2005 Aug 8, Frederick Sound, Alaska: breaching Humpback whales

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

We were cruising the Frederick Sound area searching for Grizzly [Brown Bears]. We got lucky — as we found three different very playful Humpback whales. These pics where shot with a Canon EOS-350D SLR with 480mm [35mm equivalent].

As we approached the entrance to Pybus Bay around 3PM we saw several individual humpback whales spouting and sounding. Then, ahead, right on our course, a humpback whale breached. Then again. Then he slapped the water with his long pectoral fin, again, and again. The whale breached again, and at least 15 more times as we used up the memory on all of our cameras. Magnificent! What a show! We were able to time its activities and predict just about when the next breach would occur, but never ‘where’ the whale would surface. But the whale would keep breaching, over and over, giving us time to get our camera pointed in the right direction. Twice the whale breached quite near to the boat, a little too close for comfort.

The researchers at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary believe that these humpback whale behaviors “allows the whale to dislodge barnacles and other parasites from its body, serves as a form of communication, or maybe just a form of playful activity for the humpback.” Scientists are not supposed to anthropomorphize, but it sure looked like fun to us!

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

2005 May 21: Cortes Island to Spicer Islands

Strong winds and rough waters forecast for the main channel of Johnstone Strait convinced us to take the “backroad” through the inner channels. We were hoping to pass through the Yuculta and Dent Rapids on May 31, but the rain was persistent. We had made all the tidal and current calculations to approach the Yuculta Rapids from the south one hour before the turn of the tide from flood to ebb. South of the Yucultas is the point where the tidal currents east of Vancouver Island meet. North of Yucultas the flood flows south, and south of the Yucultas the flood flows north. This is the same situation just south of Seymour Narrows near Campbell River where we had been bashed around by very strong tide rips.

We raised our anchor at 8:30 AM and were at Yuculta Rapids by 11:30 AM. We passed through Yaculta Rapids, Devil’s Hole and Dent Rapids precisely at slack tide. This is where tidal streams reach maximum velocities during large tides of 7 to 9 knots, creating violent whirlpools, overfalls and eddies. At slack tide, the whirlpools were flat and the currents were a manageable 2 to 3 knots.

After those adventures we tied up to the peaceful and picturesque dock at Shoal Bay. Phillips Arm formed a spectacular panorama off of our bows. This cove was formerly a landing for gold miners. Mark McDonald, the owner was on the dock visiting with Nancy and Don of the m/v LETA. Eagles were nesting in the cove, and hummingbirds were flying around the docks and Mark’s house. Don recommended Kutze Inlet opposite Prince Royal Island for crabbing at head of the inlet.

On June 1 we departed Shoal Bay and were early arriving at Green Point rapids, so we circled around and watched a commercial fishing boat go through, oh so slooowly. We waited for another half hour, then passed through with no dramas at 10:30 AM. The maximum contrary current was 4 to 5 knots. The low white-capped overfalls which ran across the channel where the navigation light is located, smoothed out before we passed through them. By 12 noon we had entered the southern end of Wellbore Channel, getting out of the 25 knot wind of Chancellor Channel. There was very little current in the channel, and only about 1 knot of flood still running as we passed through Whirlpool Rapids at 12:30 PM.

We were happy to find a safe anchorage, out of the winds, in Douglas Bay in Forward Harbour. We set our anchor in 21 meters depth, deploying about 80 meters of anchor chain and rode. Our friends Rick and Carol were anchored close to shore, and came aboard for coffee. They had set shrimp and crab traps at the head of the bay. Rick is a retired firefighter and commercial SCUBA diver. Carol is a photographer and artist. We had a lively discussion of fisheries management policies in British Columbia. Before dark, 17 boats were anchored around us. This is a very good anchorage in northwesterlies and westerlies.

The next day we entered Johnstone Strait and hoped to make good progress before the forecast winds arrived. A tug towing a huge barge piled very high with logs passed going east.

South of Hannah channel, we decided to proceed west in Johnstone Strait to Port McNeil. The seas were practically calm, with little wind. It was a good time to make tracks to the west and north. We phoned the Harbormaster at Port McNeill. She said that there was plenty of room in the marina because a lot of boats had left when the winds died. The sky was clearing as we approached Port McNeill. Small tide rips and many tide lines with debrfis and logs were in Johnstgone Strait where the waters flowed into it from the north through the passes between the islands.

In Port McNeill Steve arranged to have our VHF radio repaired. The antenna had been disconnected in New Zealand but never re-connected, so we had cruised for a year with our antenna disconnected from our radio . We were once again able to receive weather reports. He also had the refrigeration system checked and gas added to the system. We found a good restaurant and good WiFi there. We like this friendly marina, close to a good grocery store, and a very interesting native arts gallery. There is even a Radio Shack nearby and a chandlery.

On June 4 we took on one tank of diesel fuel and departed Port McNeill for the crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound. Rhinoceros auckets, large loons and murrelets shared our waters. A southerly breeze filled in as we passed Port Hardy on the northeast corner of Vancouver Island. We passed between Nigei Island and Bakalava Island, just northwest of the entrance to Clam Cove where our friends Rick and Carol spend the month of September each year.

We rounded Cape Caution at 4 PM, in a three meter swell and a small amount of wind wave. It was just a little rolly. ADAGIO handles these following seas with grace and comfort. Large logs lurked near Loran and Radar Passages, near Table Island, at the entrance to Smith Sound. As we entered Fitz Hugh Sound, Calvert Island provided protection from the ocean swells. No other boats were to be seen. At 8 PM we set our anchor at Green Island, having traveled 70 nautical miles that day. This was a very beautiful anchorage, with dense trees growing on the tops of flat-topped rock islets. One Islet was entirely covered with a very thick growth of salal shrub in bloom and perhaps huckleberry bushes. Our anchor found very good holding in a mud bottom. Bald eagles circled over the evergreens ashore.

The next morning, June 5, we found flat water and calm winds in Fitz Hugh Sound, making it easy to spot the occasional floating large log. Fitz Hugh Sound is bounded on all sides by tree-covered hills set before layers and layers of rounded low, tree-covered mountains, becoming paler and paler in color as they march off into the distnace, heads in the clouds. To the west on Hunter Island is Mt. Merritt at 2,960 feet.

We turned to the west into Lama Passage and encountered a pair of orcas, feeding quietly, spending most of their time under water. We entered Finlayson Channel and just before 5 PM we were anchored in Bottleneck Inlet. A family of red headed mergansers swam along the shore and dived.

We planned an early departure for Hiekish Narrows, to pass through at slack tide at 8 AM. Our 8:14 AM log entry reads, “Graham Reach, Princess Royal channel, just north of Green Inlet. Some of the mountain tops are glacially polished and treeless. A few waterfalls here and there. We passed through Hiekish Narrows at about 0730, just before slack at 0800. A few foraging dolphins this morning, and a large bald eagle flew across our course ahead. The waterfalls on our port side are wide and beautiful. Two nice ones so far. Wind is 8-9 kts, exactly our boat speed, so we are following the seas up the channel. At log 6105 we were making 9.8 SOG. then down to 9.2 at log 6106, then down to 8.8 at 6107. Large tree in the midedle of the channel. ”

At McCreith Point we entered Otter Channel, from Squally Channel, and rounded the southern end of Pitt Island. We headed towards Nepean Sound then Principe channel on the west side of Pitt. We had been surrounded on all sides by a collection of islands, rugged and forested. In Fraser Reach we were dodging logs which were full sized trees. We watched a helicopter loading trees onto a barge. They were dropping the occasional one into the water and leaving it there to float out in to the channel where we boaties were. There was mostly light or no wind with seas flat or rippled.

At 7 PM we set our anchor in Monckton Inlet in 18 meters depth, deploying 60 meters of chain and rode. We traveled 82 nautical miles that day, gaining more than one degree of latitude per day as we traveled north.

Late at night and the sky was still light to the west. It was very still in this lovely anchorage. The flat waters reflected the shoreline at low tide creating a kaleidescope effect that is very pretty. Two small seals cruised around with their round heads painting ripples and wakes in the mirror water. A bald eagle flew in circles along the shore then perched in a tree as we passed. The weather forecast and model looked good for a possible crossing of Hecate Strait in a couple of days, to take us to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

As we departed Monckton Inlet on the morning of June 7, jelly fish were thick in the waters of the inlet. Moon jellies (Aurelia) about 6-8 inches in diameter and “Sea Blubber” jellies (Cyanea capillata) , 20 to 20” across. Red-brown to white with long tentacles they were pulsating their 8 pairs of lobes to move through the water. This is a stinging jellyfish.

By 10 AM were were in Principe Channel heading north in slight rippled sea with a light following SW breeze. As we were exiting Monckton Inlet, an 8 kt inflow breeze was on the nose. As soon as we entered Principe Channel all was flat, dead calm, until the light breeze came up. A following current was expected to increase during the day with a flood tide to boost our progress. We had enjoyed mostly favorable currents traveling north, and almost always the breeze was from astern. Conditions could not be better. The previous day was drizzly, this day was bright sunshine, and we hoped for the same for the morrow.

We turned to the east into Beaver Passage at Browning Entrance at the north end of Banks Island, in lightly choppy seas and light northwesterly winds under blue skies and a steady barometer. Our course north through Principe Channel had allowed us to avoid traveling through narrow Grenville Channel where we were nearly run down by a cabin cruiser in the fog last year.

We had chosen the anchorage at Spicer Islands over the more popular anchorage in Larsen Harbour at the north end of Banks Island. The entry into the Spicer Island anchorage was wide and open, unencumbered by kelp beds that occur at the entrance to Larsen Harbour. We set our anchor in 13 meters of water on a 45 meter anchor rode. A river otter splashed into the water and swam around. The forecast seas in Hecate Strait looked too rough for a crossing the following day. So we would continue north towards Ketchikan, keeping the winds astern, and making tracks north in these favorable conditions for crossing Dixon Entrance which is open to the North Pacific Ocean.

2005 May 6: Circumnavigation of Strait of Georgia

ADAGIO berthed at Sportsmans Club Marina in Garden Bay, BCOn May 6 we cleared Customs into Canada in Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island. Continuing north in the Trincomali Channel, we transited Porlier Pass at slack water and berthed at the Silva Bay Resort and Marina on the SE corner of Gabriola Island. This is a bay popular with Vancouver sailors. The next morning we headed back out into the Strait of Georgia, making good time towards Seymour Narrows where Ripple Rock was blasted to smithereens in 1958.

I inadvertently drove the boat into an area of tide rips south of Campbell River, where the north flowing current meets the south flowing current passing inside Vancouver Island, at spring tides. Whitecaps a couple of meters high slapped the boat around, heeling her from side to side, and spilling the contents of all our cabinet tops onto the floor. Books, cruising guides, a pitcher of water, limes, lemons, binoculars, all went flying. In our five years of cruising the boat has never been tossed around so violently as she was by those “rips”. I certainly learned my lesson. We had altered course to allow a large tug and tow to pass us to starboard. We should have fallen in behind him as he skirted the tide rips.

The contrary current was unfavorable for making it to the Narrows by slack tide, so we berthed at Discovery Harbour Marina at Campbell River, and passed through the Seymour Narrows at noon the next day. At 1300 hours, about 7 miles north of the Narrows, we hit a log and lost our starboard engine. After many hours of diligently standing look out, all it took was a few minutes of being distracted by some novel and very useful displays on the computer screen of predicted current speeds in the waters near our prospective anchorage for the evening. Crash! Crash! Bummer.

Steve turned the boat around and headed back towards the Narrows. Slack tide had come and gone, so we anchored in Plumper Bay until the next slack tide at 1800 hours. The water was flat as we passed through the Narrows, and Steve carefully and with great concentration, maneuvered ADAGIO alongside the dock at the marina in Campbell River. The next morning we had a diver inspect the prop. Steve contacted Yanmar, MaxProp, and haul out facilities in the area. After much discussion he decided we should take ADAGIO to Vancouver for haul out at a facility in the Fraser River.

On May 10, in calm conditions and with a favorable current, we crossed the top of the Strait of Georgia and entered the Malaspina Strait between Texada Island and mainland BC. We managed to travel 56 nm that day, with one engine, against a moderate headwind, and berthed in Garden Bay at the end of the dock at the Sportsmans Club.

The next morning we realized we could make it to the mouth of the Fraser River at slack tide, but when we arrived there, the tide was ebbing strongly, and we later learned that in May there is no flood tide in the Fraser due to snow melting from the mountains. Heavy traffic of tugs with tows and large ships in the River made the river a dangerous place for a sailboat with limited maneuverability. ADAGIO was unable to turn to port with only the port engine, unless in flat water and good water flow across the rudders. We bailed out and went in to Vancouver Harbour to dock at the Coal Harbour Marina where we had stayed last autumn. We were very fortunate that they had an outside tie for us, because anchoring is not permitted in the Harbour, and we could not have maneuvered into the other marinas.

The next day we learned that ADAGIO’s mast height was too high to make it under the two bridges on the way up the North Arm of the Fraser River where another shipyard was located. Steve phoned Point Hope Shipyard in Victoria on Vancouver Island, where ADAGIO had been hauled out the previous November, and they agreed to accept us as an emergency repair. So it was back to lovely Silva Bay at Gabriola Island where we anchored and departed early the next morning to catch the favorable current all the way south to Victoria.

We departed Silva Bay at first light and arrived at the Porlier Pass at exactly slack tide. There was virtually no current in the pass which connects the Strait of Georgia to the Trincomali Channel. Inside the pass are the placid waters between the Gulf Islands. Today there was virtually no wind, the currents were with us, and after 8 hours of motoring on silky silver water under a silky silver sky, between rounded hills of islands to port and starboard, we made it safely to Victoria Harbour on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island.

We had phoned ahead to advise the harbormaster that we would be needing an end tie that was easy to maneuver into with just one engine. When we arrived in this busy harbour, you could have believed that all the ships, floatplanes, kayakers, ferry boats, tall ships and tiny tourist boats had been alerted to our arrival, because during the fifteen minutes or so that it took us to enter the harbour and tie up, all the hustle and bustle miraculously had ceased. Soon after we had berthed ADAGIO, four whale watching boats roared out, three float planes were landing or taking off, and a ferry boat from Seattle arrived, followed by kayakers and sport fishing boats. We live blessed lives.

We celebrated with a cook’s night out at our favorite Canoe Brew Pub and Restaurant. Then a stroll along the waterfront to enjoy the busking musicians, jugglers, marimba players and steel drums.

We had inadvertently circumnavigated the Strait of Georgia, and breathed a sigh of relief that the weather and sea conditions had been mild. During the weekend we unwound by doing a little touring along the Vancouver Island coast by car, and welcomed our friends Joe and Kathy when they arrived aboard their sailing cat KATIEKAT. When it was time to leave the dock to motor under the bascule bridge and into the shipyard at Point Hope, we were happy to have men on the dock to handle our lines and fend us off. Steve expertly maneuvered our floating tennis court onto the small floating dock at the entrance to the dry dock, and the yard staff carefully positioned ADAGIO directly above two large wooden beams on which her keels rested as the dry dock rose out of the water, Archimedes fashion.

On May 18 Steve ordered from Chicago parts for an engineer in Sidney to use to repair our sail drive and install it back onto the starboard engine on Friday. We re-launched ADAGIO on Saturday.

So to make a short tale long, there it is in all the gory detail. We are fortunate on many counts: We hit the log relatively close to repair facilities. The weather has cooperated. We were able to make good time from one berth or anchorage to the next under half power. The anchorages and marinas have not yet filled with other cruising boats, so we could safely berth or anchor with limited maneuverability.

It had taken us a month to get from Bainbridge Island, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, around the Strait of Georgia and back again, but the season was still early. Meanwhile, the weather north of Vancouver Island where we had hoped to be by that time had been pretty stormy, while our weather in the Strait of Georgia region was mild. Victoria is a fun little town to be marooned in.

2005 May 27: Princess Louisa Inlet – Cox Family Cruise

Photo Gallery. Dorothy’s sister and her family joined us in Victoria for a week of cruising. Five adult guests are the most we have hosted aboard ADAGIO, and we had a wonderful time. A few days in Victoria allowed us to gain our sea legs and accommodate to life aboard ship. Butchart Gardens was a hit.

A scenic and quick trip up through the Gulf Islands and across the Strait of Georgia brought us to Jervis Inlet on the British Columbia mainland coast. We craned our necks amazed at the soaring glacial valleys and snowy peaks. The weather was bright and sunny so we could see all of the snow fields on the tops of the surrounding mountains. The peaks were about a mile high and the water was 1500 ft deep. Talk about fjordland! Waterfalls tumbled down the mountains. We could sometimes hear a waterfall before we saw it. The cascades at the shoreline were tumultuous and the “bridal veils” down the bare, glacially polished rock faces were nearly a mile long.

It was a luxury having several extra sets of eyes to stand log-watch from ADAGIO’s bows. Our only complaint was the risk of sunburn. Our destination was Princess Louisa Marine Park, a small inlet at the head of Jervis Inlet. The Sailing Directions say, “Malibu Rapids flows through a narrow gorge. It is suitable for small vessels and should be negotiated at or near slack water…. tidal streams in Malibu Rapids attain 9 knots on the flood and ebb on large tides.” An “S” shaped turn is required to stay midchannel. You cannot see other boats entering the rapids from the other side. Steve steered us into the entrance to the rapids ten minutes before official low slack tide. A contrary current of 4 to 5 knots opposed our progress, and there were flat whirlpools but no strong rips. Three other boats passed us in the middle of the passage, even though we had announced on VHF channel 16 our intentions to enter.

Inside Princess Louisa Inlet, waterfalls surrounded us, and at the head of the inlet, lovely Chatterbox Falls roared and sprayed high into the air. We found a space for ADAGIO at the floating dock where numerous power cruisers and sail boats were barbequeing lunch, smoking fish, and sunbathing. Extra hands were on the dock ready to take our lines, and later complimented Steve on his maneuvering, saying that he did not really need any help.

We were quick to hike up to the base of Chatterbox Falls, where the spray flies high into the air, creating its own wind, and lightly moistening all who come near. One of the other cruisers told us that there had been much less water coming over the falls in the morning, and that as the sun warmed and melted the snow on the peaks, the flow of the waterfall at least doubled in volume. My sister and I botanized through the forest, identifying wild flowers and other Pacific Northwest plants.

Our transit out through the Malibu Rapids in the morning was beautifully uneventful, with broad whirlpools and a much wider channel at high tide.

We had planned to take our visitors to the vicinity of Powell River to catch a bus and ferry back to Vancouver. We were surprised that none of the marinas could accommodate ADAGIO, at such low tides. We altered course and headed for Cortes Island to the north. The new plan was to berth at Gorge Harbor where our visitors could catch a ride to the ferry to Quadra Island, and then another ferry to Campbell River. There they would rent a car and drive to Vancouver via the BC Ferry from Nanaimo.

Our weather had been extraordinarily beautiful. Dolphins joined us abeam of Copeland Islands, and seals lolled on the rocky islets. When we arrived at Cortes Island, we anchored in Cortes Bay, where we found our friend Joe on KATIEKAT and invited him to join us for dinner. The next morning we motored around the south end of the island and into Gorge Harbor, from where the marina owner generously drove our guests to the ferry terminal at Whalesong Cove.

2005 Apr 17 – Pacific Northwest Cruise Summary

Alaska is Spectacular! Having come south through the Inside Passage from Sitka, Alaska last autumn, this year we decided to travel quickly north so we could spend the best of the summer months in Alaska. The scenery and wildlife have been sensational, and we have not seen the best of it yet. Alaskans are friendly and relaxed. The atmosphere is that of a big small town, steeped in history, surrounded by enormous wilderness. The native Indian presence and influence have enriched our experiences, as we meet them and learn about their sophisticated culture, connections to the natural world and inventive technologies and enjoy their beautiful arts.

We departed Bainbridge Island, Washington on April 17, and mostly-motored 1,520 nautical miles to Juneau, Alaska in a little over two months time. This included 22 days in Port Townsend, Friday Harbor and Victoria and a detour of 300 nautical miles and 13 days back down to Victoria to repair our starboard engine saildrive after hitting a log north of Seymour Narrows at the end of the third week of our journey. When we were making good time we would gain one degree or more of latitude north per day, sometimes traveling as much as 85 nautical per day. The long daylight hours allowed us to travel for 12 hours or more each day if we wished. Why do we care about daylight? Because these waters are full of dangerous logging debris, which can only be spotted by 100% attention to the water in front of the boat (no more 24 hours a day sailing up here). As it turns out, had we not been delayed, we would have found ourselves much wetter and colder farther north. But we still managed to stay ahead of the thundering summer herds of boats from Seattle and Vancouver.

With the luxury of waiting in port for favorable weather, which for us means less than 15 knots of wind, sometimes rainy, but no storms, we have had many opportunities to see the local sights. We have had plenty of sunny days for photographing the scenery and wildlife. When the winds are howling offshore, and water becomes rough in the main channels, the minor channels can be placid. What wind there is follows the channel. The prevailing spring southerlies have brought us mostly following breezes. Visibility has almost always been good. Our only fog was in the Juan de Fuca Strait. The Pacific High has seemed slow to move north this year, but that could be changing.

We follow a flexible schedule, asking visitors to come to us, by float plane if necessary. We change our plans and destination, delay our departure date or choose a different anchorage, at a moment’ s notice, if the weather conditions do not support our original plan. We NEVER travel after dark (logs). We always have alternative anchorages noted on the chart.

Another hard and fast rule is that we ALWAYS look out for logs! If we cannot, then we stop the boat, until we can. The necessity of having to stop the boat quickly to avoid hitting a log, crab pot float or fish net just about eliminates the desire to actually unfurl sails.

Compared to British Columbia, there are fewer hazards to navigation in Alaska, but icebergs and bergy bits float around in the northern inlets and sometimes out into the channels. In addition to floating logs, fishermen set crab pots marked by red or white floats, by the dozens, often in the middle of a channel, and sometimes they are submerged by high tide or carried under by strong currents. Fishermen also set their nets out into the main channels. In the harbors we dodge float planes taking off and landing, kayakers, tourist boats, racing sail boats, and huge ferries.

It requires a close study of the tide and current tables to ensure safe transit through the numerous narrow channels, rapids and passes at slack tide. Tide rips, eddies and whirlpools become strong and fast at max flood and ebb. We have been entertained watching the gyrations of another boat as it attempted to pass through a rapids before slack tide, as the force of the water spun the boat around and threw it off course. When we could take advantage of favorable currents we boosted our speed over the ground by as much as 4 or 5 knots.

Cellphone coverage has been about 90% this year – since Steve installed a high gain CDMA antenna before leaving Bainbridge. This is particularly useful for calling ahead to marinas, as VHF range is very limited due to the surrounding mountains. Similarly due to our high gain 802.11b antenna, we have had useable wireless internet access in most marinas, and even a few anchorages, very useful for downloading weather forecasts.

We have made it safely to near the top of SE Alaska, and have slowed our pace to savor the glaciers, forests, waterfalls, whales, eagles, orcas, sea otters, puffins and bears. We made the right decision to hightail it to Alaska.