Friday, June 10, 2011

June 3 to June 9 – Ketchikan or Bust

A little catching up to do as we haven’t been anywhere with Internet since we left Campbell River. Below is a chronology of the trip since Campbell River.

Date Activity Mileage Position
June 3 An “Oh-dark thirty” start from the Discovery Harbor marina in Campbell River in order cover the 11 or so miles in the waning flood and hit the 0620 slack before the ebb at Seymour Narrows. We and a half-dozen other boats (fishing and pleasure) arrived right on schedule.

Travelling through Seymour was fine and we soon begin riding the ebb current down Johnstone Strait. It worked very well. We didn’t hit the incoming flood until we approached Cracroft Island. Once we struggled through Blackney Passage at just about max flood (lots of eddies and 4-5 knot adverse currents), things eased out. We crossed Blackfish Sound, rounded Swanson Island and headed straight north to Cullen Harbor on Broughton Island for the night.

We shared the anchorage with one other vessel. It took two attempts to hook the anchor because of lots of kelp on the bottom.



June 4 We are starting here rumblings on the weather radio that a quasi-stationary offshore high is going to start sending strong NW winds towards the coast in a couple of days. Our motto this year is that you go when the weather is good and that means go long.

After confirming that the seas at the West Sea Otter buoy are only 1.2 meters we decide to get an early start and round Cape Caution and head up Fitz Hugh Sound. We started to pick up westerly 15 knots in the afternoon but the seas weren’t building to anything uncomfortable.

For our anchorage tonight, we try a new (to us) place, Kwakume Inlet.  It proved to be very pleasant and I would recommend it to others and use it again.



June 5 On account of the forecasted increase in winds, our expectations started low. Just past Bella Bella, you have to poke yourself out into Milbanke Sound which is exposed to ocean swells. We identified a lovely anchorage (“Anniversary Cove”) with bomber protection to wait out the winds.

As we motored along and listened to the weather, the reports indicated the winds were delayed by about 24 hours. We stayed true to our 2011 motto and decided to keep pushing. Anniversary Cove will wait until a later time.

Conditions were good through Milbanke Sound, only bouncy for an hour or so. Once into Findlayson Channel conditions were fine. The treat for us was seeing our first humpback whale. We saw it twice (we assume it was the same one) separated by about an hour.

Our anchorage for the night is our old foul weather standby, Bottleneck Inlet. Unlike our previous two visits the weather as we entered was warm and sunny (it has always been rainy and cloudy), and it was unoccupied (always several other boats hunkered in as well).



June 6 The day started lovely. We left about 0800 in order to not hit Hiekish Narrows at a reasonable adverse (ebb in this case) current. The winds still were moderate at around 15 knots on our nose.

While going through Hiekish Narrows, we were passed (everybody passes us) by the five boats in this year’s NW Explorations "Mother Goose" Flotilla. They all have AIS so I saw them pop up on my chart plotter well before I saw them. Seeing five boats strung out in a row is not a common sight.

Shortly after Hiekish Narrows, we saw a humpback whale again. Don’t know if it was the same one we saw the day before or not.

From here, the route goes up Princess Royal Channel and then Grenville Channel (the “ditch”). By the time we were exiting Princess Royal, the winds were blowing 25-30 knots, pretty much as a head wind. In addition, the current was generally against us so it was slow going.

We were somewhat hopeful that as we entered Grenville Channel, the winds would lie down a bit and we’d start to pick up a bit of flood current. Neither of those two items happened. While not extraordinarily rough going, it was painfully slow. It just kept getting slower, going from 5 knots to 4 knots to finally 3 knots (4 knots of adverse current!!!).

We finally pull into Lowe Inlet, the first anchorage along the route up Grenville, about 2130 (9:30 PM). The saving grace is that it is a beautiful setting. 



June 7 A rest day and a beautiful one to boot. We sleep in and Marcia prepares asparagus and cheese omelets. Later when we start the generator to charge the batteries, Marcia bakes bread in the toaster oven.

The chore we set for ourselves is launching the dinghy and testing the outboard. The launching goes fine but starting the engine is a no-go. Probably the absence of my performing winterization has a lot to do with it. I keep my cool because I know that right near Bar Harbor in Ketchikan is a marine service center specializing in Honda outboard motors.

After letting the motor sit for 30 minutes after my first 20 minutes worth of yanking on the starter, the motor begins to catch with my pulls. Finally I keep it going and I let it idle to fully warm up.  Marcia and I then take it out for a spin around the inlet. Life is good again.
June 8 Fully rested, we finish off Grenville Channel and actually pick up a bit of favorable current. We speculate the current problems we were having in Grenville on June 6 were because of the Skeena River, which is at the north end of Grenville, overwhelming the normal ebb and flood current cycles with outflow.

Again we monitor the weather as we are going along. The worst of the winds are over and things seem to be laying down. We decide to go to an anchorage on Dundas Island that puts us in good position for the crossing of Dixon Entrance and getting to Ketchikan.

The three other boats with whom we share the anchorage had the same idea but the place is quite large so there is no problem. Probably a half dozen more boats could have come in before anyone would have had to work to find a spot with enough swing room.



June 9 A first light start gets us and two other boats, Maritime (Selene 47) and Banyan (Krogen 42), into Dixon Entrance early. It is a little bouncy because the ocean swell is coming from the west but the wind wave chop is out of the east.

We consider dropping a stabilizer fish in the water (the poles were already down and ready to go), but decide to tough it out as the fish take a knot or so off your speed. That proves to be a good decision as about 3 hours after starting the seas are getting less choppy the further up Revillagigedo Channel we go.

The most stressful part turns out to be in Ketchikan proper. After the relative calm of the inside passage, the ruckus of cruise ships, tour boats, sport fishing boats and sightseeing float planes is almost overwhelming. Additionally, there is no space for us at our preferred anchorage in Bar Harbor. We end up docking in Thomas Basin on our non-preferred side (port) in winds pushing our stern around. Marcia did great and I didn’t.

The next day, June 10, we are able to move to Bar Harbor.



In Ketchikan, we are doing laundry, provisioning, getting fishing licenses and preparing for the next leg of the trip.

We are leaving on Sunday, June 12 to head up Behm Canal to visit some of the places we hit last year that were productive for crabs. We’ve added two more crab pots to the one we had last year. Since both Marcia and I have fishing licenses our limit is higher. We hope to do some major harvesting. Additionally, we’ve outfitted our dinghy with a downrigger. Marcia got a halibut last year and she is really-really trying to get a salmon this year.

Our plan is to head next to Wrangell. We may bump into our 2010 buddy boat, DavidEllis, and friends Dorothy & Dave Nagle. They came up to Alaska in January (read their blog for the details) to have work done on the boat in Wrangell. On July 4, our friends Ginny & Ken Crowder will fly into Wrangell. They’ll accompany us on our trip from Wrangell to Sitka.

Cumulative Mileage – 679.5

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