Saturday, May 9, 2009

On to Ketchikan

May 6, Wed Bottleneck Inlet
It was just getting light as we left the harbor. Jericho cast off as well but there wasn’t another sign of life at the moorage. One truck rumbled by on the road above the harbor; maybe someone works an early shift at the fish farm/hatchery or in the cookhouse. We had such a good time at the five-boat crab and appetizer potluck last night that it was hard to wind down and turn in early. The heavy rain pounding on hatches and cabin top also kept me awake, like too loud music from a noisy neighbor.

Rescue Bay/Jackson Passage was the target destination, but we arrived much too early in the day to stop cruising. The excellent conditions invited us to continue on Bottleneck Inlet instead.

Picture a glass bottle with a narrow neck and a thick lip. That thick lip is a ledge, restricting entry and exit at low tides (10 feet at a zero tide). The neck is a slot between evergreen-coated bluffs and the body is a squiggly length of narrow bay with a view to snowy peaks beyond. This is a snug, stormproof anchorage - and the sunshine and abundant bird life made it especially lovely today.

May 7, Thurs Lawson Harbor
Route planning for today considered exiting the inlet, a desire for slack current at Heikish Narrows (10 mi beyond Bottleneck) and a positive current push during the day. We exited the inlet with great caution and little margin under the keel. Heikish was full of whirlpools and eddies but no drift and slowed us to 7 knots at one point. SOG (speed over ground) was up and down the rest of the day as currents pushed and pulled us along.

This section of the trip is lovely with a series of channels bordered by tree-lined, snowcapped peaks, with heights around 3100 and 4000 feet. Waterfalls poured out of steeply carved valleys on both sides of the channels, ranging from wispy, veil falls funneling snow melt runoff to rushing torrents of water cascading out of hidden lakes. It’s just one photo op after another.

A few fully branched trees floated past and I really appreciated the navigation assistance of those numerous gulls perching on the occasional log or chunk of drift. A soldier-straight lineup of gulls makes a low-floating log much easier to spot.

We paused at Butedale to shoot some photos and record current conditions for comparison with our images from 2000. Most of the old site is in ruins and weathering, vandalism and gravity continue the destruction.

Grenville Channel has four good anchorages, each with some feature to recommend it. But we kept on going, entering the Grenville near the end of a flood tide and hoping to pick up a push from the ebb in the middle where the tides meet.

So where’s that favorable push? We bucked 2 to 3 knot unfavorable currents where we should have picked up that much speed. Sigh! Today’s cruise stretched on a bit longer and slower until we finally anchored in Kelp Passage/Lawson Harbor, a few miles south of Prince Rupert.

May 8, Friday Ketchikan, Bar Harbor

The Dixon Entrance crossing into Alaska was remarkably smooth - no challenge this year. We made such good time we decided tomotor on past Foggy Bay (our usual anchorage) and continue on to Ketchikan. Just before we made the turn into Tongass Channel two huge humpback whales breached and threw up a tremendous splash. Several whales continued to blow and show as they circled the area. “Welcome to Alaska!” Whales, sunshine, calm weather and room at the dock - what could be better. We’ll celebrate with a traditional arrival dinner of Mexican food at Oceanview Restaurant and the luxury of sleeping in tomorrow.
The next few weeks we will travel north along the west side of Prince of Wales Island and explore the westerly and outside route. The fishing and wildlife viewing sounds good, and some of this will be new territory for us. There won't be cellphone or internet coverage until we stop in Craig, and then it will be a treat to get back in touch the rest of the world.

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