For most boats travelling from Wrangell to Petersburg it is about a 40 mile journey, often as a single days journey if the tide cycle works in Wrangell Narrows. For us, it was 300 miles in 10 days.
We left Wrangell on May 25 with an excellent weather forecast, light winds and no rain. Since we had been thwarted in our attempt to explore the east shore of Prince of Wales Island, we thought we’d explore the east shore of Kuiu Island along Sumner Strait. We’ve passed that area a number of times but we’ve always done it directly as to minimize our exposure to the ocean swells that can travel into Sumner Strait.
Our first anchorage was Port Beauclerc, a poorly charted area. We followed the directions in the Coast Pilot and entry wasn’t difficult. While heading to our anchorage we passed by many sea otter mothers with their pups suggesting that boating traffic was light. The anchorage was a huge area with good depths and scenic. Our only complaint was that its size meant it didn’t feel “intimate” and it might not be protected from wind.
The next day we continued south, then turned a corner into Affleck Channel and proceeded to Bear Harbor for the night. The charting was better but entry was tighter. Fortunately the entry tips from the Coast Pilot were spot on and we were soon anchored for the night. True to its name, we saw a black bear foraging along the shore as we entered. It too was a lovely anchorage but not one I’d choose to sit out a storm with forecasted south winds as the terrain was relatively low. The winds we saw in the anchorage were pretty much the same winds as were in Affleck Canal.
We continued our exploring by backtracking about 6-miles to Kell Bay. We spent two nights here. First in the basin formed by several islands on the SW arm of the bay. It was quite lovely and the islands gave visual interest and intimacy to it. The next day, we passed through the very narrow (30-35 yards wide) channel into “land locked” basin south of the arm. While narrow, it is steep-to and the least depth we saw was about 4 fathoms (24 feet) at a +2 foot tide. The inner basin felt like you were in a mountain lake.
Both of these anchorages seem well protected but we experienced southerly winds that were only slightly diminished from those winds that were reported at the Cape Decision light house 7-miles away. While the fetch was short so the chop was minor, we were surprised at how consistent the winds were in the afternoon from sea breezes, The winds apparently blow up the various drainages on the windward side of Kuiu Island, over the low passes then back down the drainages on the leeward side. The wind simply follows the direction dictated by the terrain. We’ve notice this same phenomena in some of the inlets and bays on the east shore of Baranof. An anchorage looks like its well protected on the chart but wind comes whistling down the mountainside following the terrain.
With a good forecast in hand and an early start, we rounded Cape Decision on the south tip of Kuiu Island and made our way to Port Malmesbury. We put our stabilizing “fish” in the water as we cruised up the west shore of Kuiu Island since we were beam to the prevailing SW swell. We anchored in the “Mud Hole”, a misnomer as it is quite nice. A humpback whale later came in to feed so it had the whale’s approval as well.
One reason we wanted to be in Southern Chatham was that it was one of the few areas open to King Salmon fishing. The next day, after waiting of fog to burn off, we fished the mid-day bite along the shore south of Port Cosmos. No king but a pink salmon was hooked and released. We anchored in nearby Gedney Harbor.
From Gedney Harbor, we fished the early morning bite then crossed over Chatham Strait to the east short of Baranof Island and fished mid-day bite north of Port Walter. We anchored for the night in Denmark Cove in Port Walter.
With a forecast for bigger seas in Southern Chatham, we fished the morning bite than proceeded north. We encountered 15-25 knot winds and unpleasant head seas (3-4' with a very short period) as we motored north. They only started to moderate about the time we turned into Gut Bay. Conditions were markedly better inside and we anchored in our preferred spot. Soon the temperatures reached the 70-degree mark for the first time during our trip.
At this point we decided to head to Petersburg to reprovision, do chores and visit with friends there. From Gut Bay we back across Chatham strait to Honey Dew Cove, a lovely and popular anchorage at the NE corner of Kuiu Island. We arrived early enough to make forays to shore which have areas suitable for play with Drake.
The following morning, June 3, we made the push to Petersburg, arriving about 40 minutes ahead schedule on account of current boost. Petersburg is notorious for the fast currents that whip by its docks making docking a challenge for the unwary. We came in on a finger pier with several folks working on fishing vessel tied to the opposite side, who were kind enough to take our lines and make us fast before anything could go haywire.
While in Petersburg, we spent the evenings socializing with Kathleen and John Douglas who own Laysan, a sistership to Alpenglow. They keep their boat in Petersburg during the off season. They had returned a few days earlier and were still doing chores to resuscitate Laysan from its winter hibernation. One afternoon we traveled in their dinghy across the channel to Kurpreanof Island and walk a lovely boardwalk loop trail through the forest.
From here our goal is to head to Sitka via the relatively direct Peril Strait route.
Miles covered this leg was 300 NM over 10 days.