Alaska Inside Passage

Ketchikan is Calling

Friday, January 15, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

Ketchikan was calling, but we’re in no hurry to answer. With Anan Wildlife Observatory done and over with, our time in Alaska is basically finished. We still have 95 miles to go before we cross the border into Canada but, for all intents and purposes, the “fun” has ended. All we need to do now is put miles under our keel. The funny thing is we aren’t in that big of a rush to leave Alaska. Moving south is always a difficult thing to do, especially for me, because it means summer is almost over and the season is coming to an end.

Tired from a long day of bear watching on Friday, Saturday got off to a somewhat slow start. It was going to be a beautiful, sunny day and the thought of spending it moving rather than in an anchorage where we could enjoy it wasn’t very appealing so, after talking it over with Jim and Laurie, we decided to move over to Frosty Bay where the promise of a large (and entertaining) colony of seals was waiting – a whopping 10 miles from Fool’s Inlet.

We arrived first and JouJou rafted up to us. It was a pretty anchorage, and quiet. A little too quiet in fact – the seals we’d come to see were long gone. Even without the added distraction, I have no idea where the day went, but I know it ended well – with the four of us sitting in Cambria’s cockpit sharing stories and watching the sun paint the sky orange.


Early the next morning, Jim and Laurie dropped their lines and sailed off into Ernest Sound. Good-byes are never easy, even when they’re only temporary, and it felt a little lonely in the anchorage after they left so we upped anchor ourselves and went to nearby Vixen Inlet where we would wait for the next round of weather to move through and for the conditions to improve before making way for Ketchikan  – neither one of us interested in repeating our previous experience in Clarence Strait. Little did we know that we would have to wait four days.

They say time and tide wait for no man, but man (at least the one I’m married to) surely waits for the tide . . . and weather. Come Thursday, we got the break we were looking for – one that would carry us to Ketchikan and beyond to Prince Rupert in British Columbia. But we didn’t get started until 11:30 am so we could take advantage of the push down Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait. The conditions were more welcoming this time around (5 knots from behind), so we threw out the jib to give it some air and help move things along a bit . . . a very little bit!

We could see a couple of sailboats miles off in the distance doing the same thing. We slowly gained ground on them as the afternoon wore on, and as we were approaching Tongass Narrows, I pulled the binoculars out. Just as I thought – it was Tom and Gale on Impossible Dream with John on Gypsy Woman leading the way. We pulled into Bar Harbor South within minutes of each other and got together for drinks later that night to compare stories and talk about where we’d been. Once again, we were on completely different tracks: They went on the outside of Baranof Island to Sitka while we went inside and east to Petersburg and, yet, we still managed to arrive in the same place at the same time. What are the odds? They must be pretty good because that makes the eighth time we’ve ended up in the same place as Tom this season.

Friday was non-stop from morning until night. David stayed aboard and changed the oil and installed an AIS receiver that Jim had given him (and walked all over Ketchikan looking for the parts to do it). Gale and I took the bus to Wal-Mart to provision. In the afternoon, there was more shopping, laundry and long, hot showers to take. The day was completed with dinner at McDonald’s to access their free wi-fi and check the weather.

We had an excellent forecast for Saturday – winds out of the northwest increasing to 15 knots with 3-foot seas becoming southeast late. The winds for Sunday were predicted to go light which would be perfect for crossing Dixon Entrance. We were good to go. So, we dropped our lines in the morning and rode the current south. Inside Tongass Narrows, not much was going on. The breeze was calm and the sea was flat, so we motored with the tide into Revillagigedo Channel and that’s when everything changed. The wind was blowing out of the southeast, contrary to the current, and we bashed and crashed like a breeching whale for hours. We were slowed down to 3 or 4 knots and finally gave up when the spray started to come over the dodger, turning off and making way for the nearest safe harbour – Kah Shakes Cove where we would spend our final night in Alaskan waters. So much for NOAA’s northwesterlies!



Note: This blog was written on Saturday, 15 August 2015.

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