This is a summary of my recent 8 day trip through a portion of the inside passage just south of Juneau. I chartered a cabin on a boat called "WESTERN GRACE" The captain, John VanStrien and his wife Joanne were the hosts and provided are wonderful vacation for me and two others. The Vanstriens website is www.worldwidesailingadventures.com and I highly recommend visiting it. Now for the trip: Alaska is great. We left Auke Bay/Juneau on July 22 and sailed south for two
days to a fiord call Tracy Arm. This arm cut back into the interior for 24
miles and had two glaciers at its head. Sawyer and south Sawyer Glacier.
We motored up the fiord since sailing it was not possible. We manuevered
around icebergs, growlers (refrigerator and car size chunks of ice) and
pack ice most of the way until we came to within a 1/2 mile of so of the
glacier face where it met the water. The glacier would crack and groan with
thunderous booms for a while then grow silent. A few minutes later, chunks
of ice would fall into the sea with great noise and splash. Every now and
then a chunk the size of a house would fall off. And one one occassion, a
chunk the size of a 20 story building came down! Very exciting to watch.
Some of the bergs are the most beautiful shade of aqua blue while others are
almost purple. I think it has something to do with the pressure they are
under that determines their color. They are very mezmerizing. I hated to
leave that day but we had to get back out to an anchorage. The fiord was
too deep to anchor in. On average, the depth in the fiords was 300 ft plus
with some areas registering at 900 ft deep. The walls went almost straight
up to heights of 3000 ft to 4800 ft. Every mile or so an incredibly
beautiful waterfall would puncuate the face. Trees would grow where ever
they could get a foothold. Eagles were everywhere. Thick as crows around
the harbors. We saw whales on several occasions but rarely when we were
looking for them. They effectively eluded my camera except for one fleeting
moment of video and one still shot. I made a few hikes along the shore but going into the
forest was virtually impossible. The forests here are rain forests and very
impressive. The trees and brush are so thick you cannot make your way through them
unless you are VERY determined to do so. There is a moss about 3 ft thick
that grows over the entire forest floor. Trees that have fell down over one
another are soon covered with a moss that is very much like spaghnum moss.
This creates hollows underneath for den animals (BEARS). We did see a bear.
Fortunately, we were sitting at anchor one morning in TAKU harbor and
spotted him along the shore. We also caught a few fish, mainly flounder and
cod but I didn''t go to fish so I didn''t spend much time fishing. We did do some exciting sailing although we motored quite a bit due to contrary
winds or no wind at all. Our pace was slow and relaxed. Alaska is BIG country. What looks like a mile is usually 5
miles. A waterfall that looks a couple hundred feet in a picture is really
a couple thousand feet in reality. I was a little disappointed with the
weather though. Clouds and rain was the order of the day. We had sunshine
for a couple hours on a couple days. I really wanted to see the Northern
Lights again but we always had a cloud cover at night. It would normally
get dark around 10:00 pm and be daylight again around 4:00 am. very weird.
We found a wild blueberry patch and picked enough for Joanne (the captains
wife) to make a blueberry crumble cake. I also found a patch of raspberries
and ate my fill. some were as big as strawberries! You could usually find
evidence of bears (I swear, some must have been as large as a horse!) in the
patches so I kept a sharp ear and a watchful eye out. We also visited Ford''s Terror and Endicott Arm. We could not reach the glacier in Endicott due to the amount of ice blocking our course.
All in all it was a very relaxful trip. The worst part was after I had
left the boat and spent a day in Juneau. This place is tourist central.
Several cruise ships come into port every day and dump their passenger load
right downtown. Convienient walking distance to their souviner stores.
What a ripoff! The paper reports how many people hit the docks each day and
on Tuesday it was 11,900 customers (wallets). Not only are they buying souveniers, they
are going on helicopter rides, whale watching tours, tram rides, glacier
tours and town tours. There''s a jillion ways to spend your dollar when you
get to port. I don''t care for crowds. The shops do however have some
EXQUISITE artwork. Both paintings and native carvings in ivory, whale bone, baleen, soapstone, marble and wood. They are certainly proud of it. A
12" carving in ivory will run around $1000.00 It was pretty to look at. I
picked up some souveniers for my special people and got out of the circus as
quickly as possible.
Well, I''ve rattled on long enough so I will close.
Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us. It''s always nice to read about places you have yet to visit.
If you give me your email address, I''ll send you a couple of dozen paragraph returns you can use in the future. (just bustin'' ya)
Fair winds and thanks again.
would be very appreciative if you could list the "extras" you added to your boat before you headed off. Also which items added to a local cruising boat would be indispensable on such a trip?
(you''re giving me ideas....)
For cruising in SE Alaska (and BC) bring 12" rubber boots, full suit of working rain gear, including Sou''wester, and put an anchor on your boat two sizes larger than usually recommended in the frequently published anchor size tables. Add to it a rode of no less than 250 ft (300 ft is better) and chain not less than one or two boat lengths.
I have lived in SE Alaska for thirty years and my boat is a 33'' pilothouse cutter of 17,000 lbs displacement (28'' LWL, 10 1/2'' beam). My bower is a 45 lb CQR on 35 fathoms of 5/16" chain and 150'' of 1/2" nylon 3-strand. I usually anchor with 4:1 scope if the weather is settled and/or the anchorage is perfectly sheltered (as many are in Southeast), and go to 5:1 or 6:1 if the wind comes up. Have not yet needed to go past the end of the chain to the nylon. This ground tackle on this boat in this area does not drag. At all.
My secondary anchor is a 22 lb Danforth on short chain (about a boat length) and 250'' of nylon. It is very rarely used.
Once the hook is down in a good anchorage the rest is a piece of cake, whether beachcombing, hiking, fishing, hunting, or cooking and reading. A diesel range is about de rigeur in Southeast, but after some experimenting with heaters I am convinced a small (not tiny) wood stove is best.
Probably more than you wanted to know, but there''s my bit.
Priceless, your comments on ground tackle, foulies, and heat duly noted:
I am adding an anchor windlass, gale-sail, mosquito repellent, EPIRB, and a fast dinghy for exploring.
The Hunter has a 19 hp Yanmar that gets excellent fuel enconomy and the Espar heater keeps things dry.
May add a good whittling knife and a first aid kit to go with it
A couple of additions to my earlier message: my use of 4:1 scope is dependent upon an all chain rode, or very long chain, in depths of more than three fathoms. In shallower water not enough catenary would be provided by 4:1 scope and in those circumstances I go to 5:1 or 6:1.
I would also add to the list of gear the local pilot. Cruising guides are also helpful, but the pilot should be carried at a minimum, not to mention as many small scale charts as you can afford.
A tide book is also a must in this country. Tide ranges vary from six feet to twenty-four feet, depending on time of month and season. The average is about fourteen. When anchoring you must allow for the rise and fall of tide in your anchorage, or face the likelihood of either drifting about at high tide with your anchor hanging above the bottom, or lying on the beach at low tide. Scope calculations must be for high tide, and you must have enough room to swing in what will at low tide be a smaller anchorage on longer scope. SE Alaska tide books are available free in most local hardware and sporting goods stores. Some cover only the local region; some cover multiple regions.
Also a necessity, particulary on the trip up, is the tidal current tables.
Be careful, take nothing for granted, and have fun. Bring a crab pot.
Another good thing to have is about 600 feet of floating line on a reel so you can run a line to shore and tie it back on the boat. This is useful in a small anchorage when there isn''t room to swing.
I also recomend having good tide tables as some of the passes can have currents running 5 to 16 knots so its important to know when slack water is.
I have anchored in 20 feet of water and been hard aground when the tide went out so good charts are handy.
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