Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Long Way Around

Marcia and I often joke about a Labor Day weekend trip more than 20 years ago in which we traveled 550 miles from our Seattle home to Leavenworth (typically a 120 mile drive) via Canada.  As explanation, I’ll say our original goal was Hozomeen, a North Cascades peak just south of the border whose shortest access is via Canada.  Relentless rain washed that goal away and kept pushing us east searching for blue sky and ultimately to Leavenworth.

Something like that has happened in the 2-1/2 weeks since we left Wrangell on June 5.  We are now in Petersburg, about 45 miles from miles from Wrangell via Wrangell Narrows.  The route we took was a “little” less direct and totaled about 626 miles.  Along the way we took a detour to within 20 miles of Craig on Prince of Wales Island, headed out to Sitka on 2015-06-067xthe West coast of Baranof Island via Peril Strait, continued south along the coast of Baranof, rounded Cape Ommaney, recrossed our earlier path (thus completing a circumnavigation of Baranof Island), overshoot Petersburg by going to the north end of Dry Strait (we were able to pick up VHF calls to the Wrangell harbor master), then finally docked at Petersburg on June 21.  Thank heavens it’s the journey not just the destination that matters.

2015-06-088xThe highlights since leaving Sitka include two lovely new (to us) anchorages on the West coast of Baranof Island, Kristoi Basin and Puffin Bay, and a tremendous humpback whale experience outside of Tebenkof Bay.  We turned off the engine and watched a pod of 15 to 20 whales feeding (including bubble feeding) over a broad area.  To hear them breath from hundreds of yards away is always a moving experience.

2015-06-177yOur boat passed a milestone as well, accumulating 3000 hours on the main engine on the leg into Petersburg.  That accumulation is in the 5-1/2 years since we off loaded the boat in Seattle in January 2010.

From here, we have about a 130 mile journey to Auke Bay, in Juneau.  We’ll take it leisurely over 10 or 11 days but the route will probably be more direct than this most recent path.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

In Sitka

We’re currently in Sitka after having stopped in Wrangell, made a feint towards Craig then shifting our destination to Sitka.

In Wrangell, we had a great visit with our friends, Dorothy & Dave Nagle, owners of the Seahorse Marine Diesel Duck DavidEllis. They’ve been in a boatyard in Wrangell since last fall recoating their boat.  I use the term “coat” because “paint” does not do justice to the multiple layers of protectants than go into keeping the corrosive effects of sea water, oxygen and sun from turning a boat (especially a steel boat) into a piece of scrap.  Journalist Jonathan Waldman released a book this year, Rust, describing the ongoing struggle of humankind to protect its constructs against corrosion.

2015-06-001xDorothy and Dave hope to be back in the water and ready to cruise shortly after the July 4th holiday.  We got a sneak preview of the glossy finish they’ll have when everything is complete.  We’ll be jealous.

While in Wrangell, the blocking high that brought the sunny weather to SE Alaska in May decided to leave and we ended up staying an extra day while a bit of wind and rain passed through.

From Wrangell, we decide to head over to Craig on the west side of Prince of Wales (PoW) Island. Sea conditions were generally favorable so we made it a long day, heading across the top of PoW, down to Shakan Bay and hit Dry Pass in El Capitan Passage just about high tide.  We anchored the night in Devilfish Bay about 6 miles south of the El Capitan caves.

The next day we headed to Salt Lake Bay, about 30 miles away.  We had enjoyed our visit there in 2014 and wanted to visit again.  By the time we reached Salt Lake Bay, the rain began to fall.  We set our anchor in the rain and retrieved it in the rain next morning.  In the mean time, we concluded that fishing would probably be better near Sitka so we retraced our path from the previous day to Devilfish Bay.

2015-06-029xThe next morning we went back through Dry Pass in El Capitan Passage.  It gets narrow in certain spots and we had to wait for the small cruise ship Wilderness Discoverer to pass through one section before proceeding.

Once back in Sumner Passage, we headed towards Keku Strait and the south entrance to Rocky Pass.  We dropped the anchor and took an early dinner break waiting for high tide in the pass.  At 5:30 pm we restarted the engine, pulled the anchor and covered the remaining 14 miles to our anchorage for night in Stedman Cove.

2015-06-060xFrom Stedman Cove we went to the always scenic Red Bluff Bay on Baranof Island for the night.  The day was quite stunning with calm winds and lots of sun.  Along the way we passed the Holland America cruise ship Amsterdam.  Chatham Channel being a bit wider than 2015-06-061xDry Pass, we didn’t have to wait our turn, although I did alter our route to keep the passing more than 3/4 mile.

The weather turned decidedly cooler and wetter than next two days as we first went to Douglass Bay in Hoonah Sound than on to Sitka the next.  High temperatures struggling to get above 50 degrees and frequent rain showers.

The current plan is to do some fishing in the Sitka area before returning to Sitka to start our way to Juneau.