2005 Jun 8: Spicer Islands to Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau

On June 8 we traveled between Porcher and Kennedy Islands, and into Chatham Sound, passing the entrance to Prince Rupert to starboard. Entering Dixon Entrance, the wind was on the nose, at 8 to 9 knots. The seas were choppy but there was no ocean swell until later. We could see the Queen Charlotte Islands off our port quarter.

At about 6 PM on June 8, our starboard engine revolutions kept falling. Steve diagnosed the problem as probably a dirty fuel filter at the day tank. We headed offshore so we could shutdown the engines and drift while Steve replaced the filter. That did not fix the problem, so we looked at descriptions of all the nearby anchorages in our guides, and motored over to Crab Bay on the eastern side of Annette Island, to anchor for the night. There was no fuel getting to the starboard engine.

We carefully set our anchor inside the rocky reef which protects the anchorage from the ocean swell. A large rock on the reef was painted green with a red smile to look like a frog. Mt Tamgas, 3,610 feet high, rose snow-clad above the shoreline trees ahead. The sky was becoming more and more covered with cirrus clouds, and the barometer was falling. There was still light in the sky at at 11:30 PM, when we let out more chain and nylon rode. The bridle was connected with an icycle hitch to the 61m of chain anchor rode. We had decided to increase the scope before the wind increased, as with only one engine we would be unable to move the boat forward against a wind to take the bridle off and on again to let out more rode.

At 4:30 the next morning it was high tide in the anchorage, and most of the reefs that we had seen when we entered Crab Bay were under water. The tide had risen three meters from from last night when we set the anchor. It had been a quiet night. The forecast gale force winds had not yet arrived. At low tide, we were better protected by the reef to windward.

By 8:30 AM, the tide had fallen four meters and the reefs at the entrance to the bay were high and dry, giving us good protection from the rough seas out in the channel. There was a lot more wind out there, too. Eagles were calling this morning, and we spotted an eagle’s nest in the clump of trees on the island near the green frog rock. We were surrounded by a circle of alternating rocky shore and broad sandy beaches, anchored in a bay about 1/4 nautical mile in diameter. A small cabin cruiser had come in and anchored the previous evening. Steve fixed the problem with the starboard engine before dinner, and the weather looked promising for a passage to Ketchikan the next day.

On June 11, we followed the Revilligedo Channel, into Ketchikan and berthed at Bar Harbor Marina North, at the end tie on float 10. The marina was quite full. Float planes were taking off and landing frequently, seeming to dodge our mast. Three cruise ships were at the dock and a fourth one was arriving.

Light rain fell overnight. We took the 30 minute walk into town and visited the galleries of Norman Jackson and Marvin Oliver. Marvin has a second gallery in town and is doing beautiful, large glass sculptures as well as silk screen prints with embossing, and silver jewelery. Marvin has taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for 30 years . His wife is from Ketchikan. After dinner at Annabelle’s in the old hotel on the waterfront, we walked back to the marina taking the “high road”, Water Street, which runs between houses perched on the steep slope of the edge of the mountain behind the town. Ten bald eagles were soaring above or loafing in trees above the cottages.

The next day we visited Totem Bight State Park, and walked through groves of hemlock and spruce, to the waterfront where a First Nations long house and totem poles are displayed along pathways.

On the morning of June 15 we were ready to fuel up and depart, but the weather forecasters were calling for 20+ knots of northerly winds through Friday. I telephoned Wrangell and Petersburg harbors, and they could not guarantee us a safe berth with protection from the northwesterlies. Petersburg suggested putting us out on the “summer floats”. We spoke to the Ketchikan harbormaster who found us a berth closer to shore, out of the wind and the swells from passing boats.

June 17 was a clear, dry, breezy morning. The forecast showed that if we departed Saturday, we would travel north against 15 kt winds and 3 ft seas on Saturday to Wrangell, then on Sunday pick up southwesterlies of 20 knots and seas 4 feet in Sumner Strait to Petersburg. But after that, on Monday and Tuesday, there would be 20 knot westerlies with seas 4 ft in Frederick Sound on the nose. But Stephens Passage north of Petersburg would have on Monday 20 knot southwesterlies and seas 4 ft, then Tuesday would bring 15 knot westerlies and seas 3 ft. on the way to Tracy Arm Fjord. It was a mixed bag.

On June 18 we took on 176 gallons of diesel at the fuel dock north of town, and exited Tongass Narrows out into choppy seas as we crossed the mouth of Behm Canal. Headwinds were as forecast, but not rough. By 3 PM the wind was from astern, and the seas were flat. We sighted a humpback whale at noon. We chose Thoms Place at the south end of Zimovia Strait for the night’s anchorage.

The next day we transited Wrangell Narrows in the rain. Small houses were scattered along the shore. Signs of logging were here and there. At North Flat there were hundreds of floats marking crab pots out in the main channel between the navigation marks. We had to wind our way through them. This made us wonder about fisheries management enforcement. We had to move out of the channel to allow an Alaska State Ferry to pass, as we approached Petersburg. Place names here are mostly Russian: Woronkofski Island, Chichagof Peak and Pass, Zimovia Strait, Zarembo Island, Mitkof Island, Woewodski Island, Kupreanof Island, Sokolof I. But the Brits named a few: King George Bay and Sunset Peak.

We arrived in Petersburg on June 19 and berthed in North Harbor. The Harbormaster Jim Strumdol made us feel very welcome and found us a good spot at the dock. There was electricity at the dock but no water. A dozen eagles perched in the rigging of the fishing boats.

On June 20 we departed Petersburg at 1 PM in flat calm seas, with occasional drizzle. It was very beautiful all around. Our destination was Ruth Island anchorage in Thomas Bay on the mainland. We had 9 knots of following breeze and 1 knot of favorable current. We were not sure what the conditions would be when we rounded Cape Strait at the top of Lindenberg Peninsula. We changed our destination to Cannery Cove in Pybus Bay on the southeast corner of Admiralty Island. We expected to arrive at 7 PM. We might see bears there. This would get us across Frederick Sound and out of the forecast westerlies.

We watched humpback whales, loping along, surfacing and spouting, and then the raised tail flukes. Out in Frederick Sound the seas were only rippled, and the breeze is was 9 kts. These were perfect conditions for whale watching. Admiralty Island blinked its white mountaiinous peaks at us as we approached from afar. Only a couple of other boats shared our waters. This is a very large, empty cruising ground.

By 6 PM we were in three foot seas from out of Chatham Strait. Rather rolly it was. We altered course to the north to put the seas on our port quarter. Our new anchorage destination was Snug Cove in Gambier Bay, all the closer to Tracy Arm Fjord. The ride was much more comfortable now. More whales spouted off in the distance to port, south of West Brother Island, at the entrance to Pybus Bay. Dark clouds lay north of us in Stephens Passage. We set the anchor at 9:30 PM, in 10 fathoms of depth, using 65 meters of chain and 15 meters of nylon rode. The anchorage was calm. The entrance to Gambier Bay and the winding chanels taking us to Snug Cove were beautiful with the rays of the setting sun streaming down through the clouds onto the misty islands and silky waters.

When it rained overnight, we caught rain water in pots and bowls. Steve was working on getting the water maker working since we were unable to fill our tanks in Petersburg. Three great blue herons and a flock of oyster catchers were on the beach to the north. A bald eagle sat on the beach, nearby.

We departed Snug Cove in the rain at 9:30 AM, passing a group of kayakers who had been deployed by a mother ship called WILDERNESS EXPLORER. We hoped the kayakers were wearing warm, waterproof clothing. We expected to arrive at Holkham Bay, the entrance to Tracy Arm Fjord at high slack tide at about 2 PM. While we were watching for logs, Steve spotted an iceberg off of Port Snettisham Inlet. A dozen gulls and terns were perched on the top, and the berg was noticeably melting. It measured about 7 feet tall and 12 feet long, 4 feet wide. We motored over to examine the “floating rock”, and then were mildly alarmed to see that we had motored right past several small ones which were barely visible, like large, black shiny bubbles.strung together in a row or cluster. The invisibility of the small bergs shook us up a bit, making us and our propeller feel very vulnerable to these new hazards.

The conditions were unfavorable for entering Tracy Arm Fjord, with rain and poor visibility, so we continued on to Taku Harbor to anchor for the night. The anchorage was full, so we continued north to Auke Bay Marina north of Juneau. We phoned ahead to be sure they had space for us.

The forest covering the land and rocky islets are very dense, tall trees growing very close together. We have been told that the trees intertwine their roots for stability, but are vulnerable to being blown down or avalanching off the bare rock on a steep slope. Massive white Taku Glacier was visible at the end of Taku Inlet.

I almost ran over a fishing net that was strung across the channel. Tiny white oval floats at the top of the net were invisible. Thank goodness ADAGIO can

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