This trip was done in a commercial fishing boat so there are no sailing pics.
I got an email from a friend on our island last Saturday night and he mentioned that a local fisherman was looking for someone to help take his boat to Petersburg, AK. We are planning to take our boat to Juneau and Glacier Bay in 2010 so this would be a great opportunity to see what we would be facing. I talked to the fisherman Sunday morning on the beach and we left Monday morning at 0700. We first went to Bellingham, WA which is two hours away and loaded 9 tons of ice, 1500 lbs of bait (squid and herring), groceries, and two more crew members. We left Bellingham at 1800 and headed up Georgia Strait.
The boat is 52', single screw, does 8 knots and burns 5gph. We would be traveling 24 hours per day with no planned stops on the way and Mark, the owner, said it would take 80-90 hours to reach Petersburg which is in SE Alaska about 100 miles south of Juneau.
It was a beautiful calm day when we left and I stayed up until about 2200 then hit the sack. I was up about 0400 and we were on the east side of Texada Island in Georgia St. We continued on past Campbell River fighting the current and not really hurrying because we were not going to get through Seymour Narrows for awhile. We were able to push through Seymour before slack by staying very close to the shore on the east side and then entered the notorious Johnstone Strait, which lived up to it's reputation as a wind alley by hitting us with winds of 30-40 knots against a strong current. We were quickly in 10-12' steep waves and for a big heavy boat it was amazing how much the bow was moving up and down. About 10 minutes into this we lost all throttle and shift control, we were in neutral and quickly were broadside to the waves and moving toward the shore. The controls are all electronic with multiple stations, no one really knew what to do but the owner and deck hand quickly started checking everything they could think of. After about 10 minutes they were able to get the transmission into forward with the engine at idle so we were able to steer into the waves and hold our position. Within an hour they found an epirb on the flying bridge had come loose and fallen so that it hit the button to transfer control to that station, disabling the others. So we were off and running again. We went through Queen Charlotte Sound then Queen Charlotte Strait and began weaving our way through the various straits, channels and sounds that comprise the inland passage. There are two long, narrow channels that are beautiful, but create a problem for sailboats because you can't make it through in one tide and anchorage possibilities are few and far between. I need to do some research about the best way to transit them. Grenville Channel is especially long and narrow, about 40 nm. I got up about 0315 while we were in Grenville and Mark was driving right next to the shore, within 40' and in fog, he had a big sodium light shining on the shoreline and it looked like the trolling poles that were out could touch the branches. He was overtaking a tug and large barge and I was really glad that it was him doing it and not me. After we got past the tug, he turned it over to me and we worked our way up towards Prince Rupert. The fog lifted fairly early and we had a beautiful day traveling through the Prince Rupert area and then Dixon Entrance. After crossing the border into Alaska we stopped for an hour or so and caught a bunch of rock and ling cod to eat, then had a beautiful sunset and continued on to Ketchikan at around midnight. I caught a few hours of sleep and then drove us up to the entrance to Wrangell Narrows which is a 24nm channel that is very narrow and twists and turns like a river. We arrived in Petersburg about 1330 on Friday, for a trip duration of 91 hours. I caught my plane at 1530 and flew back to Seattle.
I learned a great deal that will be helpful for when we do this trip in our boat. Number one is that there will be relatively little sailing and a great deal of motoring, I'm estimating 70/30% because of the narrow channels and strong currents. There should be great sailing once we get north of Ketchikan, and if we go out to the Queen Charlotte islands on the return trip we should be able to sail all the way back down to the north end of Vancouver Island. The other major thing that I learned is that from Campbell River north there are very, very limited services. If you broke down or had an emergency you are a long way from any help. I'm thinking about repowering before the trip, our 20 year old Volvo runs great but...
One more thing I think I would add to the boat is an AIS receiver/transponder. There is a lot of barge and cruise ship traffic during the summer and there are a lot of places that it would be pretty interesting to meet up with one of them unexpectedly, especially in the fog.
I had a great time, everyone was easy to get along with and I learned a lot about preparing for our trip.
Here are some pictures starting from the south.
Heading toward Campbell River, BC
Marker for the turn into Seymour Narrows
One of the many lighthouses in BC
Heading into Johnstone St.
Humpback in Dixon Entrance
Nearing Petersburg, AK