Friday, August 15, 2014
I spent the morning working on Waggoner Guide stuff…updating information on Alert Bay. I took the dinghy to Sointula to get information there, then headed back to the boat for lunch. After lunch I went ashore in Alert Bay to visit U’mista Cultural Centre, a museum housing First Nations artifacts.
As I walked along the waterfront to the museum I saw three rafted fishing boats drifting rapidly towards my boat. At this point I was a half-mile walk from the dinghy, and then another few minutes to the boat, so there wasn’t much I could do. Surely, the fishermen had seen my boat, right?
Nope, they hadn’t. They kept drifting for it. Dan, on Puffin, started honking his horn and yelling. I watched helplessly, camera out to record the events in case the insurance companies needed them. The fishing boats drifted right into Safe Harbour’s starboard bow, seemingly aware of my presence only after impact.
I hustled back to the boat and inspected for damage. The only evidence of the collision I could find was a torn piece of electrical tape on the bow rail (used to mark straight ahead). I talked with Dan and Mary on Puffin, and they said they had more pictures if I needed them.
To the skippers of F/V Cork to Cork, F/V Pacific Baron, and F/V Pacific Endeavor: Pay attention!
With a good forecast and observed conditions, I departed Goose Bay before sunrise to round Cape Caution. The only problem was fog, but that meant little wind.
As I exited Rivers Inlet my radar screen filled with targets, Five boats were travelling in close formation, just a quarter mile apart, and a couple others were behind them by about three quarters of a mile. They were traveling a little closer to shore than I like to, so I slowed and passed behind them before turning onto a parallel course. Later I saw they were a group of gill netters.
Ocean conditions were as benign as the weather forecast had indicated—a two or three foot groundswell, no chop. The fog lifted as the swell died out in Queen Charlotte Strait and I headed for Alert Bay.
The docks were all full so I anchored out next to Puffin, one of the boats on the first Waggoner Alaska flotilla.
73.57 nm today
2358.41 nm total
First stop today is Dawsons Landing in Rivers Inlet. Rob and Nola are the owners, and take good care of the place. They have lots of moorage, a fuel dock, and a very well stocked store.
Then I headed for Goose Bay, home to Duncanby Landing and Goose Bay Cannery. Duncanby is a high end place…shore power (30 amp) is $45 per night, moorage is $1.75 per foot, and laundry is $20.
Goose Bay Cannery is a fascinating place. Like Butedale, Namu, and others along the coast, it was once a working cannery. As refrigeration became better and the salmon fleet declined, Goose Bay was shuttered. About 10 years ago a group of 29 (mostly firefighters) purchased Goose Bay Cannery to turn it into a vacation spot for their families and friends.
Each owner puts in 9 or 10 days of labor a year. By doing this, they’ve significantly improved the place. They’ve got systems for power, water, and waste. The buildings are shored up, structurally sound, and freshly painted. Cabins are in various states of renovation. They’ve even converted part of the old cannery building into an indoor hockey rink.
Visitors are welcome at the dock, but are asked to stay out of the buildings unless they receive permission to enter.
After exploring Goose Bay I was reading on the boat when I heard the unmistakable sound of a whale exhaling. I looked around, and sure enough several orcas were in the cove, just a few hundred feet from where I anchored. They were heading out of the bay. I hopped in the dinghy and followed them out…the first time I’d been whale watching from the dinghy. The perspective is certainly different in a 10 foot boat…
|Orca in Goose Bay.|
46.22 nm today
2284.84 nm total
Fog! I woke up to dense fog. I couldn’t see more than 50 feet in any direction. The entrance to Penn Harbour is fairly narrow—perhaps 75 feet wide—and would be tough to navigate for the first time in fog. Thankfully, I’d been through yesterday, and had a track laid down. Combined with radar, exiting was easy.
Given the foggy conditions I passed by Evinrude Inlet and Kent Inlet. And given the calm conditions, I opted to go around the south end of Price Island, in the ocean, rather than the longer, more protected route through Meyers Passage.
Disney Wonder, one of the cruise ships doing the Vancouver to SE Alaska trip, called VTS with a medical emergency. I listened in as they described the problem: a passenger had a blood clot in their leg. The doctor on board wasn’t equipped to operate, so the passenger needed to be evacuated ASAP. The doctor said the passenger needed surgery within 6 ½ hours to survive. Given the fog, helicopters couldn’t fly, so Disney Wonder set course for Seaforth Channel at 22 knots. Meanwhile, a CCG motor lifeboat raced towards Seaforth Channel. They met just off the southern end of Price Island and exchanged the ill passenger. Apparently a fixed wing medevac plane was standing by in Bella Bella to take the passenger to a hospital that could operate.
The fog finally broke up as I crossed Milbanke Sound. As I entered Seaforth Channel, I spotted a dozen or so orcas. Lots of boats, too…it was obvious I was back on the main Inside Passage route.
I passed Shearwater and Bella Bella, bound for Rock Inlet, near Namu. The caretakers at Namu left at the end of last summer, and I wanted to see what had become of the place.
Rock Inlet, by the way, is a beautiful anchorage, but not terribly secure. The bottom is, you guessed it, rocky. The anchor skipped across rocks before catching on something, and I could hear the chain dragging across rocks. Probably not a good choice in a serious blow.
|Platform built on a rock in Rock Inlet.|
Namu continues falling apart. Vandals have broken most of the windows, ransacked the old store, and generally made a mess of an already messy place. The only way to visit now is by dinghy, and there are several places to land. Most of the place is built on piers, and it’s only a matter of time before they collapse. Visit at your own risk…
|Broken windows at the Namu store.|
|The door is open...|
|And most of the inventory is gone.|
100.09 nm today
2238.62 nm total
I got an early start this morning. With a track already laid down on the GPS, it was easy to get out of Ire Inlet. I headed first to Patterson Inlet to gather information for the Waggoner Guide. It’s a gorgeous anchorage, easy to enter, and with space for as many boats as are likely to be there.
Then off to Surf Inlet. I took to inside of Campania Island, thinking it would be better protected from the ocean swells. It was flat calm, and I saw several humpback whales. Traffic increased on the inside of Campania Island…lots of people out fishing.
Before entering Surf Inlet I anchored and explored Emily Carr Inlet. For some reason, my Simrad chartplotter was wayyy off in Emily Carr Inlet. It plotted my position about 250 feet from where I actually was. The iPad with Navionics and iNavX was spot on, as was Coastal Explorer and C-Map and CHS charts.
Emily Carr Inlet is fantastic. Tons of exploring to do by dinghy or kayak. If only I had more time…
After an all to quick visit to Emily Carr Inlet I headed into Surf Inlet. As I progressed the scenery got more impressive…high mountains and green hillsides all around.
I’d wanted to anchor in Penn Harbour and take
the dinghy to the head of the inlet. This would allow me to go ashore and hike
to a nearby lake. Unfortunately afternoon inflow winds of perhaps 20 knots made
this impossible. I took the Nordic to the head of the inlet, but couldn’t find
a suitable place to drop the anchor, so I headed back to Penn Harbour and
anchored for the night. Another delightful, spacious anchorage. I kept a close
eye out for Spirit Bears, but never saw one.
|Almost to the head of Surf Inlet.|
|Abandoned building in Surf Inlet|
75.25 nm today
2138.53 nm total
2138.53 nm total
Another foggy morning. After some last minute email I departed Prince Rupert in thick fog. Chatham Sound was perfectly calm, but crowded. I spent a lot of time staring at the radar screen trying to interpret what other boats were doing.
Instead of taking the Grenville Channel route (which is kind of boring), I turned to starboard and headed down Ogden Channel. I stopped briefly in Kitkatla to get information for the 2015 Waggoner Guide, then worked my way through Petrel Channel. I only saw one other boat the whole way through Petrel Channel.
Ire Inlet was my destination for today. The books noted the narrow entrance, but I didn’t full appreciate just how narrow until I saw it. I’d estimate the entrance is only 25-30 feet wide. Once you enter, you’re committed. The water was deep, however, and entrance was straightforward.
One sailboat was already at anchor, but there was plenty of room for me. Nice anchorage.
71.1 nm today
2063.29 nm total
I expected to wake to fog this morning (as predicted), but instead found sunny skies. After a quick breakfast I pulled the anchor around 4:30, worked my way out of the Broken Islands, and headed into Dixon Entrance.
|Fog in the distance|
Winds were light and seas were just a small groundswell. I spotted a humpback tail slapping and slapping the water with its fins. Then the fog rolled in. Until just a few miles from Prince Rupert, I was in dense fog. Because the Craig-Prince Rupert route is much less frequently traveled than the Ketchikan-Prince Rupert route, I hardly saw a radar target until Chatham Sound.
The most frustrating thing was the current. The current arrows on the charts showed seemingly illogical, swirling currents. For much of the day my speed was down 5-6 knots, fighting a nasty current. Finally, it backed around, and I saw speeds in the mid-9-knot range for some of the second half of the trip.
I cleared customs by phone as I approached Prince Rupert. Easy. It’s just frustrating that even with Nexus I have to go into Prince Rupert when I’ve already been given a clearance number by phone. Oh well.
84.12 nm today
1992.18 nm total
Erik flew out this morning (actually got driven to Hollis, on the other side of PoW Island, since it was too foggy to fly into Craig). I left soon after.
My departure was complicated by the arrival of a whole bunch of seine boats. They were rafted four deep behind me and three deep in front of me. I had about 2-3 feet of room off the bow and stern. But because the wind was blowing the seine boats behind me were blown forward, so the ~47 feet of space I had at the dock shrunk to just 35 feet further out. In order to get out I'd have to rotate the boat 90 degrees.
I was happy to have the bow thruster. I kicked the stern out, used the thruster to rotate the bow 90 degrees, and motored out.
I left Craig not knowing exactly where I was going. I wanted to get as far as I could to minimize the distance across Dixon Entrance tomorrow, but the guidebooks were pretty sparse in their description of the southern half of Prince of Wales Island. Based on the charts, it looked like the Barrier Islands have a few decent anchorages and I decided to give them a try.
The weather actually began clearing as I headed south. The sun poked out a bit and the rain mostly stopped. I passed a few seiners and fish tenders, but not much else. This is a particularly remote-feeling part of Alaska.
The Barrier Islands worked out okay as an anchorage. The bottom was rocky and irregular. On my first attempt to anchor, the anchor just dragged across the rock. I tried again in a slightly different spot and got a decent set. I wouldn’t trust it in much wind, though.
The Barrier Islands are beautiful. They remind me of the west side of Vancouver Island: rugged, raw, wind-and-wave lashed.
Tomorrow I’ll head to Prince Rupert.
57.24 nm today
1908.06 nm total
Monday, July 28, 2014
I’d planned on heading to Nagasay Cove in Esquibal Sound today. Getting their requires transiting Tonowek Narrows, a reversing tidal rapid. We went through a bit early, with three knots of current against us but little turbulence.
Just south of Warm Chuck Inlet we spotted a couple of humpbacks, one of them slapping the water crazily with his tail. I turned towards them for a better view, and the whale continued tail slapping for the next 15 minutes.
Then we continued on. The rain intensified. When we got to Launch Passage it was apparent that it wasn’t easily transited. Kelp choked the entrance. Massive rocks loomed above the water. On to Craig.
I filled up with fuel in Craig since I’ll be heading to B.C. and the land of expensive diesel in a few days. From Juneau (last fillup) I traveled 327.86 nm in 45.98 engine hours (11 generator hours). I put in 100.4 gallons, for 3.27 nmpg, 2.18 gph, and 7.13 knots average speed.
I also changed the oil in the engine. I’ve got the routine down pretty well now, and can do it only spilling a few drops on the engine room floor. All was good until I started up the engine, and a quart of oil immediately squirted out of the top of the oil filter housing, completely soaking the oil absorbent pads underneath the engine and spraying an oily mist over half the engine room. I looked at the old oil filter. Yep, no gasket. Off the new filter came, along with the extra gasket and a bunch more oil. Then I tightened the new filter on again, a added another quart of oil, and turned on the engine. No leaks. Then the hour of cleanup began…
32.28 nm today
1850.82 nm total
After a night of swinging wildly at anchor I was eager to leave Devilfish Bay. As soon as we got a few hundred yards from the anchorage, the wind died.
Our destination today is Yahku Cove, a snug, one boat anchorage. Thankfully nobody else was there when we arrived. We explored a lagoon by kayak and walked to a small lake, but otherwise had a pretty lazy day.
21.61 nm today
1818.54 nm total
El Capitan Passage is a lot like Rocky Pass. Narrow, shallow, and exceptionally well marked. However, it’s a lot shorter than Rocky Pass, requiring less than an hour of intense concentration to safely steer around every rock.
|El Capitan Passage|
We arrived at El Capitan Caves a bit before our appointed tour time and used the extra time to bundle up. Apparently the cave maintains a consistent 40-degree temperature throughout the year and the ceiling drips incessantly. Not to mention the downpour we’d have to tolerate for the dinghy ride to shore and the walk up 370 steps to the cave.
When we got to the small shelter at the beginning of the trail, nobody was there. No USFS ranger, no other visitors. A few minutes later three people, dressed in foul weather gear, trundled up. An older, obviously pampered woman, a man who seemed rather submissive, and a young guy with a radio remote slung over his shoulder—obviously the crew. I asked what boat they were from, and they indicated a 115-footer that was anchored on the other side of El Capitan Passage. They’d arrived by dinghy, explaining the extensive foul weather gear. I asked if the boat was a charter boat. The woman quickly explained that it was her boat before whipping out an ecigarette and puffing away.
Soon Benni and Jake arrived, our guides for the day. They’re both college students studying geology, up here giving cave tours as summer interns. They fitted us with hard hats and we set off for the walk up the stairs to the cave.
|Benni and Jake at the cave entrance.|
The cave system is extensive, stretching several thousand feet into the mountainside. Our tour only went in 500 feet or so, but it was enough to get a sense of the place. The guides did a good job of explaining the geology, but I can’t remember a whole lot of it beyond the fact that it has taken 400 million years for the cave to develop.
After the cave tour we headed for Devilfish Bay, which looked like a good, well sheltered anchorage. According to native folklore, a huge devilfish once rose up from the bay and crashed down, creating a wave the wiped out an entire village. Many subsequent visitors have reported supernatural feelings here.
I can’t vouch for any of that, but I can say that this is one windy anchorage. At the head of the bay we had consistent 20-25 knot winds, sideways rain, and a noisy chop slapping at the hull. The noise was so objectionable that I slept in the salon. Not my favorite anchorage…
15.61 nm today
1796.92 nm total
Rocky Pass today, which means our schedule is dictated by high water slack. It’s best to arrive at the middle of Rocky Pass—The Summit and Devil’s Elbow—right around high water slack. This ensures that there’s plenty of water underneath the boat and that strong current doesn’t push the boat out of the narrow channel.
Rocky Pass turned out to be easier than I remembered. Really, just follow the buoys.
After leaving Rocky Pass I set a course for Port Protection, but didn’t like the weather forecast I was hearing for tomorrow and the next day. Sumner Strait was a bit choppy today, with 15 knots of southerly breeze. But the next two days were predicted to have 25 knots from the south.
We poked into Port Protection but decided to continue on. I didn’t want to get stuck in Port Protection for several days if the weather forecast further deteriorated. And once we got into the inner channels, we’d be basically immune from wind for the rest of the trip into Craig.
So we continued on, to an expansive but undocumented anchorage between Divide Island and Hamilton Island, just at the entrance to El Capitan Passage. It turned out to be a lovely spot, filled with sea otters that had the good sense not to crawl on my boat and use it as a toilet.
This new schedule presented a bit of a problem. I’d made reservations with the USFS for a Saturday tour of El Capitan Caves. Now we’d be passing the caves on Friday. I called the Forest Service office on the sat phone and they happily rescheduled our tour.
57.89 nm today
1781.32 nm total
Bugs! The boat is covered in bugs! I went outside to pull the anchor and couldn’t believe the thousands of bugs hanging out on the boat. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll do any kayaking or dinghying here.
We motored down to Kake, seeing quite a few whales along the way.
After a quick stop at the fuel dock to top off the water tank we moved offshore and dropped the anchor. We needed to grab a few groceries and also visit the liquor store. We checked off those two errands, then continued towards Goose Bay.
Hans and Terri on Mellow Moments recommended Goose Bay thoroughly. They’d seen bears and a moose here earlier this summer. We made it through the narrow, shallow entrance just fine and dropped the anchor, the only boat here.
We explored a bit by dinghy, but didn’t find any wildlife immediately. Later on, after dinner, Erik spotted a black bear sow with two cubs. We hopped in the dinghy and approached as quietly and close as we could. This is a particularly quiet anchorage. As we drifted in the dinghy watching the bears, we could literally here as birds flew overhead, their wings fanning the air.
|Sow, after her cubs had scrambled into the woods.|
51.34 nm today
1723.43 nm total
Today we’ll head into Dawes Glacier before turning around and heading out to Gambier Bay. A long day, made longer by the fact that we couldn’t leave Ford’s Terror until 11:00 a.m. because of the rapids at the entrance.
Speaking of the rapids…we cheated them a bit today, transiting exactly at high water in Juneau. About four knots of current ran against us in the channel, but the water was smooth. No overfalls, no whirlpools.
Ice was surprisingly sparse all the way to the face of Dawes Glacier. Still, we managed to hear, and then see, some significant calving. Somehow the sun even managed to peak out during the time we were at the glacier.
Erik decided his swim yesterday wasn’t enough and he wanted to swim with the icebergs. Given the water was only 35 degrees, and knowing about cold water shock syndrome, I insisted he wear a lifejacket. He agreed, jumped off the top of the boat, and very rapidly climbed out of the water.
|Erik jumping into the icy water.|
The trip out of Endicott Arm and across Stephens Passage was easy, though long. We arrived around 9:00 p.m. and didn’t even bother dropping the dinghy in the water.
79.0 nm today
1672.09 nm total
Mention Ford’s Terror to fellow Alaska cruisers and it’s sure to generate a response. Those who’ve been rave about magnificent scenery, sheer cliffs rising thousands of feet from secluded waters. Those who haven’t warn about the lack of charts and the narrow, shallow entrance through reversing tidal rapids with no published time of slack.
Two summers ago I’d anchored outside the rapids. That was a stunning spot, but I wanted to go inside this summer. I culled the internet, found some anecdotes, and assembled a plan.
As we approached I maneuvered the boat to the base of the big multiple waterfall. Then I set a course for 290 magnetic, which took me between two shoals to the entrance of the rapids. I entered approximately 25 minutes after high water at Wood Spit (on an 11.7 foot high tide) and experienced virtually no current. Least depth was roughly 19 feet. Easy.
|Calm water approaching the rapids.|
|In the rapids.|
The scenery inside is awe-inspiring. Waterfalls, ranging from dainty ribbons to raging torrents, plunge from unseen glaciers and mountain lakes thousands of feet above. Beyond the massive rock walls snowcapped peaks loom. It’s as scenic as any place I’ve been, anywhere on the planet.
We were lucky to arrive on an unpredicted sunny day. With low clouds, the immensity of this place couldn’t be fully grasped.
Not having enough of a challenge for the day, I decided to anchor in the east arm, which requires crossing a shallow, uncharted, and unmarked bar. Not a problem ordinarily, since someone could stand bow watch. But here glacial silt is suspended in seawater, limiting underwater visibility to about six inches.
The depth sounder indicated as little as 10 feet of water, but we made it in. A lone sailboat was anchored near the entrance so we continued to the head of the bay and found somewhat tenuous anchorage off the mudflats.
|Orca anchored near the entrance to the east arm.|
After anchoring we hopped in the dinghy and explored all around. Absolutely magnificent. On our way back we visited with John and Kara, the sailors aboard Orca, who surprisingly were also in their 20s. Four and a half years ago, at 24, they quit their jobs and sailed to Mexico. Then across the Pacific, ending up in New Zealand, where they decided they might as well just sail all the way around the world. They ended up in Sitka last fall and are now working their way south to Seattle to replenish their cruising kitty.
|Anchored at the head of the east arm.|
|Outstanding views in every direction.|
|River at the west arm.|
|Note how small Erik looks|
|Black bear and three cubs|
We returned to the boat a large sandbar alarmingly close to the boat. The boat, not 60 feet away from the sandbar, was still in 40 feet of water. But given the poor visibility, I couldn’t be sure where the drop off occurred. And since the low tide tomorrow morning is several feet lower than this low tide, I though it best to move. So we pulled the anchor and joined John and Kara in their anchorage. We visited more and enjoyed a fire and drinks ashore.
After a few drinks John and Erik decided a nearby rock, perhaps 15 feet off the water, looked particularly good for jumping. I joked that anyone who went swimming in this 40 something degree water deserved a hot shower. John, lacking a shower aboard, literally jumped on the opportunity. So did Erik. I picked them up in the dinghy and ran them out to the boat for their well-earned hot water rinse.
27.21 nm today
1593.09 nm total
My friend Erik flew into Juneau this morning. After picking up groceries we wandered around downtown Juneau a bit before shoving off, destination Tracy Arm Cove.
NOAA predicted 15 knots of wind from the south (against us) in Stephens Passage, but they seemed to be wrong. Once out of Gastineau Channel the wind was more like 20-25 knots, with steep, short interval 3-4 foot chop. It was a wet ride to Tracy Arm Cove, though conditions calmed significantly after Port Snettisham.
|The windshield wipers were put to good use.|
Tracy Arm Cove was as busy as I’d ever seen it. At least 10 boats were anchored there, including two in the 120+ foot range. Still, plenty of room.
Tomorrow we’re forgoing Tracy Arm. Instead, we’ll head up Endicott Arm, turn into Ford’s Terror for the night, then continue to Dawes Glacier the next day.
42.92 nm today
1565.88 nm total
Saturday, July 19, 2014
After days in the wilderness arriving in a major port like Juneau is always jarring. Boat traffic intensifies and radio traffic increases. Sirens sound, hoards of cruise ship tourists wander about, jewelry salespeople try to woo you into their shops…
But I digress…our first stop in Juneau was the fuel dock, where I took on 225 gallons of diesel at $3.89 per gallon. Since the last fill up I ran the engine 106.02 hours (34.4 generator hours), covering 764.37 nautical miles. Fuel consumption works out to just over 2.1 gallons per hour and about 3.4 nautical miles per gallon at an average speed of 7.21 knots. Compared to the C-Dory, I’m averaging about half a knot faster and getting about 0.2 nautical miles per gallon worse fuel economy. But because diesel is cheaper than gas, and the longer range allows me to buy fuel at cheaper locations, my fuel costs are substantially less.
I’ll be in Juneau until Sunday, when a friend flies in and we head south for Craig.
43.36 nm today
1522.96 nm total
Today started off foggy, again. We pulled anchor around 7:30 and started into Tracy Arm with decent visibility, but it quickly closed down to a quarter mile. Enough to avoid the ice, but not enough to take in the stunning fjord landscape.
The cruise ship Zaandam was five miles ahead of us, and I called them on the VHF and asked how the weather was. They reported clear skies, which was encouraging. Sure enough, they were right…as we continued into Tracy Arm the fog lifted and gave way to brilliant sunny skies. Perfect!
|Spectacular mountain scenery...|
|Not a bad view in any direction.|
Getting to North Sawyer Glacier was easy, with very little ice to dodge. I got the boat within a quarter mile of the face of the glacier. The rest of the group got in the dinghy and explored around for a bit, then we made our way to South Sawyer Glacier.
Getting to South Sawyer was a bit more difficult, but not bad. I maneuvered past Zaandam, which was holding station over a mile from the glacier, and picked my way through the ice. Through the binoculars I noticed people standing on several of the larger icebergs. Then I saw a tour boat dropping people off and picking them up. It turns out a tour operator picks people up from the cruise ship, deposits them on icebergs for photos, and then picks them up. I’d always been under the impression that walking around on icebergs is pretty dangerous, since they have a tendency to shift unpredictably.
As we approached South Sawyer a massive chunk of ice calved off the face, creating a geyser of spray several hundred feet high…a good reminder of why it’s important to keep some distance between the boat and the glacier.
A half-mile from the face of the glacier the ice final closed in, preventing further progress. I shut off the engine and dropped the kayaks in the water. Under beautiful sunny skies we spent the next hour puttering around the ice, soaking in the views. Tidewater glaciers are magical places, and all the more so on a sunny day.
The trip out of Tracy Arm was easy. No fog, but a bit of wind. By 4:30 we were back in Tracy Arm Cove. Boating in the ice is exhilarating but also exhausting. I was ready for an early night after 8 hours of dodging icebergs today.
53.92 nm today
1479.6 nm total