Hiking, hailing, heeling…what a week, or two?…we are very calendar challenged these days! It’s been awhile since we last posted, so we’ll give you the condensed version of our latest adventures.
We spent two nights in Pruth Bay on Calvert Island, taking hikes to two rugged, sandy Pacific Ocean beaches, inspiringly named “West Beach” and “North Beach”. Since it had been pouring rain for a few days, the trails were more like walking through a mud bath, but we slopped our way along in our trusty rubber boots. The ups and downs through the forest was interesting because at times we had to use ropes to climb up or repel down short segments of rock walls. It was well worth the effort though once we got out to the ocean to see gentle rollers of crystal clear ocean rolling onto the long sandy beach with rugged rock faces coming down to the water in places. Majestic.
After leaving Pruth Bay we headed up Fitz Hugh Sound to Codville Lagoon, and on the way we counted 15 humpbacks spouting along the shores. Then the next morning when we were back out in Fitz Hugh heading further north, we came very close to a sleeping humpback! It was floating peacefully in the calm waters of the channel looking just like a floating log, and the only reason I realized it was a whale is because I smelled the rancid fish breath of his blows as we passed! We motored right by and he continued to enjoy his whale dreams and dead fish breath blows…ha! Humpback heaven!
On our next moving day we figured we would still have a couple days before we met up with the Sail Alaska flotilla that was on their way up from Anacortes. What a surprise to hear our boat name being hailed over the VHF when we left Codville Lagoon! The flotilla was actually a couple hours ahead of us in Shearwater, where we were headed that day. We caught up to the group after nearly being swamped by a cruise ship that passed us in narrow Lama Passage, and then joined the troop as we all headed into Bottleneck Inlet for a couple days. Bottleneck Inlet was a gorgeous little bay surrounded by steep cliffs, and waterfalls behind the trees all around. We spent two days there, getting to know our new flotilla friends, kayaking, fishing and crabbing (got a couple of huge crabs, and even a 9” one..yum!).
Moving day from Bottleneck started in the fog, then opened up to a sunny day as we headed to Bishop Bay Hot Springs. The hot springs are funneled down into some cement-lined tubs that sit out over the bay. It was sooooo nice to be sitting in a steaming hot tub with the bay spread out in front of us and having lots of laughs. The bay itself is fairly small with steep sides (not great for anchoring), so that was our first night of being rafted up to another boat, when we tied to s/v Jak, a 52′ steel cutter. Pretty cool!
After leaving Bishop Bay we went about 42 miles to Lowe Inlet, where Verney Falls enters the sea. Along the way we were able to fly our brand new Gennaker (an asymetrical spinaker) and our blue goose looked great against the blue skies! We also stopped at a huge waterfall along the way, where some of the braver souls of our group stuck the bow of their boats into the waterfall! Verney Falls in Lowe Inlet flow about 30 feet down a stepped rock face and you can see the salmon working their way up the river. We’re told that when the salmon are running you’ll see bears standing in the falls catching fish as they swim upstream. We missed the show, but you could see how perfect the spot would be for that!
We spent two nights in Lowe Inlet, which put us there for the 4th of July! We all pooled our latest catches of fish and crab and we found a spot on the beach for the annual Independence Day cookout! We built a fire, cooked the crabs and fish over the fire and swapped stories with plenty of laughs all around. It was a fun evening, topped off by “fireworks” (aka expired flares). After we all went back to our boats, the “fun” really began. This time it was fun with anchors. The wind picked up something fierce and anchors were dragging all
anchor all night. It made for a rather sleepless night, until the wind finally settled down so that we stopped moving around so much.
We had stayed in Lowe Inlet for an extra night in an attempt to time our approach to Dixon Entrance, which is the next open to the ocean crossing as you head up the inside passage to Alaska. There is a 20-mile stretch, very much like our crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, that can be nasty if the wind is blowing on your nose, or if the swells are large and steep. After leaving Lowe Inlet we made the turn into Grenville Channel only to find the NW winds howling down the channel at 15-20 knots. The waves were building but they weren’t too bad, though with the waves on our nose it made for slower going.
We were planning on heading just up the channel about 40 miles to another anchorage in Kumealon Inlet. However, when we got to the entrance to the bay the group made the decision to continue on into Prince Rupert for fuel and to make our next leg a bit shorter. As it turned out, that was the wrong decision! When we left the channel, we entered Chatham Sound where we found large steep rollers heading down the sound right at us. Added to that the winds were now blowing over 25 knots, so the ride was VERY bumpy. Happy Dance handled exceptionally well and we were both really pleased at how she would launch over the 6-9 foot rollers and land softly on the backside (of most of them)! We slapped down hard a few times, but with the rollers on the forward quarter, even though it was very rough with some green water breaking over the bow and spray over the top of the enclosure, it was bearable.
After 70 miles and 10 hours we were very ready to pull into a slip at the marina in Prince Rupert. Unfortunately they were extremely full, so we ended up waiting for an hour going in slow circles outside the marina while they moved boats around so that we could fit into a slip. The slip they put Happy Dance in was quite intimidating when we finally realized how we had to enter it! We were heading into a corner slip, and to enter it I had to do a 45 degree turn in about 20 feet…omg…my heart lost a few years on that maneuver as the wind was still howling, and the current was strong against us. We pulled right in though, tied up and then headed for the Pub after a long and harrowing day… nothing that a burger and a cold beer wouldn’t fix!
We spent a couple nights at the bumpy dock in Prince Rupert, and then booked out early for another long day on the water. This trip was fantastic. We left the dock at 8:00am, heading out Venn Passage, which is a very narrow, very twisty passage with lots of mud flats, kelp beds, rocks, and channel markers to keep track of. The Sail Alaska group lined up and in we went…it was pretty entertaining watching this conga line of boats as they wove their way through the maze of channel markers. Once into the Sound, we were able to motor easily along for a few hours, and then joy of joys, we found a great breeze and all the sails went up and engines off! It was a beautiful sunny day, with the mountains misted in clouds on the horizon, and a relatively flat sea with 15 knots of breeze on our beam. Heaven for sailors! We sailed and motored our way for 12.5 hours and 85 miles, and we are now in Ketchikan! We’ve been here a couple days, exploring the town, doing fun chores like laundry and shopping, and we even visited the tackle shop so we’re now set up to catch every kind of fish known to man..ha!
Tomorrow (July 10) is moving day once again. We’ll be heading toward Prince of Wales Island, where we’ll spend the next week or so exploring lots of little bays on the Pacific side. We’ll be in touch in 10 days or so!