Monday, August 29, 2022

Ketchikan to Port McNeil

Our 2022 southbound journey was a return to our pre-Covid cruising practice. We typically like to cross Dixon Entrance into British Columbia the end of July or first part of August. Our experience is that August weather in SE Alaska is a transition to more Fall like conditions with increased wind and rain.  That was certainly the case this year.

We left Ketchikan on Wednesday, August 3.  We stopped at the fuel dock as we left and took on 300 gallons of diesel.  When we compared SEAK fuel prices with those in Puget Sound, we saw it was nearly a dollar a gallon less in Puget Sound so only took on enough for an ample safety margin for the trip home..

The general flow of cruising boats is south and as we headed out, we saw via AIS five other boats positioning to cross Dixon Entrance. It is about 85 miles from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert so most boats like ours split the trip up so that they aren’t arriving in Prince Rupert too late in the day.  Foggy Bay, about 38 miles from Ketchikan, is a popular stop but we prefer an anchorage closer to the border.  We headed to Sitklan Passage Cove which leaves us with only a 39 mile trip the next day to Prince Rupert.

The last two years, when we were doing direct transits through Canada, we’d did a “touch and go” immigration clearance in Prince Rupert and did not stay the night. This year, we made reservations at the Cow Bay Marina for two nights so that we could reprovision in Prince Rupert with “freshies” (Canada prohibits the importation of certain vegetables, fruit and raw meats) for our slower southbound journey.  Additionally Drake could get ample ball play on some of the lush grass in the Prince Rupert parks.

After two nights, we took off from Prince Rupert and headed out to Bell Passage, about 18 miles west so that Marcia could try her hand at catching a Coho salmon.  Alas, after 2 hours she’d only hooked a pink salmon which she released and we moved onto Kelp Passage Cove for the night.The weather forecast was indicating sunny weather in the upcoming days but they would be accompanied by strong northwesterly winds.  While they would have been generally on our stern, which is usually a more comfortable direction, we decided we’d pull a long day before the winds arrived and head to McMicking Inlet on Campania Island.  In 2020, we stopped at McMicking after our 236-mile overnight dash north up the coast and found such rest and relief in the anchorage that we’ve been wanting to go back ever since (first impressions matter).

We spent two nights at McMicking and found it lovely but our activities were restricted by the strong NW winds that arrived as forecasted.  The lovely sand beach at the entrance of the inlet was about 2 miles from our anchorage and we decided that using the dinghy in the choppy conditions that the wind was kicking up in the inlet would not be pleasant so we never got down to them. Perhaps next time.

2022-Cruise-293xOur next stop was Chapple Inlet on Princess Royal Island. On the way we trolled along the SE shore of Campania Island and Marcia landed a Coho salmon.  We spent a couple of nights at the head of Chapple Inlet before continuing the southbound journey through Laredo Channel. That night, we anchored off Quigley Creek at the south end of Laredo Inlet.

While we had hoped to spend more time fishing the outer channels, the weather forecast was suggesting we’d have better conditions further south near Bella Bella and Shearwater. The next morning, despite some fog, we made our way through Meyers Passage, across Finlayson Channel to Jackson Passage and anchored in Rescue Bay on Susan Island.

Our change in fishing venue was vindicated when the next day, after exiting through Percival Narrows into Seaforth Channel, Marcia caught a large Coho. The next four nights we anchored in various spots in the Seaforth Channel area while fishing with some success.

2022-Cruise-287xAs a reward to Drake for putting up with our fishing schedule, we headed over to Ocean Falls for two nights where Drake would have shore access for walks and ball play. He even got to cool off in a small stream on one of our walks.

At this point, we were nearly two weeks out from Prince Rupert and decided to head over to Shearwater 2022-Cruise-297xMarina and forage for some fresh fruit and produce. While there, we crossed paths with fellow Queen City Yacht Club members Barbara and Tom Wilson (MV Toba). Also spending the night at Shearwater Marina was the seven boat flotilla from NW Explorations (one trip leader boat and six charter boats).

From Shearwater we continued south into Fitz Hugh Sound where we spent six nights. We fished many days in the area and Marcia continued to catch salmon. 

2022-Cruise-340xOne of our nights at anchor was in Pruth Bay from which, through the courtesy of the Hakai Institute, you can access some lovely beaches on the ocean side of Calvert Island. While returning along the trail from North Beach to West Beach, we had a very close encounter with a wolf. Marcia was in the lead, followed by Drake then Kurt, holding Drake's leash, in the rear. Marcia heard running ahead of her and looked up to see a wolf running towards her along the trail. She made the decision to start shrieking in her loudest voice to startle the wolf. The wolf gets about 10 feet away from her and darts to Marcia’s right (the wolf's left) up a shallow drainage. Within five or so seconds of Marcia first hearing the wolf's foot fall, it was out of sight into the vegetation along the drainage. We made continued (briskly) to West Beach and saw multiple wolf tracks in the sand that had not been there when we traveled it an hour or so earlier.

Since the wolf exhibited no aggression during our brief encounter and made haste to get away from us, we figure it was simply happenstance our paths crossed.  The under growth is quite thick so the trails are the preferred route to travel when trying to get somewhere. The sightlines were blocked by vegetation, the wind was light and we weren’t talking so the wolf may have not known we were on the trail heading toward him until he turned the corner on the trail as it wound its way through the forest.

2022-Cruise-344xFor our last anchorage before rounding Cape Caution, we used the very popular Fury Cove on Penrose Island. We took Drake to shore for play on the sandy beach on one of the small islands bordering the cove.

While not bad conditions, we did keep our stabilizing “fish” in the water for about six hours from north of Cape Caution until we were well into Queen Charlotte Strait and sheltered from ocean swell. The winds were out of the north and strong enough that when we docked in Port McNeill, we were glad the marina had a spot on which we were blown rather than off of.

We are spending three nights in Port McNeill for boat chores (its time to change the engine oil again), relaxation and better weather (strong SE winds are forecasted). We are happy to find out that two new eateries have opened up in town (Lata’s Kitchen and Devil’s Bath Brewing) and are trying both of them while here (postscript: both were good and recommended).

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