BC & SE ALASKA - 8: WRANGELL TO PRINCE RUPERT (Final Version)
Friday, July 22 - Anan Bear Preserve near Wrangell
A weather front was slowly moving through the panhandle bringing low clouds, cooler weather and periods of rain.
There are five tour outfits in Wrangell that go to the Anan (pronounced Ann-Ann) Bear Preserve. Laurie had chosen Alaska Vista tours based on the recommendation of the city staff person in the harbor office and the glowing recommendations on Trip Advisor. Their jet-boat picked us up at the marina and we quickly got a flavor of the speed of the day by zipping to their dock at 40 miles per hour where the other co-owner of the company, Silvia, would drive the boat and be the tour guide along the route. Also joining the boat was Robert who would be our guide for the bear preserve. Part of the experience was the travel by jet boat, a 22 foot welded aluminum hull with enclosed cabin, that was powered by two V-6 engines that could make the 40 mile trip in 45 minutes if needed. Silvia sat on a spring-loaded seat on the boat’s centerline and rather than a steering wheel, she used a long lever to control the boat’s direction. She really liked to drive and she was a very good presenter, making half-dozen stops to show examples of human history, geography, cultural history and natural history. The ride was generally mirror smooth and the jet-skimmed along with a draft of only 6 inches. She went right along the shoreline, often less than 30 yards from the trees and sheer rock face of the mountainside.
At Anan, the first stop was a forest service cabin to drop off a family from Holland who were going to spend 5 days in the cabin and they unloaded all the supplies and gear on the beach after Silvia put the bow on the sand. Then, we went through the anchorage that had one trawler swinging on a hook. The tide was very low revealing the narrow river channel. The boat was beached again and we walked off the short ladder that is hinged to the bow and preceded up the beach to the introduction station that is staffed by a Forest Service employee.
A floatplane from Ketchikan landed and off-loaded four passengers. The dingy from the trawler came ashore bringing three people. The Forest Service allows only 60 people per day, through a permit system, into the preserve during the peak season of July 1 to August 25. This is the time when the salmon are running up Anan Creek and for hundreds of years, if not more, bears and humans have come to harvest them. Though there are countless rivers and creeks in the area, Anan is unique because it has a huge lagoon where the salmon can transition from salt water to fresh water and there is a steep and narrow gorge that has many boulders, both for the fish to rest behind and the bears to stand on to feed.
The bear preserve was created in the late 1970’s and the Forest Service built a three-quarter of a mile long trail along the edge of the lagoon and an observation deck with a photo blind underneath that puts the observers at eye level with the bears. The observation deck is partially covered to provide shelter against the rain and there is a railing to keep the visitors contained and to guide the bears.
Visitors have to be escorted from the beach to the observation deck by trained and armed guides because the bears are everywhere. Robert is a retired biologist and managed a bear population in a region in Alaska before retiring. He is one of two guides that are highly respected by the Forest Service staff and he provided an interesting narrative about the bears and the forest during the walk. He carried a lever action rifle; nearly a 50 caliber with very long shells that contained a lot of gunpowder and said the rifle was first designed to bring down buffalo. He had never had to shoot a bear in self-defense. He also carried a large can of pepper spray that he explained was very effective against a bear.
All along the trail, we were on full alert for bears. Robert pointed out the trails they make, the beds they lie down and the scat they leave behind. But, no bears were seen. Reaching the clearing of the observation deck, Robert stopped the group so the Forest Service Interpreter could check the edges of the forest for any bears and then gave the go-ahead signal to cross the clearing. The observation deck is about 40 feet above the creek, provides a commanding view both up and down river and is in front of a long, steep slope that is heavily wooded. On deck about three feet from the railing is green line. When bears are approaching the deck, visitors are to stand behind the green line. At first look there were no bears, which continued the on-going joke that there are no bears in Alaska or British Columbia because in 7 weeks and 1,900 miles, not one had been seen. But all of that would change.
In the course of the following three hours about a dozen bears would just appear out of the woods, without noise or warning, and from different directions to go to different places on the river to catch salmon. Many were black bears but there were a few mottled brown ones that have the same genetic make-up as grizzlies. The bears had a range of skill levels in getting salmon. The younger ones would lose their footing on the boulders or took multiple tries to grab a salmon with their teeth. An older bear that was slow to move and apparently had poorer vision just stared at the water for a long time before giving up and moving along. Then there were the master hunters who just appeared out of the woods, went straight for the water and without a pause, an introduction or foreplay, just grabbed a fish with one bite and carried the flapping salmon into the forest.
There were lulls with no bear activity but we were captivated by the eagles that waited in the trees for the leftovers, the thousands of fish that choked the small pools, and the beauty of this small gorge and the river itself. Then, suddenly and quietly, a bear comes into the clearing next to the observation deck and walks right next to the railing on its way to the river. This scenario would repeat itself several times. The photo at the top of this section is a bear that walked right up to the observation deck and has not been cropped or enhanced.
We could stay as long as we wanted but hunger and fatigue set in after three hours. Food is not allowed in the preserve as a safety precaution. Robert radioed Silvia to bring the boat and we walked back to the beach and found the tide had risen by 10 feet and filling the lagoon. On the way back to Wrangell, Silvia took us to waterfalls, a petroglyph, and we followed an orca whale for 20 minutes. The day was closed with dock-tails, a light dinner and a movie to settle all of the day’s excitement.
Saturday-Sunday, July 23-24 - Wrangell and waiting for a weather window
The heavy rain woke us up in the early morning and this would last all day with only a few breaks. The winds were strong on the straits causing small craft warnings with high waves and gale wind warnings. It was day to hunker down and stay put. Many fishing boats were leaving to be at their destination for the opening of a fishery. More pleasure boats arrived to find shelter out of the weather.
Laurie, Ken and Pauline took a cab into town to run errands and shopping. The morning was spent culling through nearly 250 photos taken yesterday that resulted in keeping about 70 of them. The afternoon was cleaning and reading.
A Kadey Krogen Whaleback trawler docked and we toured each other’s boats. After dock-tails, dinner was a Cornish game hen and the evening was closed a movie.
The next day, the winds were calm and the rain was light to moderate all morning with very low clouds and the temperature was 58 degrees. The morning was baking, writing, and catching up on communicating. The current going south on along Wrangell Island in Zimovia Strait dictated the departure time of 2:30 PM. The notion was to do a two-day trip to Ketchikan, with a shorter day today and the longer day tomorrow.
After leaving Wrangell, about 25 commercial fishing boats had strung their nets across the strait at Nemo Point. Shipperly was leading and Ken and Pauline did a fine job dodging the nets and snaking through the floats. After Nemo Point, the boat traffic was light and the water remained calm with the winds light. Laurie had found three possible anchorages with two of them behind Deer Island in Ernest Sound. AIS identified a boat in Santa Anna Inlet and they answered a call on the VHF radio. They recommended the anchorage and there was plenty of room. At 7PM, the anchor was dropped in 65 feet in a beautiful bay that was protected and quiet. Tribute had travelled 35 miles.
Monday-Tuesday, July 25-26 – Ketchikan, AK and Foggy Bay, the last stop in Alaska
The long Alaskan summer days with sunrise at 0415 hours has allowed for very early departures. Normally, we would not depart before 0900 hours but on this trip, it has not been unusually to leave at 0700 hours and earlier. This would be one of those early days to take advantage of the currents because not paying attention to them can change the speed by 2 knots or 25% of the possible speed.
The notion was to catch the ebb current or as the tide is going out for both Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait. We were up at 0430 hours to feed Millie, make coffee and do the prep work so the anchor can be raised at 0500 hours. The morning was calm and the water was mirror flat with the sky having patchy fog and the air temperature was 60 degrees.
Leaving Santa Anna Inlet and entering Ernest Sound, Tribute carried us at 8.5 knots. Two hours later, we turned to port and traveled the eastern shore of Clarence Strait that was calm and flat with a slight 5-knot breeze on the bow. For the next three hours, the trawler sedately travelled at 6.8 to 7.4 knots as we were not enjoying the predicted current. Perhaps the mild current was on the outside curve of the strait. Then, after crossing Behm Canal was the entry to the Tongass Narrows that goes to Ketchikan. The amount of vessel traffic was 10 fold with tankers, commercial fishing boats, state ferries, and sport fishing boats.
Tribute arrived in Ketchikan at noon, passing the airport, the huge dry-docks where two ferries were being repaired and three cruise ships were in port. The first destination was the fuel dock to load just over 300 gallons that should be enough to take us all the way Tribute’s homeport of Everett, with extensive side trips and still not be in the 25% reserve level.
The fuel dock was busy and space was limited because a huge fuel barge was preparing to leave and needed dock space for the maneuver. Everyday, a huge fuel barge leaves to supply the other fuelling operations in this part of Alaska. Shipperly was able to fit on the end of the fuel dock. Tribute idle around doing a large circle for about 45 minutes until space was available. Since Juneau, Tribute used 319 gallons or 2.5 gallons per hour and earned 2.75 miles per gallon. At about 1:30 PM Tribute was docked at the Bar Harbor Marina after travelling 67 miles. The afternoon was spent planning for the food provisioning trip to the local Safeway Store and doing the preliminary research to cross the Dixon Entrance, one of three large bodies of water that can be trouble. Also, a nap was in order for the crew. After dock-tails on Shipperly, we walked to a restaurant for a splendid dinner and afterwards, we did part of the shopping on the way back.
The next day started at a more normal time of 0700 hours. The sky was cloud-filled, an occasional light drizzle and the temperature was in the low 60’s. The folding cart and plastic box was taken to the store to fill with beer and wine and a backpack was filled with food to finish the provisioning. The quality of the Internet connection was taken advantage of as Verizon provides 4G LTE that is the fastest speed in SE Alaska because every other community had the slower 3G. Researching the crossing of the Dixon Entrance required a review of the information in the guidebooks, what the predicted current would be, what the wave heights were forecasted, and what the wind forecasts are. Several days were analyzed. What was the best day? Northbound, we did the 84-mile trip from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan in one day. This time, it was better to do it in two days that started with a 37-mile trip to Foggy Bay. What was the best departure time to Foggy Bay and what was the departure time from Foggy Bay to Prince Rupert? Those questions filled the remaining of the morning. The decision was made to leave for Foggy Bay today and cross Dixon Entrance on Wednesday.
Tribute left the Bar Marina at 1230 PM and coincidently, Shipperly left at the same time. The water was flat and calm and the mild wind was from the south. However, the current was opposing the boats for the entire trip that resulted in a 4-hour trip taking 5 hours. The boat traffic 5 miles away from Ketchikan was minimal.
Foggy Bay is a wide-open bay that is often used by commercial fishing boats and their accompanying tenders that take their fish. However, the inner Foggy Bay is reached by a narrow and shallow channel and is used by pleasure craft. The rocks and the shoals were missed and the depths on the chart were just wrong, rather than being deep, it was under 60 feet, making the anchorage very nice. At 5:45 PM, the anchor was dropped in 40 feet after Tribute had travelled 37 miles. Shipperly rafted onto Tribute and Pauline hosted a great dinner.
Wednesday-Thursday, July 27-28 – Prince Rupert
Environment Canada’s weather forecast and sea conditions at 0530 hours confirmed that the crossing conditions were really good with calm winds, combined swell and wave high height of about 2 feet, and the air temperature was 65 degrees. The current would not work for Tribute for the first half of the trip but the opposing forces would be acceptable. Shipperly was released from Tribute’s portside at 0630 hours and they would lead the way out of Foggy Bay, skirt the rocks and shoals and head for Prince Rupert.
Past Foggy Point, the number of commercial fishing boats with gill nets deployed was significant. The Gene S, a large tender that took the catch from the boats was following Tribute and would our companion for the first two hours as the fishing boats were past and their nets avoided. The water to the south and the west was huge, silvery flat with rhythmic swells that gently raised and lowered the trawler. Sometimes we wondered if the boat was really making forward progress but the speed over ground display 7.5 knots.
At the international border, Verizon Wireless was the first to make the notification with a notice that their services would be more expensive. Then Pauline called on the VHF welcoming us to Canada. The opposing ebb current slowed the speed to 6.5 knots and the two to three foot swells remained easy and gentle on Tribute’s stern corner.
Just north of Dundas Island, a young humpback whale was seen working the shelf for food. Past Grey and Green Islands, the water remained flat and calm the crossing of Chatham Sound was smooth at 8.5 knots as the tide started to rise. Venn Passage took us around Digby Island and we came into Prince Rupert through the back door and a route that the fishing boats take.
The initial news about staying at a marina was bad as Cowbay Marina and the Prince Rupert Yacht Club were both full. As we planned to clear customs at their dock and then find anchorage, we learned that Rob and Sally of Riot were at the Cowbay Marina and persuaded the harbormaster to make room for us. Customs was cleared via a phone call from their dock and Tribute docked at 2:30 PM after a tricky situation with wind, current and docking in an inside slip with a very narrow fairway. But it was successful, which is defined as no yelling, no hurt feelings and no damage.
Cowbay Marina has the best Wi-Fi encountered on this trip and we took full advantage of it for the afternoon. Laurie and Pauline walked to the Safeway store to provision on fresh produce. A long docktails with Ken and Pauline and Rob and Sally on Tribute was the precursor to going out to dinner at the nearby pub where the story telling continued.
The next day, Tribute needed to leave as the boat that belonged in the slip would be back about noon. Shipperly also did not need to stay in Prince Rupert. The destination was one of the anchorages on the Grenville Channel. The weather forecast for the open water of nearby Hecate Strait was northwest winds 15 to 25 beginning in the evening and lasting through Sunday. The winds on the inland waters could be the same or not.
Both boats left at 0800 hours with a mild southerly wind and the temperature 62 degrees, cloudy skies with high humidity. An hour into the trip and the low clouds were on the water bringing down the visibility to about two miles. The radar, chartplotter and following a large trawler made the path between the buoys and skirting the small islands very easy. The clouds lifted 40 minutes later but the tops of the mountains would remain shrouded for most of the day.
At noon, Tribute entered the Grenville Channel and as planned the ebbing current had diminished and soon we were riding the current change southward. Grenville Channel is nearly straight, wide and the cruising was easy. A harbor seal swimming on its side with a fin out of the water caught our attention. The Canadian Coast Guard was doing a training exercise in the area and we watch them work.
At 2:30 PM, we opted to get off the channel and went into Klewnuggit Inlet to anchor in the eastern arm that had received good reviews. At 3:15 PM, the anchor was dropped at near the head of the bay that provided good protection from the northwest winds and in 60 feet of water. There were millions of jellyfish in the water and they use quiet coves to spawn.
The afternoon was simply relaxing in the warmth, under partly cloudy skies with the satellite radio playing. The setting was idyllic and wonderful and Tribute stayed calm and quiet the whole night.
Friday, July 29 – Bishop Bay Hot Springs
The blessing of great weather continues with a morning that this calm and still in the anchorage with no indication that the wind on Grenville Channel, on the other side of the mountains is 15 to 25 knots. The first clue of higher winds came when the boat that was in the anchorage before us, left and we followed them on AIS as they went out into Grenville Channel to go to Prince Rupert and turned around and came back. They called us on the VHF radio and said the winds were nearly 30 knots on their bow with 2 to 3 foot waves.
Tribute and Shipperly were going in the opposite direction, with the wind and waves and we decided to check out the conditions. Klemnuggitt Inlet parallels the Grenville Channel for the about a mile just before the two meet and we got a clear taste of lumpy water, white caps, and a consistent 2 to 3 foot wind chop. Once Morning Point was cleared, and the U-turn was made and Tribute was heading southeast, the ride was very comfortable. The 0900 hours departure time was timed to meet the predicted slack current at Evening Point and then the current would carry us toward Hartley Bay.
The more southward we go, the more boats are seen. Today, there are three cruising boats ahead and two fishing boats behind. At Lowe’s Inlet, a minke whale is seen and a humpback whale is spotted near Hartley Bay. We considered following two pleasure crafts into Hartley Bay but Shipperly had learned that their fuel dock was closed for this holiday weekend. They had slowed down for nearly all of the Grenville Channel passage and conserved enough fuel to safely make it to Klemtu.
Today’s destination is Bishop Bay Hot Springs that had good reviews in the guide books and was recommended. There is almost no good anchorage because the inlet is deep but BC Parks installed three mooring buoys and there is a small float for boats less than 30 feet. The backup plan included time to anchor at a small cove about 6 miles away. However, when the last point was rounded, two mooring buoys were available, one on each side of a 47-foot yacht. At 2:30 PM, Tribute took one and Shipperly took the other after traveling 56 miles.
The dinghy was lifted off the cabin roof with the crane and after dock-tails at Shipperly; it took all of us to shore. The park is in disrepair and one issue is the ramp to the float is gone. The dinghy is beached on the rocky shore and the 60-foot line is needed to tie it to a tree during the rising tide. Parts of the boardwalk are damaged and the hot springs bath is a concrete pool covered with a timber structured that is etched with names and initials. It is quaint and interesting but also disappointing.
We walked along the boardwalk to the campground and found the BC Parks sign about the price of the mooring buoys, float and campground – all facing inland. The amount of fees collected is probably quite low.
An hour before sunset, the dinghy took everyone to their boats, the dinghy was put back in its place and the evening was closed.
Saturday-Sunday, July 30-31 – Klemtu, Rescue Bay and heading to Ocean Falls
A panorama of Rescue Bay at sunrise.
With a potentially long travel day ahead, the mooring buoy was released at 0700 hours. Environment Canada had forecasted the winds to be 15 to 25 knots on the coast. But the inside passage waters are well protected and because they are rarely straight for more than a few miles, the waves do not build. Tribute traveled down Ursula Channel and Fraser Reach with a 7-knot head wind and a changing current and kept up the normal cruising speed of 7.5 to 8 knots.
This would be day of whales with a total of 9 whales seen, 5 humpbacks and 4 minkes. This is different from 7 weeks ago when none were seen. The other change is the amount of fish jumping out of the water as the salmon runs are in full swing. At Butedale, an abandoned cannery that has docks for boaters, an ocean going tugboat is pulling a massive barge northbound that is bound for Alaska. The barge has containers piled five high, steel trusses, construction materials and finally, at least a dozen vehicles are on top. Shipping by barge from Seattle is one of the main ways to get bulk items into Southeast Alaska. A barge leaves Seattle every Wednesday and Friday.
Tolmie Channel provides the most direct route to Klemtu and Shipperly continues on to get fuel. Tribute took a turn to the east to take new route through the Hiekish Narrows and Finlayson Channel where we look over Bottleneck Cove. At Jane Island, we turn toward Klemtu and catch up to Shipperly at the fuel dock.. We opt to not stop at Klemtu but Laurie uses the great cell coverage to call her mother.
We continue to try to travel on different routes and stay at new places while going southward. The destination is Rescue Bay that is on the east end of Jackson Passage. The passage is very narrow and includes a blind curve that is just before the bay but is actually easy to navigate and is safe. Rescue Bay is a large anchorage that is well protected and has 10 other boats at anchor and is the most the boats we have anchored with.
The anchor is dropped in 40 feet of water at 4:30PM and Tribute travelled 72 miles. Shipperly rafted onto the port side and we enjoyed the quiet evening.
The next day the weather forecast for Queen Charlotte Sound for the next 4 days is being closely watched. This is the second big water that must be navigated and can be troublesome. The immediate forecast is problematic with a high pressure system bring steady 15 to 25 knot winds from the northwest and this creates combined waves from 3 to 6 feet. Tribute is looking for 2-foot seas or less and winds that are less than 15 knots. There is a crossing window tomorrow, but we are two days away from being in position to cross. Somewhere, we need to hole up, stay off the coast and yet still be in the position to take advantage of the weather window to cross this 40-mile wide sound.
Today’s destination is Ocean Falls. For most of the day, Tribute would retrace its steps but the weather would be different and the traveling view is looking south and east rather than north and west. The anchor is up at 0830 hours and we head southbound in Matheson Channel. Two minke whales are seen, probably a mother and its calf. At the end of Matheson Channel, Lizzie Rocks have to be navigated and the 2-knot opposing current slowed Tribute.
Then Reid Channel is the bypass to stay out of the ocean and stay within protected waters. This channel ends at Seaforth Channel where the three-foot swells from the ocean drove Tribute eastward. At the end of Seaforth Channel, most boats turn to Shearwater and Bella Bella. Tribute continued eastward into Gunboat Pass that is narrow, shallow but scenic and easy to transit. Near the end, a Coast Guard boat is heading westbound and turns on its AIS signal just before we see it around a bend.
Gunboat Passsage between Shearwater and Ocean Falls.
Monday-Tuesday, August 1-2 - Ocean Falls, BC
For the next two days, Tribute stayed at Ocean Falls, which is at the end of Cousins Inlet that branches off from Fisher Channel. At the junction of Gunboat Pass and Fisher Channel, the 15-knot wind created a two-foot chop that was rode all the way to Ocean Falls. The public dock is large and can handle over a dozen boats. There is water and Wi-Fi but no cell service, or commercial services. The dockage is only 50 cents a foot. The scenery is spectacular and the fishing is crabbing is suppose to be excellent.
However, the topography funnels rain here. They call themselves the rain people because it receives 170 inches a rain a year. Ocean Falls is described as a modern day ghost town. Founded over 100 years ago, electricity is produced from a 70-foot high dam, and once had a population of 10,000 that supported a huge pulp mill. When the mill closed in the 1970’s, nearly everyone left, leaving the offices, mill, and residences behind. We walked and biked around the deteriorating paved streets, past the houses that were semi-demolished, and the vacant 1960’s era commercial buildings.
It was sad to see on one hand, an illustration of what can happen when the roots of a community are destroyed and there is no sustaining momentum to keep it going. Where other communities adapted and survived, this one was abandoned and now is a place waiting for its destiny. It is stuck in the past, with no present and waiting for the future. With ample electricity and water, roads and very cheap land, and served by a ferry nearly every day in the summer; on paper, there should be a bright future. Instead, it languishes. A walk and the folding bikes showed us the town. The BC Ferry came and dropped off visitors, we heard from Pauline and Ken about the museum that “Nearly Normal Norman” runs, and we met nice people including Shannon and Tom who came on their 20-foot fishing boat, Kathy and Jim who had a Bayliner 32-foot motor yacht, and Steve and Elsie who have a sailboat.
Tuesday-Wednesday, August 2-3, 2016 – staging for crossing Queen Charlotte Sound
Shipperly stayed in Ocean Falls so Pauline could use the Wi-Fi for work. The early morning was calm and still and the inland water forecast on the app PredictWind showed the calm conditions would last much of the day. However the subsequent days are predicted to be windy. We opted to take advantage of the travel window and to get closer to a jumping off point for crossing the Queen Charlotte Sound. We agreed to meet Ken and Pauline tomorrow or the next day at Fry Pan anchorage.
All the weather forecasts showed substantial and unsafe winds for Queen Charlotte Sound beginning today and would last for several days. We needed to be in protected place and be ready to take advantage of a travel window.
At 0745 hours, Tribute left Ocean Falls and headed westbound. The water was smooth and calm for the first 4-1/2 hours and Tribute provided a great ride at 8.5 knots. The fishery at Fitzhugh Sound was open and at least 20 gillnetting fishing boats had strung out their 300-yard long nets. Must of them were towards the shore leaving the center of the sound open. But occasionally, we had to evade the distinctive large orange floats that marked the end of a floating net.
More gillnetters were working Fitzhugh Sound and clearing them was easy. The water changed dramatically near the entrance to Hakai Passage that opens to the sea and where the low hills do not block the 25-knot westerly wind that was coming off of Queen Charlotte Sound. For the next hour, Tribute handled a 2 to 3 foot wind chop and white caps. Then, the mountains on Hecate Island blocked the wind and water was flat. The chop came back when the wind could whistle through the gap between Hecate and Calvert Islands.
Only this time, Tribute rode the chop eastward to the destination of Green Island. Rounding a small island, the water became flat and the wind dropped to about 5 knots. The anchorage behind Green Island is shaped like a club in a deck of cards. A large sailboat from Victoria was in one lobe of the club and Tribute took the other. At 2PM, the anchor was dropped in 33 feet at high tide after traveling 48 miles. We watched the crew from the sailboat spend three hours on shore picking berries. Laurie took a nap and the afternoon was quiet and laid back. Steaks were grilled on the BBQ after drinks in the cockpit and the evening was closed with a movie.
A panoramic shot of Green Island Bay.
The next day, the morning was calm and still in the anchorage and Fitzhugh Sound was calm because a ridge of high pressure was slowing sliding over us. Higher winds will follow behind the ridge. The tide was at its lowest point before breakfast and we elected to wait for the rising water because of the amount of rocks around Tribute. These are rocky islands and the change in the depths happens quickly, often from single to triple digits in just a 100 feet.
The weather forecast for Queen Charlotte Sound continues to be a challenge with a minimum of 25-knot winds for the next three days. The anchor was pulled at 0915 hours and Tribute took us the15 miles to Frypan Bay and to wait for Shipperly. At the narrowest point between two islands, with a width of about 70 feet, a 15-foot long boat came at Tribute at full speed. They zipped by us with a few feet of clearance and waving at us the whole time. We were livid at the stupidity of their actions as they had several hundred yards to slow down or change direction. At the anchorage, that skiff belonged to 65-foot yacht. There is a relationship between the bigger the yacht and thus the bigger bank account and the complete absence of common sense. They are so self-involved that perhaps they truly believe that there really is no one else in the universe and thus no need for consideration, courtesy or the thought of consequences.
The anchor was dropped in 50 feet at mid-tide. Laurie did a frenzy of cooking and then the deck bow and side decks and the swim step were thoroughly cleaned and stains removed. Shipperly arrived at about 2:30PM and dock-tails were held on their boat at 4 PM.
Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait. The marker is Cape Caution:
Much research and consideration is going into this crossing and navigating the next body of water. There are two bodies of water that are back-to-back, Queen Charlotte Sound is a huge body of water that extends south to Cape Caution and is a 30-mile trip. The desired sea characteristics are combined wave heights of 2 feet as reported by the West Sea Otter buoy that is off the southern point of Calvert Island and what the Egg Island Light reports. The westerly swells will be on Tribute’s beam, making for an uncomfortable ride because we are going south.
Queen Charlotte Strait is between the north end Vancouver Island and the mainland and extends southeast from Cape Caution and is about a 30-mile trip. From the north and after passing Cape Caution, Tribute travels in a southeast direction. The evening wind forecast for the strait is from the northwest, which is good. However, the wind speed is too high, 20 to 30 knots and 25 to 35 knots for the next four days. There are two plans. Plan A is to travel at sunrise when the wind speeds are at their lowest and move from one protected anchorage to another. Plan B is to wait for a travel day and do the whole trip in one day. We decided to go with Plan A and every morning and afternoon the buoys will be checked for the right conditions for safe travel. After a dinner of homemade chicken enchiladas, the evening was closed with a movie.
Thursday-Friday, August 4-5 - Transiting Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait to Sullivan Bay, BC
When the alarm went off at 0515 hours and it was still dark, the realization came that we are not in Alaska anymore. The wave height in Queen Charlotte Sound was 1 meter and the wind was from the west at 10 knots. Ken was consulted by radio and all agreed that the conditions were not perfect but were do-able. However, the darkness and fog delayed the start by 30 minutes.
Tribute’s anchor was raised at 0630 hours. The tight cluster of small islands that provided protection from the wind and swells were cleared and quickly Tribute was heading southwest, out of the protective cover of Cape Calvert and into gentle rolling swells from the Pacific. The two to three foot swells and the gentle 10-knot wind was from the west. Tribute quartered the swells on the bow and at Paddle Rocks, made a turn toward the south.
Sally and Rob on Riot called us on the VHF radio. They were ahead of us and heading toward Sullivan Bay in the Broughtons and they told us about Shelter Bay on the north side of Queen Charlotte Strait. They were sailing with only a foresail and Tribute passed them about an hour later. At Table Island, the swells had more sets of 4 footers. The sea conditions were too demanding for the autopilot to keep up with. Standing was becoming tiresome so the tall director chair that is used when the pilothouse is an office made for a suitable fix. The first anchorage opportunity at Millbrook Cove was immediately disregarded because the sea conditions were acceptable and we were traveling at over 8 knots.
Tribute was quartering the swells on the bow. 80% of the time the swells came from the same direction and the roll and pitch was minimal and predictable. 20% of the time, the swells were larger and came into the beam and when the rogue set of swells was not seen, the roll was higher and sudden. However, experience had taught us that it was not unsafe or cause to be afraid, just stay on full alert.
After Egg Island, Tribute was turned to the southeast and headed for Cape Caution. A large shoal extends from the cape and continues along the northern shore. Tribute turned again to the south to clear the shoal and turned again to the southeast. Shipperly was following along the whole time. Tribute had crossed Queen Charlotte Sound and was now in Queen Charlotte Strait.
The swells were now behind us and the wind remained light to only 10 knots. However, the swells grew to consistent 4 footers with some 6 footers and they would glide underneath the trawler and lift it as the swell passed on ahead, going faster than our 7.5 knots. The autopilot did the steering for this part. The second anchorage option at Miles Inlet was briefly considered but we were too far to the south to get there in these high swells.
The destination was Shelter Bay because fatigue was setting in. Riding the swells into the bay and past the aqua-farming operation, Tribute went between two islands to enter the northern arm of the bay. Near the head of the bay, the water was smooth. At noon the anchor was dropped in 30 feet of water at a lower tide. Tribute had traveled 44 miles.
Shipperly rafted onto the portside and we had a celebratory moment. After lunch, the wind increased to a steady 18 knots and the narrow cove was filled with white caps but there were no swells. Ken and Pauline discussed ending their trip after Sullivan Bay by going to Port McNeil and putting Shipperly on its trailer and heading home to Alberta.
Laundry was done, Laurie baked a rhubarb and blueberry crisp as an early birthday present for Ken. Dock-tails were served at 4PM in Tribute’s cockpit and the enclosure kept the wind out. After dinner, Laurie served the crisp and all agreed to proceed on to Sullivan Bay. The forecast for tomorrow is 5 to 15 knots. By 9PM the wind had abated to 8 knots.
The next day, the morning was partly cloudy, the wind was 7 knots and the report from the buoys was acceptable. Shipperly was released at 0800 hours. The anchor did not come up easily because an old crab trap line was snagged on it. The long boat hook was able to reach it and lift the line off the partially raised anchor. Shelter Bay had only gentle swells coming down its length and this did not prepare us for what Queen Charlotte Strait was going to give Tribute and Shipperly: another taste of its power.
At the entrance to Queen Charlotte Strait, 4 to 6 foot swells were rolling down the length of the Strait from west. The water was confused and rippled, a sure sign of a strong opposing current. Shipperly immediately turned and hugged the shoreline, thought about jumping off the strait in 12 miles to another anchorage, and powered up to 9 knots. Tribute went further into the channel anticipating the need for more distance to clear the Jeanette Islands. As it would turn out, Shipperly made the better decision because the strong ebbing current would slow Tribute’s speed to 5.8 knots.
For nearly an hour, the building swells would raise Tribute and push on its stern. Sally and Rob on Riot were ahead, having spent the night closer to Cape Caution in Alison Harbor and left at 0600 hours. They reported that the water was nearly calm east of the Jeanette Island and it was true. Tribute continued eastward, getting cellular service from Port McNeil to download email and Laurie made several phone calls.
Tribute left Queen Charlotte Strait at Wells Passage; entered the Broughton group of islands and immediately the boat and radio traffic magnified and it felt like boating in an urban area. The marina and floating village of Sullivan Bay came into view at 12:30 PM. Shipperly had arrived an hour before.