Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Juneau to Ketchikan – Our Alaska Bookend

2023-Cruise-208xThis last Alaska leg of our trip had us departing Juneau on Friday, July 7 heading to Tracy Arm Cove.  Tracy Arm is a popular destination for cruising boats like us and cruise ships. One of its appeals is that, unlike Glacier Bay, there is no permit necessary for entry.  If seeing ice closeup is one of your cruising goals, Tracy Arm is the simplest way to check that box.

2023-Cruise-213yIt is a 25+ mile long glacial carved fiord that ends in two subsidiary arms, the South and North Sawyer Glaciers. The North Sawyer Glacier has receded in recent years and is no longer a tide water glacier.  We visited the South Sawyer Glacier which still calves ice off its face directly into seawater 2023-Cruise-210xwhich eventually work their way out of Tracy Arm into Holkham Bay and Stephens Passage. Besides a tour boat from Juneau at the ice, there were Zodiacs carrying passengers from a National Geographic small (~250’) expedition style cruise ship anchored nearby.


From here we traveled to Pybus Bay at the SE corner of Admiralty Island.  As we were heading south, we saw a cruise ship approaching north towards us, nothing unusual about that.  This cruise ship, the Royal Caribbean cruise line Ovation of the Seas, had this appendage sticking out from the top deck.  It turns out it was this entertainment feature, a gondola-like bubble at the end of a long boom, called the North Star featured on some of its newer vessels.  Apparently not a new feature but it caught our attention.

2023-Cruise-222xWe spent five nights in the area, alternating between anchorages at the West Brother Island and the San Juan Islands.  Both are “fair weather” anchorages (i.e., not the best place to be in a storm) but that was exactly the weather we had.  Temperatures were generally mild and winds were light (<10 kts). Marcia fished for halibut in a variety of spots that had been successful and we put out our prawn pots several times. Marcia caught a 34” halibut and we were able to harvest a respectable number of prawns each time we set the pots.2023-Cruise-224y

Also in the Pybus Bay area was the 260’ yacht Artefact.  While Artefact is the largest yacht we’ve seen this year, mega-yachts are a common sight in SE Alaska during the summer.

After we left the Pybus Bay area we did an overnight stop in Honey Dew so that Drake could play ball on the beach. 2023-Cruise-226xThe next morning we headed to Gut Bay on the east side of Baranof Island, part way down Chatham Strait from where Fredrick Sound joins it. We set prawn pots as we went in.  We were not impressed with our catch the next day when we retrieved them so we decided to cross Chatham Strait and head over to Tebenkof Bay on the west shore of Kuiu Island.

Tebenkof Bay is very large with many anchorages spread around its many islands and smaller bays.  Our first night was in Shelter Cove which we’ve used several previous times. While in Petersburg earlier in our trip we spent an evening with Kathleen & John off our sistership Laysan and Carlene & Ed off of Luck Dragon, a classic Diesel Duck.  They visit Tebenkof Island and showed us on a chart their favorite anchorage there.  It is scantily charted so we first explored it with our dinghy (it was only about 3 miles from Shelter Cove).  After determining its depths were adequate and the entrance not too tricky, we returned to Alpenglow and moved our anchorage to it. The weather, deteriorated slightly and we spent two nights in the cove while a weak wave of rain and wind passed through.


From Tebenkof Bay we traveled first to Security Bay, a little ways north along the west shore of Kuiu Island, in order to try for halibut at an area outside of it the next morning.  We were unsuccessful so continued north around Kuiu Island back to Honey Dew for a night and more ball play with Drake.

The next morning we headed to Cleveland Passage, a little north and east of Cape Fanshaw on the mainland. Again the goal was halibut fishing but we had no luck there.

We departed mid-morning the next day in order to time an afternoon transit of Wrangell Narrows.  A brief and vigorous squall rolled over us just as we passed Petersburg, bringing 20+ knot winds and pouring rain. Fortunately, it let up as quickly as it had started and the transit went fine.  We stopped for the night in Deception Point Cove at the southern entrance to Wrangell Narrows.

The following morning we headed to Wrangell, mooring in Heritage Harbor about a mile south of town. We spent three nights in Wrangell (we had a “3 for 2” coupon) and Drake got two play sessions a day while we were there.

When we left Wrangell, we went around the north side of Wrangell Island and down the Eastern Passage.  Our first night was in Fools Inlet, the second night was Santa Anna Inlet and the third was in Sunny Bay.  We prawned near each location and were very satisfied with our catch.  Enough said.

2023-Cruise-233xBefore heading to Ketchikan, we stopped in Meyers Chuck and found space on the public dock there.  The wind in Clarence Strait kicked up a bit shortly after we arrived and was still blowing a bit the next day so we decided to spend two nights there.  Drake offered no objection as there was a place for him to play ball. 2023-Cruise-239xWith better conditions in Clarence Strait on Monday, July 31 we arrived at Bar Harbor in Ketchikan and were assigned the same slip we occupied in May when we first arrived.

Ketchikan has always served as the “bookend” to the Alaska portion of our summer cruises. It is the first place we tie up at in Alaska on the way north and the last place we cast off from on the way south. In a nod to symmetry, besides occupying the same slip coming and going, this year we arrived in Ketchikan northbound about six weeks before the Summer equinox and will depart about six weeks after the equinox.

From here we will head south to Prince Rupert to clear customs.  From there we intend a leisurely (at least compared to the northbound journey) trip with the goal of salmon fishing along the way.

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