was like mid-summer -- we decided to spend all day tomorrow here before heading across the Strait of Georgia towards Desolation Sound. The weather has become summer-like, and we're loving it!
Float planes are everywhere in BC and the San Juans
That evening we learned about “WG”, a military test range (similar to the Pacific Missile Test Range off Pt. Mugu) just east of Nanaimo, used by Canadian and U.S. naval forces primarily for submarine and torpedo testing, employing the Strait’s deep waters which often exceed 1500 – 2000 feet in depth! Since the range was to be ‘active’ the next morning and we would be crossing directly through about a dozen miles of it, we had to plan our departure so that we would be out of the range before the testing started at 0800 hours!
~~~~~~ Prideaux Haven, in Desolation Sound ~~~~~~
(5/28 – 5/29)
Lat: 50 08.499 N
Lon: 124 41.103 W
Leaving the Yacht Club dock at 0600 hours, we motored in flat calm seas eastward in some of the smoothest seas we had experienced yet. Even the locals were remarking that they had never seen the Strait so glassy; they didn’t know that we had our ‘Weather Goddess’, Marge, aboard!
Our crossing was smooth and uneventful, except for the large amount of driftwood we passed along the way, and the tugs towing huge log booms or 'rafts'.
By now we had learned to travel ‘single-file’, with the lead boat warning the other two boats about flotsam hazards along the way: the ‘deadheads’ (waterlogged wood, some as big as large telephone poles, which ride vertically just at the water’s surface waiting to take a bite out of a passing boat’s prop or hull!) and pieces of lumber which have ‘escaped’ from one of the numerous log booms or rafts we saw.
After wending our way through the numerous small islands and rocks along the route to Desolation Sound, we finally arrived at the small entrance to a hidden lagoon about 2 PM. The guide books warned about the hidden underwater rocks in the very narrow entrance and advised us to hug the starboard shore; unfortunately Gaelforce, the lead boat at this point, hugged the shore a bit too tightly and grazed a rock outcropping which did some damage to her starboard stabilizer fin. After assessing the situation both outside the hull and in the engine room, we decided that we would have to wait until we were able to haul her out to fully ascertain the damage, and anchored for the evening in this idyllic, peaceful setting, surrounded by soaring snow-capped mountain peaks and thickly-forested shoreline – a magnificent setting!
Our first glimpse of snow (we'll see a lot more soon!)
The calm lagoon in Prideaux Haven
Kodiak, Gaelforce & Loose Wire at anchor in Prideaux Haven
At anchor for the evening
The weather was so perfect (80 degrees with no wind!) that Marge and Carolyn went kayaking through the adjacent Melanie and Laura Coves. There were gazillions of small (1" to 5") jellyfish seen the previous evening but only a few were in evidence during the day. The three 'captains' each set crab traps... Bill and Jim were both 'skunked' (no crabs), but Ron was 'double-skunked'... not only did he get no crabs, but his trap dissappeared... we speculated that the strong current moved it slightly, and it fell into a deep underwater hole. Oh, well!... we'll just have to try again in a few days!
The evening was spectacular. We had dinner al fresco on the deck of Kodiak, surrounded by the magnificent snow-capped mountains, on a mirror-smooth lagoon, with the temperature in the high 70s... it doesn't get much better than this
~~~~~~ Port Neville ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 29.522 N
Lon: 126 05.229 W
After leaving Desolation Sound, we traveled to Port Neville. Docking and side-tying there on the tiny dock float was interesting due to current and wind conditions, and we were three of only five boats in the ‘harbor’. After securing the boats, we met Lorna, the postmistress, who lived here alone; she was a very independent woman and welcomed visitors. She took us on a tour of her home and grounds, and later she came down to the dock to inform us that a black bear was roaming the grounds around her house; we gathered our cameras and walked up to get an ‘up close and personal’ look at her visitor!. Carolyn Chowanec was unfortunately “under the weather” all day, and missed this exciting event!
The three guys went crabbing that evening, setting our remaining 2 traps. The next morning when they retrieved their traps, the entire catch was one 2” crab! The great white hunters brought this catch back to the boats and perched their quarry on the swimstep; it then escaped by slipping into the bay, but not before a great picture!
Heading to Port Neville
The three boats on the float for the night at Port Neville
~~~~~~ Blind Channel ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 25.334 N
Lon: 125 30.260 W
We are now about halfway up the Inside Passage between the east side of Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. We negotiated safely through several serious rapids -- Yuculta, Gillard, and Dent -- by timing the approach and passage to take maximum advantage of the slack tides and minimum currents; this was no mean feat, as the currents in these rock-strewn rapids can reach 11 knots or higher, making an unplanned transit potentially fatally dangerous! After transiting these rapids, we continued on to spend the night at the small resort harbor of Blind Channel, a quaint bucolic respite after the rapids. The facility consists of a marina with only about ten slips, a small grocery store, fuel dock, and a nice restaurant (which unfortunately was closed as the season has not yet begun!)... our three boats made up half the visitor population of this small facility!
~~~~~~ Echo Bay ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 45.111 N
Lon: 126 29.788 W
This day marks Captain Bill Chowanec’s birthday, and luckily Carolyn is feeling 98% better. On the way to Echo Bay we traveled through Blackfish and Fife Sounds, catching glimpses of several humpback whales along our route; the whales were very easy to spot, as the waters were mirror-smooth… it was if we were the only boats on the planet!
We arrived in Echo Bay and were met by Pierre (the owner and a colorful character with a long flowing beard) and his assistant, Dave. Bill Chowanec wanted to meet Billy Proctor, island legend and author of “Full Moon, Flood Tide”, a famous accounting of life in the Pacific Northwest. In order to reach him we were told it was a 15 minute hike… well, after walking a trail through the woods, across a dilapidated bridge, over hills requiring ropes to help pull us up, and across a meadow, we finally arrived at Billy Proctor’s house and museum. After a nice visit, Billy signed our copies of “Full Moon, Flood Tide” and another book. Our parting gift from him was his invitation to pick bouquets of lilacs for our boats, which we did.
Later that day Marge and Carolyn went kayaking, enjoying the warm summer-like temperatures, and then we all met on board Kodiak for a surprise birthday party for Bill. All in all, it was a great day!
The calm approach to Echo Bay
"Float homes"... They're all on floating docks!
Billy Proctor's barn
The trail to Billy Proctor's place
~~~~~~ Sullivan Bay ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 53.171 N
Lon: 126 49.756 W
Gaelforce and Kodiak arrived in Sullivan Bay and Loose Wire went on to Port McNeil to take care of a battery problem; we all rejoined again a day later in Port Hardy. The temperature is 87 degrees with humidity of 13 %... everyone is talking about the great weather, and we informed them that they had our PCYC ‘weather-goddess’ Marge to thank for it! Sullivan Bay is a unique harbor in that it contains about a dozen homes, all situated on floats; the office, shops, etc., are also all on floats… it is truly a water-oriented community!
Sullivan Bay has floating docks and floating homes!
'Float homes' in Sullivan Bay, literally!
We had a terrific meal in the harbor restaurant (also on a float!), and were treated to a look at a Puget Sound “box crab” which had been caught that day; it weighed about 20 pounds, and looked like one claw would have been a meal. We were told that these are caught by divers, not in crab traps, and that they are very rare!
Marge holds a rare Puget Sound Box Crab (it's alive!)
Marge's new pet!
How far to where?
Carol, Jim & Marge after a great meal (11 PM!)
Sunset in Sullivan Bay (11 PM!)
~~~~~~ Port Hardy ~~~~~~
(6/3 – 6/4)
Lat: 50 42.762 N
Lon: 127 29.338 W
Port Hardy is the epitome of a Northwest fishing community… the harbor is filled with trawlers, purse seiners, long-liners, etc.; it looks like a scene from the ‘Perfect Storm’ or ‘The Most Dangerous Catch’! We spent two nights here ‘enjoying’ the aroma of fishing gear. On the plus side, we were treated to the sight of several huge Bald Eagles roosting on the bushes alongside the dock!
We borrowed the marina’s loaner truck and made a brief provisioning run to the nearby market, and followed this with a nice meal in the local “Quarterdeck” pub. The next day, while the Admirals shopped, we tended to some boat maintenance in preparation for an early departure the next morning; we would be heading out on a long run across Queen Charlotte Sound, the first leg of a week-long trip to Ketchikan, Alaska. We would be stopping at several anchorages along the way; aside from our first day (75 miles), most of the legs would be quite brief (25-30 miles).
Crossing the calm Strait of Georgia
~~~~~~ Namu Harbor ~~~~~~
Lat: 51 51.588 N
Lon: 127 52.151 W
The Pacific Northwest’s Inside Passage can be roughly divided into three separate sections, each about 350 miles long: the area between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, from the San Juan Islands to the Broughton Islands; the area from the top of Vancouver Island across the Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance; and the area between the U.S./Canada border from Ketchikan north to Glacier Bay. Most boaters who are heading north past the top of Vancouver Island wait in Port Hardy for calm weather before attempting to cross Queen Charlotte Strait; the strait can be very rough, and the crossing is about 30 miles long before any shelter can be reached.
Even though the weather forecast was rather benign, our crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait began with large swells and was quite bumpy; the thought of a three-hour trip across the strait in these conditions was not pleasant, but -- as luck would have it -- the seas soon calmed and the crossing became quite pleasant. The entire trip took 7 hours and we were then ready to settle down at a nice dock with electric and fresh water hook-ups. To our shock, when we approached the harbor at Namu, it was like a scene out of the movie “Waterworld”! Some of the docks had grass growing on them, others were sloping into the water, barely afloat and appeared to be unsafe, and the central point of the ‘facility’ was a meeting room built from salvaged timbers and equipment from the former abandoned town. We were met by the groundskeepers, Rene and Pete, who helped us with our lines; later we met the last of the three full-time residents, Theresa. We were the only boats at the docks, so it was a bit eerie. But as the afternoon passed, the docks started filling up and by the end of the day, it would be a tight squeeze to get another boat in! As it turned out, we had a great time meeting all the other boaters who arrived and hearing their individual stories of cruising in the Pacific Northwest. Rene and Theresa built a bonfire in a makeshift fireplace cobbled together from equipment salvaged from the former cannery ashore. We really enjoyed the stories they had to tell about the history of Namu. This stop will be one of our most memorable and fun!
One of the fellow-boaters we met at Namu was a kayaker who travels all around the world with his kayak; he was on his way paddling to Alaska! We saw him leave around 9 p.m. headed to his next destination, and again spotted him the next morning along the route to our next destination, Shearwater; a salute from our air horn received a hearty wave in greeting from him.
Our three boats at the Namu "town float" (dock)
Gaelforce at its 'marginal' dock
~~~~~~ Kakushdish Inlet (Shearwater) ~~~~~~
Lat: 52 09.036 N
Lon: 128 00.804 W
Shearwater is a fair-sized town in the Inside Passage, east of the Queen Charlotte Strait; it’s about halfway between the top of Vancouver Island and the U.S./Canada border, 150 miles south of the lower portion of Alaska. The area is a favorite for cruise ships to pass through, and on our way there we were greeted in a narrow channel by the Norwegian Sun, a huge cruise ship and the same boat which the Petersons had traveled on to Alaska years ago; she was heading south while we were heading north! Obviously, we gave way to her, and waved ‘hello’ to the passengers lining the rails on this beautiful sunny day. It has been nearly three weeks since we have seen rain (or even a lot of clouds, other than one ‘misty’ morning), and we were loving the weather!
Instead of stopping at a marina in Shearwater, we continued a couple of miles past the town to Kakushdish Inlet, a beautiful quiet anchorage where we spent a peaceful evening. The entrance was quite shallow (about 9 feet) but the several anxious moments were worth the trouble!
While taking a dinghy ride in Shearwater, Marge spotted an Offshore (same make as our last boat, Gaelforce I) and as we got closer, she realized it was not only the same as our last boat, it WAS our last boat!!!! What a thrill it was to see her again! The owner was not on board, but the boat was open, so we assume he was in the restaurant. Marge left one of our boat cards with our name on it so he would know we had been there.
Meeting a Celebrity Cruise Lines 'Mega-ship' in the narrow channel!
~~~~~~ Bottleneck Inlet (Klemtu) ~~~~~~
Lat: 52 42.570 N
Lon: 128 24.238 W
We headed up the Finlayson Channel, intending to stop for the evening at the ‘First Nation’ (read: Indian) town of Klemtu. When we arrived off the harbor, we were unsuccessful is raising a harbormaster or anyone else on the VHF radio, although several guide books indicated that everyone in the town monitors the VHF! It also appeared that their small town dock would not be sufficient to moor our three boats, so we decided to continue on ten miles further to Bottleneck Inlet. The guides described Bottleneck as the best anchorage in the area, and it was truly an ideal setting; the only disconcerting part of it is that it’s impossible to see the very narrow entrance until you’re immediately abeam of it, but it’s well worth the angst… it is an easy entrance and a delightful spot to spend the night! We were joined in this anchorage by Gaelforce I; Alan, the new owner of our former boat and his crew were also on their way to Alaska, with no specific harbor destinations in mind.
Again, we put down our crab traps but Thank Goodness we were not counting on crab for dinner... we caught none!
One of innumerable waterfalls along the channels of the Northwest
~~~~~~ Lowe Inlet ~~~~~~
Lat: 53 33.608 N
Lon: 129 33.980 W
A beautiful anchorage off the Grenville Channel is Lowe Inlet. The main feature of the Inlet is Verney waterfall at the far end of Nettle Basin; while not very high (20’ – 30’), the volume of water cascading over the falls is such that it creates a significant current in front of the falls. All three boats approached the falls as far as comfortable and anchored in about 40’ of water; the holding in sand and mud is quite good, and the current created by the falls kept the boats in position, pointed at the falls! We spent a very comfortable night here, alone except for a small sailboat and a large powerboat which joined us later, jealous because we had gotten the prime anchoring spots! Again, no success with the crab traps, although we did manage to get several very large starfish.
~~~~~~ Prince Rupert Harbour ~~~~~~
(6/9/09 – 6/10/09)
Lat: 54 19.584 N
Lon: 130 23.832 W
Prince Rupert Harbour is the largest city in northern British Columbia, and the ‘jumping off’ place for boats heading for Alaska. The trip from Lowe Inlet to Prince Rupert was somewhat nerve-wracking because of the large numbers of floating logs and dead-heads we encountered along the way, particularly across the mouth of the Skeena River, which dumps these logs and other flotsam into the channel.
After trying unsuccessfully to get moorage at the yacht club and the public docks, we decided to anchor across Grenville Channel in Pillsbury Cove, a large anchorage with good holding in about 40’ of water and lots of room to swing. We were the only boats in the cove, and enjoyed the solitude. Our first night yielded no ‘keeper’ crabs again, but on the second night, Ron got several and prepared them for cooking.
We took the dinghies into the yacht club dock during the day, to re-stock some provisions at the local Safeway, had lunch at La Gondola (a nice restaurant along the waterfront), and checked Email at an internet cafe. Prince Rupert is a good walking city – not too small, not too large, with interesting waterfront attractions.
Kodiak and Loose Wire approaching Prince Rupert, following Gaelforce
The peaceful Pillsbury Cove anchorage; we were the only boats at anchor...
A successful day of crabbing!... we'll eat well tonight!
~~~~~~ Gwent Cove (Hidden Inlet) ~~~~~~
(6/11/09 – 6/12/09)
Lat: 54 56.601 N
Lon: 130 20.133 W
Leaving Pillsbury Cove was an experience, as we took a route through the Metlakatla Passage, a shortcut towards Alaska from Prince Rupert which saves about a dozen miles; the route is very winding around rocks, shoals, abandoned pilings, lots of ‘skinny water’, etc., and requires a lot of concentration! We all negotiated the route without mishap, but breathed a strong sigh of relief when we motored out into the deeper Chatham Sound.
Kodiak’s Captain Ron has a friend who owns a fishing lodge on the Pearse Canal, north of Prince Rupert and just across the U.S. border in Alaska; in fact, one side of the quarter-mile-wide channel is in Canada and the other shore is in the U.S.! We were invited to spend a night or two there. Since vessels entering the U.S. from foreign waters are required to clear Customs at a ‘Port of Entry’, we called U.S. Customs and received permission to delay our formal clearance through Customs for a couple of days while we paid a visit to this friend’s lodge.
The trip to Gwent Cove was easy and pleasant, but the skies were cloudy. Along the way, ‘Weather Goddess’ Marge was chided for not making the weather sunny, so she asked “when do you want the sun to appear?”… the answer was “11 o’clock”. When 12 o’clock rolled around without the sun, Marge feared her Weather Goddess powers had been weakened, but then we realized that in crossing the U.S./Canada border, the time regressed an hour, so it was still only 11 AM; an hour later, at the current time, the clouds cleared and the sun shone brightly, right on time… spooky!
When we arrived at Gwent Cove, we rafted our boats three deep on Harley’s dock; the next day he took us shrimping (we brought back buckets of prawns) and we set out some crab traps to be retrieved later. The first day at Gwent Cove, we had a great BBQ dinner and were entertained by one of Harley’s workers playing his viola, which he had actually made! -- he was not only a musician but also a talented craftsman. This was a unique and enjoyable visit with delightful hosts! The second day, after more crabbing, shrimping, fishing, we had another great dinner (including fresh-caught halibut!) and left with many pounds of prawns in our freezers, courtesy of Harley and his friends.
This stop, and the people we met there, will be one of our trip highlights!
Back in the U.S.A.!... crossing the Canada/U.S. border (which is down the middle of the channel!) and entering ALASKA!!!
Inside the 'chuck' (inlet) at Harley's fish camp
Our boats at the dock at Harley's fish camp
The evening barbecue at Harley's, with Harley at centerframe and the violin-maker/player in the distance.
~~~~~~ Ketchikan, Alaska ~~~~~~
(6/13 – 6/18)
Lat: 55 20.957 N
Lon: 131 40.928 W
To get from Gwent Cove at Hidden Inlet to Ketchikan, we had to cross the east end of Dixon Entrance, a large body of water which is open to the full force of the Pacific Ocean. On some days, this can be one of the most turbulent bodies of water in the Northwest, but we arose early to get across before the winds kicked up. We were fortunate (again!) to find the crossing calm and enjoyable, and we motored into Ketchikan under warm sunny skies! The weather in Alaska was balmy, and the locals were reveling in the summer-like temperatures and clear-blue skies. All we heard in the shops and on the docks was how un-typical and great the weather was!
As we cruised down the Tongass Narrows towards our slips in the Bar Harbor Marina and past several huge cruise ships, we were met by a pod of about six Orcas which cruised slowly across our bow… the local ‘welcoming committee’; they were accompanied by several eagles wheeling overhead, and we felt like Ketchikan was truly greeting us warmly!
We looked forward to spending some time in the marina in Ketchikan, just relaxing, touring the area, and tending to some necessary maintenance on our boats after about 2000 miles underway! [Alaska Cruisers Tip: The canals and waterways of the Northwest are so rich with plankton and other forms of sealife that boats develop a yellow ‘mustache’ on their bow; an easy way to remove the unsightly ‘mustache’ is to swab it with Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner, let it sit for 15 minutes, then hose it off… this also works for stubborn rust stains and other discolorations, and won’t harm the gel coat or paint.]
On Sunday morning, Ron and I took Gaelforce to the fuel dock (he had fueled on the way in the previous day), where I took on 776 gallons of diesel at $2.18 (+ 6% tax) per gallon; not a bad price, and not bad fuel consumption for having traveled nearly a thousand miles since our last fueling in Anacortes!
To illustrate what a small world this is, on our first day on the dock at Bar Harbor Marina, we ran into former PCYC member Mike Ditton, who left the Channel Islands area two years ago to sail the world with his wife Rene; they are now spending their summers in Alaska and winters in Mexico, and plan to resume their cruising soon. To get from Gwent Cove at Hidden Inlet to Ketchikan, we had to cross the east end of Dixon Entrance, a large body of water which is open to the full force of the Pacific Ocean. On some days, this can be one of the most turbulent bodies of water in the Northwest, but we arose early to get across before the winds kicked up. We were fortunate (again!) to find the crossing calm and enjoyable, and we motored into Ketchikan under warm sunny skies! The weather in Alaska was balmy, and the locals were reveling in the summer-like temperatures and clear-blue skies. All we heard in the shops and on the docks was how un-typical and great the weather was!
We are enjoying our down time in Ketchikan, but rain began to fall on Sunday and doesn’t show any sign of letting up for days, which makes it a little difficult to get things accomplished around the boats; it doesn’t slow down the admirals’ shopping expeditions, though! We are, however, enjoying the sight of the cruise ships passing close by our slip (there are four cruise ships in the harbor!) and the many fishing boats coming and going. Ketchikan is truly a fishing town, although the fishing industry has been up against hard times lately.We spent time at an internet café catching up with correspondence, etc. The ladies did some shopping along the main street of Ketchikan (souveniers) and did lots of walking. There was a Safeway supermarket so we were able to stock up on our supplies. We ate dinner at the Salmon Falls? Lodge/restaurant in a beautiful setting. Our waitress kept us entertained. She was very interesting. She was about 25 years old, college grad on a golfing scholarship, had her 100 ton coast guard masters license, is the captain of fishing charter boats and the daughter of the owner of ? boats. It was a great time and the food was delicious too!
Tuesday, 6/16, we ate at the Bar Harbor Restaurant located at the top of the docks. It was so warm out that we decided to eat outside. The owners were a kick and the food, again, was delicious! Wednesday was spent getting ready for our departure the next day. Carolyn was picked up at her boat by the water taxi to take her to the Ketchikan airport early Thursday morning. Loose Wire was waiting for his friend, Dale, to arrive later that day to spend a week with Bill while Carolyn was gone. (attending grandson Owen’s birthday and checking things at home).
Orcas (Killer Whales) greet us on the way into Ketchikan
The photo's a little fuzzy, but more Orcas come out to greet us on the way into Ketchikan, part of the Orca 'Greeting Committee"!
A cruise ship passes by our marina in Ketchikan
~~~~~~ Marguerite Bay (Traitors Cove) ~~~~~~
Lat: 55 42.180 N
Lon: 131 38.213 W
Gaelforce and Kodiak left Thursday morning, headed for Marguerite Bay (Traitors Cove). As we headed for the entrance, we again hooked up with Lady Crystal (Harley & Farrel Lewis). Lady Crystal and Gaelforce were able to use the floating docks, but Kodiak had to use a mooring. The docks were filled with interesting people, but the ones that stand out were two guys that we dubbed “Macho Men”. They dressed in forest camouflage, had pistols on their hips and carried rifles…they were bear hunters! They also had fishing gear. They used their camouflaged ATV up and down the ramp, which was pretty impressive at low tide! We are pleased to report, no bears were harmed during our stay!
Our anchorage in Traitor's Cove, Marguerite Bay
~~~~~~ Meyers Chuck ~~~~~~
Lat: 55 44.375 N
Lon: 132 15.477 W
We arrived the next day in Meyers Chuck, which was a great little safe harbor… on the East Coast, it would be called a ‘hurricane hole’. There was a large public dock where Gaelforce and Kodiak moored. This was actually a town of 6 -- yes 6! -- permanent residents and the population grew to 30 during the peak of the season! It had a mailbox and a public phone at the top of the dock ramp and we were surprised at how nice and big the homes were. If you followed a path through the woods you came across the gift shop; there we met Peggy and discovered she makes fresh, hot sticky buns every morning and sells them to the cruising boaters. Naturally we couldn’t pass those up, so we placed our order and sure enough, the next morning at 7:30 Peggy walked down the dock with a tray of hot sticky buns! We must admit, they were the best we ever had!
We took a trail through the forest that led to a beach, but time was getting late, so we opted not to go all the way. Carol and Marge dubbed it the “Enchanted Forest”. It had huge trees and lots of ferns and moss. The only things missing were Hansel & Gretel!
Our three boats at the Town Dock (free) at Meyer's Chuck... 'first come, first served'!
The 'postal service' at Meyer's Chuck... mail gets picked up once a week!
The "Enchanted Forest" in town at Meyer's Chuck
~~~~~~ Santa Anna Inlet ~~~~~~
Lat: 55 58.643 N
Lon: 131 56.000 W
Our next stop was an even more beautiful anchorage. The most interesting thing was the tide swing, which was so huge that at low tide, it looked like we were sitting in a pond. But not to worry, we have two excellent captains who plan, plan, plan! This was just a brief but pleasant stop on the road before we headed on to Wrangell.
A typical Alaskan skyline, on the way to Santa Anna Inlet
An Orca in the channel outside Santa Anna Inlet
~~~~~~ Wrangell ~~~~~~
6/22 & 23
Lat: 56 27.909 N
Lon: 132 22.934 W
We arrived in Wrangell and side-tied to a long public dock. The town is quite small, but everyone we met was extremely friendly. A small cruise ship was docked for the day, so there were people about walking the streets. We toured the town, enjoying the totem poles in the park. We went to the public library which was a step back in time. They still use the Dewey Decimal System with the trays filled with cards! (Remember when?) They also had about 100 apothecary jars which were used as receptacles for drawings in connection with a children’s reading program. All the prizes were donated by local residents and businesses. It Really was great to see a small community coming together for such a worthwhile program.
We also went to a great Natural History Museum; it was so well organized and interesting. For such a small town, they really know how to do things!
We had lunch at a local café that was so authentic. We think we were the only out-of-towners in the place and it was crowded. The waitress reminded us of Flo from the TV series “Flo” and “Mel’s Diner”… she was a character. One patron complained (jokingly) that his can of Pepsi was FROZEN! Her response was “So what do you expect…you’re in Alaska!”.
Approaching the harbor marina at Wrangell
On the dock in Wrangell at low tide... note the height of the dock pilings!
~~~~~ Petersburg (via Wrangell Narrows) ~~~~~
6/24 & 25
Lat: 56 48.671 N
Lon: 132 57.917 W
We left Wrangell headed to Petersburg via Wrangell Narrows which is a 21-mile narrow passage, with barely enough room for boats to pass. It’s marked with over 60 numbered navigational aids, including 5 sets of range markers; there are so many red and green markers that it’s called ‘Christmas Tree Lane’. We had to be “on the alert” to make sure we saw all the aids or you could go aground. Of course, during the narrowest part we came across 4 tugs and their tows coming in the opposite direction, but amazingly, we all squeezed by safely and with big waves of “Hello”. It was a pretty exciting and challenging passage!
Approaching the marker buoys at Wrangell Narrows
Several tugs-and-tows passing Kodiak in the Narrows (note how close the side channel markers are to Kodiak)
The tugs and their tows pass us by and continue down the Narrows (see all the channel marker buoys to navigate ahead!)
At the upper end of Wrangell Narrows we headed for Petersburg, where we would spend the next couple of days. After getting settled into our slips, we couldn’t help but notice that we were in the midst of some very serious fishing boats. Petersburg is known as the halibut capital of Alaska. Crews were getting their boats ready for the opening of salmon fishing the next couple of days; they were washing and polishing their boats and equipment, and taking on board new nets and buoys. The boats were beautiful, and kept impeccably cleaned and polished!
Petersburg was founded by Norwegians and the influence is evident today, particularly in their signs and memorials to the townspeople lost to the sea over the years. It was a quaint town with an interesting Main Street, and a very enjoyable stay.
Fishing boats and gear in Petersburg Harbor
~~~~~~ Juneau ~~~~~~
6/26 & 27
Lat: 58 18.264 N
Lon: 134 25.897
We arrived in Juneau late in the afternoon. We had arranged for slips ahead of time and knew the office would be closed by the time we arrived. Well, things don’t always work out as planned! Kodiak’s slip was open, but Gaelforce’s was not, so Gaelforce spent the night in a “loading only” zone with the approval of the harbor patrol, knowing the next morning we could get a real slip. After both boats were settled in, we decided to go across the street for a well-deserved dinner. We ordered a couple of very nice bottles of wine, but one had gone bad and the other was sold out. The waiter substituted (upgraded) and we were happy. We ordered our dinners and a couple of the meals were sold out. We finally found out that the restaurant had been sold and was to reopen under the new ownership in a couple of days, so nothing had been stocked. We had a great time in spite of these few “hiccups”.
The trip from Petersburg to Juneau had taken 10 hours! We had planned to stop at an anchorage for a night before arriving in Juneau, but the weather was perfect and there were threats of gale winds for the next couple of days, so we marched on! We never did get the strong winds, but Loose Wire, who had separated from the other two boats, was stuck for a few days in Meyer’s Chuck (which we had stayed in several days ago) waiting for the weather to clear; Loose Wire was behind us by a few days because Bill had to pick up Carolyn, their daughter-in-law and their two grandsons at the airport and at the same time drop off his friend at the airport in Ketchikan. Unfortunately, they had rains and severe winds most of their trip up to Juneau, while Kodiak and Gaelforce basked in brilliant sun and calm seas; the difference in weather we experienced was amazing!
While in Juneau, we did a walking tour. We did run into some rain, but it was short-lived and the skies became sunny by the afternoon. We visited the government building where the governor and congress meet and have offices. Governor Sarah Palin’s office had a huge digital clock counting down the number of hours left in her term. It was a large number as it was before her shocking and disappointing announcement of her resignation.
We spent two nights in Juneau, then headed for Auke Bay which is a ‘suburb’ of Juneau about 15 miles by car from the city, but because of the water route we had to take, it took us 3 hours by boat.
We've arrived in Juneau!
Cruise ship at the dock in Juneau
Overlooking Downtown Juneau
State government offices in Juneau... at this day, Sarah Palin was still Governor
Leaving Juneau and heading around Douglas Island to Auke Bay
~~~~~~ Auke Bay ~~~~~~
Lat: 58 22.912 N
Lon: 134 38.945 W
Auke Bay is a beautiful little harbor with great views of snowcapped mountains, evergreen trees and Mendenhall Glacier. It was an awesome sight when we pulled into the harbor. There are no stores or restaurants in walking distance except a mini-mart at the gas station, which was fine with us, as we still have plenty of provisions on board. The next morning we left at 5:30 a.m. to head for Glacier Bay!
~~~~~~ Glacier Bay ~~~~~~
6/29 - 7/1
Lat: 58 27.350 N
Lon: 135 53.180 W
We had a beautiful crossing to Glacier Bay, through Lynn Canal and Icy Strait, with sightings of humpback whales along the route. Nature seems so extraordinarily special up here. There are eagles everywhere! We arrived in Bartlett Cove which is the Park headquarters at the entrance to Glacier Bay, and where we had to check in with the Glacier Bay National Park Service for orientation. Entry is strictly monitored; only 25 pleasure craft are allowed in the Park at one time, so reservations are necessary (and scarce). We were able to get a reservation 3 days prior to entry, but we are sure it was because it was just before the 4th of July.
After having a great lunch at the Glacier Bay Lodge and our orientation by the Park ranger, we headed for our first stop, an anchorage called North Sandy Cove. It was so peaceful and calm, with snow-capped mountains all around us, that it was almost surreal. The boats did not move or all night long. We were the only two boats anchored… it was just perfect!
The next morning we awoke to low clouds that slowly turned into brilliant sun and blue skies. The sights were humbling as we worked our way to the top of Glacier Bay to see the huge tidewater glacier, Margerie Glacier; this is also to be our trip’s most northern- and western-most destination, at Latitude 59 02.956 N, Longitude 137 03.082 W! As we got closer to the glacier, we came upon “bergie bits”, but not as many as we expected. Both Kodiak and Gaelforce managed to get close enough to chip away some glacial ice from one of the “bergie bits” and put it in our freezers for a ‘glacial cocktail’ later.
There was only one other pleasure boat at the foot of the glacier when we arrived. Looking up at this huge glacier, which rises to 200 feet, was an awesome sight. We idled our boats about 200 feet away listening for the groaning and calving (falling away of large chunks) of the ice. We weren’t there too long before a HUGE chunk the size of a small house fell into the water, creating several waves 4-5 feet tall! It was a bit scary (for Marge) as we were warned that calving waves could reach 30 feet… there was much discussion as to how close we should be! We were there quite a while before the commercial tour boats came in and then a huge “Celebrity” cruise ship arrived. We spent about 2 hours watching this majestic glacier in action…truly nature at its best, and most awesome!
Leaving this area we headed for our next anchorage for the night at Blue Mouse Cove. All along our trip we can’t help but wonder where they come up with these names! This time there was already one boat anchored and by nightfall (11 p.m.) the count was up to 4. We were hoping to see bears and wolves, but alas, nothing. The next morning we pulled anchor and headed for our next stop, Hoonah.
A whale meets us, just outside Glacier Bay
A cool day, but we've reached Glacier Bay, our northernmost destination!
A distant glacier along the channel
Our "boat dog", Yankee, enjoying the sun and the sights
The cruise ship Statendam arrives at Margerie Glacier
We depart the glacier, heading south down Glacier Bay (note how the glacier dwarfs this huge cruise ship!)
*******************************************************At this point we are at about the mid-point of our summer odyssey, from the aspect of miles traveled. We have logged nearly 2500 nautical miles, at an average boat cruising speed of about 10 knots and reached our northernmost planned destination, Glacier Bay, at Latitude 59 02 North, Longitude 137 03 West. As planned, we traveled north at a somewhat brisk pace, to insure that we reached our destination on schedule; this pace will now allow us – again, as planned – to proceed south at a more deliberate and leisurely pace, enjoying even more of the Pacific Northwest’s cruising attractions.
[Loose Wire has recently decided to depart from Kodiak and Gaelforce in order to meet some guests in the lower portion of British Columbia; we hope that she will rejoin the other two boats later when we get further south.]*******************************************************
~~~~~~ Hoonah ~~~~~~
Lat: 58 06.433 N
Lon: 135 26.738 W
We arrived in Hoonah a few hours after leaving Glacier bay. The seas were really calm and glassy which made it easy to see the humpback whales. No matter how many times you witness a whale’s blow or the tail slip into the sea, it is always awesome!
The Tlingit are the predominant Native American people of Southeastern Alaska and British Columbia, and the town of Hoonah is the largest Tlingit settlement in southeast Alaska. The original Tlingit name for the settlement was “Huna”, which means “Place where the north wind doesn’t blow”.
We arrived at the dock, which was literally being updated and repaired as we approached; this was helpful, as we had plenty of dock workers to help us tie up. The harbormaster was also on the dock to direct us to our slip; he handled our docklines and was so pleasant and helpful. As the only two boats on the transient dock, we got prime spots, but it didn’t take long for the entire dock to be filled before the night was over.
We took a walk into town, which was one long street with not much activity. There was surprisingly a pretty good supermarket, so we picked up a few things. A large Celebrity cruise ship was anchored out and tenders brought the passengers into town. One of the passengers recognized Kodiak from the deck of the cruise ship and walked to the dock to greet the Petersons… small world!
“Mary’s Restaurant” was recommended so we decided to try it for dinner. We were a little surprised when we found out it was a Japanese restaurant, and when we asked who ‘Mary’ was, no one seemed to know!
We had a comfortable night’s stay and the next morning we departed on our return trip to Auke Bay, outside Juneau.
In front of Hoonah's 'one patrol car' police department building!... not a lot of serious crime waves here!
Check out the fireworks location!
Eagle on 'guard duty' at our dock
~~~~~~ Auke Bay ~~~~~~
Lat: 58 22.982 N
Lon: 134 38.983 W
We had a beautiful trip from Hoonah back to Auke; the seas were calm, the weather was warm and sunny and we saw LOTS of whales! They were putting on quite a show, rolling on the surface, waving their fins, and breeching! We arrived in Auke Bay, and the marina there is a ‘free-for-all’ when it comes to finding a slip; if your boat leaves its position, any other transient boat can take your spot. Kodiak and Gaelforce had decided to sign up for a month’s stay because it was cheaper than paying the daily rate for the approximately two weeks we planned to be there, but just because you paid for a month didn’t guarantee that you would get a slip or power. It’s a crazy system, like playing ‘musical boat slips’, but we managed to make it work!
Kodiak’s guests arrived on 7/4 and stayed for 5 days. Their guests included their son, daughter-in-law, 2 adorable granddaughters and two other couples who were friends of the family. They all arrived on one of the couple’s private jet. Kodiak departed with them for a side trip to Tracy Arm so they could see some icebergs and hopefully a glacier, but alas, there was so much ice in the Tracy Arm passage that it could not be passed safely. Gaelforce did not join Kodiak on this side trip, as we knew that both boats would be stopping at Tracy Arm later in the month, on our way south.
Gaelforce stayed in Auke Bay and did some maintenance work (engine and generators’ oil changes, etc.) and general boat clean-up. Because of the high levels of marine life, plankton, etc., in the Northwest waters, boats acquire a yellow ‘beard’ at the bow; Captain Ron had discovered that his ‘magic elixir’ for removing rust stains from the gel coat also worked well for removing this ‘beard’, so we bought a large supply of it on one of our Costco expeditions!
The day after Kodiak returned to Auke Bay, some of their guests chartered a small fishing boat and at the end of their trip returned with several good sized halibut and one HUGE halibut that weighed 108 lbs and was 5 ft. long! This monster was caught by Terry, the Peterson’s daughter-in-law! Way to go, Terry! The Peterson’s waved a fond farewell to their guests and once again were by themselves.
As we had several days until the arrival of their next guest on 7/13, we rented a car so we could do some provisioning. Fortunately, there is a Costco close by (Ron’s favorite store). After a day of shopping and carting all our purchases to our boats, we were exhausted. It is always a challenge to find a place for all the food on board. The next day we took Jim to the airport because it had a great wi-fi connection and he wanted to update the blog. While he was doing that, Carol, Marge & Ron went to Mendenhall Glacier. This was a very serene spot, with paths and beautiful vistas. We asked the ranger if the glacier did much “calving” and we were told only about once a week, and it did not happen while we were there.
Back to the airport to pick up the Peterson’s guest, Lynette, who lives in Minnesota and is a friend of their family. The next day they spent touring Juneau and because Mendenhall Glacier was so interesting, we returned and were lucky enough to hear the thunderous roar of ice cracking, followed by a huge calving, with a wall of ice the size of a house falling into the water.
Our time in Auke Bay was coming to a close after spending almost two glorious warm summer weeks there. We departed on 7/15, headed for Taku Harbor with mixed emotions. We had reached our goal of Glacier Bay and were now heading south, melancholy with the knowledge that it was the beginning of our homeward-bound trip… but fortunately we still had several months and many new adventures left on our trip!
Heading back to Auke Bay, with Mendenhall Glacier in front of us
Mendenhall Glacier, behind Auke Bay, as seen on a side trip from the harbor
Overview of Auke Bay Harbor, a very enjoyable and neat marina
From our slip in the marina, with Mendenhall Glacier in the background
~~~~~~ Taku Harbor ~~~~~~
Lat: 58 04.139 N
Lon: 134 00.811 W
We headed for Taku harbor, a pleasant 35-mile run down Stephans Passage, after fueling in Auke Bay (first fueling since Anacortes). Fuel prices had increased slightly since we last fueled in Ketchikan at $2.32/gallon, but we still only paid $2.48/gallon; we wanted to avoid having to fuel in British Columbia, with their very high prices. After topping-off in Ketchikan, our only additional (and final) fueling stop would be in Anacortes prior to heading down the coast at the end of our trip.
We arrived in Taku several hours later. There is plenty of anchorage as well as a government dock (which are free in Alaska!). We opted to use the dock since there was only one boat on it when we arrived. Taku is a serene harbor that is so relaxing the minute you enter; it was the site of a turn-of-the-century cannery, which has nothing left of it but the pilings on which it once stood and a couple of workers’ housing buildings. We were able to stretch our legs on shore where the ladies picked beautiful wildflowers for their boats. There is one rustic cabin that can be rented with an outhouse close by. There were two men tending and repairing the dock who were using the cabin.
Taku Harbor was a perfect ’jumping off’ point for our exciting trip through Tracy Arm the next day!
On the right, Kodiak and Gaelforce at the free government dock in Taku Harbor
Carol and Lynette on a walk with Yankee
~~~~~~ Tracy Arm ~~~~~~
Lat: 57 48.676 N
Lon: 133 38.036 W
After a short trip continuing down Stephens Passage, we were nearing the entrance to Tracy Arm and saw in the distance -- on radar and visually -- something so huge we thought it was a tanker making its way to Juneau. With our binoculars we were shocked to see it was a huge ICEBERG which had ‘escaped’ from the harbor!!! As we got closer we were able to see the enormity of it. We estimated it to be 50 feet tall, and took pictures, but we’re sure they do not capture the true size, as there was nothing to which to compare it.
We entered Tracy Arm with icebergs on either side of us. There was a red and a green buoy marking the passage over the entrance bar to help us enter the narrow Arm, however the Douglas Guide (the “bible” of Northwest Cruising) stated that the red one was not to be relied upon, as icebergs tend to drag it! We saw the green one and then it totally disappeared only to pop back up after an iceberg ran over it… so much for the green marker reliability! We entered slowly, hoping to not ground on the entrance bar; as we passed the green buoy close to port, the swift current carried us to starboard towards a large berg, so we had to apply lots of power to maintain steerage… it was just like running the currents in the BC narrows and it does get your heart pumping!
With Gaelforce in the lead and Kodiak following, we both made it into the Arm safely. Kodiak had been to Tracy Arm a week earlier with guests, so he was able to warn us about the “clear” icebergs! These were almost impossible to see because they were crystal clear, so everyone was on alert! We worked our way up the arm admiring the grandeur of towering granite walls with lots of waterfalls that looked so small but were actually huge, all the while watching and weaving through the ice floes. We passed off the lead every 30 minutes because being the lead boat required intense concentration. It was Gaelforce’s turn to lead and we had managed 20 of the 22 miles to Sawyer Glacier, but the ice was getting thicker, so Gaelforce decided it was time to turn around. Kodiak opted to continue, but was only able to go another mile before the ice won. It was a bit frustrating to have gone so far up and not able to see the glacier. This was the Peterson’s third attempt at conquering the Arm, but it was not to be, again.
We worked our way back to the anchorage cove near the entrance to the Inlet to spend the night and settled in around 6 p.m. There were only 6 boats in the cove. It was interesting watching a huge iceberg enter the cove and slide slowly past one of the other boats. They tried to push it away with their fishing boat, but the only thing that moved was the fishing boat bouncing off the iceberg. It made for fun cocktail fodder!
Next morning we were up and out by 7, saying farewell to this beautiful part of Alaska and the end of the ice! As we left, several large ‘escapee’ bergs were milling about in Stephan’s Passage, but that was the last we saw of the bergs. On the passage south to Petersburg, we encountered our first real rain during our time so far in the Northwest, but it certainly didn’t put a damper on our enthusiasm for the area!
The "Sea Serpent" iceberg we encountered on the way to Tracy Arm (an 'escapee'!)
A frightening berg... a huge rock slab on top of a berg!... Don't run into this one!
The entrance to the channel to North Sawyer Glacier
A BIG berg nearly blocking the channel!
A berg... or a whale?!?
A 'cruise ship' berg, with a flock of birds for passengers!
Another "big guy" in the channel!
On our way up the channel to Sawyer Glacier, between the granite fiord walls!
Beautiful scenery on the way up the channel to Sawyer Glacier
Awesome granite walls along the channel
Some of the glaciers are an 'impossible' blue color!
Slightly left of center, beneath the waterfall, an eagle roosts on this berg
Mother Nature's sketch of an eagle, on the granite wall
After returning down the Arm, we anchored for the evening in this beautiful cove
Kodiak enters the anchorage cove, with bergs in the channel behind her
The attacker berg up close, from Gaelforce's dinghy!
Jim, Lynette, Carol And Ron (and Marge, the photographer) celebrate having survived Tracy Arm, with another crab feast!
~~~~~~ Petersburg ~~~~~~
7/17/2009 – 7/18/2009
Lat: 56 48.586 N
Lon: 132 57.889 W
When we arrived in Petersburg it almost looked like a different harbor from our first stay here, several weeks ago. During our first visit, we were overwhelmed by the number and size of the boats in the marina; every slip was filled with HUGE fishing boats, like those in the TV series “Deadliest Catch”! On this visit, the docks were almost deserted… fishing season was now open, and the fleet was out working. Nevertheless, we had a pleasant two days stay here, relaxing and walking through town. The ladies (Carol, Marge, and Carol’s guest, Lynette) spent a day shopping. The sun and rain kept changing places all day, but by evening, the rain won out. We were happy to get our boats cleaned for free!
On one of these days in Petersburg, we saw a very strange sight --- a bride and groom and their dog were walking down the dock followed by a few friends (the bridal party, no doubt!). The bride had to carry her train down the dock so it wouldn’t get ruined. They eventually got on a small boat and hopefully sailed into wedded bliss on their honeymoon! Everything in Petersburg revolves around the fishing fleet.
After two days of just ‘kicking back’, we had to leave this interesting and colorful town and head down the Wrangell Narrows towards Wrangell.
The fishing fleet is out, so we have no problem getting a slip in Petersburg!
A Bride and Groom leave their wedding ceremony on the dock, accompanied by their dog
~~~~~~ Wrangell Narrows (redux) ~~~~~~
As we left Petersburg we were greeted by a pod of Orcas. One in particular was very close, so we were able to get an up-close-and-personal look. If you remember, our trip north through the Wrangell Narrows was a bit intimidating. The Narrows are filled with twists and turns, and many narrow places where boats and ships passed each other… the trip north had been a very busy passage. This trip now (south) was very different. Yes, it still had the twists and turns, but we hardly passed or even saw any other boats… it certainly made the trip less stressful! Perhaps the journey through Wrangell Narrows gets easier with each passage!
~~~~~~ Wrangell ~~~~~~
7/19/2009 – 1/20/2009
Lat: 56 27.859 N
Lon: 132 22.886 W
We arrived in Wrangell in a heavy mist which lasted most of the first day. But, of course, it didn’t stop us on our adventures. We walked about a mile down the road that hugs the shore to a spot where ancient petroglyphs (stone carvings of animals and other figures made by the early inhabitants) are found along the beach. We were not sure the trek was worth the effort, particularly in the heavy mist, now almost rain, but we all needed the exercise. We walked back to town, where the guys returned to their boats and the ladies went to the Wrangell Museum of Natural History before heading “home” to our boats.
On our 'trek' to the Petroglyphs Beach, we encounter a taste of Alaska humor... (check out the sign, and the rain hood!)
Beautiful shoreline scenery along the Eastern Passage, on the east side of Wrangell Island, on the route to Santa Anna Inlet
~~~~~~ Santa Anna Inlet ~~~~~~
Lat: 55 58.661 N
Lon: 131 56.010 W
We awoke the next morning to warm sunshine and off we went, headed back to the beautiful anchorage of Santa Anna Inlet. We stopped along the way at Anan Bay, a bear preserve which affords the opportunity to watch the bears fish for salmon; there is an observation platform on a blind above the stream. We knew we needed a permit as they only allow 60 people a day visit the site, but were hoping we could get cancellations, but when we got there it was almost impossible to get to shore and there was no ranger available to assist us. Not to waste a good fishing hole, Kodiak decided to stay and wet a line for a few hours, while Gaelforce went on to Santa Anna Inlet, where both boats would spend the night.
As we’ve said previously, on our first trip here, this anchorage is so beautiful and peaceful and we were the only ones there for most of the day. Marge spent the day kayaking in the glassy waters. Kodiak arrived sans fish, but not to worry, there was still plenty of fresh fish and crab in our freezers. We had a calm night and were sad to leave such a perfect spot.
The beautiful anchorage in Santa Anna Inlet, with Kodiak mirrored in its glass-smooth waters!
~~~~~~ Meyers Chuck ~~~~~~
Lat: 55 44.448 N
Lon: 132 15.542 W
This would be our second time in Meyers Chuck also, but it is a picturesque spot which we wanted Kodiak’s guest, Lynette, to see. Unfortunately, there was no room on the public dock for either of our boats, so we had to anchor out. Since the anchorage was so small, the captains decided that Kodiak would anchor and Gaelforce would raft (tie alongside) to Kodiak. This all took a little maneuvering, but we got the job done. We were all nicely settled when a float plane landed to let off passengers. Before the pilot took off again, he floated by our boats and requested that we move 100-200 yards so he would have more room to take off. Well, this was not an easy feat as we were side-tied on one anchor. Kodiak weighed anchor and proceeded to move with Gaelforce still attached. By now 30 people (the entire population) had gathered on the dock to witness this unusual site, hoping something exciting would happen! But with Captain Ron at the controls and Captain Jim watching for hazards, the procedure was accomplished flawlessly, and within minutes the crowd dispersed.
After moving the boats, we ended up well outside the float plane’s flight path but the next plane to land requested even more room! This time we did not move, but we set the bow and stern thrusters into action to move the rafted boats sideways. This was all very annoying to our captains, as clearly we were out of the flight path according to the charts and there were no markers inside the harbor. But we wanted to be gracious and accommodate the aircraft.
After the guys dropped the ladies off at the town dock for a short sightseeing walk, they drove the dinghy through some of the adjacent canals along the harbor, and discovered that many of the very modest homes which ringed the harbor were, in fact, built on small islands; when the tide went out, the islands were truly isolated because the waterways between them became to shallow to allow even a dinghy to navigate, so one could easily become stranded and have to wait for the next tide change! Meanwhile, the ladies walked through the “enchanted forest” as they had on our previous visit, and this time they made it all the way to the other side of the ‘chuck’, to a beach filled with HUGE logs and lots of driftwood. We picked up a few small souvenir pieces and headed back to our boats, where well-deserved cocktails and dinner (more fresh crab!) were served.
Gaelforce and Kodiak rafted in Meyers Chuck
~~~~~~ Traitors Cove ~~~~~~
7/23/2009 – 7/24/2009
Lat: 55 42.148 N
Lon: 131 38.197 W
With several days before the Peterson’s son Mike and his wife Priti fly in to Ketchikan, we decide to re-visit Marguerite Bay, which we so enjoyed previously. We were lucky, because when we arrived, the float was empty, so we were able to dock both of our boats on it again and enjoy a couple of days in this idyllic setting. We immediately set out a few crab pots, and when we retrieved them the next morning, we had caught enough for several more dinners. Our refrigerators are rapidly becoming filled with fresh crab!
About a mile down a dirt road and then ¼ mile into the woods there is a bear observation deck where you can watch bears in their natural habitat catching salmon. All five of us (Peterson’s guest, Lynette was still aboard) decided we needed to do this. We took some noise makers to make sure the bears knew we were in the area. It is a bit scary walking down the road and seeing a fresh pile of bear poop! There are wild raspberries all along the road which are a favorite of the bears. We finally arrived at the observation deck and we were not disappointed; there were two bears fishing. We stayed for quite some time watching as they would catch a salmon, and then disappear into the woods to eat it; they would then come back again to fish. It was quite an experience to see!
Float planes come and go all day carrying passengers from cruise ships to view the bears. Lucky for them they have vans so they don’t have to walk the long trail. When we went, we were alone at the bear site.
Unfortunately, Carol Peterson received a phone call which told her that her mother had fallen and broken her hip; Carol decided that she had to fly to the Midwest to be with her mom, so flight reservations were made as we motored back to Ketchikan the next day.
Ron and guest Lynette, with their "Catch of the Day"
Lynette, Carol and Ron watching the bears fishing in the creek for salmon
"Hmmm... that salmon looks yummy!"
"GOTCHA!..." (see the salmon in his mouth?)
"Now I'll just take this up into the brush to have some privacy during lunch!"
A young bear prowls the creek, not quite sure of just how to catch these fish!
"I think I'll just stand here and let them jump into my mouth!... besides, the water feels cool!"
Kodiak and Gaelforce on the dock at Marguerite Bay in Traitors Cove
~~~~~~ Ketchikan ~~~~~~
7/25/2009 – 7/29/2009
Lat: 55 21.042 N
Lon: 131 40.991 W
After returning to Ketchikan, we had a busy few days… Carol Peterson flew out of Ketchikan on Saturday, Marge and the Peterson’s guest Lynette spent Sunday touring the city of Ketchikan and Lynette flew home to Minnesota on Monday, and the Peterson’s son Mike and his wife Priti flew in on Wednesday. Both captains were able to do some minor maintenance chores on the boats, and Kodiak refueled in preparation for its trip south next week.
While we were in Ketchikan, we took a side trip in the car which Harley and Farrell Lewis had loaned us, out to Herring Creek to see the bears and eagles which frequent that area... we saw no bears (wrong tide) but loads of eagles, up close.
Our resident Weather Goddess, Marge, did not let us down, however… the days were still bright and sunny, and the temperatures in the mid-80s! The local Alaskans were reveling in this, the warmest summer in years, and we were certainly enjoying it!
Captain Ron wanted Mike and Priti to enjoy their short week in Alaska, so both Kodiak and Gaelforce returned to Traitor’s Cove on Thursday.
Another eagle, perched in the tree, just above us, within arm's reach!
Jim, Marge and Ron posing in front of the totem poles at Herring Creek bear overlook
~~~~~~ Traitors Cove ~~~~~~
7/30/2009 – 7/31/2009
Lat: 55 42.148 N
Lon 131 38.197 W
On our way back to Traitor’s Cove, we took a different route through Clover Pass, cruising past the beautiful resort of Salmon Creek Lodge; it was a warm summer morning, and the Pass was filled with kayakers, small sailboats, and outboard fishing boats, all with Resort guests enjoying the unseasonable Alaskan temperatures. As before, when we arrived, the public float in Marguerite Bay (which was installed by one of the float plane companies and is shared by private boaters and the float planes) was empty, and Kodiak and Gaelforce were once again able to moor to it. [Editorial comment: Alaska contains many free Public Floats and Buoys, particularly in some of the more remote inlets and anchorages, for the benefit of the cruising boaters. If the float (dock) or buoy is unoccupied, you just tie up to it and enjoy your stay. Why can’t this kind of boater accommodation be found in California?]
The Petersons hiked the 1½ miles to the bear observation platform, and were rewarded with a few more sightings. Particularly interesting was ‘Karl’, an ”alpha bear” who bullied the smaller bears until he was tired and stuffed with salmon, at which point he ambled off into the brush to sleep.
While the Petersons were hiking, the Curleys spent some time talking to one of the pilots from the float planes, while he waited for his passengers to return from their bear tour. He has been a pilot here for 30 years and was a fountain of local knowledge. Remember when we mentioned that the floats were put in by a float plane company? Well, he told us how the floats were installed and HE actually helped make the docks. He also told us how Traitors Cove got its name…it was during the expedition of Captain George Vancouver and they had befriended the local Indians. After working together, Captain Vancouver sent two men into the cove to chart the area when they were attacked by the “friendly” Indians. Vancouver and his crew had been betrayed! (Traitors Cove). One was killed and the other managed to walk several miles around the cove through the forest and was picked up at a point, severely injured; the point is known today as Rescue Point. There are so many interesting names in the Northwest, and each one has its own story. There is a reference book that we must get that is filled with all the tales.
Captain Ron and Mike took Kodiak’s dinghy out to the Inlet’s entrance to do some salmon fishing, but got ‘skunked’ with no catches; luckily, our crab supply was still more than ample, and we again had a ‘crab fest’ dinner!
Kodiak planned to continue on the 100-mile trip around Revillagigedo Island (the island on which Ketchikan is located, accessible by sea and air, but not by road!) during the next several days, visiting Walker Cove and Punchbowl (both highlights of Misty Fiords National Monument); meanwhile, Gaelforce would return to Ketchikan to meet our arriving guests, PCYC members Jim and Martha Baskerville; they would be staying aboard Gaelforce for a couple of weeks in British Columbia until we reached Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
Float plane taking on passengers at the Marguerite Bay dock
Float plane traffic in Marguerite Bay; one on the dock, a second waiting to approach the dock, and a third taking off!
Float plane departing the dock, with another taking off in the background
~~~~~~ Ketchikan ~~~~~~
8/1/2009 – 8/4/2009
Lat: 55 21.042 N
Lon: 131 40.991 W
While Kodiak continued on its cruise around Revillagigedo Island, Gaelforce returned again to Ketchikan to meet the Baskervilles. On the way back through Clover Pass, Gaelforce had an interesting ‘encounter’ with a U.S. Navy operation… a Coast Guard cutter was escorting a huge Navy submarine through Behm Canal (adjacent to the course we were taking back to Ketchikan), and we had to get permission to proceed from the cutter, to reassure them that we would maintain our course and speed and not approach the sub too closely. This area of the Behm Canal contains several submarine ranges where multi-national acoustic testing is done to ascertain submarine noise levels; the area is ideal, as it is miles wide and thousands of feet deep, yet accessible to both Canadian and U.S. military resources.
Arriving in Ketchikan, Gaelforce’s Communications Officer (aka Admiral Marge) contacted the Harbormaster to obtain a slip assignment, mentioning a location preference. He replied that he had only one slip available, an end-tie adjacent to the main channel, and that after that slip was occupied, he would be hanging out the “no vacancy” sign! We immediately responded that the slip sounded perfect, and that we would take it! As it turned out, it was one of the best locations we have had in Ketchikan, because we had a great view of all the small boat, tugboat, cruise ship, and float plane traffic in Tongass Narrows, and were directly across from the airport where the Baskervilles would arrive! We had built-in entertainment, as well as our own alarm clocks (when the float plane traffic started at 6 A.M.!).
The Curleys had arranged to have the Water Taxi pick up the Baskervilles at the airport for a short trip across Tongass Narrows to Gaelforce’s swim step! What a fun way to see your guests arrive! We are so excited that we are able to share our adventure with such good friends.
Alaska State ferries passing in the Tongass Narrows, right outside Gaelforce's slip in Bar Harbor Marina
'Rush Hour' in the Tongass Narrows channel, just outside Gaelforce's slip... a ferry, a barge in tow, a sailboat, and a floatplane!
The Baskervilles arrive at Gaelforce's dock in Ketchikan by water taxi (Martha isn't TOO excited to be here!)
Jim and Jim (Baskerville and Curley), looking forward to the next two weeks in Alaska and British Columbia!
~~~~~~ Ketchikan ~~~~~~
8/3 & 8/4/2009
Lat: 55 21.016 N
Lon: 131 41.103 W
Today, Jim and Martha Baskerville arrived! The Gaelforce crew spent the day provisioning the boat and making sure everything was perfect for their guests. Gaelforce was positioned on an end-tie in Bar Harbor Marina immediately adjacent to the Tongass Channel, the main traffic channel in front of Ketchikan Harbor, and directly across from Ketchikan Airport. With an excellent view of all the planes arriving, we were particularly watching for the Baskerville’s flight. The Curleys had made arrangements with the Ketchikan water taxi to pick up the Baskervilles at the airport dock and deliver them across Tongass Channel to our boat. Like clockwork, our guests arrived at Gaelforce by water taxi about 20 minutes after their flight landed.
Kodiak invited all of us for cocktails and dinner, which gave us a chance to reconnect with the Peterson’s Guests, their son Mike and his lovely bride Prithi. Lots of laughs and good times were had by all!
The next day Marge and the Baskervilles went into town to see the sights and (of course!) to shop. We stopped for lunch and ran into Mike and Rene Ditton (former PCYC members). We had seen them on our first stay in Ketchikan in June, and it was great to see them again. They are working for a tour company driving Hummers filled with cruise ship guests on tours of Ketchikan and will be returning to Mexico at the end of the summer. We had a wonderful day which ended on Kodiak for dinner, again.
During dinner, Marge’s gold crown came off (the one in her mouth, not the one on her head…ha ha!) Of course, it happened on a Friday night, so the best she could do was leave messages on the answering machines of all the dentists in Ketchikan and hope that one would call back on Monday with an appointment. The first thing Monday morning she got a call from Dr. Shaffer’s office saying they just got a cancellation and she should come in immediately. Well, she rushed in and got her tooth fixed. Interestingly, the dentist turned out to be a member of the Ketchikan Yacht Club and participates in all the sailboat races… I guess he took pity on a fellow boater!
We’ve spent a fair amount of time in Ketchikan, having stopped there on our way north and again on this trip south. We’ve enjoyed the city very much… it’s on the edge of Alaskan ‘civilization’ (there are no roads in or out of Ketchikan from the mainland, and only 70 miles of roads within the city; the only way to get there is by plane or boat), yet it has all the amenities of a big city and the folks there are very friendly and hospitable. We look forward to returning, some day soon!
~~~~ Misty Fjords National Monument ~~~~
Lat: 55 45.324 N
Lon: 130 42.363 W
Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island; the island is completely encircled by the Tongass Channel and the Behm Canal, and at the northeast portion of this waterway is Misty Fjords National Monument, a spectacular region of fjords and inlets whose beauty is world-renowned. With beautiful clear sunny days, we took advantage of the great weather to travel there with the Baskervilles, while Kodiak stayed behind (having visited the area several days before with Mike and Prithi); Ron’s kids were leaving in a couple of days from Ketchikan and Carol would be returning there shortly after that.
As usual, the weather was perfect! We entered Punchbowl (a particularly scenic harbor in Misty Fjords, named for its similarity to a punchbowl) and were struck by the magnificence of the entrance. The granite walls were so tall and steep that we could not capture their towering beauty in a single photograph. The scenery was breathtaking! We were hoping to tie up to the only public mooring buoy in the harbor, but it was already taken, so we soaked up all the beauty and then headed for Walker Cove, another harbor in Misty Fjords. This was just as breathtaking and as luck would have it, the only mooring buoy in this harbor was vacant. We spent the afternoon and that night in this harbor; the only other boat we saw was a sailboat which came in later, probably looking to see if the buoy was available). It was so very special!
The next morning we were greeted by a float plane which flew in between the canyons of tall granite and then landed close to our boat…it was quite a sight! There were about eight passengers who stood on the pontoons to take in the beauty; they then reentered the plane and off they flew. We were fortunate in that the skies were crystal-clear and the sun was brilliant, since most tourists (and even most Alaskans) have not seen the full beauty of Misty Fjords; the mountains and waterways are usually fog-enshrouded (hence the name!).
Jim Baskerville says "...we've arrived!"
Granite walls and calm waters in Misty Fiords
~~~~~~ Foggy Bay ~~~~~~
8/6 & 8/7/2009
Lat: 54 56.924 N
Lon: 130 56.408 W
The trip from the lower portion of Alaska to the upper portion of British Columbia involves crossing a body of water called “Dixon Entrance”. This strait can be very treacherous, as it has a long east-west ‘fetch’, and faces out directly into the Pacific Ocean; the prevailing northwest winds often build steep seas which can make the crossing quite perilous. In an attempt to make the crossing as short and comfortable as possible, cruisers headed south usually ‘muster’ in Foggy Bay, the closest safe harbor to the crossing, and then leave in the early morning before the seas rise.
Gaelforce had a pleasant day’s trip to Foggy Bay from Misty Fjords, and arrived at the entrance to the quiet lagoon in late afternoon, carefully maneuvering through the narrow passage, avoiding rocks all along the way. The guide books even mentioned rocks which were uncharted, so we had two people on the bow keeping a close lookout. Once inside the harbor, we had our choice of anchorage as again we were the only ones there!
We immediately lowered the kayak into the water and Marge and Martha took turns enjoying the peace and quiet of kayaking around the harbor. The sun was in and out all day and finally turned to rain in the evening… the sound of the rain on the water was so serene!
The next day brought two sailboats which were traveling together. They were far enough away that we did not see anybody. A seaplane landed and dropped off two people; we never saw them get back on board, so the purpose of their trip was a mystery, but we speculated that they were hunters retrieving gear from a cabin which was nestled in the woods ashore.
During our two day stay we did see eagles and one deer. We never tire of the wildlife!
~~~~ Prince Rupert, British Columbia ~~~~
8/8 & 8/9/2009
Lat: 54 19.211 N
Lon: 130 19.146 W
We left Foggy Bay at 5:30 a.m. in a light rain with just enough light to once again maneuver around the perilous rocks in the entrance. Once outside the harbor it didn’t take long before we were in Dixon Entrance and some rather sloppy seas. We were not relishing this several-hours trip, but as our luck would have it, shortly the seas calmed and we had a beautiful trip into Prince Rupert; this city is the only available Port of Entry for foreign (read: U.S.) vessels entering Canada southward from Alaska. We used the ‘back door’ (Venn Passage) past the ‘First Nation’ (Indian) village of Metlakatla. Venn is a twisting, tortuous passage several miles long, with shoals and reefs. Every hundred yards or so the heading of the channel through the passage changes; strict attention must be paid to the recommended route to avoid going aground (similar to Wrangell Narrows). Taking this route, however, saves more than a dozen miles between Foggy Bay and Prince Rupert, and we arrived there in mid-afternoon.
Because we were now returning to Canada, Captain Jim had to call the Customs Agent to check in our boat and crew. Canada limits the amount of liquor/beer you can bring in (about 1.5 liters per person), so try as we might to drink down to our limit before entering, we were still over by several bottles each. We were, however, given “a pass”, with the admonition that ‘the next time we entered with more than our allowance, we might have to pay taxes on the excess’. Canadian Customs officials seem to be very ‘forgiving’ of tourists who exceed their allowable limits, as long as it is only by a reasonable amount.
After settling in, we decided to head to the market to do some needed shopping. The Baskervilles and Marge walked there in a light rain and managed to duck into some gift shops (Marge said “there is a God!” while Jim said “Damn!”) when the rain got heavier. One tip for tourists in BC… no matter how much it rains, don’t use an umbrella. Jacket hoods are acceptable in heavy rain, but an umbrella marks you as a silly tourist, and we didn’t see a single umbrella during our stay in BC.
Now that we were actually in a real city, there was a need (by Marge and Martha) to take a break from cooking and cleaning and go out to dinner. We went to the Breakers Pub and had a great meal with great friends. Seated next to us was a Canadian fisherman who was dining alone and he struck up an amiable conversation with us. His name was Gordon and he kept our interest with his stories of fishing, family and travel. We somehow started talking about fish recipes and learned that he has many favorites which he has compiled into a cookbook. Both couples wanted to buy a copy but he didn’t have any, and he would not be home for 90 days. We offered to give him the money and have him send us a copy, but he insisted that he would first send the books to our homes, and we could send the money ($8 each) after we receive the books. We are anxious to try some great local recipes when we receive the books!
Jim & Martha Baskerville at the British Columbia Museum in Prince Rupert
~~~~~~ Pillsbury Cove ~~~~~~
Lat: 54 19.916 N
Lon: 130 23.292 W
After Gaelforce spent two nights at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club (no reciprocals, unfortunately!), Kodiak headed across Dixon Entrance to rejoin us; Carol Peterson had returned from visiting with her mother in Minnesota, and was once again aboard Kodiak. Slip space was tight at PRRYC, so we made arrangements for Kodiak to take our slip when we vacated. Pillsbury is a quiet anchorage across the Channel from ‘Rainy Rupert’ where we had spent several days on the trip north. When Kodiak arrived in Prince Rupert, we waited until we could see him motoring across the channel before we left the dock, so that his slip wouldn’t be ‘stolen’. We swapped places and moved Gaelforce across the channel from Prince Rupert to Pillsbury Cove, to wait until Kodiak was ready to continue our journey south the next day;
Kodiak couldn’t join us in Pillsbury Cove because they had to clear Canada customs. We planned to rejoin each other and start cruising together again the next morning.
~~~~~~ Lowe Inlet ~~~~~~
Lat: 53 33.575 N
Lon: 129 34.039 W
Kodiak and Gaelforce rendezvoused just outside Prince Rupert Harbor and headed south for Lowe Inlet. We had a beautiful easy 60-mile trip into Lowe and once again anchored in front of Verney Falls, where we had stayed on our trip north. We approached to within about a hundred feet of the falls and anchored in about 30 feet of water; the rush of water from the falls creates so much current that the boat stays rock-solidly pointed at the falls all night. It wasn’t long before we saw three bears fishing for salmon at the falls. It was quite a sight and we all felt we were in a National Geographic episode! The bears came and went all afternoon; if they only knew how many eyes were on them! It did, however, RAIN hard all day long. It was such a relaxing day, enjoying the bears, the rain and reading… it was so perfect! The next morning we got up early in hopes of seeing bears again before we departed to our next destination and we weren’t disappointed! There were a couple of bears fishing again and then we saw a couple of them “bear-hugging” and playing around in the grass. They were standing and cuffing each other in play… they appeared to be quite young. It is a moment none of us will forget! We had enjoyed this harbor earlier, on our trip north, but this time it was awesome! It is hard to say goodbye to such a beautiful spot.
~~~~~~ Hartley Bay ~~~~~~
8/12 & 8/13/2009
Lat: 53 25.459 N
Lon: 129 15.050 W
Hartley Bay, less than 20 miles further south, is a “First Nation” (Indian) settlement with a population which varies between twenty and one hundred people. It was tricky getting into the harbor as it was very low tide (about seven-foot depth) and there was not a lot of maneuvering room, but both boats got in with the help of some locals. We met a young man named Hank and he was kind enough to take us to the best crabbing spot, with a guarantee that we would catch lots of crabs. “No pot comes up empty!” With that assurance, three crab pots were set… we would know the next morning how we fared. Meanwhile, we took a walk into town where the streets and the sidewalk are one and the same and they are built on a boardwalk! It was quite unique. We wanted to help their economy by spending our money, but there were no stores and the only restaurant was closed for vacation. Hartley Bay is primarily a fishing village and everyone was busy getting their boats ready for the next day. We met some interesting people and everyone was very helpful and friendly.
The next morning, before we left, the crab pots were retrieved and low and behold….NO CRABS! So much for the “guarantee”! We left this sleepy village and headed south towards Bottleneck Inlet.
We were about 1 ½ hours out when Kodiak developed a serious hydraulic problem, which compromised its windlass, thrusters, and stabilizers. Kodiak tried to limp along, hoping to get to our next destination, but it got so bad that both engines had to be shut down in fear of damaging costly equipment. We needed to head back to Hartley Bay! With engines down, that meant only one thing…Gaelforce had to tow Kodiak back at a slow, safe speed. This is when the buddy-system really counts. We were out in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone coverage and no ‘Vessel Assist’. When we got close to Hartley Bay, after several hours, we radioed the harbor and asked if Hank was around to give us a hand again. He called back a few minutes later and told us there would be plenty of help on the dock so “come on in”. We were lucky that our slips were still available, as we had taken the last two.
Once secured on the dock, Captain Ron started making phone calls. Long story short, the part that failed (a hydraulic motor/pump system which cooled the hydraulic oil) would be shipped to Port Hardy out of Ft. Lauderdale. Meanwhile Captain Ron and Captain Jim worked all day jury-rigging a spare holding-tank electric pump to replace the failed hydraulic motor/pump, to get him by until we arrived in Port Hardy three days later. These guys are amazing!
When things quieted down we told Hank we had been “skunked” on the crab pots. He couldn’t believe it! He was quite sure that someone poached our crabs. He felt so bad that he came back with six of the biggest crabs we ever saw. He wanted to give them to us, but we wouldn’t have it. (There’s no truth to the rumor that they had been poached from our traps!) We insisted on paying and he finally agreed on $5 a crab…such a deal! We all thanked the Baskervilles for footing the bill. Hank taught us how to cook LIVE crabs, which we had not done before, but Hank swore that it made the crabmeat much more succulent and sweet. Previously, the guys had cleaned the crabs first and just gave Marge (who somehow became the official crab cooker) the legs. Marge cooked the crabs live and will not do that again! We all decided that the taste wasn’t that different (if at all) to go through that. The ladies got over the horror and we all truly enjoyed the crabs that night.
A Humpback escorts us to Hartley Bay
Jim & Martha, with a 'gift' from their new best friend Hank, a 'First Nation' fisherman (and crabber)
~~~~~~ Kakushdish Inlet ~~~~~~
Lat: 52 08.873 N
Lon: 128 00.673 W
We got an early start the next morning, anxious to see if Kodiak would do OK with the makeshift repair. Everything seemed to be working fine so we charged on to our next destination, Kakushdish Inlet. It would be a long day (100 miles) but an easy ride. The only ‘exciting’ part of the ride – aside from the spectacular scenery – was the close encounter we had with a BC ferry traveling at 25 knots whose bow we had to cross, but thankfully that turned out to be a non-event!
We had been here before, on the trip north, and really loved it. It is a great anchorage, calm and beautiful; it is completely protected from all weather, as access to the inner cove is down a long narrow inlet. Jim took Yankee for a dinghy ride, which she always loves. Crab pots were set but the next morning the only catch was a huge starfish. No fresh crab tonight!
As we left Kakushdish, we met the Norwegian Sun, a huge cruise ship, southbound in the same narrow channel, at the same spot where we had met her on the trip north in May, along with a huge northbound tug-and-tow… Fate! We all passed without incident, but once again it demonstrated the value of Kodiak’s AIS equipment, which gave us all the details about the Norwegian Sun (size, speed, course, destination, location, name, etc.) long before we saw her on radar.
~~~~~~ Bull Harbor, Hope Island ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 54.888 N
Lon: 127 56.141 W
Today we left bright and early to head towards Queen Charlotte Sound, planning to stop at a convenient harbor on the northern side of the Sound for the night, before the 40-mile crossing. As we approached the Sound, even after traveling the 60 miles from Kakushdish, the weather was so ideal that we decided to press on and make our crossing then. Crossing the Sound can be a rough trip. It would take several hours, and longer if the Sound was ‘kicking up’, so we wanted to ‘seize the opportunity’! We had a bit of a beam sea (swells broadside to the boat) which wasn’t too bad because we have stabilizers (fins underneath the boat which counteract any rolling motion). Kodiak, because of its hydraulic problem, hadn’t turned on the stabilizers, but because they were rolling quite a bit, decided to use them. All in all, the crossing was fine, including “out-racing” a tug-and-tow to maintain our heading to Bull Harbor, on an island off the Vancouver Island coast; this was done only after advising him of our intentions and getting his concurrence. The winds on the Sound were beginning to ‘freshen’ quite a bit when we entered Bull Harbor, a First Nation community, whose population numbers between 2 and 30 depending on the time of year. We stayed on the town docks and were met by a resident who took our slip fee ($20) and gave us permission to hike the area, after advising us that there was no wildlife (bears, cougars, wolves, etc.) on the island, and we could to go wherever we wished. Carol immediately took him up on it and along with Yankee had a nice walk. The rest of the crew opted to “cocktail”.
The next morning, Martha, Marge and Yankee walked the entire dirt road so we could see the Sound on the opposite side of the island. We really enjoyed it and wanted to continue even farther, but needed to get back to the boats for our scheduled departure at 11 a.m. to head to Port Hardy, the northernmost city on Vancouver Island.
~~~~~~ Port Hardy ~~~~~~
8/16, 8/17, 8/18/2009
Lat: 50 42.798 N
Lon: 127 29.410 W
We had short uneventful two-hour trip to Port Hardy from Bull Harbor and spent the afternoon relaxing on board. Ron touched base with the harbor office to see if his expected replacement part had arrived. Unfortunately it had not, but we were planning to spend a couple of days anyway and it was sure to arrive the next day. As this was the Baskerville’s last day with Gaelforce, they graciously took us all out to dinner. Another great meal with great friends…life is good!!
Next morning (8/17) we said “goodbye” to the Baskervilles as they left in their rental car; they were planning to drive down the length of Vancouver Island to Victoria, spend the night and then take the ferry to Seattle for their trip home. We sure had a fun time with them and we were sad to see them leave.
Meanwhile, Gaelforce and Kodiak used the marina loaner truck to do some much needed food and liquor shopping. Kodiak’s repair part arrived, so the rest of the day was dedicated to replacing the broken part with the new one. After installing and testing, all went well!... and both boats were ready to depart on the 19th to continue our trip south! Next stop, Port McNeill and then on to Campbell River through the infamous (and oftentimes dangerous) Seymour Narrows!
~~~~~~ Port McNeill ~~~~~~
8/19 & 8/20
Lat: 50 35.509 N
Lon: 127 05.319 W
We left Port Hardy and headed south toward Port McNeill in DENSE fog. Gaelforce was leading, with Kodiak close behind… at least that was what our radar indicated; we could barely see each other, even though we were only about 100 feet apart! We activated our fog horns and off we went. We were fortunate to have VERY flat seas, which made the trip quite comfortable. It was an interesting trip which – fortunately – only took about 2 hours; as luck would have it, the sun broke out through the fog as we entered Port Mc Neill. Approaching our assigned slips, we were surprised and pleased to see dock crew waiting to help us with our lines. (Carol and Marge were particularly pleased as they are the ones who usually step off the boat and handle lines.) After the captains set a few crab pots, we spent the afternoon walking through town and returned to have dinner at a local restaurant.
The next day, we took a BC ferry for the short trip over to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island; Alert Bay is a First Nation community which is proud of its Namgis history. We picked up a self-guided tour pamphlet at the Welcome Center and off we went exploring. Because we were all starving, our first stop was at a lovely restaurant with great food. We then headed to the sacred burial grounds which has unusual and sacred totem poles, each depicting a particular family’s history. We really enjoyed this special place. After spending several hours, we boarded the ferry for our return trip to Port McNeill.
It was time to check the crab pots, and we found that we had hit the crabbing Mother Lode…11 crabs! We quickly cooked them up and froze them for another day. Could it be we are getting our fill of crab?...Nah!
The beautiful main street at the waterfront in pretty, well-kept Alert Bay!
~~~~~~ Port Harvey ~~~~~~
Lat: 50 34.058 N
Lon: 126 16.072 W
The next morning we cruised down the coast of Vancouver Island to Port Harvey, which consists of a few small homes, a large floating dock and a small 7-11 style market (only smaller!), all tucked back into a very protected harbor off the main waterway of Johnstone Strait. The market did, surprisingly, carry Yorkshire Pudding mix and Kraft Catalina dressing, which Marge picked up. The owners were very friendly and helpful; the marina is only a few years old, and it was obviously a ‘labor of love’… all the docks and facilities had been hand-built by them, and they lived on the grounds . Carol, Marge and Yankee decided to take a walk, but didn’t get far because the trail was closing in and they had been told that there was a resident bear hanging around somewhere. Yankee was anxious to run, so Marge removed her leash and she took off running all around us. She was so happy to get some exercise! Unfortunately, she was so excited that while she was running to see Carol, she actually knocked Carol down. After realizing she wasn’t hurt, we had a good laugh!
The owner’s daughter and husband ran a limited-menu restaurant at the marina, but we had our hearts and tummies set for barbeque on our boats; just then, someone passed by carrying a pizza. It smelled so good that we immediately went to the restaurant to order two pizzas “to go”, and Boy! they were just as good as they smelled! Before we left the next morning, we bought fresh baked bread from the marina office. It was a fun stop and so beautiful!
~~~~~~ Campbell River ~~~~~~
(VIA SEYMOUR NARROWS)
8/22 & 8/23
Lat: 50 02.110 N
Lon: 125 14.619 W
Continuing the next morning down Johnstone Strait, we approached Seymour Narrows; navigating the Seymour Narrows rapids can be a little intimidating, to say the least! The currents run to 16 knots on the flood and 14 knots on the ebb. Passing through the narrows should be done at slack tide… timing is everything! We arrived at slack tide and even then there were whirlpools and eddies to avoid. The captains maneuvered skillfully and it wasn’t long before we had the city of Campbell River in sight.
As has been our good fortune this entire adventure, the weather was perfect! There was one dock which looked so quaint, because it was filled with small cafes. We took a walk around town to get a feel for the area. There was more shopping here than we have had in several days, although nothing exciting. Jim wanted to buy a minor part for the shower, but after finding out that the same part which retailed for $30 in WestMarine cost $55 in Port McNeill, he decided to jury-rig a repair until home! Carol and Marge walked down to the park along the water where we came upon a powerboat race. The boats were very small, but fast, and as far as we could tell, the skippers appeared to be kids. It appeared the entire town came down for the day’s event.
After doing minor provisioning at a great market, we were ready to leave Campbell River and headed for Egmont, across the Strait of Georgia (which separates the island of Vancouver from the British Columbia mainland) to Princess Louisa Inlet.
~~~~~~ Egmont (Secret Bay)~~~~~~
Lat: 49 45.014 N
Lon: 123 49.139 W
Egmont was our staging area before we continued several hours north up Jervis Inlet and entered Malibu Rapids on our way to Princess Louisa Inlet. Both boats were able to fit on the public dock after backing in to avoid the large rocks which ‘guarded’ the approach to the docks. Our location made it convenient for hiking; Carol and Ron decided they needed some exercise, so they headed off on the trail. They were gone over an hour and when they returned they had picked wild blackberries which they shared with Jim and Marge. What a treat! They were delicious… for dessert, for breakfast, whenever!
There were many tourists and ‘boat-watchers’ walking the dock, so we got to meet some very nice, interesting people.
~~~~~~ Chatterbox Falls ~~~~~~
(VIA MALIBU RAPIDS AND PRINCESS LOUISA INLET)
8/25 & 8/26
Lat: 50 12.274 N
Lon: 123 46.140 W
Malibu Rapids, like all the other rapids and narrows in the Pacific Northwest, must be handled with care. If you read the instructions in the guide books, they all seem so daunting that you almost don’t want to attempt them, but look for a detour around them. We have learned that if you pay attention to the guide books and take into account the currents and tides, they are really “a piece of cake”. Malibu Rapids is different in that they are very narrow and dog-legged so that you cannot see boat traffic coming in the opposite direction, and only one boat at a time can go through. It is imperative that you use your radio and announce your intention to enter the rapids, and then wait for a possible response; we witnessed an ‘almost’ situation when three boats who had announced themselves were closely followed by an un-announced fourth boat, which made a boat who had planned on entering suddenly abort and wait for the last boat to clear! After waiting for several boats to exit the rapids, Kodiak and Gaelforce safely made their passage through the Rapids.
Now in Princess Louisa Inlet, we came up to speed and headed for Chatterbox Falls. Gaelforce then heard a terrible grinding noise coming from their boat! It was a mystery as to what was going on, but we knew we needed to get tied up to the dock as quickly as possible, so Captain Jim could assess the problem. Because Kodiak was too big for the public dock at the Falls, they picked up a mooring buoy while Gaelforce limped to the dock. It didn’t take long for Captain Ron to dinghy over to help Jim figure out the problem. We set up our underwater camera to check out the props, which immediately drew a crowd of all the other boaters on the dock. All the onlookers were intrigued with the camera and will be adding it to their “wish list”! (It was $100 well-spent at Harbor Freight!) Meanwhile, Jim and Ron decided it was a starboard prop problem, but what to do? Help arrived out here in the middle of nowhere in the form of a diver! One of the boaters was a professional diver and had his full wetsuit with him, but no air tank. He volunteered to dive, holding his breath and using a snorkel, to check out the problem; he wouldn’t take any payment for his efforts, but asked if we would do a load of laundry for him. Such a deal! He suited up and dove in, taking care to avoid the poisonous Lion Mane jellyfish which are present in the area; after several dives, he said the problem was a loose backing nut on the prop. He did his best tightening it with inadequate tools and advised us to have someone check it out in our next port. We were so thrilled that in addition to doing his laundry, we threw in a warm shower, too! We wanted to buy him a steak dinner (in the form of $), but he wouldn’t think of it. He said “we’re all boaters and that is what we do, help each other when we can and hope we get the same in return”. With all the remote places we have been, no truer words could be said! Both Kodiak’s cooling pump problem in Hartley Bay and Gaelforce’s problem here in Princess Louisa Inlet happened many miles away from professional assistance, and they demonstrated the necessity for spare parts, ingenuity, and self-reliance when cruising in these remote waters, and absolutely illustrated the value of ‘Buddy Boating’!
With all the excitement over, we visited with other boaters and what a small world! One couple has good friends who live in Camarillo (Jim and Marge’s home town), and another couple told us how his mom was involved in the Wrangell, AK museum of natural history. That came up because we were commenting that the museum was one of the best we have seen for such a small town.
We now were able to take a good look around us, and what a sight! Majestic mountains surrounded us with the beautiful and huge Chatterbox Falls waterfall cascading down the face of the precipices. It was a sight to behold and no picture can truly capture the beauty of this special spot. Waggoners guide book calls it the “Holy Grail” for cruising people all over the world and we can see why.
The next day Gaelforce joined Kodiak at McDonald Rock, tying up to an empty public buoy just a short ride back the Falls. Carol and Marge took turns kayaking and it was such a perfect spot. It was so quiet and when you looked up you were surrounded by incredibly-tall, snow-capped granite mountains. It doesn’t get any better than that! We also took a trip in the Peterson’s dinghy to the Malibu Club at the mouth of the Malibu Rapids. ‘Young Life’ operates the Malibu Club there which hosts 250-300 high-school-aged guests and a staff of 100. Young Life is a youth outreach organization which “seeks to capture the attention of typical teenagers long enough for an intelligent look at the Christian faith”. This was quite a facility which includes a huge outdoor swimming pool overlooking the rapids, a dining room, sleeping accommodations, and lots of water activities, too. While we were visiting, we noticed that there were quite a few families with young children attending. We were also told that there were a number of soldiers being hosted there with their families, in order that they could have a ‘special time’ before they were transferred overseas for duty. We were all very impressed with what we saw, and what this organization is doing!
These two days in Princess Louisa were a very special time and one we will not ever forget!
Gaelforce at Chatterbox Falls, with Captain Jim in the wheelhouse, and Marge and Yankee on the foredeck
~~~~~~ Pender Harbor ~~~~~~
Lat: 49 37.396 N
Lon: 124 01.537 W
After exiting Princess Louisa Inlet through Malibu Rapids without a hitch, we headed for Pender Harbor, where we had arranged for slips for the night. As we entered beautiful Pender Harbor on this warm sunny day, we were impressed by the large, expensive homes in the hills overlooking the water… one was more magnificent than the next. The harbor is fairly large and well maintained. Ron, Carol and Marge took a short walk into town to do a little provisioning. We like to take advantage of shopping whenever we can, because not every harbor is shopper-friendly! On our walk back, Marge and Carol saw a deer in someone’s front yard. We both love nature!
Jim arranged for a professional diver to tighten the backing nuts on the props, to temporarily correct the problem we had encountered entering Princess Louisa Inlet until we could get to a proper boatyard. The diver was a nice young man who was very knowledgeable. He assessed the problem and realized he did not have the right size wrench, so he went to his blacksmith shop and made one! Out on the edge of civilization as we all know it, you have to be able to improvise! Job done and money well spent! Gaelforce was now able to go into reverse without fearing that the starboard prop might fall off… no small worry, as props of this size are worth many thousands of dollars!
We had dinner that night on Kodiak’s back deck, figuring that no restaurant could compare to the Pender Harbor ‘al fresco’ setting and beautiful view.
Pender Harbor Marina... very attractive!
~~~~~~ Vancouver (again) ~~~~~~
Lat: 49 16.466 N
Lon: 123 06.362 W
Today we headed for our planned stop at Snug Cove on Bowen Island. Even though we had learned by phone that there were no slips available in the main marina, Jim knew from a previous trip that there is a large anchorage cove adjacent to Snug Cove. So we forged ahead, only to find out that the anchorage was filled with private buoys which you cannot use and that there wasn’t enough room for our two boats to anchor safely, so…..the captains decided to head on over to Vancouver, a trip which would take us less than 2 hours. It was a great crossing and after many phone calls trying to get slips for a couple of days, we decided to anchor at the end of False Creek, a tributary south of Vancouver Harbor, which includes the famous Granville Island Market. After all the beautiful scenery and all the pristine nature we saw, it was a little overwhelming to see all the tall buildings on the skyline of Vancouver. None of us were ready for the hustle and bustle of city life and wished we could have made a sharp turn to port and headed north again!
We both set anchor right in front of the Telus World of Science building, a huge ten-story-tall framework globe; at night it is all aglow with lights which look like stars. We were practically alone in this quiet and enchanting anchorage, which made it tolerable for us to adjust ourselves to civilization.
Anchoring in Vancouver’s False Creek is free, but you must get a permit from the boat Welcome Center or pick up a form at the dinghy dock by Monk’s Restaurant. As the restaurant was closer, Jim and Ron set off in Ron’s dinghy to submit their papers. There were forms and a drop box on the dock and after filling them out the captains returned to their boats.
Gaelforce had developed a serious leak in its dinghy which just kept getting worse, so Jim and Ron spent some time working to find the source of the leak, and then Jim spent about an hour gluing and patching the dinghy. While Jim was waiting to test his repair job he discovered that his Blackberry was missing; it was definitely not aboard Gaelforce! Jim checked with Ron to see if he had left it in the dinghy when they went to fill out the anchoring permits…no luck! It was lost! What to do? Marge said we need to pray to St. Anthony, just like Jim’s mom had taught her, saying the prayer “dear St. Anthony please come down, something’s lost and can’t be found”. Then Jim and Marge borrowed Kodiak’s dinghy and went back to the anchor permit location. Marge checked all around the dock area while Jim stayed in the dinghy… nothing! Marge then went into Monk’s Restaurant and asked if someone had possibly turned in a Blackberry; two young ladies said in unison “YES!”… St. Anthony had done it again! Marge was then asked to identify the phone and since most Blackberries look the same (to Marge), Marge told them she could do one better to verify that the phone belonged to her husband -- she rang his phone. That did it! Marge ran down to the dinghy dock to give Jim his phone back and Jim (who was sure it had fallen in the drink or that someone picked it up) was REALLY happy!
The Petersons, Curleys and ‘boat-dog’ Yankee took a long walk around the Vancouver False Creek area. The only one who was worn out was Yankee! It was a warm, beautiful day, as usual. There was a Costco and a supermarket within walking distance from our boats, which came in handy.
After a busy day, we all opted to have dinner on our own boats and listen to the AC/DC concert held in the stadium located on the waterfront adjacent to where we were anchored. We admitted the only thing we heard was a lot of screaming and unrecognizable music... we must be getting old, or jaded to the pleasures of ‘civilization’!
During our stay at anchor in False Creek, there was a weekend “Dragon Boat” event in the anchorage. This was a charity function benefiting the Children’s Hospital, and involved eight teams of oarsmen paddling racing sculls, each scull manned by about 20 paddlers. We were asked to move our boats to make room for the racecourse, but luckily ended up with ringside seats for the afternoon’s action… this event is apparently a major Vancouver function, with shoreside tents, food, and associated festivities!
The next morning the Petersons anxiously awaited the arrival of their guests from Atlanta, Bill and Susan Liestner. Vancouver airport was a 15-minute taxi ride to where our boats were anchored and Ron picked them up at the dinghy dock… very convenient. After they got settled in they went on a sight-seeing dinghy ride. That night we all got together on Kodiak for dinner…fresh crab - what else!
On our last day here we went to the Granville Market, a large shoreside facility with about a hundred independent vendors of fresh fruits & veggies, desserts, breads, meats, flowers….you get the idea! Later that night we were treated to a fine veal dinner prepared by the Liestners. All ingredients were purchased at the market and it was delicious! After a noisy game of Farkel, the Curleys headed back to Gaelforce and Carol finished packing for her trip to Minnesota to help her mom for a week. After a hip replacement and some therapy, Mom was going home, but could use a little help; Carol will be returning to Kodiak on 9/8.
Inside Granville Market
~~~~~~ Fraser River North Arm ~~~~~~
9/1 & 9/2
Lat: 49 15.547 N
Lon: 123 16.752 W
At 6:15 a.m. Carol called a cab and headed to the airport for her trip to see “mom”. Later that morning, Kodiak, with Captain Ron and the Liestners aboard left for Bowen Island for the night.
Gaelforce headed south from Vancouver to the north arm of the Fraser River where she was to have work done in the boatyard. The river was very shallow, which meant we needed to keep a close watch on the charts to be sure we had plenty of water below us. Upon entering we met a tug towing the BIGGEST log barge we had ever seen! We weren’t even sure that we had enough room to pass, but after Captain Jim called the tug, he was advised there was plenty of water below, but to pass closely between the tow and the rock breakwall, favoring the log boom tow… it was all very interesting! We passed several more tugs along the way without a problem. We did, however, see a sailboat high and dry on the port shore, keeled over! This river is no joke, as the dredged channel is only about 40’ wide in many places, and less than 7-8’ deep, complicated by a 4-5 knot current running at flood and ebb tides!
We arrived at the boatyard and were immediately put ‘on the hard’. We had our stabilizer fin repaired; it had been slightly damaged at the beginning of our trip (due to a rock in Desolation Sound). We also had ‘kelp cutters’ installed and put on a coat of bottom paint around the water line (we kept growing grass there, and although the rest of the bottom looked good, we thought that possibly the paint along the water line was ineffective).
It was a pretty noisy boatyard, mainly because of the surrounding industrial businesses. One of the businesses worked all through the night. (By the second night we knew when it was break time… that was when it got real quiet!) If that wasn’t enough, we also had a thunder and lightning storm! That isn’t comforting when you are on your boat in the yard, with the antennas and bimini framework the highest objects around! Marge handled it by putting the covers over her head. The yard completed all their work on time and very professionally. We paid the yard bill (gulp!) and were ready to get back into the water for our return to Vancouver to await the arrival of our guests, Ron and Natalie Dreher.
Gaelforce is looking good, and ready to go back in the water, to continue our Pacific Northwest cruise!
~~~~~~ Vancouver ~~~~~~
(and the Drehers’ Arrival)
LAT: 49 16.508 N
LON: 123 06.346 W
After our two-day stay in the boat yard for some minor repairs and to install “Shaft Razor” kelp cutters (to prevent damage in the event that we snagged a crab pot line on the way home), it was great to be back on water again. We returned to False Creek in Vancouver and anchored for the second time in the same area. There was lots of cleaning to do, as the boatyard was very dusty, so we spent the day ‘sprucing up’ Gaelforce in preparation for the arrival of Ron and Natalie Dreher.
Since the Drehers were not expected until dinner time of the 5th of September, we spent that day at the public library where Jim was able to post some more narrative and photos on the blog. Jim met the Drehers at the dinghy dock in False Creek and brought them to Gaelforce where we prepared a special dinner for the Drehers; all guests aboard Gaelforce and Kodiak were treated to a delicious crab feast upon arrival! You would think we would have had our fill of crab…NEVER!
The next day (9/6) was very windy with some rain (as predicted) so instead of meeting Kodiak in Sidney, we opted to stay in Vancouver and do some sightseeing. Jim headed for the library again to work on the blog and Ron, Natalie and Marge toured China Town, taking in a classic Chinese garden. In the middle of this bustling city it was great to relax in such a serene setting. We got back to Gaelforce just before the rain and wind really set in; by now it was blowing about 30 knots!
The next morning was calm and beautiful, so we got up and out early to head west across the Strait of Georgia to our next destination, Silva Bay, about 25 miles away in the Canadian Gulf Islands. We rendezvoused with Kodiak who was headed back to Vancouver’s Coal Harbor, to pick up Carol who was returning from a visit with her mother. Kodiak, after having spent a day in Silva Bay, suggested that we bypass that harbor and try somewhere else. Gaelforce heeded the advice of Kodiak and headed for Nanaimo.
~~~~~~ Nanaimo ~~~~~~
LAT: 49 10.593 N
LON: 123 56.436 W
Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island, and a transportation hub of lower British Columbia; because of this, and its association with ‘bathtub racing’ events (there is even a statue of one of the ‘star’ bathtub racers, the Mayor), and the city’s numerous "watering holes", it is fondly known as the "Hub, Tub, and Pub City".
After arriving in Nanaimo, the Drehers and Curleys (and, of course, Yankee) took a long walk along the beautiful park at the water’s edge. It was a spectacular day and we took advantage of the great weather. The shoreline was ‘wall-to-wall’ with fishermen fly-casting for the spawning salmon.
We spent our night in Nanaimo at the local Yacht Club guest dock, courtesy of PCYC’s reciprocity agreement with them, and exchanged Club burgees.
The Transient (Guest) Dock at the Nanaimo Yacht Club
~~~~~~ Ladysmith ~~~~~~
LAT: 48 59.973 N
LON: 123 48.882 W
No matter where you go in the Canadian Gulf Islands, you can be sure it is only a short hop from place to place! We arrived in Ladysmith Harbor and were very pleasantly surprised by our ‘greeting committee’… the dockmaster was waiting to help with lines and was very friendly. Ron Dreher didn’t take long to find a small but interesting wooden boat museum nearby. He also met two sailors who lived on their sailboat, Dreamspeaker; they had authored a guide book for the Canadian Gulf Islands and British Columbia. He was so taken by their story that he bought two books and had them autographed and presented one to the Curleys – just another reason to return to the area and make good use of the book! After settling in we all took a walk to see the town. We visited an exhibit of an old locomotive that was used during the logging days; we also went to an art exhibit and were treated to a tour of a local artist’s studio. All the touring had built up an appetite so we lunched at a local café.
On the way back to our boat, we noticed wild blackberries everywhere! While the guys returned to Gaelforce, Natalie and Marge were driven to pick as many blackberries as they could reach without getting too scratched up from all the thorns. Our dessert that night was angel food cake with blackberries and whipped cream! What a special treat. As we were hooking back up with Kodiak the next day, we promised them a blackberry feast too, the only problem was that the crew of Gaelforce at all the blackberries. Natalie was so guilt-ridden she went out the next morning before we departed and picked more blackberries! What a trooper! This time she went prepared…she donned Captain Jim’s Alaska rainboots, weather jacket and his rubber crabbing gloves! She was a sight to behold, to say the least, but that did not keep Natalie from picking the mother lode of blackberries!
~~~~~~ Chemainus ~~~~~~
LAT: 48 55.521 N
LON: 123 42.834 W
After Natalie’s berry picking, we took a short trip over to Chemainus where we met Kodiak and crew (the Petersons and their guests, the Liestners). This was such a quaint town (called "the little town that did", for its recovery from the loss of its lumber mill in the 1980s), with great little shops and wonderful murals (over 30) all over the community depicting the history of Chemainus; these were truly works of art. There was also a beautiful park with an amphitheater where a musician was playing traditional Chilean music. Of course, he was also selling his CD’s and naturally we each bought one.
While Ron Dreher was walking the docks (something he loves to do while taking photos) he noticed an unusual kayak which had a “glass bottom”. He was so intrigued by it that when he arrived home he checked it out and ordered one from the manufacturer in Chemainus.
We also had a surprise when we saw a sailboat from Channel Islands, CA, named Mango Mama! This boat had been owned by former PCYCers Gary and Sydney McFarland. We were hoping to run into them, but we learned from the dockmaster that the boat had been bought a month ago by a local resident from a California couple (the McFarlands!). It was still exciting to see a boat from “the old neighborhood”.
We ended the evening with blackberries for dessert for everyone! Yummy!!
LAT: 48 58.171 N
LON: 123 40.909 W
The next short hop was over to Preedy Harbor on Thetis Island, 5 miles across Stuart Channel from Ladysmith Harbor. Kodiak and Gaelforce anchored off the beach in calm waters in front of a beautiful home, which turned out to be a Christian retreat facility.
There was a lot to see here by dinghy. Ron Dreher took a very long kayak ride so that he could get up close and personal to the shoreline and sea life. Ron, Carol, Bill and Susan boarded Kodiak’s dinghy and Jim, Marge and Natalie took Gaelforce’s dinghy to explore the area. We cruised around the island through Telegraph Harbor and then took an interesting detour through “the Cut”, which is a very shallow waterway lined with houses on one side, to Clam Bay. The Cut is a real challenge to navigate during low tide, even in a dinghy, so timing is everything and be prepared to run aground – lots of ‘skinny water’!
On the way back to our boats, we found Ron, who was still kayaking, and then we towed the kayak with Ron safely on the dinghy. He told us about a very young couple he had met from Poland who were traveling around the world in their sailboat!
The only mishap we had here was when Ron Dreher was taking our dinghy for a ride and ran out of fuel. Fortunately, there was a hand-held VHF radio on board and Jim was able to tell Ron where the spare can of fuel was. While Ron was filling the tank, the VHF radio went overboard! He felt so bad, but as Jim told him, it was a very old radio and we were looking for an excuse to buy a new one anyway!
~~~~~~ Ganges ~~~~~~
LAT: 48 51.353 N
LON: 123 29.642 W
Ganges, one of the largest towns in the northern Gulf Islands, is a hub of commerce and art. There are several marinas in the harbor, but anchoring out, which we did, is easy and popular. There are two challenges encountered while entering the harbor – avoiding the floatplanes and the well-named “Moneymaker Reef”! The quaint and colorful town is very ‘artsy’, with numerous galleries and boutiques, and the Saturday open-air market is very popular.
Before we left Preedy Harbor for Ganges, Marge was treated to coffee in bed and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It was her birthday and Jim knew just what to do to make it special. A little later there was a “special delivery” from Kodiak…another beautiful bouquet of flowers. Wow, Marge was feeling pretty special now!
When we arrived in Ganges, we went into town where the Drehers treated Marge (and Jim) to a wonderful birthday lunch. Although the service was very slow, we had a beautiful table outside overlooking the harbor. The weather was perfect and the food was delicious, and we weren’t on any time table anyway.
We arrived back aboard Gaelforce so the Drehers could get their luggage together and prepare for their departure on a floatplane that would take them to Vancouver the following day for their flight home. The Curleys, Petersons and Liestners all waved “goodbye” as the floatplane ‘sort of’ took off! The plane weaved between boats anchored in the harbor so that the Drehers could take pictures of Kodiak and Gaelforce. Ron was hoping for a fly-over, but the pilot was not able to do that. After the “photo-op”, the plane took off! The Drehers had only been able to stay one week, but it was packed with adventure, laughs, and fun times. It was sad to see them go home!
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing on board. From out of nowhere a beautiful white swan appeared at the stern of Gaelforce and spent a good hour hanging about. (It was a special birthday gift for Marge.) There was a great birthday dinner celebration on Kodiak filled with fun, laughter, great food and great people. The birthday cake arrived complete with candles and singing…fudge brownie cake with ice cream! Yummy!!
The Curleys said “goodnight” to the Petersons and Liestners and headed back to Gaelforce. Marge checked the time when they arrived and it was 9:11! Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo (check the date and think Twilight Zone!).
Before departing for our next stop, the next morning was spent walking the Farmers Farket. When we arrived back we noticed lots of jelly fish. Jim wanted to take a picture so Marge went aboard Gaelforce to get the camera for Jim. Well, expert baton passers we are not! The camera landed in the water and we watched it slip into the deep. The only good thing is that Jim had downloaded all the pictures the night before, so the camera was empty and because of the age of the camera, things were starting to break on it. Jim now knew what to get Marge for her birthday when they got home!
~~~~~~ Fulford Harbor ~~~~~~
LAT: 48 46.197 N
LON: 123 27.172 W
This was probably our shortest trip between harbors…maybe a half hour! It was a pretty quiet stop with not much to do. We walked into town which consisted of one little market and a coffee house; there was also a ferry terminal. The highlight of the day was having authentic New York cheesecake straight from the cheesecake factory in Whitestone, New York; Marge had brought one from home to have during her birthday celebration.
~~~~~~ Poets Cove ~~~~~~
LAT: 48 45.100 N
LON: 123 13.971 W
After leaving Fulford Harbord around 10 a.m. we traveled the twelve miles to Poets Cove on South Pender Island, where we anchored for the night. It was a beautiful stop, complete with a 5-star resort. Bill and Susan Liestner took us all out to lunch at Syrenes restaurant where we dined on their outside patio. The food was delicious and we had the best sweet potato fries, bar none!
The Liestners prepared a gourmet dinner that evening for all of us, and they certainly outdid themselves!
~~~~~~ Port Sidney ~~~~~~
9/14/2009 – 9/16/2009
LAT: 48 39.195 N
LON: 123 23.620 W
Port Sidney, on Vancouver Island, is a major British Columbia city, a transportation hub (Washington State ferries run to Anacortes and Friday Harbor), and a very cosmopolitan, energetic city. It is a Port of Entry, there are many great restaurants, and most services required by boaters are available.
Gaelforce and Kodiak arrived in Port Sidney with the plan of relaxing for a few days before heading across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles, Washington, in preparation for the voyage home. Port Sidney is a beautiful city with a long park area lining the coast which is great for walking. The city is very dog-friendly, which Yankee loved; businesses had doggy water bowls outside their doors and places like Starbucks welcomed pets on their outside patio.
The morning of the 15th we said “goodbye” to the Liestners, who had spent two glorious weeks aboard Kodiak. We are sure we will all meet again on some future adventure! That night, the Curleys and Petersons had a surprisingly gourmet dinner at ‘Rumrunners’ at the top of the dock. We all had something different and the presentation and quality of food was definitely 5-star!
The day of the 16th was a wet one and quite frankly, was very relaxing. Being it was the end of our journey, it was nice to sit back and enjoy the rain. Rain has been a rare sight during our summer in the Northwest!
~~~~~~ Port Angeles, WA ~~~~~~
(Back in the U.S.A.!)
9/17/2009 – 9/22/2009
LAT: 48 07.522 N
LON: 123 27.140 W
What a spectacular morning!... bright sun and warm temps! We really shouldn’t be surprised, as the good weather has followed us our entire trip, except for a handful of days which always seemed to land on days we were staying in port. We have absolutely no complaints about the weather – it has been the best summer weather the Northwest has experienced in twenty years!
We headed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in totally flat, calm seas. When we arrived in Port Angeles we needed to check into U.S. Customs. We were greeted on the dock by the Customs agent who took down our information; when Jim started to spell our home city of Camarillo, he stopped Jim and informed him he knew how to spell it because his son lives there! What a small world! After clearing Customs (which was a non-event), both boats fueled up in preparation for the trip home. It was good to see the cheaper prices of fuel in the U.S., as Canada is very expensive for fuel and liquor, the two staples of life!
Just as an interesting note, the Curley’s brother-in-law, Bill Caiazza, was at a retired Delta pilots meeting where he was discussing our California-to-Alaska adventure to some of his fellow retirees, when one retiree made the announcement that he was the owner of Gaelforce before we bought it. Jim and the previous owner, Ray Nichols, have been keeping in touch and he has been following our blog… just one more co-inky-dink!
The Curleys and Petersons went to Cafe Italia, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Port Angeles; it was a healthy walk from our dock and we opted to take a cab back. Dinner (and the wine selection) was so good, that a few days later the two skippers would return with some of their crew.
Marge and Yankee decided to return home to Camarillo by car instead of cruising back. Natalie Dreher offered to fly back up to Seattle on the 19th and to accompany Marge so she wouldn’t have to drive alone… what a friend, indeed! Unfortunately, it got a little complicated. In order to get to Port Angeles, Natalie had to fly to Seattle, rent a car, drive for one hour, get on a ferry, and then drive another hour to Port Angeles. ( It was even hard for us to follow!) What a trooper she was and we were all so very proud of her when she arrived safely at the dock.
The morning of the 20th Natalie, Marge and Yankee started out on their journey home, planning to spend 3 nights on the road with a special stop to have dinner with Natalie’s sister in Vacaville. We had a ball!
~~~~~~ The Trip Home! ~~~~~~
Both Gaelforce and Kodiak lined up crew for the trip home. This can be a very challenging trip, and even though it’s a “downhill” run, with the wind and the seas at your back, it can be exciting! Kodiak enlisted three relatives and friends (Steve #1, Steve #2, and Steve #3), and Carol decided to return aboard the boat to assist Captain Ron. Gaelforce signed on Jim Baskerville, a veteran of the trip north on board, and also Bob Babcock, former PCYC member and a veteran of the trip north aboard Loose Wire. While flying in to Port Angeles to join Gaelforce, Jim Baskerville’s “Grumman Flight Test” luggage (from his days as Grumman’s Flight Crew) was noticed by the commuter plane pilot and Jim was seated in the right seat, the co-pilot’s position; Bob Babcock had a similar pleasant encounter aboard his plane with the captain of a local mega yacht… so both crew had interesting flights into Port Angeles! With both boats manned with capable crew, we set out for home on September 22nd.
Our run eastward through the Strait of Juan de Fuca was uneventful, even though we were somewhat apprehensive about the NOAA forecast of gale force winds at Cape Flattery, the ‘turn-point’ at the east end of the Strait where we would change course to port to start our trip south! As it turned out, we experienced only mildly ‘brisk’ winds, which quickly abated, and our trip south started on a good note.
We did an ‘overnight’ run past the coast of Washington state to avoid having to run the bars at Grays Harbor and the Columbia River (bar crossings which can be very dangerous, particularly in the choppy seas and high swells which we were experiencing). Our first port was Newport, Oregon, on Wednesday afternoon; crossing the bar at Newport was “interesting”, but uneventful. We called ahead and secured slips at the same town marina we had stayed at on the trip north, just inside the entrance and in the shadow of the famous Newport bridge. Dinner that evening was at an interesting restaurant, a beer distillery a short walk from the marina.
On Thursday morning we set out across the Newport bar (again, without incident), and headed to Coos Bay, Oregon. The bar at Coos Bay gave us no serious problems, but the weather was starting to get gnarly, so we ended up spending several days at the Transient Dock. This turned out to be a rather unpleasant stay, since the dock was frequented by local crab fishermen; the seagulls turned out in force to pick over the crab-catch leftovers and discarded bait remnants, and to leave their ‘mark’ on our boats. At the first opportunity, three days later, we departed Coos Bay on Monday morning.Kodiak offshore, heading out of Coos Bay
Monday evening, we entered the harbor at Crescent City, California; this is an easy entrance, with the harbor being a bight in the coastline protected by two breakwalls with no bar. Crescent City harbor suffered devastating damage from a tsunami in 1964, and another one in 2006 did extensive damage to the harbor’s remaining docks. This explained why, when we entered the harbor, the transient dock we were headed for had no connection to the other docks or shore! Not willing to tie up to an ‘island’ dock with no way ashore, no water, and no electric power, we moored our boats at a nearby work dock and departed early the next morning, headed for Eureka, California.
As we approached Eureka, we called the Coast Guard for a bar report (as we had done as we neared each harbor with a bar). Humboldt Bay Coast Guard (Eureka) told us that vessels our size were being allowed to cross the bar, but they took a ‘head count’, directed that all personnel aboard don life preservers, and advised us that there were 8 – 10 foot breaking seas in the entrance. Crossing a bar in these conditions requires paying strict attention to the waves ahead of and behind the boat, and being ready to apply full power when necessary to keep steerage on the boat. A tugboat with a huge tow exited the entrance channel just as we were preparing to enter, and called us on the VHF to mention that we ‘pleasure boaters’ might want to wait a half-hour for full slack tide, but we had timed our entrance to be close enough to slack to minimize the seas, so we proceeded. With Kodiak leading the way as the more-experienced ‘bar-runner’ between us, keeping Gaelforce apprised of the bar wave conditions, we crossed safely and without a problem (other than a few “white knuckles”)! Running a ‘challenging’ bar can be a very exhilarating experience, and we did our share of it on this trip!
Eureka is an interesting and attractive city, but the primary cash crop in the region is marijuana, and the waterfront area is unfortunately populated with young street-people who are imbued in this drug culture. This made our moorage at the town guest dock somewhat uncomfortable, but we had no incidents, enjoyed a nice meal in town, and departed early the next morning.
We had intended to head on an overnight run to Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, with a possible ‘harbor of refuge’ in Bodega Bay; the weather reports were becoming a bit threatening, so we decided to retain the services of a weather router to advise us about conditions ahead. After hearing about the progress we had made in the past couple of days in 8-10 foot seas, he decided that we were up to the challenge and advised us that – unless we wished to sit and wait out a coming storm system for 4 or 5 days – we should head for Channel Islands Harbor and keep going, non-stop! Having fueled up in Eureka, we decided to go for it! We headed south down the coast, past San Francisco Bay, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, and San Simeon, and Port San Luis. We were a bit apprehensive about rounding Point Arguello and Point Conception, two spots which can be horribly rough and dangerous, in the dark. As it turned out, when we made these roundings, the seas were absolutely flat, the winds were calm, and we had a full moon to add to our enjoyment of this unusually benign passage! The weather router had called it perfectly, and the following day the winds he had predicted started and blew strongly for days!
We turned the corner at Point Conception and drew a bead on Oxnard Harbor, coming straight down the Santa Barbara Channel in flat seas. As a kind of ‘victory run’, both Kodiak and Gaelforce opened up their throttles for the last several miles before reaching Channel Islands Harbor. When we pulled into our slip, Admiral Marge had organized a ‘greeting party’, complete with balloons, champagne, and lunch, followed by a Kodiak and Gaelforce joint crew dinner at PCYC to celebrate the end of our fabulous five-month adventure, an experience never to be forgotten, and a cruiser’s dream-come-true!
Editor’s Note: The photographs in this blog were primarily taken by Marge Curley, with many also contributed by Ron Dreher and Carol Peterson. Marge Curley also generated many of the notes from which the narratives were generated. Kodiak and Gaelforce each logged more than 5000 miles during this "North to Alaska" summer cruise with no serious difficulties... a tribute to not only the skippers and boats, but to the crews!
Kodiak sincerely thanks its crews of (Northbound) Bill, Marvin, Phil, Joe, and Gary, and (Southbound) Steve, Steve, and Steve; Loose Wire thanks its (Northbound) crew of Tom, Ted, Virgil and Bob; and Gaelforce sincerely thanks its crews of (Northbound) Bob, Dick and Jim and (Southbound) of Bob and Jim. Particular Thanks go to Jim Baskerville and Bob Babcock, the only crew to go both Northbound and Southbound, and to the invaluable help of the Admirals, Carol Peterson and Marge Curley.
We wish to thank Ron and Carol Peterson for their friendship and camaraderie during the past five months, for their encouragement to undertake this amazing adventure, and for opening up new cruising experiences and horizons for us; we look forward to sharing many more cruising adventures with them! Both skippers agreed that cruising like this is best done with 'buddy boats', and they were the best!
Next year, Mexico!
Copyright © 2009 Jim Curley – All Rights Reserved