Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ketchikan to Petersburg

The theme on this leg of our cruise was bears. In all three stops along Behm Canal, Yes Bay, Fitzgibbon Cove and Walker Cove, we saw brown bears on the beach grazing on grass or plowing the tide flats for morsels.

2016-05-042xIn Walker Cove we were able to snag the USFS provided mooring buoy and get great views of a mother and her cub on the beach.  We really got our money’s worth when a male bear came onto the other end of the beach and proceeded to chase the other two off.

2016-05-035xWhile in Walker Cove, we were joined on the buoy by Seaducktress, a trawler from the same boatyard in China as ours.  The weather was stunning so we had happy hour on our flybridge and watched the nature show taking place around us.

2016-05-061xWhile paddling in Yes Bay, as we were returning to the boat from a kayak paddle, we saw a bear on the beach a little over a quarter mile away.  As I was watching, we saw it approach the shore then enter the water.  Soon it was just a head bobbing along in the bay.  We reboarded our boat and watched the bear swim across the bay, passing about 150 yards off of our stern.

We did some crabbing and prawning along the way and were successful enough to put a number of meals on the table.  Our crabbing was hampered by the refusal of the outboard on our dinghy to start after having worked fine a number of times already this cruise.  The problem was resolved while we visited our friends Pete and Brenda who have a cabin on a bay 10 miles NE of Ketchikan.  Pete successfully diagnosed the problem as old gas and fixed it by replacing all of the old gas from the system with fresh.

2016-05-068xOur prawning has been mediocre compared to last year.  We haven’t had any stellar hauls of prawns and have been plagued by small Dungeness crabs climbing into the pots and scaring the prawns off.  We even had a small octopus in one of our pots take a ride to the surface when we hauled it up.

From here we’ll work our way to Sitka stopping at some of our favorite spots. Besides the crab and prawn traps, Marcia will probably be dropping a hook in the water to try her luck fishing.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ketchikan and a Flock of Ducks

We arrived at Bar Harbor at 10 AM yesterday after getting an early start from Foggy Bay.  Since we were arriving from Canada, we obtained permission while still in BC from the CBP (Customs & Border Patrol) to anchor in Foggy Bay before clearing customs in Ketchikan. 

For the first time, we experienced the seas created by significant outflow winds.  The winds are the result of a high pressure in the interior and a lower pressure offshore.  The winds funnel down the channels, the Skeena and Portland Inlet, towards the sea.  We had 3 foot moderate chop for the 30 plus miles from the outlet of the Skeena south of Prince Rupert, the length of Chatham Sound, until we cleared the NE corner of Dundas Island where DSCN4604Portland Inlet meets Dixon Entrance.  The winds were steady in the 15 to 25 range with occasional gusts to 30 knots.  The salt spray added to the crust of salt we had accumulated along the way.

Once past Dundas, the seas were quite good and we enjoyed a smooth ride into Foggy Bay where we were the only boat anchored for the night.  The sun was so bright we had to draw the blinds on many windows to keep the interior of the boat from getting any warmer than it did (upper 70’s).

DSCN4607Once in Ketchikan, we started tackling our chore list in order to get out of town quickly.  The weather forecast had a strong front moving in Monday night through at least Tuesday so we wanted to leave ahead of it on Monday morning.

Later Saturday night our cousin boat Shearwater (David Cohn) arrived having left Prince Rupert that morning.  On Sunday another Diesel Duck, Seaducktress, owned by Peter Geerlofs joined us making a flock of Seahorse Marine Diesel Ducks at Bar Harbor.DSCN4606

From here we’ll do a partial loop around Revillagigedo Island via Behm Canal visiting some of our favorite anchorages and dropping the crab and prawn traps when we can.  We hope start enjoying some fresh Alaskan seafood as we do.  After that we’ll start heading towards Sitka via Petersburg.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle

Most of the significant navigational challenges along the Inside Passage (i.e., Strait of Georgia, Cape Caution, Dixon Entrance) are solved the same way. You wait for the weather to settle down, either the wind or wave height (often both since wind is the main driver of wave height), and go for it.

Halfway up Vancouver Island, however, is a challenge that requires putting together multiple factors. Coming down from the northend of Vancouver Island is Johnstone Straight. Coming up from the southend is the Strait of Georgia. Where they meet are a multitude of islands between the Vancouver Island and the mainland joined by several fiord like inlets that penetrate the mainland. There is a lot of water sloshing through here creating a dozen or so named rapids with tidal currents that will change from as high as 13 knots (about 15 miles per hour) in one direction to 13 knots in the opposite direction over a period of six hours.

The winds play a factor as Vancouver Island is a major impediment to weather systems. The channels between the islands and inlets jutting into the mainland become the routes of choice for the winds associated with the high or low pressure areas moving between the Pacific Ocean and the North American continent.

When the direction of the often strong winds oppose that of the often strong currents, the waves created by the wind will become short in period and steep. Travel in those conditions will become difficult, unpleasant or, at times, unsafe. If the winds and current move in the same direction, however, you can speed along relatively comfortably several knots higher than your normal cruising pace.

Figuring out a route, there are three main routes with several variations, becomes a puzzle of monitoring the weather forecast and timing the currents through the various rapids. We've traveled through here thirteen times (either north or south) and the exact route we take is seldom known until a day or two before we actually do it.

This year's trip involved taking the middle route through the Octopus Islands then using Mayne Passage to switch to the eastern route closest to the mainland. The final leg, a fourteen mile section in Johnstone Strait before cutting up into the more protected waters of the Broughton Archipelago was a bit of a bash in 20-25 knot winds opposing current.

We hope to round Cape Caution in the next day or so and complete the second half of the route to Ketchikan and little more expeditiously than the first half.