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Thread: Inside Passage

  1. #21


    Sorry for the late update. We flew to Juneau last Friday Jun 1st to finish our trip to Valdez. The caretaker in Juneau only put 16 hours on the boat while we were gone. He was sad to see her leave. Left Juneau at 12:40pm and hit 6-8 foot seas from Dixon entrance to Lituya Bay.....slow going but we arrived at 8:30 pm.... Very cool bay and some good shrimping. Left Lituya at 5:30 and headed to Yakutat. Arrived in Yakutat before noon and spent the day with the the friend who took care of the boat in Juneau. He has a house in Yakutat and met us there. Spent the night and headed for Valdez at 4:30am to clear skies and calm seas making 32-34mph. Spectacular scenery and found numerous pieces of tsunami derby. The most interesting find was a 25 person rescue boat! Picked up a bunch of Japanesse buoys along the way. Made it to Valdez by 4:30 on 180gals after stopping to pick up a few halibut. Great trip to say the least.

  2. #22
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Kodiak, Ak


    Wow HGrove, sounds like a pretty cool trip, and covering ground like that,...Awesome

    So next to the raft there, is that right out in the middle between Yakutat and Kayak island?
    Looks far offshore, like about the middle of that stretch,....and Phenomenal Weather for ya

    good to hear it went as well as that, is a great time of year to travel
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  3. #23


    Quote Originally Posted by kodiakrain View Post
    Wow HGrove, sounds like a pretty cool trip, and covering ground like that,...Awesome

    So next to the raft there, is that right out in the middle between Yakutat and Kayak island?
    Looks far offshore, like about the middle of that stretch,....and Phenomenal Weather for ya

    good to hear it went as well as that, is a great time of year to travel
    The raft was in the vicinity of buoy 82.

  4. #24


    After months of planning and preparation, we are on our way north for an Inside Passage adventure of our own! We set off from La Conner, WA this afternoon at 1330 and cleared customs at Sidney, BC around 7 hours later for a total first-day run of 53 nm. The sun was out, and so were a LOT of pleasure boats! More boats on the water within 30 minutes of Anacortes than we'd see in an entire weekend on PWS.

    The boat, "Room Seven", is a 1978 Universal trawler-style that has been extend to 43 feet. She has twin Perkins 6-cyl diesels and seems to run best at around 1800 RPM. We spent much of our trip playing with the new Garmin 7212 chartplotters and GHC10 auto-pilot. I can tell already that we'll have the AP engaged pretty much, well, all the time. It's easy to input course corrections, and steers a straighter course than I've managed to.

    Tomorrow we're pulling out of Sidney ~1030 with the goal of reaching the Dodd Narrows approach ~1400 for a projected ~1426 slack passage through the narrows. We'd like to reach Pender Harbor for the night, but will have to see how the route planning goes.

    We have a full three weeks scheduled for the trip, which after 1,348 nm should have us in Whittier, AK on July 1st. It's a great feeling to have "taken one small step for man" and finally be on our way north! We may have some web-access glitches as we navigate the Byzantine wi-fi setups along the BC coast, but I'll post progress reports as often as I can, and will work on more photos once I feel confident to turn the con over to one of my first mates for more than a few minutes at a stretch.

    Room 7-20.jpg

  5. #25
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Kodiak, Ak


    Awesome News Steve,

    Looking forward to reports,...I found WIFI in the more "Designer" coffee shops all the way up Vancouver Island
    wasn't necessarily very fast, (spoiled after Seattle areas Super Access everywhere)
    Didn't find any WIFI in several villages I pulled into, after I left the top of Vancouver Island,
    til Prince Rupert anyway

    So sounds like about 8 knots traveling for you guys at 1800rpm, right?
    That's a Nice Rig your running for sure,...Love Those 6 cyl. Perkins'

    Shoot, I just got home, and feel like turning around and doing that trip again,....Is A Trip Of A Lifetime,....Enjoy

    Funny memory of Dodd Narrows for me,...I was well aware of all the Heavy Tide Narrows thru Canada,etc. Yet,...

    when heading for Nanaimo, from spending the night in Ladysmith,..I was all excited about getting into Nanaimo early, as I really like that town,...wanted to spend the day there walking around, etc.
    So I spaced out Dodd Narrows Tide Factor,...until I was approaching, and Bucking Tide like crazy,...

    "Oh Yeah,..."I thought as I had to throttle up to 1800 (from 1550 cruise rpm) just to get through there,...

    Was a Wake-Up Call for the rest of the Voyage ahead,...I was still thinking I was in the Civilized Portion of the trip,....har har

    Here it was, on an Early May Morning,...can you tell, I'm in for some bucking, as I approach from the south ?

    is like a River in there,...if you play it wrong, like I did

    and the Beautiful Vancouver Island City of Nanaimo, just north of there

    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  6. #26


    Monday, June 11 (Part One)

    Underway at 1000 from the scenic and immaculately-maintained Sidney Harbor Marina. They power-sweep the walkways every morning, and there are hanging flower baskets from every lamp post. Maybe Whittier harbor could pick up a few tips?

    At 1145 entered Trincomali Channel at NW tip of Prevost Island, with the goal of reaching Dodd Narrows at slack water for the first of what will be many "shoot the rapids" adventures on this trip. Flat calm, blue sky, bright sunshine. Reached the narrows about 2 hours before low slack, and watched a pair of sailboats motor through southbound. A boat about our size transited northbound a half-mile ahead of us, so I felt better knowing he made it through against the diminished (but still significant) current.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  7. #27


    Big ships.jpgPender.jpgMonday, June 11 (Part Two)

    Passed Nanaimo and braided our way through a fleet of tankers and container ships lying anchored offshore. Here is a bow-on view you hope NEVER to see from a boat our size while underway.

    By 1900 we were anchored in one of the coves hidden inside Pender Harbor, one of the prettiest and best-protected natural harbors I've ever seen. My first time anchoring with an all-chain rode, and for a moment I forgot the chain would just keep on spooling out, unlike my nylon rode on the old boat that stops feeding once the chain is on the bottom. Not the first (or last) lesson to come, I'm sure!

  8. #28
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Kodiak, Ak


    Yeah, Pics,...Thanks,...and Keep that shutter snappin'

    I agree, the harbors in some of those areas down south, especially the Canadian ones, by my memory...
    but Bellingham, Port Townsend,....also, could teach us a thing or two

    maybe we could send the Alaskan Harbormasters to a school,

    "How to take care of the folks who pay the bills at your harbor"

    Kodiak is supposed to be a nice harbor, somewhat modern, etc.......Geez,.... just "Smoked," by the Canadians
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  9. #29
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    SE Alaska-Summer Columbia River-Winter


    Steve thanks for the posts and pics. Please keep them coming with any lessons learned....

    1988 M/Y Camargue YachtFisher
    MMSI# 338131469

  10. #30

    Default Tuesday, June 12 & Wednesday, June 13

    June 12

    Triple-checked the tide and current tables for Dent Rapids, and concluded that an "oh-dark-thirty" departure would be required for us to arrive at slack. Underway from Pender Harbor at 0540, steaming N in Malaspina Strait in foggy, flat-calm seas.

    Reached Lewis Channel at 1115 in increasing fog, so used the radar/chart overlay on the Garmin 7212 plotter. Lots of high-end fishing lodges nestled in these narrow channels, and the traffic from a half-dozen aluminum day boats showed as a swarm of blue dots on the radar.

    Arrived at Harbott Point, on the S end of Lewis Island, just 10 minutes past slack current at 1310. The sailing directions describe currents in the narrows as flowing up to 9 knots, with eddies, whirlpools, and even an over-fall aptly-named Devil's Hole.

    Garmin's current chart showed 2 knots, and I watched our SOG pick up from 8.2 to almost 11. Fun to watch the auto-pilot cope with the swirling currents, doing its best to keep us straight. I left it engaged until just before the second set of narrows, where I could see logs "underway" in our direction. One big cedar, laying sideways, hit a back-eddy just as our boat got swatted toward it by the current. Full left rudder, and still we plowed straight. Uh-oh! Full right throttle, and the boat same around smartly with at least 6 feet to spare...

    After the excitement of the Yacultas, the next several hours passed serenely. Headed NW in Chancellor Channel, a fast boat came up behind us. I steered 15 degrees port to signal that I expected him to pass to my starboard, but he hung back, then buzzed ahead. Da cops!

    In about 30 seconds, they had launched their Zodiac and pulled alongside for a visit. A very nice RCMP Marine officer made a graceful transit onto our swim-step and explained he was making a routine check of our vessel documentation and safety equipment. Julie asked him if they were still called "Mounties" and he grinningly told her that his division was referred to as the "Water Buffalos".

    He copied down our passport and USCG vessel doc info, and asked us to show him our fire extinguishers, life jackets, flare kit, etc. We received an A-plus on our exam (felt good). He wished us fair seas and a good voyage, then stepped back aboard the inflatable and went back to the patrol boat. What a cool job, eh?

    Anchored in Forward Harbor at 1715 with a sailboat and 4 other trawlers; a popular boat in these waters, so we felt right at home!

    June 13

    Another long run today. Weighed anchor at 0655 and by 0830 passed York Island and entered Johnstone Strait. Back on the "I-5" portion of our route. By mid-morning the sun came out, and we enjoyed a smooth run along West Cracroft Island. At 1115 we passed Swaine Point, where the route splits to go either N or S of Malcolm Island. The Comox weather broadcast hinted at 10-20 knots winds in Queen Charlotte Strait, and although the prediction was from 0800 it seemed prudent to stay in sheltered waters as long as possible.

    Tomorrow is our planned crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, the first of 3 big-water transits on our voyage. At 1420 we passed Pulteney Point, at the W end of Malcolm Island, losing the lee we had enjoyed all afternoon. The Sound was putting 4-footers right in our face, but the boat danced over each set with no problem. For about an hour, there were so many logs and other debris in our way that I rode on the flying bridge with binocs, paging Kent on the bridge intercom and telling him which way to jog.

    After intense study of the charts, and review of our planned route for tomorrow's Sound crossing, we chose to overnight in Port Alexander, on Nigei Island and shut down the engines at 1800.

    After dinner, the crew made a shore excursion. Along with the usual beach treasures, they found giant mottled slugs eating (?) deer poop in the woods, along with huge old-growth stumps that hint at the forests that once covered this area.

    Tomorrow, we cross Queen Charlotte Sound!

  11. #31

    Default Thursday, June 14

    As famed treasure-hunter Mel Fisher used to say, "Today's the day!" we are transiting Queen Charlotte Sound, the first of our three big-water crossings between Vancouver Island and Prince William Sound.

    According to one of the many cruising guides on board, in QCS "the seas can be high and steep, the result of shoaling from 100-plus fathoms off the continental shelf to 20 to 70 fathoms in QCS itself. The problem is made worse when outflowing currents from Queen Charlotte Strait, Smith Sound, Rivers Inlet and Fitzgerald Hugh Sound meet the incoming swells."

    Up at 0500 for a final check of the forecast. The West Sea Otter buoy reported 1-meter swells at 7-second intervals, and Comox radio called winds "light" (*** that means), building to 5-15 knots in the afternoon. It's a go!

    We chose the so-called Pine Island Route, which took us up the E coast of Nigei Island from our anchorage at Port Alexander, then NW past Pine Island and the Storm Islands, then NNW to a point 2 miles off Cape Caution, and finally due N into Fitz Hugh Sound. We found conditions to be not just "good", but unbelievably perfect! Not a breath of wind, and just a low, gentle, even swell with zero wind chop.

    At 0830 we crossed 51 degrees N, passing Cape Caution 2 miles offshore. Here's a photo of our chart plotter, and our view out the window of the dreaded QCS, with Cape Caution in the distance.

    Just for grins, as we rounded Cape Caution, with nothing to our left but the vast reaches of the North Pacific, we put a waypoint on Cape Hinchinbrook at the entrance to Prince William Sound. Just 839 as the gull flies! I think we'll stay on the scenic route...

    Considering that I had chosen our June 10 sailing date more than 3 months ago, and that the QCS crossing naturally followed a few days after that, it was blind luck that we caught this window in time to make what has to be one of the smoothest days anyone EVER sees out there. In fact, the Friday forecast is calling for NW 35-45 which would surely have made QCS uncrossable for us. Timing is everything.

    At 1030 we had Cape Calvert abeam, steaming into the glassy waters of Fitz Hugh Sound under bright sunshine. Here are the views ahead, and astern toward the placid waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. What was all the fuss about?

    We decided to make this an early stop, and selected Kwakume Inlet for our overnight. We anchored at 1245 and had lunch while the Alaska State Ferry cruised by outside our cove. I had raised our Alaska flag for the QCS crossing, so it felt kind of good to "salute" a fellow Alaskan vessel.

    About a mile south of our anchorage, we found a beautiful white-sand beach and went ashore for a stroll. Although it was a postcard-perfect day, the size and quantity of driftwood logs attested to how ferocious the waves here can be. We found this enormous tree fetched high up on the rocks, by far the biggest beach log I've ever seen. Hitting this bad boy while underway would bring anybody's voyage to an abrupt conclusion.

    Tomorrow we'll continue N with plans to overnight at Bottleneck Inlet. The next day we hope to stop at Butedale Cannery for a tour of the ruins, then end at Bishop Bay Hot Springs for a long, relaxing soak. Stay tuned!

  12. #32
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Kodiak, Ak


    Nice Photos,....what a great deal on the Queen Charlotte crossing,...
    nice to have that behind ya for a while, eh?

    I'd rep ya, but am maxed for a while,...but maybe if I just make comments, it'll keep this up there for others to stumble into
    I'll toss in a pic of my Quenn Charlotte crossing,...was a nice forecast, and I was out there early,
    in small chop but a big offshore swell

    one tip for others traveling the area,...the weather really seems to come up in the afternoon, no matter what the forecast
    if you have a nice one, worth traveling on,...."Get Up Early," and it'll be a lot calmer
    I've seen that over and over,...the afternoon,...all those long straits and passages, will blow up, just enough to make it uncomfortable
    whereas the 5am to 2pm transit can be Notably Calmer

    Excellent Postings,....and yeah, some of those logs are a Mind Bender to imagine smacking
    Enjoy the Hot Springs
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  13. #33

    Default June 15th

    Friday, June 15

    Today was all about covering ground. Our goal was to get close enough to Butedale that we could afford the luxury of a midday shore excursion, and still have time to continue on to Bishop Bay Hot Springs and arrive early enough for a well-deserved soak. We'll see how that works out.

    We got underway from Kwakame Inlet at 0740 (slackers!) and passed Bella Bella just before noon. Here's a shot of the lighthouse complex at Dryad Point just N of town. These Canuck lighthouse-keepers are sure a tidy lot. In another life, I'd like that job.

    An hour and a half later, we rounded Ivory Island and entered Milbanke Sound. This is another stretch that's open to the whims of the North Pacific, and I'm told it can be a real bear when the ocean swells stack up under an offshore wind. Our extraordinary weather luck was holding strong, though, and we enjoyed a low, 2-foot swell with zero wind; a magnificent ride!

    Here's the lighthouse at Ivory Island. See those giant, foamy breakers breaking on the rocks? That's because there aren't any. We've renamed this body of water "Millpond Sound".

    At Vancouver Rock, we finished our turn and headed NE into Finlayson Channel. The ebb was against us, and the slog into the current cost us a couple of knots. We had paced two fishing boats for an hour when a large BC Ferry appeared out of the mist, and passed our rag-tag flotilla on his way to Klemtu and points north.

    The ferry and the fishermen all steered toward Tolmie Channel, which is the continuation of the main Inside Passage route. We steered a course to starboard, setting the AP for our anchorage on the E side of Finlayson Channel.

    We're used to bold headlands and deep water close to shore, but these passages give Alaska a run for its money. We ran in depths over a thousand feet while staying close enough to shore that we could see the eagles' nests. These cliffs drop STRAIGHT down to the water, and according to the chart, they keep on going. We were in water more than 1,600 feet deep when I snapped this picture.

    I'm still loving the new Garmin electronics, and already can't imagine among this trip without auto-pilot. Also really glad that I sprung for the dual 7212 monitors instead of just going with a single. I can display just about any engine function or plotter display anywhere I want it. Spent some time experimenting with different displays (all are user-configurable) and came up with this one that I think will be my new default data display. BTW, turns out that a due-north heading does not register as 360 degrees. Here are two shots: Room Seven's full instrument display (note the compass heading), with a close-up showing what happens when you turn just one degree to starboard. Alaska, here we come!

    An hour away from stopping for the night, and lots of logs floating everywhere. Played with the jog feature on the AP, trying to get a feel for how quickly we could slalom around these nasty obstacles. Even from our (standing) perspective 10 feet above the waterline, they're hard to see. Here comes one now. Closer.... Closer... Now! Fifteen degrees to starboard, and off it goes into our wake. Have we really got another thousand miles of this?

    We reached our night's destination at last, the aptly-named Bottleneck Inlet. The cruising guide calls it "one of the most peaceful anchor sites in this area", and it welcomed us into its misty confines. The entrance is narrow and shallow, but free from obstructions. Here's the view from outside looking in, and another shot looking back toward the entrance after we dropped the hook.

    I know this is a long entry for a day where not much happened, but there's something about sitting in a snug harbor after a long day on the water, the rainforest mist swirling across the trees growing thick to the tide line, with a tasty beverage just an arms-reach across a teak-spoked wheel, that brings out the Jack London in a fellow!

  14. #34

    Default June 16th

    Saturday, June 16

    So far we're keeping on our self-imposed schedule, even ending each day a couple of hours farther along our watery road. Our goal is to hit Grenville Channel on Sunday, which means that we started today with the fanciful idea of having a relaxed day of short travel, sightseeing, and hot springs soaking. That only mostly worked out.

    Underway at 0650 through the foggy entrance of Bottleneck Inlet, and immediately ran into a brisk wind chop that hadn't been there the night before. We quartered into them, enjoying a nice 2-knot push from flood tide. Again, lots of big logs in our path (although our definition of "lots" would later be adjusted). We passed this tree drifting in deep water just as we turned NW in Hiekish Strait. Too bad they're not all this easy to see!

    Steamed through Hiekish Narrows, still enjoying an extra couple of knots tailwind. We put Sarah Head abeam at 0815 and rejoined the main route of Graham Reach. Tons of waterfalls along this route, and we had to resist the urge to zig-zag back and forth across the channel, snapping pictures first of this rushing torrent, then that cascading flume.

    Where does all this surface water come from? It seems to rain here. A lot. There is a continuous drizzle, which periodically builds to a downpour so heavy that it seems as though a celestial fireman has opened a 2-inch nozzle directed straight down at the boat. The rain "drops" are so heavy that the radar picks up nothing but a solid mass of suspended water in every direction, creating this spooky "Devil's Eye" effect on the screen.

    I am fascinated by ghost towns, old mill sites, shipwrecks, cannieries, abandoned mines, and other places where people once labored to bring industry to the wilderness. The Inside Passage is jam-packed with these places, many of them far off the beaten path. We took a slow pass through Swanson Bay, which contains what one of our guides calls "the remains of a crumbling industrial operation." Like many of the bays along these channels, this one is hundreds of feet deep almost right to the beach. Although we were all intrigued by the forest of pilings, and the red-brick chimney peeking over the trees, dropping the hook to go ashore was not in the cards.

    At 1100 we pulled into Butedale, a crumbling salmon cannery and herring oil rendering plant built in the early 1900s that ceased operations after WW II. the place remained more or less intact for decades, but in recent years has suffered from the combined effects of vandalism and the relentless onslaught of the elements.

    The caretaker, Lou, has lived a solitary existence here for nearly a dozen years. He invited us to tie up to the rustic float fronting the remains of the old cannery dock, and led us on a tour of the place.

    A self-taught engineer (like everybody who makes their home in such a remote locale), Lou has rigged a bank of batteries to a 12-volt inverter powered by the cannery's old hydro-electric plant. It might not pass a code inspection, but the arrangement produces an endless supply of free power that keep the lights on in the old cannery store where Lou makes his home.

    An hour and a half later, we bid goodbye to Lou and his cat, Tiger, and continued N to Bishop's Bay. Ever since Julie and Monica learned there was the possibility of a hot springs shore excursion, it became deal my job was to make it happen. We reached the head of the bay at 1530 to find the small dock full, and both of the mooring buoys occupied.

    The bay is so deep, and the shoreline so steep and rocky, that the driftwood logs that gather here cannot find a way to ground themselves on the beach. The result is a rag-tag mass of sticks and logs that had be steering a beeline course from the upper helm, searching for open leads that would get me into water with an anchoring depth of less than 15 fathoms.

    After gathering towels, soap, and bottled water, we pulled on our rain gear for the dinghy trip ashore; it wouldn't due to get wet before our soak!

    The spring pools have been funneled into a series of small, rock lined pools with a small outer "tub" for soapy washing, and a covered pool above which visitors have hung a makeshift mobile of fishing floats, flags, beer cans, and other mementos of their visit. The water is a perfect temperature, clear and odorless.

    Even with a shower aboard the boat, it was a real luxury to stretch out and relax in the springs while we listed to the relentless patter of rain on the metal roof.

    Too soon, it was time to retrace our steps back through the log-jam and back into Ursula Channel toward McKay Reach. Again, logs everywhere! Kent drove while I kept a lookout with the binocs, calling out "Log ahead! Come 15 degrees right!" Several times, logs materialized out of the mist on both sides simultaneously, and we would nervously aim at the gap in the middle and thread the needle.

    When we got to Point Cumming, we found 4- to 6-footers coming from the S out of Whale Channel and had to jog across Wright Sound toward Promise Island. These were the biggest seas we've encountered on this trip so far, and the boat did fine.

    Anchored for the night in Coghlan Anchorage for an early start to catch the last of the flood into Grenville Channel. Long day, dropping the hooking more than 14 hours after Bottleneck, but everyone agreed the experience was worth the journey.

  15. #35

    Default Sunday, June 17th

    June 17 - Sunday

    The winds we encountered yesterday evening built through the midnight hours. A steady wind of about 25 knots blew from the south all night, and even with the anchor-drag alarm on both Garmin units set for 50 feet, I was up every couple of hours checking our position. At 0430 the wind and chop settled down a bit, and by morning it was clear that our all-chain rode and lots of scope had been more than adequate for the challenge.

    We detoured a couple miles and circled slowly outside Hartley Bay, where we found a cell signal to check email and post the last few days worth of trip updates. By 1145 we had Sainty Point abeam, marking the southern entrance to Grenville Channel.

    Grenville Channel is a long, straight fjord about 45 miles long that runs between Pitt Island and the mainland British Columbia coast. It is between a quarter-mile and one mile wide for nearly its entire length, with depths that typically run 50-100 fathoms. It's so long that the tides flood and ebb from each end, meeting just south of Klewnuggit Inlet, one of the few anchorage opportunities along the entire channel.

    Our plan was to enter Grenville Channel two hours before high slack, riding the last of the flood north to the point where the tidal currents meet. If we timed it right, we could then ride the ebb the rest of the way north. For a displacement boat like ours, this technique means the difference between making 6 knots into the current, versus surfing at 10 or 11 knots with the tide behind us.

    The strategy worked perfectly, as we averaged about 9-1/2 knots in both the south and north portions of the channel. We had a burst of excitement at 1535, just S of Baker Inlet. As I mentioned, we've been running on autopilot almost continuously. I hit the "jog" button to steer around a small floating log, but instead of the boat diverting 15 degrees, she heeled to port and kept right on going!

    I quickly hit the red "standby" button to ensure I had the wheel, and spun it to starboard with no effect. By that time, we'd nearly circled around into our own wake and still didn't have any steering. Major problem. I pulled the throttles back and shifted both engines into neutral, my brain already shifting into crisis mode.

    Depth? Plenty of water. Proximity to the shoreline? We were in a wide spot, but had been keeping considerably right of center, so we were about a quarter-mile from the trees. Opposing traffic? A single northbound fishing boat that we'd passed hours before, now about two miles behind us. Time enough to diagnose the problem and see whether fixing it while drifting dead in Grenville Channel was within our capability.

    The first thing Kent and I thought of was a catastrophic hydraulic failure, either one of the lines to the steering ram, or a failure of the pump itself. We opened the lazarette, half expecting to find a pool of hydraulic fluid in the bilge, but everything looked clean. It only took a minute for us to find that the lock nut securing the steering ram to the rudder tie-rod had somehow backed itself loose, which meant that both the AP and the wheel were "steering" thin air.

    A couple of minutes with a Crescent wrench, and we were back in action. I'll take a much closer look at this mechanism once we stop tonight, and will definitely make it a daily check for the rest of the trip. It was a sobering reminder of how quickly things can go wrong at sea. If this same malfunction had occurred a few days ago, while dodging logs in a narrow channel in Dent Rapids, we would have been in serious trouble long before we could have repaired our steering.

    It is now 1915 and we're nearing Digby Island and the approach to Prince Rupert. We've decided to push on for Port Simpson tonight, staging for an early-morning crossing of Dixon Entrance if today's fine sea conditions hold.

    We have 145 gallons of fuel remaining on board from the 420 we took in La Conner, not counting the 75 gallons of "deep reserve" riding in drums strapped to the foredeck. I estimate this gives us a 380-mile range without touching the barrels, and since Ketchikan is only 100 miles or so, I'm confident we'll make it with plenty of fuel to spare.

    There's still a pound of ground beef in the fridge, and since US Customs rules prevent us from bringing any beef or goat products back into the country (along with fresh citrus, apparently so we don't infect Alaska's lucrative lemon groves with Canadian cooties), tonight we'll fire up the BBQ for cheeseburgers.

  16. #36

    Default June 17 - Sunday - Part 2

    June 17 - Sunday - Part 2

    After posting today's Grenville Channel adventure via 3G just south of Prince Rupert, we steered NW along the outer shore of Digby Island with the idea of cutting up to Port Simpson if the ocean swell in Chatham Sound wasn't beating us up too badly. I checked both the North Hecate Strait and the Central Dixon Entrance buoy reports, and things looked good.

    The current buoy report for Queen Charlotte Strait, which we crossed in calm conditions just three days ago, is now reporting 25 knots with combined waves and swell at a sick-making 2-3 meters! If we hadn't crossed when we did, we might still be waiting at Nigei Island, stalking mottled slugs in the rainforest (see entry for June 13).

    As we rounded Tugwell Island at 2010, it became apparent that our incredible luck with the weather, which had carried us through both Queen Charlotte Sound and Milbanke Sound, was still with us. Completely flat, calm, windless sea conditions greeted us again! Tomorrow's forecast is calling for NW 10-20 and seas 2-3 meters, but tonight it's go-time!

    I gave Otto (our new pet name for the autopilot) a course for the N end of Dundas Island, and pretty soon the sun peeked through a break in the clouds on our port side. Since it has been raining non-stop for days, Julie put on her iPod headphones and grabbed the Windex and Rainex bottles to clean the windshield underway. Somebody's been cooped up on the boat with too little exercise!

    While I still had cell service, I called the Customs Office in Ketchikan to get clearance to anchor in Foggy Bay tonight, just in case we find Dixon Entrance as flat as Chatham Sound is now, and decide to make a late-night run for the border. Left our vessel info and customs sticker number on their answering machine, but haven't gotten a callback and we're nearly to Dundas and out of cell range. Our new plan is to overnight at Brundige Inlet and make an early crossing, figuring that even if the seas come up tomorrow as forecast we should be able to get ahead of them in time to make the 55-mile trip in time to enjoy nearly a full day in Ketchikan.

    Laundry, liquor, citrus and shopping, here we come!

  17. #37
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    SE Alaska-Summer Columbia River-Winter


    OMG Steve what a great posting! Thank you so much for the details and pictures. I can't wait to see the journey ahead! It will be interesting to see if customs was expecting you to cross Dixon entrance or not.

    1988 M/Y Camargue YachtFisher
    MMSI# 338131469

  18. #38

    Default June 18th - Monday

    June 18 - Monday

    Dropped the hook at 2315 last night in Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island, the northernmost Canadian anchorage along this stretch. Exactly 13 hours underway yesterday; a long, tiring day but we all feel good at how far ahead of schedule we've managed to get.

    We agreed to get up at 0700 and have breakfast underway, fingers crossed that conditions in Dixon Entrance would be as good today as they were last night. Some confusion with the cell-phone alarm clocks, as mine had picked up an AT&T signal from the Alaskan side of the border (one hour earlier than BC) and Julie's phone was still on the Canadian network.

    Forty minutes after getting underway, we crossed the border into Alaska waters in a gentle, 2-foot swell from the Gulf. Our charmed weather from Canadian waters had followed us once again!

    At 1215 AST we passed Angle Point at Bold Island, a little over 9 miles from Ketchikan. Ahead we spotted a flotilla of pleasure boats, floatplanes buzzing overhead, and in the distance the looming white shapes of cruise ships moored along Ketchikan's waterfront.

    We called the harbormaster for a slip, and tied up in Bat Harbor at 1350. I'd phoned in our vessel and passport information to the local Customs office by phone on the way in, and shortly after we docked a Customs officer arrived at our slip to ask us about contraband and welcome us back to home waters.

    First order of business included hot showers all around, after which we divided chores between the four of us. Julie hit Safeway, Monica headed to the laundromat, Kent went to Ace Hardware and the marine store, and I stayed aboard to give Room Seven a long-overdue cleaning, inside and out.

    While I worked on the boat, a big 50-foot motor yacht approached to take the empty slip next to ours. I jogged over to help grab his line, and after he'd docked we got to visiting about boats, local waters, etc. He and his family ( wife, son and grandson) had been out on a Father's Day fishing trip, and he gave us a pile of fresh-caught crab and a Ziploc full of shrimp. Welcome to Southeast! The sun even came out for a few minutes, and we enjoyed a fresh seafood feast and a really good night's sleep.

  19. #39

    Default June 19th - Tuesday

    June 19 - Tuesday

    Spent the morning finishing up our shopping, then motored north in the channel to the fuel dock. With airport ferries crisscrossing the passage, idling floatplanes jockeying for takeoff position, approaching cruise ships, and lots of pleasure and fishing boat traffic, just negotiating that mile-long stretch was a "Power Boating 101" refresher.

    Broke out the credit card, swallowed hard, and filled 'er up. The good news is that the Flow-Scans were right on the money, registering within a gallon or two of our consumption estimate. We have covered about 735 miles (counting side trips) and burned 350 gallons since La Conner, for an average of 2.1 MPG. With sales tax included, diesel here is $4.32 per gallon. What a pleasure not to have needed fuel all through Canada, where some of the out-of-the-way fuel docks were charging over US$6.00!

    From Ketchikan, we ran N up Clarence Strait in a following 3-foot chop. About 8 miles S of Meyer's Chuck, we hit a firewood-log-sized chunk of wood that lay hidden in a mass of floating kelp. The wood made a solid "thunk" sound on the hull; no louder or harder than others we've heard on this trip. About that time, Kent pointed at two red lights on the dash and mentioned that two of our four bilge pumps were running.

    To be on the safe side, I went downstairs and popped a bilge access panel in the floor about one-third of the way from the bow. Kneeling on the floor with a flashlight, I stuck my head in the bilge upside-down and saw a steady sheet of water raining in from someplace forward. Every boat leaks a little, but this was a truly alarming flow!

    Just as when we lost steering in Grenville Channel, we went into crisis mode once again. First thing (and worst-case scenario) is figure out where we are, and look for some kind of beach where we'd have a chance of running her aground if the hull breach proved catastrophic. Next, alert everyone aboard that there is a potential problem, and have them stand ready to assist in whatever way might be needed. Finally (and really just seconds later) is figure out what the hell happened, and what to do about it.

    Since the spraying water was all the way at the forepeak, I needed a way to inspect the damage. The chain locker. I ran to the V-berth and pulled open the access hatch, exposing a triangular area about 2 feet on each side where the anchor chain resides when it's not in use. It was flooded with about 8 inches of seawater. The shower I had seen from underneath was water overflowing from the chain locker and running down the forward bulkhead of the V-berth into the bilge. This was not looking good!

    It turns out that our hull was not breached, and that Room Seven was not, in fact, going down by the bow. What had happened is that the half-inch drain hole at the bottom of the chain locker, which is intended to get rid of water that comes from the wet anchor rode, gets enough back pressure from our bow wake when we're underway that a jet of water shoots into the hole and fills the locker. It could be that the boat has always done this, but since the water drains back through the hole when you throttle back or stop, nobody ever noticed it before.

    In our case, the boat is loaded heavily for our voyage, with fuel drums stowed at the bow and other gear under the V-berth. The extra weight may have been enough to depress the bow (and increase the bow wake), allowing water to fill the chain locker. A few minutes with the shop vac, followed by an custom drain hole plug fashioned from a piece of rubber and a quarter-inch stainless screw, and problem solved! Once we get home and lighten the load, I'll see if water continues to come in. If it does, I'll figure out a back flow preventer of some kind.

    With the delay caused by our emergency drill, it was 2140 before we reached Santa Anna Inlet on the E side of Ernest Sound. We've decided to take a detour around Etolin Island, and will rejoin the main Inside Passage route at the south end of Wrangell Narrows in a couple of days.

  20. #40

    Default June 20th - Wednesday

    June 20 - Wednesday

    Santa Anna Inlet was the site of an old Northwest Fisheries cannery in the early 1900s, and we anchored last night just offshore from the crumbling remains of the pilings that mark the cannery dock. Kent and I both have our dive gear along on this trip, and we wanted to make a warm-up dive here, looking for old bottles and other discarded treasures from yesteryear.

    The water was dark with tannins from all the ground run-off, but below 40 feet or so the underwater visibility was a murky 15 feet over a soft mud bottom. We found lots of modern beer bottles, mayonaise jars, and the like, but the old stuff must be buried in the muck after nearly a century. We did see lots of dungeness crabs scurrying across the bottom, but they moved a lot faster than us, and catching any proved out of the question.

    We're 78 miles from Petersburg, and we need to catch the last of a flood tide at the south end of Wrangell Narrows. That's too far a run to catch an early-afternoon tide, so we're steaming about 40 miles to Roosevelt Harbor on Zarembo Island. That will put us about 2 hours from the south end of the narrows, which we need to hit at 1320 tomorrow.

    Flat calm as we approached the town of Wrangell, but after the bustle of Ketchikan we're in no hurry for civilization. Instead, we turned left and dropped anchor in a small inlet on Zarembo Island at 1915. The water here is milky with runoff from the Stikine River, and there are a dozen or so buoys in the anchorage marking commercial crab pots. There's a US Forest Service float at the head of the bay, but a recent reorder from Wrangell has his 36- footer tied up there on a long-term stay, so we're happy anchoring out in the middle amidst the crab floats

    I spend the evening reading up on tomorrow's run up Wrangell Narrows, and decide to leave about 1130 for the estimated 2-hour run to catch the S entrance at 1330, which is just over an hour ahead of high slack.

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