Alaska Inside Passage

Welcome to Alaska

Sunday, June 07, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

The morning fog lifted in time to give us a clear view of Ketchikan.
There are two ways to leave Prince Rupert when sailing north: you can backtrack down the harbour and round Digby Island before turning north again.  Or you can cut through Venn Passage – a shallow, narrow, winding and complicated channel with strong currents that may (or may not) have had some of its channel makers misplaced by barges under tow.  Venn Passage saves 12 miles.  It was a no brainer . . . and a non-event. 

From Prince Rupert, it’s 85 miles to Ketchikan so we broke the trip into two stages – Venn Passage to Dundas Island on Monday and across Dixon Entrance to Ketchikan on Tuesday.  Dixon Entrance, the final section of open-ocean, has a reputation for being an ugly stretch of water.  But our crossing was fairly banal . . . and boring.  The same could be said for our introduction to the Alaskan landscape – it was a foggy morning and the low-lying islands and islets could hardly be seen.

Ketchikan calls itself “Alaska’s First City” because everyone, and I mean everyone, has to stop in there – cruise ships, ferries and private – because it’s the first official port of entry and customs clearance center . . . and the busiest city in Southeast Alaska:  There are fishing boats coming and going, floatplanes taking off and landing every five minutes, cruise ships towering over the waterfront like horizontal skyscrapers . . . not exactly what we’re used to from a cruising destination, but we knew we were going to be in for a culture shock and Ketchikan didn’t disappoint – there’s a lot going on along its two-mile waterfront.

We took a berth in Bar Harbor Marina and called customs.  They were fantastic to work with, busy, but fantastic.  We had to wait over an hour for someone to arrive, but Officer Wu was courteous, friendly and very welcoming.  He even went out of his way to call the office and ask if the fee for our cruising permit could be waived because we had just paid the same amount when we checked out of Friday Harbor last month.  We had to pay (it’s only $19) but the fact that he thought it was unfair and took it upon himself to ask was above and beyond – living up to the reputation that Alaskans are very friendly and helpful people.

On Wednesday, we became tourists and walked from the marina to Newtown and up to the Totem Heritage Center.  It didn’t take us long to see what we wanted to, so we took the shuttle bus back to the Safeway for some shopping.  And then it was time to get busy – weather, laundry, cleaning the boat, groceries.  By noon on Thursday, we’d finished our list of jobs and rode the current up Tongass Narrows . . . less than 48 hours after we arrived in Ketchikan and we were gone.

Note: This blog was originally written on Thursday, May 21, 2015  

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