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Thread: Inside Passage

  1. #41

    Default June 21st - Thursday

    June 21 - Thursday


    Today starts well, with a big breakfast intended to stoke the crew for the arduous navigational challenge of Wrangell Narrows that lies ahead. With names along on our route that include Danger Point Ledge, Vexation Point, Spike Rock and No Thorofare Point, surely there must be dangers lurking around every turn!


    As we lay at anchor in Roosevelt Harbor about 0830, we watched a line of milky green water advancing toward us from the mouth of the inlet. It drew closer, and we could see masses of kelp and small pieces of driftwood riding in the current. Ahead, the foam crab pot buoys surrounding Room Seven began to trail miniature wakes as the advancing current swirled around them.


    Although we had lain securely at anchor all night, as we watched the trees on the shore we could see them start to move. Since trees generally don't migrate, that meant our anchor was dragging and it was time for our small crew to once again jump into action.

    As breakfast cooled on the stove, I fired up the engines while Kent and Julie ran up front to pull the anchor. Since there were still 3 hours before we planned to leave, we figured we'd simply re-anchor in the middle of the bay, let out some more scope, and ride out the tidal exchange from a more secure position. As I bumped us forward, they engaged the winch but quickly found that the chain would come up only so far, but no further. We were snagged on something!

    After a great deal of maneuvering, we got the hook up far enough to find a length of steel cable stretched tight, pinning us in position while the incoming tidal current swept debris against the hull. We thought of launching the dinghy and having someone try to release the snag, but the tide was coming in so quickly that we figured the stuck anchor would be underwater before we would be able to reach it. Note the "wake" on the cable, which shows how fast the current was sweeping in.



    After a quick planning session with Kent, I threaded a length of half-inch poly line under the steel cable and speared it with the boat hook. Once I had both ends of the poly line aboard, I tied off one end to a cleat and the two of us horsed the other end with all our might. The cable gave just a little, and we finally managed to disengage the hook just as the rising tide obscured it from view.

    As soon as we got underway, I popped open Garmin's tide & current window and found that the commencement of our unexpected voyage backward into the steel cable coincided exactly with a minus 1.7 moving to a 14.6; more than 16 feet of water moving through in less than 7 hours!





    Not wanting to risk further entanglement, we steered a course for open water and asked Otto to steer us toward the south end of Wrangell Narrows at half speed while we enjoyed our interrupted breakfast. Even so, we reached Woewodski Island an hour and a half before the current laid down enough to begin our passage, so we anchored up again to wait for the tide.

    The Coast pilot describes Wrangell Narrows as an exercise in piloting, rather than a navigational challenge. The roughly 21-mile channel is marked by no fewer than 60 navigational aids that include not only the familiar green squares and red nuns, but also red-and-white vertical range markers, and red-and-green daybeacons marking obstructions that the mariner may pass on either side. Not only that, but the incoming tide floods from both ends simultaneously, meeting somewhat north of halfway through the channel and producing currents that can reach 4-5 knots and also produce unexpected 2-knot side currents that set diagonally across the channel.

    Here's a shot taken from one place in the channel where we had something like 12-15 nav aids in view at once, and another showing the current rushing past the markers and pushing us around the slalom course that is Wrangell Narrows.








    We enjoyed a beautiful, blue-sky day on the water, and reached Petersburg with little fanfare, tying up in our transient slip at 1600. The town (population apx. 3500) was founded by, and named for, its founder Peter Buschmann who built the first cannery and sawmill here in the late 1800s. The town is known to be proud of its Nordic heritage, and it shows in ways large and small. As we strolled around town under the lingering Solstice sunshine, here are a couple of sights that caught my eye.






    This is a distinctly working waterfront, crammed with boats that quite clearly earn their living from the sea. Mixed among the fishing boats are large, expensive motor yachts hailing from ports of call such as Santa Barbara, Bellingham, and San Francisco. Here's a phalanx of Alaskan fishing boats and a visiting yacht. Why is it the Thurston Howell cruisers always back into their slips? Afraid to go nose-to-nose with a "real" boat?




    I stopped in Petersburg on a friend's converted crabber about 3 years ago, and I'm pretty sure this mossy beauty was here then. If anything, its studied tattiness is even more photogenic now. Sort of a floating terrarium with harbor fees.



    Ended the day with a yummy carry-out pizza and red wine shared with friends on the top deck, under the Midnight Sun of summer solstice. We are on Day 11 of a planned 21-day trip, with ten days behind us and another ten ahead, so today makes a sort of "voyage solstice" for us as well.

  2. #42
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Thanks! So do you think you could have crossed Dixon Entrance and not have gotten into trouble with customs?

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
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  3. #43
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    Hi Steve and crew - am following your travel postings - fantastic!

  4. #44
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    Steve, am enjoying every word and pic!

  5. #45

    Default June 22-24

    June 22 - Friday to June 24 - Sunday


    Just a quick combined entry to catch up on the last three days as we head out of Auke Bay on Monday morning, bound for Excursion Inlet tonight.

    We left Petersburg under brilliant blue skies on Friday morning, with smooth seas and a light wind chop at our back. By 1600 we were inside Gambier Bay, exploring the many coves and islets that dot this magnificent area.

    Saturday marked our one "rest" day of the trip, where we had planned to hang out at Gambier Bay and enjoy the scenery and the break from driving 7 to 12 hours every day. The weather couldn't have been better for a day off, and we were all in shorts and sandals.




    As we motored between anchorages, the engine temp alarm sounded for the port engine. This had happened once before, a day out of Ketchikan, but the reading returned to normal on its own and I figured it was a piece of kelp momentarily blocking the seawater intake for the heat exchanger. This time, though, the temp stayed in the red and we limped to Snug Harbor on one engine.

    While half the crew launched kayaks and explored the shoreline, the other half pulled the sea strainers and cleaned out a bunch of goo. While the strainers were off, I cracked the two sea-cocks in turn. The starboard one produced a pretty good gurgle, but the port side not a drop! Time for a dive.

    With a pair of needle nose and a coat-hanger, I dug a solid clump of seaweed the size of a chicken egg out of the through-hull intake strainer. I checked the starboard side, and it was about half plugged so I cleaned that, too. Somewhere along the line we had apparently swallowed a mass of kelp; I'm amazed the engines were cooling at all.





    We lazed around in the Gambier sunshine and got a late start up Stephens Passage early Sunday afternoon. As soon as we rounded Point Gambier, we felt a steady SE wind of about 15 knots pushing us up the 88-mile-long channel. After a couple of hours (and another 20 miles of fetch) the wind had picked up to about 25 knots, and the seas grew from their forecast 5 feet to more like 8-footers. They were so steep and confused that we had to continuously muscle the wheel back and forth to avoid being dumped sideways into a trough. For more than 3 hours, Kent and I spelled each other in 15-minute turns at the wheel, steering until our arm muscles burned.

    Here are a couple of shots as we approached Shelter Island at the N end of Stephens Passage. As rough as it looks, double that and you'll have an idea how much we were bouncing!







    Our plan had been overnight in Auke Bay, but we were so exhausted that we anchored for the night in Admiralty Cove. Julie had valiantly battled the waves to make a delicious dinner of baked pork chops, apple compote and sweet potatoes, which we devoured practically before the hook was down.

    After a quick fuel, beer and grocery stop in Juneau, off the Glacier Bay!

  6. #46

    Default June 25 - June 28

    June 25 - Monday to June 28 - Thursday

    Pulled into Auke Bay at 0900 on Monday. Julie hopped off at the fuel dock and headed to Fred Meyer for provisions while we took on 140 gallons and gassed up the dinghy. Moved to a float while we waited for the grocery delivery, and got underway again at 1125. A surgical strike!

    Overcast with flat calm in southern Lynn Canal, but it started kicking up with a repeat of the previous day's wind chop out of Chatham Strait. By the time we rounded Point Couverden into Icy Strait, we were taking 4-footers on our port quarter so I sent Otto out for a schnitzel break and drove the rest of the way to Excursion Inlet.

    The seas laid down as we gained some lee from the headland, and we motored past the busy trolling fleet fishing, anchoring for the night on a ledge at the head of deep Sawmill Bay, the W arm of Excursion Inlet.

    On Tuesday we got an early start, and at 0915 entered the permit-restricted line between points Carolus and Gustavus which marks the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park. Only 25 pleasure boats per day are permitted in the entire park during summer months, and all operators are required to check in at the NPS visitor's center upon arriving to attend a brief orientation about wildlife distance rules, mandatory mid-channel courses, areas of the park that are closed to motorized vessels, etc.

    We tied up a little after 1000 and a few minutes later, we were joined by the 164-foot "Legacy", a Cayman Islands-flagged mega-yacht. We asked one of the uniformed deck crew whose boat it was, and he politely replied "No one's". Apparently the super-rich really do value their privacy!




    The Legacy's captain, an Australian, and her tender operator, a young South African, were the only other attendees at our 1100 orientation, and they were both quite pleasant. The uniformed park ranger lady covered all the rules for no-wake zones around sea lions haul-outs, not approaching whales, which anchorages have no-noise rules after 10 p.m., and so forth. When she asked whether their were questions, I inquired whether the freshwater at the dock was potable (it is) and whether she'd share any favorite shrimping spots (she wouldn't). Then, Captain Aussie piped up and asked, "Are we allowed to land our helicopter on deck while Legacy is in park waters?"

    While probably not a question she heard every day, the ranger explained that the helicopter could indeed take off from the yacht, but would not be permitted to land unless the mother ship first exited park waters. The helicopter was apparently billeted at the Gustavus Airport, where it (and its no doubt very bored pilot) probably spent the entire three days that Legacy cruised Glacier Bay. Ah, the lifestyles of the truly rich!

    I'll condense our own 3-day tour of Glacier Bay into just a few sentences. We saw a few whales, but none of the spectacular feeding or breeching you see on postcard photos. Nice scenery. Cool glaciers. Floating icebergs. Sea otters, birds, porpoises, sea lions, etc. In other words, all the same nature on exhibit in Prince William Sound, but spread much further apart and with lots of rules. We were all glad to have seen what all the fuss is about, but our short stay here has actually made us even more appreciative of the scenery, wildlife, and natural beauty in our own Southcentral backyard!




    As I write this, it is late evening on Thursday the 28th and we're anchored in Bartlett Cove with a dozen other boats, most of which seem to be on their way in or, like us, out of the park tomorrow. We have about 30 miles between us and Cape Spencer, which will mark our voyage into the Gulf of Alaska and the final leg of our trip home

    I have pieced together forecasts from three different zones: Cape Fairweather to Icy Cape; Icy Cape to Cape Suckling; and Cape Suckling to Gore Point. The consensus for the next couple of days is that conditions in the Gulf will be less-good for us our first day out, improving to more-good the second. We're looking at W 15-knot winds and 4-foot seas, moving to S 15 and 6, switching to W 10 and 4, and finally variable 10 and 4 on our final approach to Cape Hinchinbrook. NOAA forecasters promise us variable 10 and 2 inside PWS for the final leg into Whittier. Heck, if it's that nice we might spend an extra day in the sound just to end the trip on a high note!

    With luck I'll find cell coverage out of Gustavus or Elfin Cove on the way out in the morning so I can post this. Not long after, Room Seven will be a bobbing cork in the vastness of the North Pacific Ocean. I am reminded of a favorite line by Jack London, from his nonfiction book "Cruise of the Snark" about long-distance ocean crossings in a small wooden motor/sailboat. Describing the lonely feeling of keeping a solitary vigil at the wheel on long transits, alternating watches with his tiny crew, London wrote, "It is quite a responsibility to be all alone on the surface of a little world in time of stress, doing the thinking for its sleeping inhabitants."

    After more than a thousand nautical miles and nearly three weeks at sea with Room Seven and her complement, I feel ready for the responsibility.

  7. #47
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Good Luck Room Seven! Look forward to the update acorss the open water. I have been following you trip on https://activecaptain.com/

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
    1988 M/Y Camargue YachtFisher
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    Blog: http://alaskanseaduction.blogspot.com/

  8. #48
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveKL View Post
    We were all glad to have seen what all the fuss is about, but our short stay here has actually made us even more appreciative of the scenery, wildlife, and natural beauty in our own Southcentral backyard!,.....

    Describing the lonely feeling of keeping a solitary vigil at the wheel on long transits, alternating watches with his tiny crew, London wrote, "It is quite a responsibility to be all alone on the surface of a little world in time of stress, doing the thinking for its sleeping inhabitants."

    After more than a thousand nautical miles and nearly three weeks at sea with Room Seven and her complement, I feel ready for the responsibility.
    Steve, these are Great Quotes,...both yours, about our own backyard
    I skipped the Glacier Bay hype, kinda thinking it would be as you describe,....always wonder about moves like that, so glad you did it for me,...

    and Jack's note, on "Solitary Vigil,...doing the thinking for the sleeping inhabitants,..." Really Good, Can really relate to that one,
    reminds me of many a long night, in the Black, covering for those sleeping below,....

    Great Reports so far,...Good Traveling to you crossing the Gulf,...It's a Good Time for such a Venture
    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. #49

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    It will be a few days before I catch up enough to write & post the final installment of our adventure, but wanted to briefly chime in to say that we made it. Pulled into Whittier on Sunday afternoon, July 1st, exactly as planned after a moderately grueling Gulf crossing of 44 hours from Cape Spencer to Cape Hinchinbrook. Boat and crew are all fine, but oh-so-ready for some rest & down time. My thanks to everyone for their words of support & encouragement!

  10. #50
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Steve good to hear. Look forward to reading the final installment and details of the gulf crossing....

  11. #51

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    Steve, I'll second your observation. Glacier park doesn't have anything more to see then PWS. Other then seeing a couple nice bears along the shore there wasn't much there worth seeing and the park rules about whales was a little over the top. It's no wonder that they're visitor numbers are down.

  12. #52
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Hey Steve,

    Can you please let us know the specifics from Icey Straits to PWS? I am very inerested in that portion of the trip.

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
    1988 M/Y Camargue YachtFisher
    MMSI# 338131469
    Blog: http://alaskanseaduction.blogspot.com/

  13. #53

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    Final Segment: Gulf of Alaska Crossing

    I’ve procrastinated posting my report on the final Gulf crossing portion of our trip in part because I hadn’t gotten around to downloading the last batch of photos from my camera. When I did, and realized that most of the pictures I’d taken during that 2-day period consisted of screen-shots of the chart plotter and featureless views of endless gray water, I almost decided to make this a photo-free installment.

    But the closing chapter to this story deserves a picture, so I’m including a few.

    On Friday, June 29 we got underway from Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay at 0650. An hour and a half later we passed the N end of Lemesurier Island, and hit the midway point of Inian Pass right at the 0940 slack. I hadn’t specifically timed it, but we were fortunate to make the pass when we did, for currents during the middle of the exchange that day were something like 5 knots! After all my careful planning for the various British Columbia narrows that we'd transited, I had completely neglected to plan for this, the final tide-dependent passage on our route.

    At 1045 we rounded Cape Spencer, entering the Gulf of Alaska and beginning the Big Crossing which our entire voyage had been leading up to. Conditions were good, with just a low, 2-foot swell under overcast skies. For grins I checked the straight-line distance to Cape Hinchinbrook (333 miles) and to Honolulu (2,396 miles). Limited by fuel, I chose the chillier destination and pointed Room Seven toward PWS.

    We’d brought the boat's survival suits up from the v-berth earlier, and one by one we all took turns practicing emergency donning procedures. All my survival suits are Craigslist surplus, and although they’re too old to be “official” I carefully inspected them before the trip, checking and servicing the zippers. Here’s Kent in the largest of the four suits, which is helpfully identified in Magic Marker on the back with the catchy name of its long-ago fishing boat owner, “Salmon Stalker”.



    After discussing the options with Kent, we decided on 6-hour watches for the crossing. Kent and his wife, Monica, would take the 1500-2100 shift, then I, with my wife Julie, would take the 2100-0300 watch. Kent would do 0300-0900, I’d take 0900-1500… repeat as necessary. We hoped to leave Otto in charge the entire way, which would mean our collective jobs would be limited to watching the radar for conflicting traffic, with both halves of the two teams helping keep one another awake. As it turns out, the ocean did that job for us.

    The straight-line route from Cape Spencer to Cape Hinchinbrook crosses through the S tip of Kayak Island, 263 miles away. Since we wanted to stay well offshore of the shoal grounds off Katalla, we set our first course from a point about 5 miles off the southern end of the island. Kent drove until 2100, then I came on for the dog watch.

    I’ll fast-forward a bit here, as an hourly account of the next day and a half would bore even me. When people ask me about the crossing, I tell them that the first 6 hours and the last 6 hours were pretty smooth, but the 32 hours in-between were a white-knuckle roller coaster. The swells built overnight, then started capping, and by early on Saturday morning we were quartering 6- to 8-footers.

    We left Otto in charge as long as possible, but about 24 hours in he was over-correcting like crazy as the waves did amazing things to our heading and we sent Otto sulking off to his quarters in the lazarette. Visions of our epic Stephens Passage crossing from earlier in the trip played in our minds, and once again Kent and I took turns man-handling the wheel in a mostly successful effort to keep our bow headed in approximately the right direction.

    As we pitched and rolled, the few things we hadn’t managed to batten down became airborne and found a new home on the floor. An effort to snatch a few Z’s down below resulted in Kent catching full air as the v-berth bunk lifted and plummeted 8 feet in a throw, so he wedged a cushion and a pillow on the floor under the dinette, where he and I alternated an hour at a stretch in an effort to catch even a few minutes of shut-eye.

    At 2130 on Saturday, we passed Cape St. Elias at a distance of 11 miles offshore. By midnight the seas began to settle, and at 0345 on Sunday they’d become 3- to 4-foot swells. Julie rescued me by sending me below for a much-needed nap, while she re-engaged Otto and promised to wake me up 15 miles off Hinchinbrook so I could chart our approach.



    My next log entry says simply, “0630 Sunday, July 1. Passing Cape Hinchinbrook; entering PWS at last!” Our crossing took almost exactly 44 hours, and brought us home on exactly the day we’d planned, with no travel days lost due to weather or mechanical problems.

    We stopped off Lone Island to fish for halibut, but the tide had already turned and the best I could do was a big cod (made great fish-n-chips the next day!) We talked about whether to stay in the Sound overnight, to sort of ease our way back into civilization after so long away, but in the end homesickness got the better of us, and we agreed to head for Whittier, then back to our homes in Anchorage and Eagle River.

    At 1840 on Sunday, July 1, 2012, Room Seven tied up to her slip at Cliffside Marina in Whittier, Alaska for the first time, marking the end of our 22-day, 1500-mile maiden voyage from LaConner, Washington.



    With the trip behind me, I can say without a doubt that I am glad to have done it. Even though we were underway every day but one, our semi-leisurely pace allowed us to at least sample the scenery and attractions along the way. I wish we had been able to take more time, and stop more often, and stay longer at the really special places we found, but that will have to be another trip.

    It was a calculated risk to take an untried, new-to-me, 34-year-old boat on such a long and potentially dangerous voyage without spending time aboard her first in less trying waters. As it turned out, even if I’d run her for a week in WA, the major mechanical problems we experienced (rudder linkage, raw-water intake, and anchor locker leak) would not have surfaced before the Inside Passage portion of the trip. I learned the ins and outs of the boat in a hurry, and gained as much confidence (and dare I say, skill) handling her on this intense 3-week trip as I would have in an entire season—or more—cruising Prince William Sound waters alone.

    Before I ever left home, I spent dozens of hours reading every resource I could find on cruising the Inside Passage. I educated myself about route options, fuel stops, customs requirements, tides, currents, open-water crossings, and every other detail that I thought might remotely come in handy. I made sure I had the reference books that would make our trip safer and more comfortable. (At some point I’ll post a list here of all the books and other guides we carried, with the strengths and weaknesses of each).

    Before leaving WA, I made an investment in a complete set of tools and engine spares, knowing that any breakdown would almost certainly occur far from civilization—and they all did. There were some things I wished we had on board (but didn't) and I've since added them to the spares stash for future use.

    The new Garmin electronics worked almost flawlessly, and it is a four-way tie for which component was the most important: Chart plotter, radar, auto-pilot, or fuel flow meters. If I had to give up just one of them… well, I wouldn’t make the trip. They were all indispensable for keeping us on course, out of danger, and underway.

    The crew was great, and even after spending nearly every waking & sleeping moment of the last 22 days together, we parted friends. Each person contributed to the success of the trip in different ways, and even when conditions were bad or tempers short, we relied on one another to get the job done and lighten the load.

    I can’t think of any more words of wisdom, and although I’m proud to have made the trip, I don’t pretend to be an old salt because I’ve been out of sight of land, or ridden a few graybeards. If my account here has been entertaining to some folks, I’m pleased. If anything I’ve written helps out somebody who is doing what I did—searching every post online that contains the keywords “small boat cruising Alaska inside passage navigating passage-making motor-yacht route planning Gulf of Alaska” (did you catch all that, Google?)—then I’m happy to have paid it forward.

    Steve Lloyd
    “Room Seven”, 43-foot Universal Trawler
    Anchorage, Alaska

  14. #54

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    Steve,

    Thank you for taking the time for creating such an informative, useful and entertaining write up of your trip up from Wahington.

    Doug

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    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Thank you Steve. You have helped me greatly! I was wondering where you were going to keep Room Seven, now I know it isn't the City of Whittier docks. Are there any slip avalible?-Tom

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    Doug, Thanks for your words of support. Glad you enjoyed the adventure!

    Tom, According to the Whittier Small Boat Harbor web site, there is a long waiting list for slips. I believe the length of the list varies by the size of the slip, but anything in the 28' to 44' range is probably the longest wait. Here's what they say:

    Moorage and Waitlist Information


    Right now, the Whittier Small Boat harbor is filled to capacity. We have a small number of slips that are available during the off season but generally, except for our overnight guests, we are chock full. The only way to get a slip in the marina is to fill out a waitlist form and work your way to the top. Many people ask, "How long does this take?" The answer is "We're not sure!" However, a wild guess on the part of the Harbormaster is five to seven years. Please fill out the wait list form and before you know it, you'll be one of us!

  17. #57
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    Thanks for taking the time to write this up Steve. It sounds like a great trip. My boat will soon be back in Cliffside as well, and I started out in LaConner and ended up in Whittier as you did, but I used the ferry for the last leg, which your write-up makes me feel even better about!

    As for the Whittier wait list, 5-7 years is complete BS. I think I have been on it at least 5 years, and last year I think I moved something like from 63 to 62 on the list. Maybe they are projecting a bunch of dropped people due to dying of old age or something.
    2009 Seawolf 31'
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  18. #58
    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Here is another voyage this past spring. A very interesting read on his way across the Gulf of Alaska and the pounding the boat took.

    http://www.baylinerownersclub.org/fo...skan-adventure

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
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    Steve,

    Looks like quite the adventure. I don't want to sound nit-picky, however, in your photos of Stephens Pass and the rough weather the island you refer to as Shelter Island is actually Grand Island. The north end of Stephens can be fun at times. A marine forecast of S 15 seas 3 ft might apply to the southern end of the pass, but by the time it reaches the area in the photo it's still S 15 but looking more like 5 ft.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

  20. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKBoater View Post
    ...the island you refer to as Shelter Island is actually Grand Island.
    You are absolutely right; I can't say now where I got "Shelter Island". Given the fatigue we were facing by that point in our voyage, perhaps the operative theme as we approached Granite island was "shelter-shelter-shelter" and the name stuck!

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