2013 July 18 Day 57 Sitka Baranof Island 34.5 NM Total 1930 NM

We are back to urban Alaska, Sitka a town of almost 10000 inhabitants, after an interesting segment through Neva Strait and Olga Strait.

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The True North

As we had gone through Neva Strait, a narrow but very well marked channel, we were still keeping a sharp eye on our surroundings . Dunnery noticed a small fishing boat drifting in the open area at the start of Olga strait. We first thought that they might be observing the wreck of an old tug but then Channel 16 on the VHF radio came live with a call to the white sailboat. We found out that True North’s transmission had just died and that they were drifting helplessly in the deep water being push by a current slightly above one knot. Not imminent danger, but danger about to be! We immediately started a rescue operation, came along side True North, established that all aboard were fine and decided that the best thing to do was to give them a tow to a shallow bay where they  could  drop an anchor and stop the aimless drifting. We passed along one of our bright yellow floating lines to their skipper. The line was secured from our stern to their bow and we started pulling. Of course, the load was heavy and we kept a good watch to make sure all was fine. As we were going, we had a nice chat with this couple from Sitka, pro fisherpeople and their daughter and her partner visiting from Minneapolis. We even spotted a whale splashing in the water not too far away. As we reached the bay, about 10 meters deep, they let go of the line and dropped their anchor. The day was saved.

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What could have happened without Frogs there at the right time!

We coiled our line and came along side their boat one more time, this time with a bucket attached to a rope that we could swing to the other boat. In our bucket they deposited a big Coho salmon they caught earlier in the day. A most appreciated thank you gift that we will share with Mike and Paul coming into Sitka today.

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I promptly filleted the fish too big to fit in our fridge and we went through Olga Strait without further incident, entered the harbour through a mammoth breakwater and tied up on Dock 3 at Eliasson basin. This is the nicest facility we have seen so far. Here for 3 nights and a little Russian time, as Sitka was the Capital of Russian Alaska before it was sold to the USA.

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We later saw our “rescuees” in town, they had got a tow all the way from a friend with a big engine and had the boat up for repair.

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Alaska 2013 July 17 Day 56 Sukoi Inlet 34.5 NM total 1905 NM

 We start a bit early today to have calm weather on the heavy ocean. We get out of Falcon Arm with the GPS track showing s on land again. We decide that it is not safe to go through Piehle Passage with this mapping error, so we go back North a few miles to have a wider through way to the ocean. All goes well on the way to Salisbury Sound despite the large swells and breakers of Khaz Bay. We duck behind Klokachef Island for a short respite and enter Sukoi Inlet by mid-day. It is very pretty but not a good anchorage as the winds funnel from the North right to the end. We set the anchor well and test it hard as there are not may other choices in the vicinity. The wind blows all afternoon and we are swamped by horse-flies. At sunset though,  both the wind and the flies disappear suddenly, in 5 minutes all is calm, no waves, no buzzing!

Grizzly from the Kayak!

Grizzly from the Kayak!

Dunnery meets a young grizzly in his kayak and gets a picture of it.  I have to believe him on that  documented sighting although blurry , easier than when he claimed to have seen a sow and two cubs in Klag Bay but did not have the camera. That bugs me, I wish I could have seen the cubs.

By the way, it has not rained in two days and the forecast is for a high pressure ridge. This is great for our friends coming to meet us in Sitka in a couple days.

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Alaska 2013 July 16 Falcon Arm in Slocum Arm 18.5 NM Total 1870 NM

Our Garmin Chart-plotter is playing tricks on us. We notice that Chart 17323 has an island located in the wrong place. We continue to Waterfall Cove and it looks odd still on the chart. The waterfall is impressive coming straight down from high up into the cove. We decide to leave because the cove is really not much of a cove and is very windy. We then back track to Falcon Arm which has a place where we can tuck away behind a small peninsula. At this point, we are amazingly driving the boat right through the land according to the track on the chart-plotter. This is not a good feeling, but visibility is good and we have a good idea of the contours and the depth so no worries. Nothing happens except that we have to change our itinerary for the next day.

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We are still eating salmon from our bounty acquired in Elfin Cove. What a treat it is when we have pretty much nothing fresh left on board. There has not been a grocery store since Hoonah and that was not  famous as a fruit and vegetable market!

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King Salmon ready to pan fry in butter

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Alaska 2013 July 15 Day 54 Chichagof Klatz Bay 17.9 NM total 1852 NM

Through Surveyor and Ogden Passage, both narrow and at time shallow, we get most ragged  landscape accentuated by the grey overcast sky. At low tide the rocks are even  sharper.

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Count at least 7 eagles on this picture?

We pass a couple sea lions, a couple whales, many otters and an eagle aerie with many  juveniles getting a flying lesson or so it seems.

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Maud Point Klag Bay

Maud Point Klag Bay

As we arrive near Chichagof, we encounter low depth of about 3 feet under the keel and back out of the narrow area without trouble. We anchor there amongst giant jelly fish  to go check the abandoned  gold mine that was operated the first half of the 20th century. Some rusted gear, collapsed buildings, rails, and trailing, but no nugget left behind.

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Alaska 2013 July 14 Day 53 Pinta Bay Portlock Harbor 35.8 NM Total 1834 NM

 

We have planned a late departure to arrive in Mirror Harbor at high slack as the passage  inside the anchorage is too shallow at low tide and very narrow as well, under 10 yards at times. We arrive there right on and get very disappointed to find the passage completely obstructed by thick nodes of intertwined  kelp. No way we can pick a way through that and avoid the rocks so we have to turn around.  Unfortunately, this is the only place to anchor to reach the White Sulphur Hot Springs so we have missed the spa.

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We go on to Didrickson Bay but have no luck dropping an anchor, the charts are completely unreliable and the bottom is bad so we end up in Pinta Bay, a lovely sheltered spot .

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The day was still pretty good with sighting a brown bear between North Lisianski Inlet and Snag inlet. And the scenery is  quite lovely with the open  Pacific (today) ocean and rock gardens everywhere. Not unlike south of the Brooks peninsula and the Bunsby Islands  on the west  coast of Vancouver Island.

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Alaska July 13 Day 52 Pelican Lisianski Inlet Chichagof Island 19.8 NM total 1798 NM

Nice caves, spires, and scenery on the way to Pelican, a small town deep in Lisianski Inlet. It still has a Post-Office and a library and a school, but no grocery store. The general store has closed. And there is no cell phone service at all. Most people here are in the fishing business.

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The town is built on a boardwalk and stilts right over the water and they have a hydro-electric plant right in town. Also Ferry service is still running. 

We just bought two big Dungeness crabs on the dock so tonight is a feast. Got to go cook now. Rather steam the beasts in the pressure cooker to save on water and propane. No big cauldron of hot water on Frogs!

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Worst fuel dock in the world, climb the ladder for the hose? no dock to tie up to!

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Pelican City

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Alaska 2013 July 12 day 51 Elfin Cove through Inian Pass 23.7 NM total 1778 NM

Overcast, cold and foggy, we have no regret leaving Glacier Bay  despite the short time allowed by our permit. We have now turned around for sure and will be  heading South, or towards the South in a round- about way. The Southern end of Glacier Bay is a great feeding ground for baleen whales  and dozens of humpbacks are there doing just that. They do not show much of their bodies, but keep swimming at the surface level catching fish.  We go past the park boundary and radio HQ to  check out then aim at Lemesurier island and Inian Pass. We have checked the tides and current predictions and the slack is for 11:15, we arrive precisely on time but still have currents above 3 knots against us, better than 9 knots but  It makes for a slow passage. It is not without rewards as Inian Pass is where a major whale banquet is going on. We pass them from close and afar. We avoid them as well as we can but have a hard time keeping much distance between them and us as there are so many from Inian Pass to Cross Sound and the open Pacific ocean. This is more humpbacks today that I have seen in 10 years leaving on the West Coast.

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We also spot some Steller sea lions  in a pack, usually females and pups, also a few males by themselves. They have a nice golden fur when they mature and are easy to see as they tend to jump up in the water and make loud noises.

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We arrive to quaint Elfin Cove pretty early and get moorage on the small transient dock. Soon we meet a few other boats, then more arrive, and more , and by day end the place is jammed, rafting 3 deep in a  messy mix of fishing boats, yachts and sailboats. Everyone is very accommodating and easy going, a permanent chat group starts at the top of the ramp and people come and go  staying for a while.  I  buy a Coho from a commercial fisherman on the dock and we are looking forward to the treat. But the ante goes up as soon as I finish filetting the “silver”. We have to re-arrange the rafting and we are now neighbour with Ted the Chemistry teacher from California who spends the summer on his small but state of the art fishing boat. Our luck is that he has just caught a gigantic Spring Salmon or King and offers us  a generous share of his take.   

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Elfin Cove is a neat little community, complete with Post-Office, General Store albeit tiny, Liquor store, basically a shelf within the General Store but separate for Liquor Law enforcement, a private home selling smoked salmon at uncertain hours,  three fish lodges , a gigantic boardwalk on stilts as roadways and a major fuel dock for the boats. However, the phone signal is quasi-dead and there are but 12 people living there year round. 

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Alaska 2013 July 11 Day 50 Bartlett Cove Glacier Bay 31.1 NM Total 1755 NM

It is not easy leaving Blue Mouse Cove. It is warm and sunny and it means that we are now on the return leg of our cruise. A little bit sad about it all and leaving Glacier Bay well before we wanted to as there is so much we did not get to see.

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The water is very calm at first and we see many otters rafting, lots of them  lying on their backs with their pup on their tummy between their close arms. A very sweet site.

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We also see many humpbacks,  one of them flapping its flippers hard on the water repetitively. The ranger thinks it can be a way to communicate with other whales, a show of exuberance,  annoyance at having noisy boats nearby, or even a way to kill fish. They are not quite sure.

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By the shore opposite Drake island we notice some tree-stumps on the beach, freeze-dried and released from the glaciers recently. They are 3000 years old.

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By mid- day the clouds are moving in, the wind is up and the waves get bigger, we then  hit currents over  5 knots on the way to Bartlett Cove. It is freezing.  We anchor in front of HQ and dinghy to the dock for dinner at the lodge. It is table d’hôte  sitting only and we share a table with Jim and Carrie  from Atlanta. He was a Submarine  Captain, a sub builder and generally a physicist, so quite interesting conversation and so much comfort and warmth.

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Alaska 2013 July 10 Day 49 Johns Hopkins, Margerie Glacier, Blue Mouse Cove Glacier Bay 45.8 NM Total 1723

Today is the culmination. Sunny and clear for miles. Reached 59 degrees latitude North at 11:24 am in Tarr Inlet on the way to Grand Pacific Glacier. Almost got back into Canada, just stuck  one mile from the border but the whole Grand Pacific glacier between the water (where we were) and the border. Impassable.

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First we got up with a new sunny sight of Reid Inlet and the Reid  Glacier, then made our way to Lamplugh Glacier, then to Jaw Point to get a sight of Johns Hopkins.

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We share that fiord with the Zuiderdam whose female Captain was very accommodating on the radio giving us a wide berth.

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Then off to Tarr Inlet, the Grand Pacific retreating and the Margerie glacier extremely spectacular with Mt Fairweather in the background.

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Almost 8 hours on the water, 500 pictures, a lot of fun and grandiose scenery. What we came for no doubt. The whole landscape is mesmerizing with so much ice, crevasses, seracs, and the light coloured water.

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At the end of the day, we anchor in Blue Mouse Cove, a delightful round cove with great views and we top it all off with some kayaking. Much yoga and stretching is done while driving the boat but we still need to roam a bit at the end of the day away from the bears.

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Alaska 2013 July 9 Day 48 Reid Inlet and Glacier in Glacier Bay 31 NM total 1683 NM

The weather could not be worse, rain,  rain and showers and cold and misty, but we could not be happier, anchored in Reid Inlet after  an easy sail up West Glacier Bay. Reid Inlet is a delightful  bay separated from the fiord by two sandbars that you zig zag through to get in. Then it is like being on a lake, just a little over a mile long and not that wide. It is surrounded by steep  rocky hills where green is slowly growing after the glacier’s retreat. The Glacier, of course is at the other end of the inlet staring at us from the sand bar end where we have anchored.

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After retreating for  50 years and  then advancing a bit, Reid is now stable with a small section of ice reaching the water which makes one of few tidal glaciers. Some of the ice at the waterline is still pure and crystal blue.

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We are able to  get very close in the boat and then even closer on foot after hiking the shore of the inlet from one end to the other. Beautiful walking on the beach, with already many wildflowers growing and a few  black oyster catchers squeaking. 

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We cross a dozen waterfalls, walk in the glacier’s bed, a mix of sandy clay and gravel. Lots of granite, quartz  and also basalt rocks. Dunnery even wanders to the edge of a crevasse and up on the ice stepping from piece of rock to piece of rock as they are attached  to the ice.

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Glacier Ice shimmers with deep blue hues because of the way the light passes through it. Ice crystals absorb all colours of the spectrum reflecting only the short blue wavelengths of light. The colour is more intense on overcast days, which explains the navy blue ice in my pictures!!! After floating for a while, bergs deteriorate with air and salt water contact causing air bubbles. Losing density the ice then appears white.

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Alaska 2013 July 8 Day 47 Glacier Bay North Sandy Cove 40.4 NM Total 1652 NM

After a horrible night at anchor in the  high wind close to the park entrance, we make it into Bartlett Cove, at the Head-Quarters for our orientation session. We now know to stay away from a lot of places and wildlife.

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It is still very windy and rainy and we are overtired due to the cacophony last night of all the chain noises, ropes banging, and waves crashing on the hull and heavy raindrops pounding on the hatches. The winds really got up in the non- existent shelter at Pleasant Island. However, the park would not let us spend the night at Bartlett Cove, so we had to suffer through an all-nighter, pretty much on constant anchor watch.

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Nothing that can’t be fixed without a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs though and we were on our way sailing to South Marble island, a nice way to slip quietly near wildlife. The Island is a preserve within the park and no one can land. It is also mandatory to stay 100 yards from mammals and 50 yards from birds.

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We abode by all that and still got pretty amazing glimpses of the sea-lions and the puffins. We also saw many sea otters lying on their backs in the water, harder to photograph as they are half submerged and hidden by the waves.

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A great treat for our first day in the park not counting a black bear on the beach in the cove and a nice paddle around  Puffin Island.

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The views were  quite grey and white, and of rain clouds showering  their content on our heads or close by.

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Alaska 2013 July 7 day 46 Pleasant Island Icy Passage 27.1 NM Total 1606 NM

We sailed across Icy Strait or rather to the middle of it, and the wind pooped, but here we are anchored between Pleasant Island and Glacier Bay. We are not allowed in the park until tomorrow so we are as close as possible to maximize our short permit. We will leave at 5:00 am to attend the orientation session in Bartlett Cove at 8:00 am before they let us further in Glacier Bay. The orientation is mostly to remind us to stay away from whales and not to exceed 13 knots. No danger about the latter!

The forecast is not calling for sunny weather but things change fast here so we are still hoping for a break in the clouds.

We did not get a break  with the bugs nor did we catch any fish. Pleasant island is anything but pleasant.

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Alaska 2013 July 6 Day 45 Neka Bay Port Frederick off Icy Strait 11.9 NM Total 1579 NM

In the end Glacier Bay granted a permit for July 8 and 9 and this morning, an extension for July 10, 11, 12. They go from midnight to midnight so that will allow us four nights in the National Park and Preserve.

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Hoonah

We are exploring Frederick Sound. Morning walk to the Old Cannery now re-rehabilitated into a cruise ship terminal and eco-museum complete with zip-lining from the background cliff. We just walk on the nature trail as everything is deserted while there are no ships in town.

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Sitka Spruce

Then we make our way down Frederick Sound to Chimney Rock. We can’t find any information about it but it very much looks like the Eddystone Rock we saw earlier, a harden lava plug. As we get closer for a picture, two bald eagles salute us with much singing.

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Neka Bay is beautiful and we have it to ourselves. We have seen fish jumping all day so Dunnery makes a 10 minute attempt with his new fishing rod and is ….. off for a paddle. We are not having fresh fish for dinner! I guess the bugs were too bad to stand immobile in the bay.

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We are at the half-time mark, time is slipping too fast despite the rain.

 

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Alaska 2013 July 5 Day 44 Hoonah 42.3 NM Total 1567 NM

We are leaving Juneau as the fishing fleet is coming back in and they are rafting 7 deep on the breakwater. No way we would find a spot for our sailboat in this grab what you can system of allocating space. Would hate to be squished between those monster seiners.

We have not got a permit for Glacier bay yet so we have changed the itinerary to stop in Hoonah where there is phone service and a library with Wi-Fi.  Good news arrive, we now have a two-day permit for July 8-9 and maybe that can be extended.

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Pt Retreat Lighthouse

Pt Retreat Lighthouse

Hoonah is a busy fishing harbour originally a Tlingit village. There are  still totem poles and dugout canoes just sitting in open sheds.

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We are starting to miss home a bit and have picked some wild flowers to decorate the boat. See the white bog orchids (long narrow stem with many small flowers, the blue Nootka lupin and the Unalska paintbrush (yellow), and of course the fireweed (tall purple) and the dwarf fireweeed, not so tall in the back.

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Alaska 2013 July 2-3-4 Day 41-42-43 Juneau 82 NM Total 1524 NM

So we took all of July 2 to get back from Whitehorse to Juneau via Carcross, Fraser, Skagway. We left Richard Hicks in Whitehorse to fly home to a well deserved rest after all our adventures together. He was very lucky as he got the best streak of good weather ever heard of in Alaska. We our now back to overcast,  cold, and a general forecast of rain in the morning and showers in the afternoon. Welcome back to Alaska.

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We took a day to re-supply, do laundry, a general boat clean-up on July 3,  and by 10 pm it was pouring so hard and it was so cold that we decided to pass on the fireworks  downtown since we would have no way to get back to the boat 12 miles away other than a walk along the highway. They shot a few around the marina  so we took advantage of those.

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Today, we hitch-hiked to the trail head of Mendenhall Glacier as buses are not running    and then hiked a few miles along Auke Lake and the Mendenhall Glacier along a most pretty trail in a beautiful forest. We got ride with Phil, born here,  and some people from California, both extremely helpful and friendly. That adds up to the long hike we did in Skagway. A few miles up the mountain and down to Sturdgill Landing and back. We are getting our legs back.

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Weather permitting we are off tomorrow  to Glacier Bay so it will be a long time for the next post. We will be going the furthest north of our trip and then  turning back towards Sitka for an ETA of July 19. May have phone in Hoonah, will see.

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Western Columbine, Goat beard, irises and other wild flowers in Skagway

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Wild irises

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Alaska 2013 July 1st Day 40 Whitehorse Yukon

We are not travelling on the water today. We are boarding the White Pass train to Fraser BC and then a bus to Whitehorse, Yukon. So in a few hours from Alaska, briefly into BC and then in the Yukon overnight with the return on July 2nd to Juneau via Carcross (for Caribou Crossing), Fraser, and Skagway.   

 The White Pass Summit train is a narrow gauge railway built specifically to run the gold seekers of 1898-99.

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It goes from sea level to 2924 ft in about 27 miles which is very steep for a railway. The bridges are above deep gorges and rather scarry to look at.

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Near Fraser, BC

The scenery is magnificent, glimpses of Skagway harbour from high, the furious Skagway river, the steep cliffs, a glacier, many long waterfalls, and on the other side of the mountain, the subalpine flora, with 100 year old trees that look only about 10 years old, mosses and lichen. This is a highlight of  our trip. (pun intended).

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Carcross

Carcross

Copper nugget weighing over a ton. Whitehorse Y

Copper nugget weighing over a ton. Whitehorse Yukon

Emerald lake Yukon

Emerald lake Yukon

Yukon River

Yukon River

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Single Support Suspension bridge, one of 7 in the world, to make repair easier after earthquakes

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Alaska 2013 June 30 Day 39 Skagway 82 NM total 1442 NM

Today we travel on the Alaska Marine highway on the Alaska ferry Malaspina  to Skagway at the end of the Lynn Canal. The weather is unbelievable even the locals are in awe. It is hot and dry and bright. We have gone past Sentinel Island and another interesting light-house, a pod of  humpback whales  travelling near shore, and the Rainbow Glacier just before the stop over in Haynes.

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Eldred Rock Island Light-house

 The ferry is a good place to see the wide canal which is normally too windy for sailboats It is said to be the longest and deepest fjord in the world (610 m deep). It can get very strong winds and williwaws that funnel and there are no anchorages to hide along the 82 nautical miles. Besides,  everywhere is too deep for our 160 ft long chain.

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Rainbow Glacier

Silt water from  the Chikat river mixing with glaci

Brown silty water from the Katzehin River mixing with aquamarine clear glacial water

So a nice easy ride on the Malaspina  and 6 ½ hours later we are in the gold rush city which has not changed that much since the 1897/98 rush, and that is a good thing. All the heritage building are protected and being renovated  making for a  very authentic main street with boardwalks for sidewalks and wooden buildings all along.

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Skagway

There are many groups of young people hanging around town, some mountain-bikers and of course the keen hikers decided on living the Chilkoot trail experience! But on the light as they all have the latest gear from fancy outfitters unlike the gold seekers who were forced to  acquire and carry one ton of food supplies to be  allowed to star on the trek.

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Skagway

Capt'n Moore's cabin 1

Capt’n Moore’s cabin 1

Another small pleasure is the unrestricted shower we can indulge in at the motel. No water limit and no hot water shortage, a first for 39 days!

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Alaska 2013 June 28-29 day 37-38 Juneau Auke Bay 57.5 NM Total 1360 NM

Long but easy day on the water past Taku inlet with Taku Glacier and the boundary peak called the Devil’s Paw.  The boundary peaks with Canada are forming the border, or rather the border is a line that jumps from boundary peak to boundary peak. They all have  neat names like Devil’s Thumb, Devil’s Paw, Chilkoot Pass, Mount Strong, Snow Top, Kate’s Needle, Castle Mountain. I have counted 187 of those boundary peaks with BC on the Atlas of Alaska.  They explain the shape of the border, sometimes a straight line, sometimes a jagged edge.

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The Devil’s Paw and Taku Glacier

 And then, majestic arrival in Auke Bay just North of Juneau right by the Mendenhall Glacier which is less than four miles away with many snowy peaks behind it.

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Mendenhall Glacier Auke Bay

We are stand by on the break-water for  the first night awaiting the departure of a fishing seiner tomorrow so we may use the vacated dock space for a few days.

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A gifted fisherman about to catch a foot long Sockeye in Auke Bay Harbor

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Alaska 2013 June 27 Day 36 Tracy Arm Cove via Sawyer Glacier 46 NM 1303 NM

We started in very overcast and cold weather again wearing all the layers we could fit on top of each other inside the foulies. The wind was funneling in the fjord but this was all worth it. Moving through thicker and thicker fields of icebergs along steep cliffs, we are alone except for a couple tour boats. We pass the Ice Falls with are not iced although  judging from the outside temperature ,  they probably could be. The water  gushing with incredible pressure was amazing.

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We go past Sawyer Island and the fjord is narrower. Then the South Sawyer Glacier appears, White and grey and ice blue and huge and imposing with  crevasses and a wide tongue reaching right into the head of the fjord. The sky has cleared a bit and we can take some pictures.

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We are still circling around in awe at the head of the fjord when a cruise ship peaks its bow  behind  Sawyer  Island. We are now going to have to share the small pace with Carnival Miracle. Indeed a miracle to manage the bay together. We have been warned that big ship create havoc for small crafts by thrashing  larger ice blocks and by  creating big wakes among the icebergs.  But in the end, the Captain likes the sailboat, a good  photo op for his passengers, so he hugs the cliffs to extreme  to give us ample room. 

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By the time we are back in Tracy Arm Cove, the sun is coming out and we are happy to warm up and peel off some layers. The sun is glistening on the Alpine scenery all around us and  the Norwegian Sun appears in Tracy Arm . It would have been interesting to see it cross ways  with  the Carnival Miracle, passengers  on the two ships could probably shake hands from balcony cabins.     

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Tracy Arm Cove

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Alaska 2013 June 26 Day 35 Tracy Arm Cove 38.8 NM total 1257 NM

We met with a large pod of humpback whales near Entrance Island and they came quite close to our stopped boat as we were trying to keep some distance. They are not afraid of us at all and very curious. They were feeding on the way to Glacier Bay. We got a number of pictures with a grey overcast background but the whales gave us a great show.

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Soon after that we saw our first iceberg in Stephens Passage and soon many many more as we entered Endicott Arm. We went as far as the Sumdum Glacier close to Sumdum Island but had to retreat to our anchorage as the fog was coming down fast and the rain was quite hard.

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Richard Hicks at Sumdum, Endicott Arm

The icebergs are very blue and the water is  a very deep green. Maybe  the sun would come out and we could take pictures.

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  But for now we are swinging gently at anchor listening to the rain while Dunnery is on an errand in his kayak  to fetch ice from a berg  for the Scotch on the rocks.

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Sumdum Glacier

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Alaska 2013 June 25 Day 34 Foot Island Steamboat Bay 42 NM Total 1218 NM

Another very grey morning, we are back in Alaska after a long sunny week-end in Paradise. Calm seas though which is good to leave Petersburg fighting strong currents and then going with them all the way across Frederick Sound past Cape Fanshaw.

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We see the Five Finger light house, which was the first manned lighthouse to operate in Alaska (1902). It was also the last manned station in the state when it became automated in 1984. The present structure was built after the original frame construction was destroyed by a fire. It was constructed of reinforced concrete in 1935 and built on a concrete pier.  The one story building contains a 68 ft.  square tower housing a fourth order electric light 81 ft.  above the water.

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Five Finger Light-House

Five Fingers Light-House

Five Fingers Light-House

Spotted   a humpback in the distance today and so did Richard from his kayak, but  there were not captured by camera as both were a case of spray, show my big tail, dive and disappear!

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Alaska 2013 June 23-24 Day 32-33 Wrangell Narrows to Petersburg Mitkof Island 40.1 NM 1176 NM

The weather is incredible  and we need the good visibility to go through the narrows safely.  21 miles of a narrow channel, at times very narrow, sometimes dredged , but always deep and well  marked. We wait for the start, as we need to have modest currents to handle this part. So we go 2 hours before slack and have a great time, good speeds above 10 knots but in all safety.

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Wrangell Narrows

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We are at the North Harbor in Petersburg, a fishing harbor, very modern and it seems very active. Some fishing open today at midnight and all the seiners are going out. Petersburg has a strong Norwegian Heritage  and  we feel  in Scandinavia more than in Alaska.

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Our friend Richard Hicks has joined us last night by flying on the Alaska Air milk run to Wrangell and he is staying all the way to Whitehorse. More pub crawls coming up! But before that, we paddle all through the fishing fleet in the harbour.

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No posts until Juneau now!

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Alaska 2013 June 22 Day 31 Stikine River on a Jet Boat

This a great adventure, it feels like a vacation day as we are on a tour on a small jet boat with 3 other customers and our guide Zach who was born in Wrangell, owns a cottage on the Stikine and has been driving up and down the river since he was  13. We have no decisions to make, no navigation and that is a relief as the sand bars move constantly and no chart can keep you in the safe canal. Local knowledge is required.

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The Stikine is very beautiful and after a few miles we enter the wilderness area created in the early 90’s. No cottages, no power, no generators, no logging, only a few  locals have figured a loophole. House boats that are not tethered to land seem to escape the prohibition for now.

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Lake Shakes is beautiful, a true glacial lake with green waters and icebergs. The jet boat cannot cut through the ice sheet all the way to the lip of the glacier, so we observe from a short distance in the very cold air free of mosquitoes.

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Then we go back down a bit for a soak at Chief Shakes Hot Springs, so hot they are mixed with an adjacent spring of glacial water  to become just right.

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The last highlight of the trip is to see the Canadian border marked by red markers on shore and a giant land border marked by a line cleared of trees up the very steep sides of the mountains on both sides. We are home a few seconds many hovering on the border line in the current.

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Alaska 2013 June 21 day 30 Wrangell AK 20 NM Total 1035 NM

As we reached the mouth of Anita Bay, Zimovia Strait was invisible. A bank of opaque fog had rolled in early morning. We had to stand by for a while and then  proceeded as the fog lifted with the radar and the AIS to keep en eye on other boats, otherwise ghost ships drifting along.

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The fog completely lifted as we arrived in Wrangell, a very typical Alaska fishing harbour. Only three cruise ships have stopped by this year, so everybody is extremely welcoming and pleasant. We are in Reliance Harbor among the fishing fleet, which is fairly idle at the moment.

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We had a great dinner at the Stikine Inn, but the funny thing is that, whether from stores, fishermen and even restaurants, it is virtually impossible to get fish except the token frozen halibut not processed anywhere near here!

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Alaska 2013 June 20 Day 29 Anita Bay Zimovia Strait 38.1 NM Total 1015 NM

This is our Dunnery and Francoise in Alaska,” meet the bears”  little story part II. This morning Dunnery went for an early paddle, maybe not that early if you consider that it was full daylight at 3:00am, but nevertheless, before most people make it to work! He   went back to the salt lagoon in the direction of the Anan Falls and that took him along the trail to the  bear observatory. Casually keeping an eye on the boardwalk, maybe checking for other fools that would use the trails when there is no salmon run, he did not see any evidence of  such  naïve bravery or stupidity.

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He did however took  a couple shots of the local resident checking his grounds while out  on his morning constitutional. Mr Ursus Horribilis himself was going up and down the stairs inspecting his boardwalk. Seems as if we may have to exercise more caution when landing on the Alaska Panhandle. The awful shrill whistles that we must attach to our life jackets may have saved our life, something I would have never imagined!

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From then on, it pretty much rained all day, we had another paddle in Anita Bay, a large  bay surrounded by mountains and snow, a lovely easy anchorage despite the grey colours today.

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We have now 1015 nautical miles on the odometer, we are just past 56 degrees latitude North and 132.50 longitude West.

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Alaska 2013 June 19 day 28 Anan Bay Bradfield Canal 10.2 NM Total 977 NM

 Anan Bay is the site of a US Forest Service Bear observatory,  that is a safe structure to hide in and take refuge to watch the bears eat the salmon at Anan creek in the waterfall. Unfortunately, we have arrived a bit early in the season, the salmon is not running and there are no bears in the creek.

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The ½ mile long hike to the observatory from the beach is superb though, going along the water in a salt lagoon right to the rushing rapids. There has not been anyone here  in a while I suspect  but there are many piles of fairly fresh bear scat all along. Some it seems to be still warm. We are therefore  singing and whistling all the way to let the bears know that we are using the trail. Thankfully, they  don’t insist on sharing the path.

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After a while, we are back on the boat eating lunch on deck and I spot a moving shape right on the beach. Through the binoculars, a grizzly is identified and I get ready while Dunnery pumps up my inflatable kayak. I have the camera with the Nikon 300 zoom and here I go as fast I can paddle to reduce the distance between Grizzly and Frog. The water got pretty shallow near the beach and I thought prudent not to get too close but I certainly got quite a few shots while  Dunnery who had joined me held my line so I would not drift to the beach as I was  distracted looking through the objective at mostly the bear’s bum.  Nothing would disturb him from dinner and I had a hard time getting some mug shots. And, Dunnery is still in the bear spotting contest lead with another black bear on the next beach!

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We are staying the night here, it is too nice to leave and the eagles are soaring above the trees.

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So just relaxing before dinner, we have yet another unexpected visit. Two black bears walking along the beach very casually and past the Forest Guest Cabin. So the show has now come within distance from the boat. No need to paddle out, just keep an eye open for the bears. They are everywhere. We watch them for a good half hour until they retire to their den, not the cabin!

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Alaska 2013 June 14 Day 23 Yes Bay Behm Canal 47.2 NM total 865 NM

Brilliant time on the buoy in Walker Cove last night as a storm passed through. We awake to find a small cruiser used as a tender for kayak tours in the bay. Seems like a very nice way to kayak around here.

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Seals on Channel island

We go on to the top of Behm Canal and the water is more green and brown from the silt from the glaciers. It is also very cold. But the sun is shining and we have a great ride to Bell Island, the site of the Hot Springs. Unfortunately, despite the reference in the 2013 US Coastal Pilot, there are no facilities at all.

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We decide to stop in Yes Bay in a very sheltered little nook past a fishing lodge. We have hardly seen a half dozen boats in 5 days, this is wilderness. No phones, no internet, not even the marine radio gets through. We are still following George Vancouver and can imagine what a hard time he had surveying this part of the coast. Most places are too deep to anchor and it is hard to find places that are both sheltered and under 30 meters in depth.

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Alaska 2013 June 18 Frosty Bay Main Land 56 degrees Lat. North 25 NM 967 NM

Sunny and calm day with just enough wind to slowly  sail all the way to Frosty Bay minus a few miles to recharge the batteries. Most beautiful little inlet at Frosty Bay with a US Forest Service cabin and a small float.

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Dunnery had another close encounter with a  bear on the beach at the mouth of Frosty Bay.

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We are in good shelter and observing the birds and gulls in a very serene setting. But no mountain goat yet, they are certainly shy.

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Alaska 2013 June 17 day 26 Meyers Chuck Cleveland Peninsula 37.7 NM total 942 NM

Highest winds from the south at 32 knots today in Clarence strait with the ebbing waters going the opposite direction, so the whities were aplenty and the waves pretty turbulent.  Good thing we had speed up to 11 knots so it was not too long a day. We sailed most of it.

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When we left harbour in Tongass Narrows this morning early, we the “Coral Princess”  cruise ship so close that we could see the captain waving at us from his bridge a mere 15 stories up! (or maybe higher).

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We are now on a free state float in Meyers Chuck, a  sheltered little hidey hole with a very narrow rocky entrance but good depth and shelter once you are in.  This used to be a small community with a school  but now there are only 12 people left and a mailbox. Nothing else.

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It is part of the Tongass Forest and we followed a very pretty trail to the Beach facing the ocean on the West side of Cleveland Island. Many unlogged firs, cedars and hemlocks and also nice specimen of ferns, skunk cabbage, salmon berries and salal. A pleasant rainforest without bugs thanks to the nice breeze.

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Alaska 2013 June 15-16 Day 24-25 Ketchikan 39.6NM total 904 NM

It is sunny and warm as soon as you land, still chilly on the water. We have come back to Ketchikan to re-fuel, get some fresh groceries, change the transmission oil, and do laundry and other menial chores.

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Jets land on this strip!

The wind funnels and gusts hard in the narrow which makes it all the more difficult to manoeuver to our slip. But here we are safely tucked in  among the fishing fleet.  No bugs, no need for the heater, no rain, just the sunshine, the sunset ( bright red) and daylight till late and dawn before 4.  It’s as good as it gets. The thunderstorms are only  forecasted for tomorrow.

 

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Alaska 2013 June 13 Day 22 Walker Cove in Behm Canal 24.1 NM total 817 NM

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Walker Cove in another incredibly deep fjord with a very narrow and shallow entrance and almost vertical cliffs on both sides, many waterfalls going down straight from the snowy cliff tops.

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We are very luck today as there is really no decent place to anchor in Walker Cove and we managed to secure the only  buoy in the entire cove at the site of an old Indian village by a beautiful creek. It is usually quite windy in the fjords from 12 to about 8:00 pm and then the nights are calm.

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As soon as we got there the mist decided to  lift, the sun came out and we went kayaking up the creek and around the bay. This may be the best spot of all.

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 Of course the water is chilly and it may be why there  is no one here at all, except the ballet of floatplanes, literally crisscrossing the valleys from 8:00 to 4:00 every day when the cruise ships are in Ketchikan. There are often 4 or 5 floatplanes of all colours  in sight at any time, flying along the cliffs or doing a short landing by our side.

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Alaska 2013 June 12 Day 21 Rudyerd Bay South Arm at the head 35.5 NM total 793 NM

Misty Fiords* National Monument: The most beautiful cruising I have ever done by a long shot.  Rudyerd Bay branches off East from the Behm Canal which is not a canal at all but a humongous  fjord. Rudyerd Bay is also a true fjord, (not a Bay)  although narrower than Behm and  with deep cliffs,  lots of snow and a giant waterfall every 500 ft. The waters are lightly coloured from all the brackish waters from the mountains.

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We sailed the entire fjord with the flood under jib alone in winds 8 to 20 knots, the ultimate cruising experience! We are anchored in 32 meters of very cold water  at high tide with all our chain out, 160 feet and another 8 ft rope.

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Many floatplanes are doing daring acrobatics along the cliffs for our enjoyment  and to earn higher tips from their fares. They also land in different arms of the fjord to add a landing and take-off to the excitement. This afternoon the mist is all gone and there are only a few pretty clouds high above to adorn the scenery.

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The brown bears are frolicking in the grass on the beach completely ignoring human presence.

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getting close... with the zoom!

getting close… with the zoom!

We also went past the New EddyStone Rock,   so named because Vancouver thought that it looked like the Plymouth light-house. Rising 230 ft from a sand shoal, it is actually a genuine basalt spire remnant of a volcanic plug. Its outer layer has been eroded away by wave action, leaving this dramatic feature.

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*Fiord, that is how they spell  fjord in Alaska!

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Alaska 2013 June 11 Day 20 Carp Island Smeaton Bay Behm Canal 34.5 NM total 758 NM

Backtracking to the Behm Canal and Misty Fiords National Monument now that we are all clear with CBP. The anchorages are very deep and shelter is rare. We have tucked behind Carp Island and had a slight case of anchor dragging in a mini-storm, fortunately caught on time. Good thing the winds and heavy  shower came after our kayak tour.  The kayaking is grand around here and  for the first time I was comfortable having my skirt on and secured, a milestone for me. Only took me almost 10 full years of West Coast residence to get to this point. We have set an anchor alarm but can’t help looking up every time the chain makes rattling noises moving on the rocks.

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On the way to Behm, we passed the Tamgas Mountains ( 3591 ft)  on Annette Island, still quite white on the North side.  

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  We also took many picture of the Bald Eagle standing guard on the marker behind Bold Island as if keeping  watch of the below datum tide. (The water level gets below what is printed as the minimum on the navigation charts).

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Alaska 2013 June 9/10 Day 18/19 Ketchikan AK 37.6 NM total 723 NM

This is a very notable day for two reasons, first and surprisingly it did not rain at all for 2 days. Second, we officially landed in the United States, state of Alaska in the town of Ketchikan.

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Frogs at the City Float in Ketchikan

AlaskaKetchikan 009We thought the formalities would be brief since we have Nexus and we pre-cleared from Prince Rupert and were told to just call the Border protection office when we arrived. Ha-ha-ha, this was not to be. The officer immediately requested our  “Cruising Permit number” so after giving our passport numbers, DOB’s, cell phone numbers,  we offered our decal number, our BR numbers, our Nexus numbers, our boat registration number, all to no avail. Border security now has a new level of paperwork called the cruising permit. So after greeting us at the dock in a most friendly fashion the CBP officer drove me through the old town to the office and within an hour  successfully  issued the new permit,  and gave me  a ride back in the SUV.  He  knew all about Winnipeg,  and Saanichton near Victoria, and was planning a transfer to Edmonton with his family, so we were spared the customary boat inspection.   Too bad, I had complied and thrown away  limes, potatoes, and oranges from Florida which we are not allowed to import  in the US.

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The all white light-house on Mary Island, AK

We had a nice passage to Ketchikan past Mary Island and the light- house  and through the narrows into town,  juggling for space with three huge cruise ships and a busy harbour’s traffic.

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We are now moored right by Creek Street at the city dock, good place to observe float-planes, cruise-ships, fishing boats  and yachts.

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There are more Float-planes outfits in Ketchikan than anywhere. They are all stationed on hangars and ramps on piles over the water  and take the tourist to “do Misty Fjords” in 2 hours. We are going to spend a whole week there… in the rain forest. ( I just read in the Alaska brochure that Ketchikan gets more rain than any Alaska town by a long shot , 151 inches according to the Coastal Pilot). Now who is smarter? I will report later.

We now have a US phone number which we will send by email. Our Google Nexus phone still gets email as well.

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Alaska 2013 June 8 Day 17 Foggy Bay, Alaska 51.6 NM Total 686 NM

The International border was crossed early morning at mile 668. It was actually very early as we started the day at 4:00 am to catch the  high waters through the narrow navigation channels out of prince Rupert, and to take advantage of the ebbing waters pushing North and also for a break from the winds.

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We did all this very successfully, and did I already mention that  we also caught the rain, at full swing, 100 %, basically non-stop, chilly, and predictably wet.

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Foggy Bay

Past the Dundas Islands the open waters were confused as they say on the marine broadcast, which meant both chop and large swells, sometimes winds to 19 knots, but nothing dramatic and it all went very smoothly, mostly under power but the last broad reach from Tree Point under reefed main and jib at good speed.

Dundas Islands B.C. light-house with red roof

Dundas Islands B.C. light-house with red roof

Foggy Bay is a good base for paddling with many nooks and the Very inlet. This will have to be reserved for the return as we are only allowed  a one day stop en route to Ketchikan by Border Security.

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It is located just below 55 degrees latitude North and close to 130 degrees West. We are inching forward  to the South-East pan-handle as it is called. The days are very long, with  already a hint of dawn when we got up at 4 am. Midnight suns in a couple of weeks I suspect.

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Alaska June 7 2013 Day 16 Prince Rupert Lay Day

This is a day off, no nautical miles, just a lot of running around,  a day to relax during our three month vacation while on  retirement ! We are not, however, spared continuous rain. Still, nothing can spoil the freedom to sleep in, wander around aimlessly and having no chores to do except pre-clearing  Immigration  and Customs for tomorrow as we will land first, away  from the  Ketchikan office, in Foggy Bay. Dunnery is also checking tides  and weather, and minimizing the wave size in his report to me! I am preparing loads of salt and vinegar potato chips, soda crackers and tonic water to prevent sea-sickness.

Also a big thank you for all the comments you post. We love hearing from all of you, so please give us news, we like it very much!

A great artifact on the ocean front is a little Japanese fishing boat. Read its story, it is so tragic and sweet at the same time.

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Interestingly, the Japanese man’s home town is a twin-city to Prince Rupert.

We  Visited the Museum of Northern BC, a gem of Tsimshian treasures, old and more recent,  presented in wonderful long-houses on the water.

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Alaska June 6 2013 Day 15 Prince Rupert 35 NM total 634 NM

This is a benchmark, we have reached Prince Rupert, a real town with all the comforts.

In good company with 703 , 705, 707 from the Royal Canadian Navy

In good company with 703 , 705, 709 from the Royal Canadian Navy

We are nicely tucked in at the Prince Rupert Yacht Club, a very friendly place, and it is a good thing as the  marine radio is broadcasting gales of 40 knots for the night while we have the space heater plugged into the dock and roaring!

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Cosco containers

It does feel good to walk around in the rain, to get the laundry done, to get on the internet, talk to the kids, and even wander in the Safeway!

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Alaska 2013 June 5 Day 14 Kumealon Inlet Grenville Channel 27.8 NM total 599 NM

Just another very rainy day and just one brief “bright Interval” as the BBC calls a sunny outbreak, to get a few shots of the snowy mountains either side of the Grenville Channel.

To the lagoon

To the lagoon

We only did a short day with the idea to try our new double inflatable kayak and had quite a lot of fun paddling to the rapids connecting to Kumealon lagoon. Unfortunately, it was an ebb and the current was way too strong for us to shoot them up. It would have been a nice ride downstream!

Advanced Elements Convertible kayak

Advanced Elements Convertible kayak

We then visited the site of an abandoned logging operation at the mouth of the inlet and got good exercise and a healthy appetite. Too bad our fresh stores are getting low, but tomorrow Prince Rupert Gourmet Pacific Cuisine, here we come! P.Rupert has a Safeway and a Starbucks,  not that we don’t have excellent coffee on board.

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We have gone about  600 nautical miles, not in a straight line of course, but as the crow flies this is about the distance between the most Northern and Southern tips of France (1000 km I believe). Now it sounds like a lot.

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Alaska 2013 June 4 Day 13 Lowe Inlet Grenville Chanel via Hartley Bay 47.9 NM total 571

After another long soak at the Hot Spring to invigorate ourselves  on this rainy day we navigated around the North of Gribbell Island to Hartley Bay. It rained on and off, mostly on and visibility got so poor in the Grenville Channel that we turned the radar on.

The 'Disney Wonders"

The ‘Disney Wonders”

The “Disney Wonders” a big cruise ship that we crossed as it was going South just June 2 just appeared on our tail to pass us going North through the Grenville Channel with a new load of Mickey fans. Just a handful of them was brave enough to stand on the upper deck and wave at us.

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We are anchored in Nettle cove, in Lowe Inlet. This is an inlet on the east sid of Grenville Channel  about a quarter of the way up. We are in 25 meters of water with 150 ft of chain, facing  the Verney waterfall and a great beach. A prime observatory to keep track of eagles.

Verney Waterfalls

Verney Waterfalls

In this bad weather, we have been moving much faster than our planned itinerary. We will have more time to visit Alaska and the sun might come out!

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Alaska 2013 June 3 Day 12 Bishop Hot Springs Ursula Channel 50.4 NM total 523 NM

Two milestones today, we passed 53 degrees latitude North around Butedale  and the trip odometer has over 500 nautical miles.

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Hiekish Narrows at 9 knots, Graham reach, Fraser Reach, amazing sceneries, lots of snow, some wing to wing sailing. Swanson Bay and Butedale used to be active fishing and logging communities but there is pretty much no one and nothing left.

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Today is a lot warmer and I actually peel off most of my layers. I am getting a light tan too. We arrive at Bishop Bay late, past four , again accompanied by a school of Dahl  porpoise and tie to a mooring boy, as two boats are cluttering the entire docks with strategic unfriendly positioning and their dinghies.

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We quickly change for swim suit and get an awesome reward for the detour, a half hour soak in a natural pool in  the rocks  fed by a natural hot spring at just the right temperature to take away all the stiffness  of our bodies. We have the place to ourselves, the sun is going down, it is still warm, we are just day dreaming and looking at all the floats hanging from the roof built over the pool. Visitors engrave them with their names and date of visit.

Bishop Natural Hot Springs

Bishop Natural Hot Springs

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Alaska 2013 June 2 Day 11 Inner Goat Cove, Roderick Island 60.2 NM total 473

The dream Inside Passage, sunny, calm, narrows, passages, channels, gentle rapids, and steep faces.  Snow in Fjord Land on the highest mountains above 3000 ft.

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Fjordland

Again a school of Dahl Porpoises, the friendly dolphins, joined the boat for a few minutes and also a humpback came to give us a tail salute. All in all the perfect day on the water.

Humpback Tail

Humpback Tail

 

The anchorage is not well sheltered so we have 130ft of chain out to hold our big anchor in complete safety. This chain extension  done in preparation for this trip has already paid for itself, just in one good night sleep !

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We came up the Reed Passage and the Finlayson Channel which means that we avoided the Ferry and Cruise Ship traffic so we only saw four boats all day. Two Yachts, a fishing boat, and the “Disney Wonder” a big cruise ship. We passed a few very high tech salmon farms  and saw a crane lifting a net of amazing size.

Goat Cove Salmon Farm

Goat Cove Salmon Farm

The Disney Wonders

The Disney Wonders

 

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Alaska 2013 June 1 Day 10 Yeo Cove Spiller Channel via Bella Bella 36 NM 412 NM

Crossed to Bella Bella/Shearwater through Gunboat Passage, a narrow channel with many rocks and islets but easy to navigate, in overcast and rainy weather. We fuelled there and made one phone call to Veronica having a birthday tomorrow from the top of the dock, the only place with cell reception for miles. Bell is becoming very elusive and so is the internet. You will read many blogs with delay and pictures might be even longer as they need good bandwidth to upload. But I am taking lots even when it’s not sunny, so eventually I will update every day.

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Female eagle in the nest, male watching atop

I had a wonderful  spa day in Shearwater! Just joking! But the shampoo and especially the blow dry from an unexpected little hair place truly felt amazing. Much better than on the boat with somewhat restricted water and absolutely no blow-drier!  Already 10 days on the go, not missing anything at home, but sure very appreciative of extra comfort when it comes. Better than having wet hair for 12 hours in the damp weather!

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Tonight we are lucky, we are having crab given to us by the  kind crew of “ Prime Time” a trawler from Seattle  destined to Glacier Bay who did better than me with their trap in Codville Lagoon.

Old logging site in Yeo Cove

Old logging site in Yeo Cove

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Alaska 2013 May 31 day 9 Codville Lagoon via Namu 32 NM total 376 NM

Namu an old cannery was deserted except for the care-takers who are about to retire and move to the Lama Passage with their float home and all the docks. It does not sound like the owner is planning any renovations so the whole place is doomed to keep sinking in overtaken by gravity. It seems that there are more bears than boats visiting anyway.

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From Pruth Bay we took the Hakai Passage and then the Ward Channel to the Nalau Passage to rejoin Fisher Sound , crossed it to Namu and proceeded North to King Island and entered the Codville lagoon via a narrow entrance from Lagoon Bay where George Vancouver spent some time.

It is still mostly raining, but all is going very well. Crab trap is down again.

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Alaska Day 8 May 30, 2013 Pruth Bay and Hakai Beach 27.2 NM total 344NM

Departure is delayed this morning as I attracted two Dungeness  crabs to our trap under the boat with meatballs from our dinner. This will make for a nice lunch as we promptly got them boiled and shelled and added to a Knorr leek soup and a bit of couscous to make a crab chowder.DSC_0124

There is no wind so we are motoring past Fish Egg inlet and the lighthouse on Addenbroke Island in direction of the  Kwakshua Channel  between Calvert Island and Hecate Island. A five mile long narrow to Pruth Bay where there is a trail to the white sand beach in Hakai Passage. Fitzhugh Sound is imposing and majestic, crossing it is about five miles. We have been passed by the  Northern  Expedition, the new BC ferry replacing the Queen of the North that was sunk on Gill Island just North of here by its negligent crew. We can’t help but sing “ Next stop is Gill Island”!

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We are anchored in front of the Hakai Research Institute and have gone for a short hike on neat trails taking you to West and North Hakai beach. Hakai Beach is not dissimilar to Long Beach, white sand, miles of beach, islets in front of it and a good surf. Not any warmer either!

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The Institute is a mystery, they are friendly enough to let you use their trails, docks and internet, but there is no information whatsoever as to what they do. They own  state of the art power-boats, have a log-house lodge and many auxiliary buildings. The staff which is very elusive is housed in plastic yurts, seems like a true picture of a Dr No’s mad scientist’s facility.  This is a lot of hardware for an area as desolate and without any phone signal, especially if you count in HMS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 83 m long, a Search and Rescue vessel also assigned to setting marks along the coast, anchored around the corner.

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Alaska Day 7 May 29 2013 Goose Bay, Rivers Inlet, past Cape Caution 49.7NM Total 317NM

5:30 am start with the ebb in heavy showers and flat seas. It is chilly out there. Motoring past many islands and islets in rainy overcast  conditions all the way to Goose Bay past the mighty Cape caution feared and revered by all mariners. Today the seas are calm in the Canadian Inside Passage  and we only have to put  up with swells under a meter as the wind direction   and the ebb are aligned. We timed it, got up early and have a very nice passage.  When the tides are opposing the winds though, this area is treacherous and huge swells and chop occurs.

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We are now anchored in Goose Bay,  near the mouth of Rivers Inlet in good shelter. We arrived at low tide past the cannery to see a Grizzly bear, our first sighting of Ursus Horribilis, foraging on the beach.

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Alaska May 28, 2013 Day 6 Blunden Harbour, Queen Charlotte Strait 23.9 NM 267NM

IMG_20130528_092408Visited the town of Sointula, Finnish settlement, and the bakery carried Pulla bread, a kind of egg bread with butter and spices which was quite delicious.  Not quite sure what the spices were as the blackboard was all in Finnish, just something with many many  U’s. We topped up our vegetable supplies at the COOP which is a very good store for that small island with only 692 in residence.   The little town is very pretty, with cute cottages with lots of yellow tones as in Scandinavia. One  of the fences had  a frieze of cut-out squids and another had  carved fish. The flowers are all blooming and there are even ripe berries to eat on the side of the road. We got a ride from a kind fisherman in his pick-up and after a talk with another local fisherman, the harbour- master’s husband, we decided to jump across Queen Charlotte Strait despite the contrary flood and high winds. He predicted lumpy, and lumpy we got. But as he says, that’s what we came for!

Anyway, it was only a bit over three hours and we are nicely tucked away behind Robinson Island in the Frost Islands in an abandoned old Indian Village called Blunden Harbour.  It is sheltered from all sides and despite the pouring rain, it is cozy and quiet. Our biggest problem is that we have been sailing so much, we are having problem re-charging the batteries. This is very  unusual and we have to restrict the heater’s running hours, brr…gh.

Dinner tonight is sautéed chicken with carrots, onions, snow-peas and an artichoke from Richard Collier’s garden, absolute treat, and a green salad.

Photos to come when we have better internet!

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Alaska Day 5 Sointula, Malcolm Island in Johnstone Strait 70 NM total 243NM

Many showers through the night, but it stops raining  at 8:00 am when we pull anchor. The ebb is giving us about  one knot of push.  North of Desolation the tides are reversed and now the ebb goes  North, so the ebb is what we seek. We   go through the Greene Point Rapids and reach 14 knots, that’s over  five knots of currents pushing us. Very thrilling, but safe as the channel is wide and deep   at fifty  meters to over one hundred meters in some parts.

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The temperature is not really cold, but it is damp and the apparent wind created by the motion of the boat makes it a little chilly. Just for reference, I am wearing my thin long- johns and fleece pants and my bib foul weather gear pants. On top I have a rolled neck lycra, a cashmere sweater and a down vest, a kayak life jacket and my foul weather gear parka, in that order. Of course, rubber boots, a toque and lined gloves! With all that layering,  I bless my zip down bottom pants every time I use the head!

We are also eating cookies made by my friend  Linda Saunders as calories keep you warm. I am almost tempted to also start the authentic British fruit cake made by Sharon Hume but will keep this one for a special dire time.

As we reach Johnstone Strait, the rains are diluvian but we raise the main sail as there is a bit of wind .It is very overcast  but the visibility is still good for short distance. All the rain gathers in the main sail and funnels on the topsides. It sounds like there is a huge leak, but all is tight and dry down below. Sailboats are so comfy compared to  the canoeing and camping  we used to do with our children when they were young.

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We are now sailing along the strait at very high speed for a sailboat sometimes above 10 knots without help from the currents in winds gusting past 30 knots and a few standing waves in the tide lines. What a thrill, a five hour long sail without too much effort on our part as the wind  never changes and keeps on our tail. We never saw any whales by Robson Bight, but close to Telegraph Cove a school of Dall porpoises came to play with the boat. The very curious mammals took a good look at us, crisscrossed under the boat and played in the bow, swimming way faster than our 8 knots , and  eyeing me sitting behind the anchor for a good half hour. Then one of the larger animals did a big jump and they all disappeared.

We are now tied up in Sointula on Malcolm Island but far too tired  after this 9 hour day to check the pub a mile away in the pouring rain, so instead we are having steaks, vegetables and salad on board.

We have had a great time covering  243 NM in five days and are ahead of schedule, this is a good feeling as we now can take a foggy day off.

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Alaska Day 4 to East Thurlow Island through Yuculta and Dent Rapids

Surprisingly sunny weather as we leave the shelter of Pender harbour. We are making good mileage up the Coast along the B.C mainland past Powell River, Lund and the Copeland Islands reaching Sarah Point in good time. By then, some wind has come up and we are under sail, mostly wing to wing, all the way through Desolation Sound. Wing to Wing means that we have the main sail and the big genoa set opposite to each other using a light pole to hold the genoa. The two sails act like a giant running spinnaker and keep us going well when the wind is DDW (Dead Down Wind or just from behind us). With a 2 man crew, this is much easier than running a spinnaker.

We were supposed to overnight at Squirrel Cove in Desolation to wait for a slack in the Yuculta Rapids. The next opportunity is not until Monday at Noon, so we decide to put in a long day and go through the Yuculta and Dent Rapids at 6:15 about half an hour before the high slack, so we reach the Dent rapids at slack. This all goes very well, we have good speed through the eddies, but it’s not so fast that we loose control of the boat. We reach Shoal Bay on East Thurlow Island at 8:05 pm. Shoal Bay is a sheltered anchorage at the site of an old mine. Mostly a swamp with some bugs.

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The whole coast is very quiet, very few other boats. Desolation Sound (aptly named by Captain Vancouver)  feels  desolate although we manage to avoid all the big rain clouds.

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Dinner is a pork filet mignon in mustard sauce with potatoes and peas, lunch was a kind of cobb salad with mesclun leaves, tomato, corn, red cabbage, Kalamata olives, pecans and ham.

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Alaska Day 3 Garden Bay Anchorage (and pub) Pender Harbour 33 NM total 96.2 NM

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The new laptop got packed and everything else on the boat tucked away preparing for an arduous crossing from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to the main land. We were expecting lots of rain, strong winds and lumpy seas. It started raining at 7:55 and we left at 8:00 am, testing the new bimini with a strong shower. What pleasure to remain dry in such weather.

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Soon the skies cleared partially and we sailed across in one tack with a huge rainbow above Cape Lazlo, lots of sunny breaks and very dark black clouds far enough that we did not get wet again. The winds were 6 to 18 knots and we sailed all the way under full sail with a South South East Wind backing  to South East and almost neutral currents. Our speed almost reached 9 knots under sail. A great time on the water.

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We passed Lasqueti and Texada Islands in the distance, then the marvelous white sand beach  and cliffs of Thormanby Island entering Pender Harbour greeted by seals taking the sun on the rocks high up to be safe from the transient killer whales that are around this area this time of year.

Thormanby Island

Thormanby Island

Seals in Pender Harbour

Seals in Pender Harbour

We are anchored safely in Garden Bay between the outstations of the Seattle Yacht Club and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Dunnery had a fun paddle through some small rapids that he could not negotiate again against the current so he ended up portaging the red kayak not wanting to wait for a turn of the tide. Now the best of the day, burgers and live music at the Garden Bay pub, always a treat!

Garden Bay, Pender Harbour

Garden Bay, Pender Harbour

No blog for the next few days, no internet in Desolation Sound.

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Alaska Day 2 Nanaimo Yacht Club about 30 nautical miles

We left early to go through Dodd Narrows at slack water and ended up just a bit late so going with a 2 knot current. Nice. In Nanaimo, our friend Joe had already located a new laptop and drove to the store. The yacht Club provided a room to work with wi-fi. So we are all fixed now, the blog is back up! Then Joe and Vali had us for dinner and lots of good stories. A great visit.

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Dodd Narrows

We are getting ready for the long crossing to Pender Harbour tomorrow, will get up early and go. The testing range Whisky Golf should be closed so a beeline across the strait.  WG is an area off the Baleinas Islands where the military test   torpedoes and other explosives and it is closed most week days in the summer. Hopefully, we do not have to sail around it.    

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