North To Alaska

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After a maiden voyage from Newport Beach, California to Seattle, Washington, Ed and Patty Dunn set off in their newly acquired Maritimo 52 on the adventure of a lifetime-a 3000 nautical mile trip to the beautiful cruising grounds to Alaska.

Patty Dunn takes up the story…
 

With the Maritimo fully loaded with fuel and supplies, we left Seattle on a bright and sunny morning for Alaska. In the third week of May 2008, we were bound for Alaska. Cruising at 19 knots, we arrived in Sydney B.C. late morning, passed customs and settled in for the night.

Our first main objective was to get north to the city of Ketchikan. After eight days of perfect cruising we arrived and moored where we could watch the cruise ships come and go just 100 yards from our berth. We stayed in Ketchikan for three days and enjoyed the tourist sights and trips available in this beautiful day.

Our next objective was Santa Anna Inlet via Clarence Strait and Earnest Sound. Along the way we encountered strong south-easterlies and waves of four to six feet. The Maritimo loved it!

Next it was on to Wrangell and then Petersburg via the Wrangell Narrows. With its 54-navigation aids- including five sets of range markers- this passage is traversed by many ferries, barges, cruise ships, and freight boats, and must be navigated very carefully.

GLACIERS AND WHALES

We spent some quality time with friends in Petersburg and then headed north for Juneau by way of Tracy Arm, which extends 22 miles inland to its head at the North Sawyer and South Sawyer Glaciers. Both glaciers can be very active and at times huge ice blocks clog the channel and create major navigational hazards. We were fortunate that we were there before the warm weather had created such conditions, so we cruised all the way to the head of the arm and enjoyed the magnificent sight of these glaciers.

The weather continued in our favor and the next day we continued to Juneau where we moored in Auke Bay, at the northern end of Juneau.

We spent a week in Auke Bay using the public transport to take us back and forth from the dock where whales fished and spanked the water with their fluke’s right where we were moored.

We left Auke Bay and continued our adventure west through Icy Straight and on to Elfin Cove. On the way we were entertained by two pods of whales that had us surrounded as they swam. We left Elfin Cove and rounded Jacobi Island into the Gulf of Alaska on our way to Sitka. Along the way we fished for and caught several beautiful king salmon, which we filleted and ate with great enthusiasm for dinner on Father’s Day.

We spent the night in Baker Cove, inside Imperial Passage, and we were amazed to see three brown bears (grizzlies) foraging on the shore all day- and all the next. How could we leave and miss that?

Taking advantage of the good weather conditions we started south to Kimshan Cove, down Ogdne Passage and Rough Channel into Salisbury Sound and on to Sitka.

Sitka is a beautiful city that will captivate you even before arrival with incredible views of snow capped mountains, green islands (many with homes and docks), and fishing boats coming and going all day and night. Full of Russian influence, Sitka has an illustrious history as the first capital of Alaska. The Russian-American Company moved there in 1799 in search of fresh supplies of sea otters, which were rapidly dwindling in Western Alaska. Bitter rivalries ensued between the Russians and the local Tlingit tribe. On June 20, 1802 the Tlingit’s attacked St Michael (old Sitka). The battle was disastrous for the Russians, as over 200 Russians and Aleuts lost their lives. The Russians re-established themselves two years later by defeating the Tlingit’s on the site that Sitka occupies today.

BACK TOWARD THE SOUTH

We stayed in Sitka of some time and then headed out to the southeast down Chatham Strait in deteriorating weather with heavy seas. We spent the night in Cosmos Cove to avoid the weather. Rough seas continued to dog us so we changed our route to find better water going back through St. Petersburg, down Wrangell Narrows and Sumner Strait into Shakan Strait. We anchored in Calder Bay and experienced heavy rain, and some beautiful rainbows.

The next day we cruised the El Capitan Passage, which extends 18 miles between Shakan Strait and Sea Otter Cove. A Federal project provides for a 2.8-mile passage that has been dredged through seven shoals and allows for only one boat passage at a time during low tide. We spent a few days at El Capitan Fishing Lodge where beautiful scenery and fabulous food abound- and the fishing wasn’t too bad either. We continued south through Tuxekam Passage, the Gulf of Esquibel and into Craig, which was very windy, with pouring rains, and rough seas.

Favorable weather returned and we continued south into Cordova Bay and rounded Cape Chacon, at the base of Prince of Wales Island (20 miles just going around) and entered Dixon Entrance, with rip tides coming in all directions, waves and swells. The Maritimo handled it all beautifully.

A few days later we found ourselves back in Ketchikan in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. We’d been on the go for quite some time so we decided to spend several days in Ketchikan before heading back north to circumnavigate Behm Canal, which is also known as the Misty Fjords National Monument. This is 100 miles of incredible beauty, established in 1978; the area encompasses 2.2 million acres. As the name suggests, it is frequently misty with the area receiving around 150 inches of rain a year, and it didn’t disappoint.

We spent the first night in Yes Bay, in the pouring rain, and every day after was the same. Worth seeing along the way in this area certainly is Rudyard Bay and Walker Cove. The cove is too deep for convenient anchoring but offers some of the most spectacular waterfalls and shear cliffs in southeast Alaska. We cruised to the head of the cove to a classic glacier-carved valley, which was absolutely breathtaking in it’s beauty.We spent the night in Anchor Pass after some southerly winds forced us to stop for the night. The following day we traveled south against the winds and had one of our most difficult days yet, crossing Dixon Entrance and into Prince Rupert, B.C., some 200 miles and really much too exhausting for either of us. We moored at the Prince Rupert Yacht Club and rested for several days before heading south to the Grenville Channel and the Long Inland Passage toward home. We spent the night anchored in Lowe Inlet at the head, by a most spectacular waterfall. The next day we traveled further south to Shearwater B.C., another 7-hour day. From there, we headed south to River’s Inlet and spent several days at the beautiful Duncanby Lodge, where we fished for Silvers and caught three. Our next destination was the Broughton Islands, the last of the open sea we needed to cover, and this leg is always a concern for us, as there are many strong currents around outcroppings of land. We stopped for several days at Pierre’s Bay on Gilford Island, east of the Queen Charlotte Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island. There we enjoyed a pig roast (a specialty of Pierre’s Bay), and the great company of boaters from all over the Northwest.

From Echo Bay (Pierre’s Bay) we traveled on to Port McNeil on Vancouver Island and finally down Johnstone Strait to Campbell River, where we turned over the boat over to our son for his family to enjoy or two weeks.

After all, we owe the enjoyment of the whole trip to our marvelous Maritimo, good charts, a fine skipper, and the best cruising waters anywhere, the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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