When giving directions to visitors at The Blue Goose Inn we used to say that “if you hit water you’ve gone too far”. Well, now that we’ve hit ice (literally), we realize we’ve gone far enough and it’s time to turn around!!! The Happy Dance U-turn has begun and we are ready to head south.
Unfortunately Mother Nature may have a different time schedule for us. It’s raining and stormy in Ketchikan (shocking news in a place that gets 150 inches of rain annually)! We are sitting at the dock waiting, waiting, waiting for the wind to turn around and blow from the North. While we’ve been sailing north for the past few months, we’ve also been battling north winds for a majority of the time. So we were very bummed when we turned the corner out of Santa Anna Inlet to head back into Ketchikan a few days ago to find that, guess what? The wind was squarely on our nose blowing 20 knots out of the south!
Our next leg will be a long one – 1200 miles non-stop from Ketchikan to San Francisco so it is critical that we have the wind and waves behind us. We’ll sit here in Ketchikan until the wind is more favorable and decide which way to go – inside or outside. The original and most preferred plan is to head out to the ocean from Ketchikan, set a southerly course for San Francisco and go! Now it looks as though we have to consider a couple of other alternatives; either harbor hopping down to the north end of Vancouver Island and then heading out to the ocean, or worst case scenario we may have to go all the way down the inside of Vancouver Island and back out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Everything is still in the planning stage and we’re trying to work out what route to take. Every day brings a change in the forecasts so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can leave the dock soon. The timing is also critical because Mike and Phyllis, our southbound crew, are here waiting with us and they need to be back to civilization in a few weeks. We’ll just wait and hope for the best!
While we’re waiting, I’ll catch you up on a few more Alaskan adventures!
When we left you last we were in Petersburg, an interesting and aromatic town! The locals in Petersburg make their living from the sea. There are crab and salmon canneries there, so the smells of crab cooking all day every day wafts it’s way into everything! The fishing fleets are very active and the boats are impressive. The town has a Norwegian heritage and we enjoyed seeing the school kids in their native costumes as they put on dances and helped with other events at the Sons of Norway hall. The views of the glaciers across Frederick Sound are gorgeous and the humpback population there is larger than anywhere in Alaska. We also liked Petersburg because the cruise ships aren’t able to navigate Wrangell Narrows, a long narrow and winding passage south toward Ketchikan, so they don’t come into Petersburg.
We left Petersburg in the afternoon in order to catch favorable currents through Wrangell Narrows. The narrows is one of those challenging navigational passages that we’ve come to “love” up here in Alaska. After already conquering Dry Pass and Rocky Pass, Wrangell Narrows was a piece of cake! We had the current behind us the whole way and averaged 8 knots, with a momentary high of 10.4 knots in one section! For a 20 mile run, that extra push was definitely appreciated so that we arrived at the anchorage in time for happy hour! 🙂
The anchorage that night was a great one, in a place called Saint John’s Harbor. We rafted up with two other boats so that we could have our final group grope in the form of a happy birthday, faretheewell, potluck dinner! It was Jim’s 25th 39th birthday, and it was the last of our full group gatherings, so what to do, but eat, drink and be merry! As usual, the gang all provided awesome food and we had fun telling more stories and lies.
The next day we left for Berg Bay which is around the corner from Wrangell. On the way there were a few likely fishing spots where we thought we’d drop the hook for some bottom fishing. When Marty put the first hook down, he immediately pulled up dinner in the form of a good sized rockfish. The next time he dropped the hook he caught something a bit bigger! This time he yelled this is a big un’, and he was correct! His pole was doing it’s own u-turn, and the line started zipping off the reel, as the fish zigged left, then right, then downnnnnnnn. He cranked the drag as tight as it would go, and still the behemoth halibut pulled it out. When all the line was gone, so was Hal the halibut. Somewhere in the depths there is a lovely large halibut with a beautiful earring lure and 300 feet of line trailing him. And that is the story of the one that got away!
After passing by the town of Wrangell, and the milky mouth of the Stikine River that flows down from the glaciers, we headed to Berg Bay. Along the way we oohed and aahed at the color changes in the water while enjoying some sunshine (and a nap). Then we went around a corner and we were able to hoist the goose to enjoy a downwind sail! Once in Berg Bay we had “fun” with stern tying (not our favorite chore), and then settled back to watch the rest of the fleet come in.
The Sail Alaska fleet decided to stay another day in Berg Bay and in hindsight we wish we had too, but we were now in the mode of wanting to head south, so we decided to leave the fleet behind and move on so that we could get to Ketchikan and hopefully continue south. After doing some final boat stuff we finally weighed anchor and left the group. A happy/sad moment since we’ve had so much fun being with the fleet, but it was also nice to head off on our own again. We anchored that night in Santa Anna Inlet and spent a quiet evening in the kayaks watching the eagles and seals and exploring the shoreline. It’s hard for me to believe that we’ll actually be leaving my beloved Northwest, so I took a little extra time enjoying the wind in the trees and the smells of the salt water and seaweed on the rocks. It probably sounds crazy, but the sights and sounds of the NW are very special to me. I’m definitely looking forward to palm trees and sunshine, but I’m sure there will be a visit back to these waters someday too (in someone else’s boat!).
We left Santa Anna Inlet early in order to reach Ketchikan by early afternoon since it was a 60 mile run. The first 20 miles were fine, with calm seas and a slight current pushing us. Then we turned the corner and ran smack into a strong southerly. It was bearable for the first 10 miles or so, but with the wind building and blowing against the current, the waves kept building as well. It was a long, lousy slog all the way to Ketchikan with 15-20 knot winds on our bow and huge rollers on the beam – UGH! A good reinforcer of why cruisers do not sail to a schedule. If we hadn’t been trying to get to Ketchikan on a certain date we would not have fought the weather that day, we would have holed up and waited it out. As it turns out, that southerly was the precursor of two storms that are sitting off the coast and holding us hostage in Ketchikan as I write this. More lessons learned!
We are now in a holding pattern; watching the weather and waiting for the right time to toss the lines. It’s going to be a long trip south, so please keep your fingers, eyes, and toes crossed that we can leave soon! We’ll keep you posted on the plans as they evolve. In the meantime we’ll be here in Ketchikan along with our southbound crew, enjoying the sounds of one of the busiest airports in the U.S., right outside our door! The Tongass Narrows is a busy place – cruise ships and sea planes, along with plenty of fishing boats and cruisers – it’s wild!
Think Northerlies!!! 🙂