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Thread: Crossing the Gulf of Alaska

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    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    Default Crossing the Gulf of Alaska

    I have been reading some books based on posts here about the inside passage, which seems pretty well documented. Can anyone recommend a source for getting the details on crossing the Gulf of Alaska? I would like to do some Southeast Alaska boating in the coming summers, and I am looking for information on how feasible it is to run down there vs. taking the ferry. I am looking to purchase something like a 30' Osprey or similar aluminum so I can trailer it on the ferry if I have to, although I think this would be pretty expensive to get there and back. I assume that picking the weather is key, and on the return I figure I could leave the boat there and fly home to Anchorage, and fly back down and get the boat when the weather looks ideal.

    Jim

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    Obviously you have looked at maps/charts/etc. There is a interesting plastic-covered fold out tourist type map that shows villages, places of interest, ferry routes, etc. available at REI in the map section. It shows the whole thing from Washington to PWS. Inside passage is a big trip, big deal, trip of a lifetime, not something one just does on a whim. Preparation and planning like no other!

  3. #3

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    I went with a buddy on his 22-ft C-Dory from Whittier to Cordova (and back) last summer. We looked to see if we could go any further and decided that there was a big stretch where there was little if any protection, or sources of fuel if we ran low. I think a 30-ft boat could handle the trip (weather cooperating, of course), but make sure you know how much fuel you're going to need. This doesn't answer your question, but I thought I'd toss it out anyway.

  4. #4

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    Of course you can do it if everything is perfect, but the gulf can be really nasty. After a couple of crossings on the AMHS ferry Aurora(I work on it). I wouldn't do it, plus the cost of gas in Yakutat, etc. It would be easier to take the Kennicott across to Juneau or tow it to Haines and go from there.

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    Default Crossing the Gulf

    I've done it twice; once going north in 1997 and again (going south) in 2001. I think the best advice I could offer is this: If the weather is good and the seas are calm, almost any boat will do. If the weather is marginal and it's rough, you will certainly rethink your decision about the boat you are in. If it's right out nasty, no boat will be big enough and you will wish you were somewhere else. I'm willing to bet that I could apply this advice to any water and any boat. With that in mind, the chances of getting caught in the weather/seas are quite a bit higher in the Gulf than they are in more protected waters; simply because you'll be in the open ocean.

    On our 2001 trip, we ran from Whittier to Hitchenbrook Entrance, then to Kayak Island, then straight across to Yakutat. Refueled there and south to Cape Spencer and into Cross Sound. Worst part of the trip was right at Cape Spencer with confused 15' seas...UGLY! This was in my 37' (13.5' beam) with twin diesels. There were only a few times during the trip when I felt the boat was "big enough"...and several times when I wished I was in a bigger boat! Would I do it again? Sure, if I had reason to. If I'd had a 30' Osprey (or similar), I wouldn't have considered running it down; I would have it shipped (or ferry) in a heartbeat! Give me a call or PM for details of the trip (I won't bore everyone else here!) Mike 463-2297

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    Member Crumm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CG Boating Safety View Post
    Give me a call or PM for details of the trip (I won't bore everyone else here!) Mike
    Please do bore us with the trip. Sounds like a great story to me

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    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    Default More details, please

    I agree with Crumm. I would be suprised if anyone complained about you suppling the details here, since you have done things that many of us would like to do at some point in the future.

    When you say there were confused 15' seas, was this due to tides and winds? Is there sufficient wind and buoy data so you can predict what you are getting into before you get there?

    Jim

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    Yes, bore us (since I'm not boating now, I need SOMETHING!).

    Seems like there's a place down southeast where the tide really rips and you have to be EXTREMELY careful. I read a story by someone who went through that spot in a 22' (I think) C-Dory and it about did them in. Actually, now that I think about it, I saw their video of it somewhere. Maybe on the C-Brats newsgroup.

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    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    Default Alaska Ferry costs

    Just for fun, I looked at the Alaska Marine Hwy site. For a 55' boat/trailer combination that is wide load (1.5x standard charges) the cost is around $3500 one way, which seems like a lot of money, except if you compare it with being in 15' confused seas for 20 hours, or being on the water in the gulf of Alaska with a mechanical problem, or in the survival raft hoping the Coast Guard shows up...

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    Default Crossing the Gulf

    OK, here goes....don't look for any exciting entertainment here, the trip was relatively uneventful...

    I had moved from Eagle River to Juneau in the fall and decided to winter the boat in Whittier and move it the following spring. I flew back to Anchorage and rounded up my friend Dennis and my brother Chris. We drove to Whittier and dewinterized & provisioned the boat for the trip. It's just under 600 nautical miles from Whittier to Juneau, so we did our trip planning accordingly. I put on an additional 240 gallons of fuel (barrels on the back deck) and secured them. The boat is 42' OAL, 13.5' beam with twin Cummins 6BTA-5.9M1 diesels and I normally cruise at 18+ knots. With all the extra weight on the back deck, we ran most of the trip at 8-10 knots. We left Whittier in the morning and stopped at Zaikof Bay on Montague to top off the mains before we headed out to the Gulf. We had a fair weather window, so we kept going. Dennis racked out about 10PM that evening in the mid berth and Chris was at the helm. Normally, we run 3 on, 6 off at the helm on long trips, but Chris drives truck and can stay alert much longer than either Dennis or I, so we fudged on the schedule. I slept on the settee for a few hours and woke up about 4AM and asked Chris where we were...his reply:"I don't know.." Even being still sleepy, the red flag went up pretty fast! He was playing computer games and had to interrupt his game to check our position on the computer. Now, this is 4AM in mid April, 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Alaska...weather was 10 knots out of the south, snowing and 8-10' seas; we were making 10 knots on autopilot. "We're about 30 miles outside of Yakutat and you need to pump in the rest of the fuel from the barrels, the mains are about at zero." So I suited up and went out onto the deck, in the snow and dark (I could see the waves breaking around the boat as we motored along) and hooked my arm around the bridge ladder railing to keep from falling or slipping as I pumped the remainder of the fuel into the main tanks, thinking about how small this boat really was....

    We ate breakfast in Yakutat, filled up the barrels and tanks and headed towards Cross Sound. Ran all day and into the night, arriving at Cape Spencer in the wee hours. The tide was running out quite strong (there's a lot of water that comes out between Cape Bingham and Cape Spencer plus it's comparatively shallow nearest Cape Spencer. We tried going in too close to Cape Spencer and were met with standing 20' waves, so rather than battle through that, we ran back out and further south before going back into Cross Sound. We stopped at Elfin Cove to wait for the fuel dock to open and have breakfast, then decided we could make it all the way into Juneau on the fuel we had. So we continued through Icy Strait and on into Juneau. Total time enroute was 51 hours and we burned (as memory serves) about 750 gallons of diesel fuel.

    I bought the boat new in 1997, so I'd had plenty of time to develop an accurate fuel burn/RPM curve for it. Normally, I get 1 nautical mile per gallon, but I calculated .8 NMPG for this trip because of anticipated higher seas and extra weight. I always calculate using the 1/3 rule; however on longer runs with fewer opportunities to fuel, I might shave the reserve margins, but only if I'm very confident of the boat's fuel burn and other factors.

    We did 2 hour communications checks with the Coast Guard in Juneau and when we lost VHF comms, we went to Sat Phone. We had a technical difficulty with the sat phone and didn't have communications from just outside Yakutat all the way to Elfin Cove. In fact, my wife called on the cell phone just as we were getting into Elfin Cove and when the phone rang, I about jumped out of my skin! I answered and she said, "I didn't expect you to answer!"...so I said, "Then why did you call?"...apparently the Coast Guard Command Center had called her about 2AM asking if she'd heard from us (answer was no) and she knew our trip plan, did the calculations and figured we might be in cell range at Elfin Cove...smart girl!

    We also did MOB and abandon ship drills before we left; everyone had a survival suit, practiced donning it and abandoning ship. Each of us also had a job assignment in case of emergency. We carry a 406Mhz EPIRB, raft and emergency equipment. I think we were as well prepared as we could be.

    Interestingly, we only saw two boats (ships) between Hitchenbrook Entrance and Cross Sound. If we did have a problem, our survival would depend on our ability to save ourselves, no doubt. ETA for the CG would have been well over an hour after notification in that part of the world, so we would have to survive on our own for quite some time before rescuers could possibly arrive.

    Another curious observation; the boat looks absolutely huge when its out of the water or when you have to clean & wax it....and seems incredibly tiny when you are running 50 miles offshore at zero dark thirty in 10' seas with not a single sign of life anywhere else....personally, I think boats shrink in proportion to their distance from land.

    Hope you've enjoyed the read as much as I've enjoyed relating it! Experiencing the trip definitely adds to my life's scrapbook of memories....would I do it again. Yes.

    In the meantime, boat safe and boat smart! Mike
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    Member Queen of Kings's Avatar
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    Default A trip for FEW!

    Thanks for sharing that one of a kind trip!!
    2003 220 Hewescraft Sea Runner 115 Yam'y, Soft Top "Schmidt Happens"

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    Good story. Always willing to listen to others' travels hoping to learn something.

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    Member Alaska Gray's Avatar
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    Good story. Thanks for sharing it.
    Living the Alaskan Dream
    Gary Keller
    Anchorage, AK

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    Ditto the other comments. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.
    1989 24' Custom Almar, 460 3-stage SS Kodiak jet



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    Check with the folks at Ak Mining & Diving as they brought a couple of new boats up a few years back from Wa to Seward. They had a lot of good info when I spoke to them about the Inside Passage.

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    Member spoiled one's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dupont Spinner View Post
    Check with the folks at Ak Mining & Diving as they brought a couple of new boats up a few years back from Wa to Seward. They had a lot of good info when I spoke to them about the Inside Passage.
    If I am not mistaken, they took a couple of 30' Ospreys. I have a friend that took a 34' Armstrong Marine Catamaran that route, too. He said it was a great trip but was a bit eerie out in the middle of the Gulf.

    Nice story! I would love to try it sometime, but will probably tow to Haines.
    Spending my kids' inheritance with them, one adventure at a time.

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    I made the run in a 28' bowpicker this summer. 27 hours of running time from Cordova to Sitka... pretty uneventful. I had probably the best weather for running that I've ever seen on the trip, worst seas was about a 2 foot chop rounding St. Elias. The rest of the trip the Gulf was like a mirror. The weather forcast at the time was variable 10 for three days in a row. Satellite images showed nothing but clear skies and high pressure. I really lucked out on the weather, so it was easy.

    I've been out plenty of times when it was not so nice... terrifying at some points. Pick your weather and it won't be a problem, between Kayak Island and Icy Bay, there isn't anywhere to hide from mother nature.

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    CG Boating Safety thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. I agree with skydiver we have to live off each other stories till spring. Sounds like you had a pretty good trip all in all.

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    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    Great story, Thanks for sharing and making winter go just a ......little faster.

    ALASKAN SEA-DUCTION
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    Blog: http://alaskanseaduction.blogspot.com/

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    Member skybust's Avatar
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    Great story is it summer yet

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