Venturing Through Southeast Alaska - Part 1
Join us on another journey of exploration through the sparsely inhabited lands of the Pacific Northwest. This year we will be cruising the waters of British Columbia and Southwest Alaska in search of interesting people, places and wildlife while hosting Doc White and his team -whose project “Baja to Bering” seeks to document the wonders of this rugged coast following the route of migrating whales.
Our journey starts with a 1300 mile drive in a robustly loaded VW from Southern California to Vancouver Island where Venture has spent the winter having the latest round of changes installed at Delta Marine Services. We leave home on May 6th and our drive north takes us past glistening Mount Shasta 14,176 ft high.
On the morning of the third day we board the ferry from Anacortes to Sidney on Vancouver Island. Upon arrival, the contents of the VW are transferred to Venture’s cockpit to await proper stowage.
The following days are spent in provisioning and making preparations to get underway for our proposed four month trip. One of these is to cross the border into the USA at nearby Roche Harbor and re-enter Canada under a cruising permit.
We leave Delta at 10:02 on the morning of May 12th. It is a gorgeous day with calm seas, cool temperatures and cloudless skies. Along the way we encounter some of the many BC ferries that interconnect the islands. We drop anchor in nearby Montague Harbor at 12:08.
May 13th. Sunday
We wait until 1242 before getting underway as we need to time our arrival at Dodds Narrows to coincide with slack water. We have been underway for only a short while when I receive a text from Marc to say that he was on his boat in Trincomali Channel just ahead of us. He too is en route to Nanaimo. We exchange texts and arrange to meet in Nanaimo.
Marc and myself share a common interest in the dramatic events which have occurred over the centuries in Lituya Bay on the Pacific coast of SE Alaska. In fact his boat is named after the French admiral involved in some of these events in 1786. We spend a pleasant evening aboard Marc’s boat sipping margaritas and catching up.
May 14th. Monday
We are underway at 0737 up the Strait of Georgia with Vancouver Island to port and the mainland to starboard. We are heading for notorious Seymour Narrows where the current can run up to 16 knots so it needs to be negotiated at - or close to - slack water. We anchor in Kanish Bay just north of the narrows at 1814 after a run of 95 nautical miles.
May 15th. Tuesday
We are underway at 0726 and make our way north up Discovery Channel and into Johnstone Strait. We have the tide behind so our speed reaches 14 knots with throttles set for 9.5. We arrive at Port Harvey at 1222. There is just one sailboat at the dock. The owner tells us he had this same boat when he lived in Ottawa for 40 years. During that time he cruised the St Lawrence river and as far north as Labrador. He later transferred the boat by road to the west coast. “Coastal Messenger”, a boat used for missionary and humanitarian work among the myriad islands of British Columbia, pulls in. We are invited aboard and enjoy informative conversation accompanied by tea and homemade cookies. Perhaps the most important feature of cruising is the interesting people you meet along the way.
May 16th. Wednesday
George, who owns and runs Port Harvey marina, brings cinnamon buns down to the boat and we are underway at 0910 after saying goodbye to everyone. We head up Knight Inlet to Glendale Cove which has the reputation of being a good grisly bear viewing area. It is rough in Knight Inlet but the strong wind is from aft so the ride is comfortable. Once in Glendale Cove it is hard to find a good anchoring area as the head of the bay is shallow. Elsewhere the shoreline slopes steeply into the water. and the best spot is already occupied by another boat. We finally drop anchor in 106 ft of water at 1315. Doc spots a couple of grizzly bears on the beach so we launch the big tender Louisa, Doc and myself head in their direction while Chris remains on Venture to keep an eye on the anchor in the strong wind. One of the bears, a young male, continues browsing on sedge grass and pays little attention to us - allowing us to approach quite close as we take numerous photos and video.
May 17th. Thursday
Doc and myself make another foray again in the tender to photograph a bear wandering along the beach flipping over rocks looking for crabs and other stuff to eat. The tide is extremely low. The land at the top end of the bay creeps alarmingly close to Venture although we have 50 ft under the keel. We spot a bald eagle surveying the scene from his perch atop an old piling.
At 1049 we proceed a further 11 miles up Knight Inlet to visit the water fall at Cascade Point. The scenery en route is dramatic with soaring cliffs and snow capped mountains. The weather is beautiful but chilly. We reach the waterfall at 1230 and, as the cliffs plunge sheer into the water, we are able to bring Venture’s bows right up to the cascade.
We turn our bows west and return down the fjord this time with the wind against us.
We arrive at Lagoon Cove at 1627. This is another cozy seasonal marina run by a couple. Once again, being early in the season, there is just one other visiting vessel. We sit and chat in an impromptu Happy Hour where our hosts lay on shrimp and nibbles while we supply our own drinks. This is a delightful spot and the onshore garden is full of spring flowers including bluebells and forget-me-nots; the air redolent with the sweet scent of lilac.
May 18th Friday.
Underway at 0806 Overcast and quite chilly before the sun breaks through the overcast. We pass through the whale-watching areas of Hansen Island but, alas, we fail to spot any whales. We tie up in the North Island marina at 1144 from where I am sending this blog.
Click below to jump to the other parts of the Venturing Through Southeast Alaska.