Friday, June 6. Dixon Entrance and Foggy Bay. 54º56.9’N 130.56’W We leave Prince Rupert at 5:30 am and wend our way through Venn, head north past Dundas Island and over the border where Jack and Cruz lower the Canadian pennant with ceremony and glee.
As soon as we pickup cell phone signals the blissful ignorance of Canada is replaced with pinging messages, Tweets, and emails. We also call US Customs for permission to moor at Foggy Bay, which is granted. Everyone knows us, we’re tracked by officials both sides of the border. Track record is good: we don’t smuggle cheap US booze and finish off produce purchased on one country before crossing into the other.
Dixon Entrance is beautiful. Clear skies, and flat windless seas. Foggy Bay is a sweet little anchorage. Two other sailboats are ahead of us; must have left Prince Rupert really early.
Saturday, June 7 Ketchikan 55º21’N 131º41’W In Ketchikan they measure rain in feet not inches. Thirteen in the past year.
So here we are, back in the cloudy drizzle that characterized our whole last passage to Alaska. Damp, dank, dusky, musty, moldy everything. We get a solid 36 hours of drops. We’re moored at Bar Harbor rather than up downtown because we again have chores to do and the chandleries and markets are nearer. Turns out I need to make two trips back and forth from town. Through a mid-day dose of driving rain the wets to the skin two additional sets of clothes in addition to the fouliess that are already hanging outside under the dodger.
Then it stops. I get back on my bike and go back downtown in quest of the Portland Loo. It’s on the other side of downtown, south of The Creek, in the area of the waterfront where Stedman meets Thomas Street. This is where the Asians were forced to live. That is until the Chinese community was decimated by the Exclusion Act. Which left a bit of elbow room for Americans from Japan, until they were booted out to desert camps by FDR in 1942. In their wake came folks from the Philippines and they seem to have kept coming ever since. When we stop for lattes at McDonald’s to survive a drenching, all we hear is Tagalog. Ketchikan’s Filipinos are everywhere! They seem so upbeat. Maybe that’s just the way they are, or maybe it’s worked out. They have clubs and churches and normal teenagers and jobs and history. Middle class; don’t live south of the Creek anymore.
South of the Creek there’s a traditional-and-contemporary Skid Row, a national Historic District, and a tireless neighborhood association. Does this sound like Portland’s Old Town Chinatown, our old neighborhood? Yes. And the Portland Loo is on the dock right between the Salvation Army and the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It’s the Stedman-Thomas Neighborhood Association that inspired the partnerships and raised the funds to purchase and operate the Loo.
Monday, June 9. Meyers Chuck 55º44’N 132º15’W Folks here do things so nicely. For example.
There’s US mail on Tuesdays. There are only a handful of year-rounders. Others are fisherman or just fans. The wood smoke from their chimneys and the flags flying let you know that they are here.
Daryl is third generation and full time Myers Chuck except for construction work gigs that take him away. He first came here to visit his grandfather. Then his parents had a summer house here. In time, he just decided it just was his kind of place. Upon hearing we’re from PT, he scratches his head and says think a couple of women come here from there summers.
He’s building an angled set of stairs up from the main path as we chat. New house or what? Land sale he says. State needs money so they sell off mental health lands. What? That’s what we call them he says. So everybody has a generator? Almost. What about toilets? Most of the year-rounders have flush. It goes into the bay. Flushes from three sides. But I’m a honey bucket guy. You don’t mix pee and poop, do you? Course not. I pee on my garden.
Tuesday, June 10. Wrangell. 56º27.9’N 132.22.9’W Wrangell Harbor Master says Petersburg has renovated their docks. About time I say. And since they raised their fees, lots of their boats come here now. New marina looks great I say. And the brand new red and white travel lift, which announces Wrangell, Alaska, Home of the Wolves. But as for us transients, so glad you’ve left space right here in the middle of things.
Nice mix of neighbors. Troller Hornet waiting for flood tide to put it up on grid and ebb so they can get bottom work done. Annie B. from Port Angeles featuresTom Pope, Marine Surveyor. We’ve seen his name on bulletin board in PT. He and Lillian had just adopted a pup – sort of a wire haired terrier named Sport. They ware thinking of changing his name to Peter because he tried to walk on water. Seems he took a running bound off the stern not understanding that water isn’t hard. Got fished out; all it took was a boat hook under his collar. Brown Sugar, a gill netter without a gill net, crewed by a couple, busy and cheerful, endlessly fixing things. First time the boat’s been in the water in four years. Then there’s a big Grand Banks from Napa CA. Polished people drinking chablis on the fly bridge started in Anacortes and are turning around here. The only other sailboat is Black Bear. More on Skipper Steve soon.
When we head home after drinks at Raymes, Wrangell’s finest dive bar, we find Jack’s scooter has given up the ghost and have to push him home. Cruz spends the whole next day taking it apart without riding anything amiss. In Southeast folks hang out on their boats so Jack can manage.
You can’t help but love Wrangell because Wrangell folks love it so much. They especially brag about having the best Fourth of July in Southeast. What a lead up to it! The weekly Wrangell Sentinel has given over three pages to introducing candidates in the Queen competition. Seems to be a singular Wrangell tradition. Candidates raise funds for the parade, for a favorite charity, and for themselves. Local businesses divide up their sponsorships am among them but the candidates put real effort. They make posters, and sell tickets and proffer sandwiches at food stands decorated with the stars and stripes. Candidates range from accomplished business women to a pair of twelve-year olds vying for the title of Co-Queens. With ingenuity like this, I figure they’ve come up though the ranks: another tradition is Lemonade Day, an entrepreneurship competition we’ve just missed.
Thursday, June 12. Port Protection. 56º19’N 133º36.8’W We pass Point Baker, once the summer home of fisher poet Joe Upton, and go on to Port Protection, so named by George Vancouver himself. The two communities are close as the eagle flies but connect only by sea. Steve of S/V Black Bear has recommended this place.
Friday, June 13. Kake. 56º56.8N 133º53.7’W We don’t register that it’s Friday much less the Thirteenth. Just as well as the long, formerly unnavigable Keku Channel and Rocky Pass is intimidating enough. The weather has turned and we need constant attention to tides, currents, charts and red and green buoys. Northbound seems longer than our last time through. We’re really tired when we tie up on the little Tlinkit village of Kake. Since the weather is rainy, cloudy and windless and dealing with various mishaps means we haven’t had a day off since we left PT so the Captain relents and we get one.
Kake is the perfect place for this. Its only claim to fame is an unattractive totem pole supported by guy wires which may possibly be the highest in the world. It’s not as tall, however, as the communications tower right next to it, which gives five bars of AT&T. We retether to the rest of the world.