Sunday, September 17, 2023

Ketchikan to Bainbridge Island – Back to the “Barn”

We ended up staying four nights in Ketchikan.  While we did a few chores (e.g., laundry, oil change) and picked up our forwarded mail, mostly we just hung out.  We did hoof it out along the busy Tongass Highway north of town to try A.J.’s a highly rated hamburger joint. They even had passable milk shakes.

We finally left town Friday, August 4, stopping at Petromarine on the way out to take on an additional 360 gallons of fuel. This was our first refueling since leaving Anacortes in April.  We probably could have gotten back to Puget Sound on our estimated 450 gallons remaining in our tanks but this way there was no worry about running out and we would have enough fuel for our furnace to operate over the winter.  We’ll fuel up next year ahead of our 2024 cruise.

After an overnight stop just north of Dixon Entrance (which was a mill pond when we crossed it), we arrived in Prince Rupert on August 5. We returned to the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club (PRRYC) for the first time since 2019.  We stayed at the nearby Cow Bay Marina last year and we simply cleared and immediately departed Prince Rupert during the Covid years of 2020 and 2021.  Prince Rupert is a lovely town with complete services and we enjoyed the two nights we stayed there.

We departed Prince Rupert on their holiday “BC Day”, celebrated in 2023 on Monday, August 7. Since Marcia wanted to start fishing for salmon, south of Prince Rupert we turned first into Ogden Channel then Petrel Channel finally anchoring the night in Newcombe Harbour. As forecasted the winds picked up on the coast that afternoon.  While Newcombe appears to be somewhat protected from southeast winds (the forecasted direction in Hecate Strait), winds get channelized by the terrain and it blew straight in the entrance.  We had sustained winds in the low 20’s and gusts in the upper 20’s but the bottom held the anchor well.

The next morning, 8/8, we continued down Petrel Channel, joining Principe Channel then turned into Otter Channel at the south end of Pitt Island. We  headed to Hawk Bay on Fin Island for the night. While it did shower some, the winds had calmed and it was a quiet night on the hook. The next day, we headed back to Otter Channel.  There was some action (a pink salmon and a few perches) but nothing worth keeping. We returned empty handed to Hawk Bay for the night.

2023-Cruise-245xDeciding to cut our losses, we left the area by heading south down the east shore of Prince Royal Island (this is the more popular route).  As we passed the NW corner of Gill Island, we made a few passes along the shore and Marcia was able to hook and land a nice Coho (aka Silver) salmon.  Marcia’s dry spell was broken and she was very happy. For the night, we anchored in Bottleneck Inlet.

The next day, 8/11, we transited the NE corner of Milbanke Sound and entered Seaforth Channel.  This area is usually pretty popular but the number of cruising boats (as opposed to sport fishing boats) seemed few and we anchored in Wigham Cove on Yeo Island by ourselves for the night.  The next day we started fishing near Idol Point along Seaforth Channel. It has been productive in past years but not this year and we returned to Wigham Cove for another night.

The next day, 8/13, we again decided to move on to a new area rather than fishing where there were no fish.  We followed Return Channel then Johnson Channel to where it joined Fisher Channel and fished south of Georgia Point. This proved worthwhile and Marcia caught two Coho salmon. For the night we anchored in Gosse Bay along Gunboat Passage. The next day we tried a little further south but this time the action was less and 2022-Cruise-288xnothing was caught. On a positive note, we anchored the night in Forit Bay, a new anchorage for us. It has a narrow entrance encumbered by underwater rocks but going in dead slow with a bow watch made it doable.

The next morning Marcia caught a couple of Coho before we headed up to Ocean Falls. It is a small community that once had an operating paper mill and is dominated by a large dam looming over it.  The moorage and power are cheap and the water to refill the tanks is good. It gave Drake an opportunity to play on shore and even splash around in a stream that feeds the lake behind the dam.

On 8/17, after two days on the dock in Ocean Fall, we headed south down Fisher Channel then Fitz Hugh Sound to fish south of the small community of Namu. Marcia caught one 2023-Cruise-244xsalmon before we headed to Sea Otter Inlet on the east shore of Hunter Island for the night. The next morning we returned to the spot south of Namu but struck out and proceeded to fish outside of Goldstream Harbour on the northeast corner of Hecate Island. The afternoon winds were too strong for our taste so we aborted and anchored the night in Gold Stream Harbour.

The next day, 8/19, the winds were light when we fished the early morning bite. The fishing was productive and Marcia caught two Chinook salmon.  We spent another night in Gold Stream and the next morning a Coho was brought aboard before we headed to Pruth Bay on Calvert Island.

2023-Cruise-252xPruth Bay is one of those “must do” stops along the BC Inside Passage. On the grounds of a former fishing lodge, the Hakai Institute has a research site. They are kind enough to allow boaters to use their dinghy dock, and cross their properties to some of the finest sandy ocean beaches along the BC 2023-Cruise-248xcoast.  We spent two nights here and made three trips ashore to walk the beaches and play ball with Drake.

On Tuesday, 8/22, we departed Pruth Bay, crossed Fitz Hugh Sound towards Fish Egg Inlet.  Along the way, Marcia caught two Coho near Addenbroke Island and we set prawn pots to soak overnight.  We anchored the night in the far SE corner of Fish Egg Inlet at the Bitter End Cove.

The next morning we harvested the last prawns of the season then fished unsuccessfully near Philip Inlet before heading to Fury Cove on Penrose Island for the night. With an 2023-Cruise-253xexcellent forecast in hand, the next morning we headed south and rounded Cape Caution, the most exposed portion of the Inside Passage route from Puget Sound to SE Alaska.  Conditions were as forecasted and we did not have to used our stabilizing “fish” to dampen the light ocean swell. We arrived in Port McNeill on Vancouver Island around 4 pm on 8./24. 

With almost no chores to do, our three nights in Port McNeill focused on ball play with Drake, walks and eating.  In the last several years, two new eating establishments, Lata’s Kitchen and Devil’s Bath Brewing have opened up near the harbor.  Both are excellent.

For a slow boat like ours, transiting from the north half of Vancouver Island to the southern half requires timing the currents at some key points.  When we left Port McNeill on 8/27, we did a relatively short day to Port Harvey on Cracroft Island.  This positioned us well the next day to follow Johnstone Strait southeast with a favorable current and then transit 2023-Cruise-266xthrough Upper Rapids on Okisollo Channel near slack and anchor in Wiaitt Bay on Quadra Island. We spent three nights in Wiaitt Bay and hiked the very pleasant trail three times from the west end of the bay over to Small Inlet in Kanish Bay. On one of those times, we continued up to Newton Lake.

On Thursday, 8/31, we timed the rapids at Beazley Passage for slack and continued to Gorge Harbor on Cortes Island for the night. The original plan was to break the next section, transiting the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo into two portions but conditions on 9/1 were good and we decided to do a long day.  We anchored the night in the serviceable but not scenic Percy Anchorage at the northwest end of False Narrows about a 1/2 mile east of Dodd Narrows. We transited the Dodd Narrows, early the next morning and were anchored in Montague Harbour before 10 AM.

In recent years, we’ve spent multiple nights at a time in Montague Harbour despite it being very crowded. It is large enough and its bottom flat enough that, so far, we have always managed to find a spot to anchor.  Its features are the dinghy dock associated with the Montague Harbour Provincial Park, its walking trails, its grassy patches for ball play and the facilities of the Montague Harbour Marina. It is a a good place to reassimilate into the busier cruising waters of the Gulf and San Juan Islands.

From Montague Harbour, after three nights, we headed to Mill Bay Marina on the west shore of Saanich Inlet for two nights.  It is a lovely marina which we had never visited before. We were a a little disappointed, though, by the absence of any good area for dog play.

2023-Cruise-268xUpon leaving Mill Bay Marina on Thursday, 9/7, we headed back to the US.  We did run afoul of CBP import rules with some produce (citrus, tomatoes and NZ apples) and had to detour to Friday Harbor (at least we saw a pod of orca on the way there) to dispose of them with the CBP before being allowed to proceed to Garrison Bay on San Juan Island. Similar to Montague Harbour, we find Garrison Bay fun because of the dinghy dock and network of trails associated with the English Camp portion of the San Juan Island National Historical Park (SHI-NHP). The next day we walked over to the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company and had lunch (something that is becoming a tradition).

From Garrison Bay, on 9/9, we went to Deer Harbor on Orcas Island.  Our yacht club leases about 120’ of dock space there and we are able to moor there at a very reduced rate over normal moorage. The marina store serves up very generous scoops of Lopez Island ice cream which is another appeal to visit.  After four nights, we headed to Griffin Bay at the southeast corner of San Juan Island. While there is no dock there, the beach is gravel and not too steep for landing a kayak. On shore is a very fine walking trail system associated the American Camp portion of the SJI-NHP.


The final day of our 2023 cruise, Thursday, 9/14, started shortly before dawn at 6:30 AM.  We shot threw Cattle Pass between Lopez and San Juan Islands on the building ebb current then worked our way over towards Whidbey Island.  We had favorable current until we entered Admiralty Inlet at which point we fought it for a couple of hours until the building flood current gave us a boost the rest of the way to Eagle Harbor. 

Engine was off at 4:12 PM after 139 days and 3024 miles traveled.

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