Log: Heading into Summer

Wednesday, July 2, Meyers Chuck 55º44’N 132º15.5’W Open waters in Sumner and Zemovia Straits but no wind to sail and Zemovia Narrows take concentration at the wheel. In Earnest Sound Jack takes his turn to go below leaving Cruz and me to motor down to Clarence Strait. We’re bored by the time the wind comes up so decided to sail, even if it means tacking and gybing, with poor headway toward our destination. And it was just as well we did, as we discover later.

By the time we reach Clarence the waters are riled up. We eschew an iffy anchorage in Vixen Inlet and give up on the northern cove of Vixen Inlet because it’s only a third the length shown in the Douglass’ diagram. It takes us another 90 minutes in the grip of tide and SE wind to cover the short distance to Meyer’s Chuck.

There we find a patch of dock between a ketch from Portland and the cruiser of a family from Douglas. The skippers help us tie up and we get the news from the dock. It seems that while we were under sail, gusts in the Strait reached 35 knots and all we had to contend with were the riled waters left behind. Other news from the dock involves a Pan Pan message that had come over the VHF. We’d gotten only the Coast Guard side of the conversation. It seems a boat  was disabled in a collision with a whale. Right now we’re okay with never seeing another whale.

While Cruz is making dinner I admire a small double ended wooden fishing vessel and chat with Joe. He says the winds that caught him not far from Meyer’s Chuck were completely unpredicted. He’s by himself, has been doing some subsistence fishing for halibut with rights to 40 hooks at a time, and also does a bit of commercial trolling. This young man’s “day job”, however. is “every other month on” as the captain of an enormous oil tanker that plies the coast between Bellingham WA and LA with a crew of nine. He’s third generation Ketchikan and knows his weather. “I’ll be checking. If it looks good, I’ll leave about 4 am. So if I’m not you’re fine to leave.” I wake up at 5 and find him gone.

July 3. Ketchikan. 55º20’N 131º35.4’W  The Harbormaster finds us a port tie in Thomas Basin so we sneak under the bow of the cruise ship at Berth 1 and pull in stern first. Jack is worried that stores will close early; after all Wrangell’s businesses only open 40 hours or so a week and Meyer’s Chuck’s only regular retail is the woman who delivers cinnamon buns to the dock at 8 am, inevitably after we’ve left. So we head off there and then in the driving rain that Ketchikan measures in feet.

By the time we return to the boat the five cruise ships (including one anchored out) have moved on and the fishing fleet is back for the big Fourth of July weekend. On the dock between the Potlatch Bar and the Portland Loo, I encounter a person dressed as a rowboat and cronies proffering raffle tickets. They purchase the boat and do this every year, with the proceeds going to a good cause. This explains the ingenious soft costume — rowboat bow over the head, transom at the ankles. I’m starting to get it about Fourth of July being such an important civic and community celebration. It seems to have been this way throughout out Alaska especially since statehood and even before.


Shore of foggy bay looks like an EKG before the big blow.

Shore of foggy bay looks like an EKG before the big blow.

Thursday, July 4, Foggy Cove.  Foggy Cove is a ditch point for uncomfortable northbound crossings of Dixon Entrance and for southbound boats wanting to get a head start. Around the Hog Islands, we hit some of the roughest waters we’ve encountered, with water coming straight over the bow. So happens it’s my turn to go below so I miss the worst of it, lying down, eyes closed, listening to “Brain over Brand,” excerpts from TED talks with Guy Roz, carefully set aside from early May when I was way to busy to listen. Wet guys in the cockpit are amazed I managed to stay on bunk, off sole.

We fight the southeast wind and the swells. A pair of boats, sail past under reefed jibs. A couple of power boats, that’s all. As we approach Foggy Bay, some humpbacks spout, the last thing we want to see. But they get out of the way and we wind into the moorage at low water. Three boats are there, power cruisers from Tacoma and Redmond and a small Canadian boat.

First sight of the Mapleaf is Green Island in Dixon Entrance.

First sight of the Mapleaf is Green Island in Dixon Entrance.

NOAA and Environment Canada both are broadcasting high winds and seven-foot seas. No change in the morning, although I snooze right though the 4 am report delighted to be going nowhere. I make plans, visualize my day, reading and writing far more in my dreams than I can accomplish in reality. There’s a peek hole out of the cove to the big waters: standing with Jack’s good monocular, I see they are as flat in the morning as last night.

But by four pm, we have white caps in the cove. It’s time to add some scope to our anchor, twine to the chain that is already out. We put the new system into operation under fairly unfavorable conditions, albeit in blue-skied, sunny warmth. We work slowly, thinking out each step. In pauses between gusts we attach the rode to the chain with shackles, seize the shackles with wire, duct tape the splice because we can’t get the loose ends to melt firmly and let it out. The only glitch is Cruz puncturing his hand on the end of a seizing wire end I have failed to twist back.

Sunday, July 6. Prince Rupert.  After an uneventful Fourth and the fifth waiting for weather, we cross Dixon Entrance on relative calm seas before the splendid panorama of the the peaks rising behind Portland Inlet. Eight hours later we are entering Venn Passage at low slack and in face of the Pricne Rupert gillnet fleet heading out. Very thin depths near each of the small ferry docks that serve the island villages, down to 5.9 feet near the second. Somehow we avoid kissing the bottom. PR needs to do some dredging.

Matanuska on weekly passage to Bellingham.

Matanuska on weekly passage to Bellingham.

At the customs dock, Captain Jack gets off, leaving the rest of the crew on board under the eyes of someone in Ottawa watching the CCTV. Canadian customs went virtual last year and there are funny stories of Ontarians’ cluelessness about the British Columbian geography maritime culture. The woman in Ottawa has boat and crew names in her computer; Jack only needs to confirm and we’re off. The search for moorage brings a couple of negatives so we head down to the Rushbrook docks where rafting is the rule and are surprised to find dockspace behind a trio of rafted fishing boats. Although we put out fenders on both sides, no one rafts to us. Rafting is convivial when everyone understands the unwritten rules of tying to and then tromping across someone else’s boat. But for us it’s inconvenient when Jack’s scooter cannot be on the dock next to the boat and early morning departures involve rousing sleeping strangers.

With such good fortune we decide to spend an extra night. We breakfast luxuriously at Cowpuccino’s in Cow Bay as dozens of emails float in with news and tasks to attend to. I spend the day chatting with PHLUSHers about bringing the Restorative Sanitation exhibit and themselves to Port Townsend, draft Twitter policy for the new Local 2020 website, exchange emails with fellow moderators of the SuSanA Forum, chat on Facebook with Tor in Vancouver and Innocent in Zurich, do some research on producing learning kits for Shawn in New York, and send Aliina and Danny ideas for a cargo conveyance contest at the All-County Picnic. Then I sign off for a week. Yeah!

With stocks of fresh food low because Canadian customs often balks, we need to provision. Safeway has the basics and Prince Rupert Meats fine sausages. I bungie about 35 pounds to my bike rack and put another 15 on my back and stow everything away on the boat.

Then I ride free back into town because I’ve noticed that Rainforest Books, “For Sale” on the northbound leg, was open. I’m greeted by the exuberant Jeanette, the new owner and her teenaged daughter. Transplanted from Alberta eight years ago, they have big plans. Local author readings, a good kids play room, a prototype consignment shop which grow to another location. Jeanette has just met Mark B of Waggoners and the owner of Books in Ketchikan. When I mention that I like the CBC’s lengthy author interviews, she mentions she’s just been interviewed on why anybody would invest in a bookstore in Prince Rupert and begs me to sign her petition to the CBC to maintain cultural programming in the face of budget cuts. She’s even brought together other small business owners to help organize destination weddings. Daughter is asked to stop work and show me a slide show of a recent wedding at the North Pacific Cannery in nearby Port Edward. The professional photos of the bridal party and guests in those fascinating surroundings at the mouth of the Skeena River are exquisite. So is this one of a kind historical site whose old wharves and buildings tell a story replicated to various degrees at hundreds of other locations up and down the coast, that is until the salmon stocks in their rivers collapsed, everyone left and towns died.

On our way out the next morning, we find the fuel dock open before 6. Then we slow to watch tugs move an enormous Hanjin Germany ship to the new container dock. There are 1000+ bulk carriers loading at the two grain terminals and at the coal terminal, while another 7 ships wait at anchor in the sprawling waterways of the harbor. All along the waterfront rail cars sit on track which ends in Nashville Tennessee, all owned by Canada. It may take time for Prince Rupert to double its population of 13,000 to what it was before the pulp and timber mills closed, but I think it will get there.

At last three days of fabulous warm sun.

At last!  Three days of fabulous warm sun!

Tuesday, July 8. Lowe Inlet in Grenville Channel. 53.33.4’N 129º34’W Weather is nice but it’s a day without wind. After eleven hours of motoring we pull into Lowe Inlet, where there are two other boats. We drop anchor near a sailboat we perceive to be far too close to shore and we assume will have to move. We deploy the new rode for the first time without incident. When we swing lose to the other sail boat, we meet Ron Rudolph who is single handing home after moving north with the Waggoner’s Flotilla, which he found a valuable experience. A Californian, he now resides in Anacortes with his family. The decision to move was taken only after a year long cruise on the south coast of BC and the Broughtons during which Ron’s daughter was home schooled. The 41 foot Hunter is Dawn Treader V, not because it’s boat #5 but because they’re a family of five.

Wednesday, July 9. Khutz Inlet on Fraser Reach 53.05.4’N 128.31’W A spectacularly beautiful morning took us down Fraser and Tolmie Channel with Butedale as our destination. The “caretaker” there had given the with the flotilla a tour and Ron told us it was extremely interesting. But he warned us this cannery village that was once home to 500 year round residents was a wreck. Indeed, we’d noticed a little more at sagged or fallen into the sea every time we’d passed. But we were so surprised at the force of the current from the channel and falls and the poor condition of the docks that we gave it a pass and went on to Khurtz. There we dropped the hook in about 30 feet on the shoal just west of the small delta near the opening. This turned out to be one of our best anchorages.

Morning waters of Fancy Cove lend a "totem effect" to  shoreline.

Calm of Fancy Cove lends “totem effect” to shoreline.

Thursday, July 10 Fancy Cove on Lama Passage. 51º29’N 128º00.8’W Another warm sunny day. Stopped in Klemtu where a Canadian couple, who somehow got or took permission to tie up on the north end of the fuel dock,helped us snug into the one boat space over a strong current. We managed to locat the fuel dock attendant – you have call him on VHF #6. Very nice wind on Milbrooke Sound and Seaforth Passage. We headed toward Shearwater and gave Christophe a ring, only to learn Shearwater was full. So we went on into Lama Passage to Fancy Cove, another fantastic anchorage, which we had all to ourselves.

Friday, July 11 Fury Cove on Penrose Island south of Addenbrooke light. The brightness and clarity of the morning light in Lama Passage took my breath away but soon the fog closed in and the next hours were spent sounding the horn from the bow and running back to the cockpit to check the radar. We activated our new electric fog horn but didn’t like the feedback noise. It wasn’t until we were well into Fitz Hugh Sound that warm sun dissipated the gloom, penetrated our clothing, and our by then bare arms.

Aurora moored off Fury Cove's splendid shell beach.

Aurora moored off Fury Cove’s splendid shell beach.

It was Ron who told us about this anchorage across Fitz Hugh Sound from Calvert Point. If we’d been doing better research we might have avoided going back to Green Island anchorage, which Cruz says is distinguished only by a big weird green bush. It was spectacular. More on this in my “Hook Nook Book” (forthcoming)

Saturday, July 12 Blunden Harbour after rounding Cape Caution. 50º54.2’N 127º17’W.  Cape Caution was tough northbound, even tougher southbound.  We’re still thinking about our encounter with General Jackson in Richards Passage near McEwan Rock (51º35.7’N 127º37.9W) about 1 pm.  Once we come up with  lessons learned, you can look for a post on cautionary tales from Cape Caution”.




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