The Inside Passage: The Numbers and Final Thoughts
The Numbers: 93 Days: 71% were travel days, 29% were non-travel days, anchored 51% and paid for moorage 48%
2,993 Miles: 44% of the travel days were 50+ mile days, 25% of the travel days were 30 to 49 mile days
Fuel & Engine Performance: Average Speed 7.2 knots, used 1,024 gallons of diesel, 2.92 miles per gallon, used 2.55 gallons per hour
Costs: $102.03 per day; 27% on diesel, 21% on groceries, 19% on moorage, 8% on restaurants, 9% on gifts, 7% on side trips and admissions, and 7% on boat supplies.
Final Thoughts: If this trip were for every boater, every boater would do it. About 200 to 300 recreational boats travel the Inside Passage per year. It is an elite group. If you do it, there is a bond and an appreciation for those who have. In some ways, it is like a club with a set of membership requirements. Doing the Inside Passage is “punching your ticket” as an experienced cruiser and you will have earned the respect of those who have dreamed of doing it.
Why do it? The adventure of being one of the elite, the abundance of wildlife in Alaska of seeing whales every day and bears feeding on salmon, the majesty of the mountains that slide into the water, living the 18 hour-long days, boating in the wilderness and the wild-ness, sampling the small communities and the encountering the residents who call this home, and making new friends in the boaters that are doing this. Leave behind the prior lifestyle and grow into a new one where everything, except the boat, is new and the planning horizon is only a day or two out.
The Inside Passage is long, about 1,400 miles each way. Boating in the wilderness begins about 342 miles and after Port Hardy. Prince Rupert is halfway between Seattle and Glacier Bay National Park. Southeast Alaska is half of the trip.
These are the hurdles: Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound, Dixon Entrance. These are like gates that must be passed through and you will leave boaters who will not or cannot pass through. A suitable weather window is essential for all of these. The ideal weather window is seas 2 feet or less and winds 10 mph or less. Much of Johnstone Strait can be avoided by going north into the islands.
The Inside Passage is for the journeyman boater and not for the beginner or the boater who has a limited span of experience or comfort zone. Pay attention to these factors: wind, current and a short list of destination options. For the cruising couple, both have to be totally committed, have skill sets that compliment each other, and have an effective way of decision-making and problem solving that strengthens the relationship.
There is a myth that the availability of water and fuel is limited. High quality water and fuel is available. Capacity is the issue for the smallest boats but those can be worked around.
North of Nanaimo, shallow depth is rarely an issue. North of Vancouver Island, all communication technology is a gift and not an expectation. The wilderness really begins after leaving Port McNeil or Port Hardy. Anchoring is mandatory so be prepared to anchor in up to 80 feet and be good at it and have ground tackle that has earned your trust.
Unless travel is done in a group, there are very few other boaters north of Port McNeil. Powerboats dominate the Inside Passage north of Campbell River. An attitude of preparedness and being self-reliant is essential.
A sampling of the questions that we get asked: Would we do it again? Absolutely!! What did you take that was not used? Kayaks. What was the highlight? The eye-popping wildlife and amazing scenery.