Venture Blog 4: Visiting Prince Of Wales Island

Visiting Chichagof Island Before Heading To Kleg Bay.
chichagof island alaska
repairing the chain counter
navigating through Keku Straits
rocky pass
Capitan Passage
crossed gulf of esquibel

More travels along the exposed west coast of Baranof Island. One more brief stop at Sitka then goodbye to Baranof Island as we cross Chatham Strait to the next group of Islands to the East especially Prince of Wales Island. We make an unscheduled stop in Ketchikan before bidding farewell to SE Alaska for 2022.


July 14th Thursday

In Sitka. Steve’s flight is delayed from 0630 to a more civilized 0830. Provisioning. Dinner at the Beak restaurant. I send off Blog #3.


July 15th Friday

More provisioning. Dinner at the Magiare Italian restaurant in the Sitka Hotel.


July 16th Saturday

We visit the Raptor Center at 3 pm and have to admit that we find it a little disappointing compared to previous visits. This is because there are not so many birds due to risk of bird flu. We have dinner at the Channel Club out of town.


July 17th Sunday

Underway at 0941. Grey day. Chilly with rain and forecast of winds of 30 kts. Very windy and rainy. Not a nice day at all. We go just as far as Sukoi Inlet located between Kruzof Island and the strangely named “PartofShikof Island” because venturing into open waters under the current rough conditions off a lee rocky shore would not have been either fun or sensible. As it is, we anchor at the very top end of Sukoi Inlet at 1220 with wind gusting to 33 knots where we spend a relaxed afternoon. Our next guest, Scott, arrives at midday.


July 18th Monday

Overnight the wind drops to almost complete calm. Misty clouds float over surrounding mountains clad with trees in good condition. We have just one bar of cell coverage but I am able to receive an enquiry from German TV re the possibility of using some of my footage of Lituya Bay. We get underway at 0950. The seas in the open Gulf of Alaska are quite rough - traveling up the coast with ominous skies and spray bursting on submerged rocks. How much worse it would have been if we had continued yesterday. Conditions calm down as soon as we turn into Kimshan Cove on Chichagof Island at 1337. There are some dilapidated shacks on the shore. Mist hangs across the mountains - occasionally descending to the surface of the water.

(Below: Venture at anchor in remote Kimshan Cove on the west coast of Chichagof Island.)

drone image of chicagof island


July 19th Tuesday

Absolutely still morning. Chris flies the replacement drone brought by Scott who joined us in Sitka. Underway at 0803. We travel further north through relatively low-lying Islands. Misty with light rain. At 1017 we anchor in Kleg Bay off an abandoned Chichagof Village which, in 1938, had over 200 inhabitants and was the site of a gold mine that produced more than $13 million worth of gold and $1m in silver between 1905 and the late 1930’s. Not much is left today other than some rusting equipment on the beach. The mine was established after two young Indians made known the presence of gold in a local stream. This whole area is an absolute maze of islands with many otters inhabiting the surrounding waters 

We had thought we might stay one or two nights here to explore the abandoned “town” but with there being so little remaining was not much left to explore so we decide to move on. We up anchor at 1414 and go first to Waterfall Cove but decide it is too exposed so we move on to adjacent Falcon Arm where we anchor at 1618. The anchor drags through soft mud but Chris decides to allow time for it to set. This is a very nice spot with trees standing tall on amazingly steep hill sides. However there are many dead trees at the entrance and also in Slocum Arm. We believe these are yellow cedar whose roots are vulnerable to freezing when there is a lack of snow to protect them.


July 20th Wednesday

Heavy rain when we awake. Up anchor at 0745. We head out into the open ocean where it is pretty rough as the waves and wind are against us. As we turn into Frederick Sound we hear a Mayday call from a charter fishing boat re a client who was seasick and then had a heart attack. They are performing CPR on him as they race to the northern outskirts of Sitka. They pass us at speed and we can observe them performing CPR in the small boat cockpit as they race past. We tie up in Thompson Harbor at 1310.

Chris has determined the most likely cause of our trouble with the chain counter is the sender in the windlass so, with the help of Kevin at Delta Marine Services he is able to have a replacement sent c/o of the harbormaster in Sitka’


July 21st Thursday

Underway at 0843. Amazingly, on our way out of the harbor, we spot Fleming 55, Mola Mola, moored at Fisherman’s Wharf. Quite a big swell was running once we leave the harbor. Nice sunny day out at sea with ominous looking clouds over the distant land. We see separate areas of foam on the water even well out to sea. We go to the head of Necker Bay and then around to Dorothy Cove where we anchor at 1420. We test Starlink and find it to be working. Scott flies the drone starting above the low clouds and down through them to reveal Venture at anchor. The anchor did not set to Chris’s satisfaction so at 1705 we raise it and return to the head of Necker Bay where we re-anchor at 1748. We spot a young, black-coloured, grizzly bear eating sedge grass.


July 22nd Friday

Under misty skies and light rain, Chris works to replace the sender for the chain counter.

working on the anchor sender

The problem is that the replacement sensor is loose in the original bushing and cannot be fixed in place securely. Chris, assisted by Scott, finally resorts to using epoxy and we move on at 1306 with the chain counter tested and working. So - the faulty sensor was the problem. Would have been much quicker to replace had the sleeve into which it fitted on the windlass been able to hold the replacement sensor. As soon as we leave the shelter of the anchorage it is quite rough as we proceed south to aptly named Still Inlet where we anchor at 1515. Breaking waves on rocks make.the approach look quite intimidating. With Starlink working we are able to stream Sea Gypsies on Amazon Prime with few interruptions.


July 23rd Saturday

It is low tide and very calm when we awake. We spot two rocks which are not on the chart and of which we had been unaware when we anchored. Chris launches the new drone and takes videos and still photos plus we note their GPS location. We transmit this info to NOAA’s website for chart updates. We get underway at 0752 and while hauling the anchor Chris spots a mother bear with two tiny cubs - very young but old enough to be eating grass and turning over rocks. We are enveloped in thick mist and the water is sloppy outside but calmer than yesterday. The land is either completely invisible of just a dark shadow on the horizon.

We round Cape Ommaney at the southern tip of Baranof Island at approximately 1130 This time we have a good view especially of Wooden Island - perhaps it should be called Wooded Island - which is an accurate description The sea calms down even before rounding the cape but continues much calmer across Chatham Strait. The coast of Kuiu Island is hidden in the mist until we are within four miles of it. From the entrance we can see one commercial and two private boats fishing. We anchor in what Douglass called Mud Hole in Port Malmesbury but has no official name on the chart.


July 24th Sunday

Awoke to serious rain. It’s good we are not suffering from heat and drought like most of the world but it would be nice to have a bit less rain and see the sun more often. Underway at 0828. It is quite rough when we leave Port Malmsbury but it becomes less so as we turn north and the weather is behind us. Quite a number of logs in the water which are not easy to spot in the rough conditions. We turn to starboard in between many islands and rocks into a small bay off Shelter Cove and anchor at 1115 in comparatively shallow water. We see numerous sea otters and Scott spots black bears very far away on the beaches of nearby islands. Rain continues on and off until early afternoon.


July 25th Monday

Awake to some sunshine. It is a lovely, dead calm, morning but clouds soon move in and the sun goes away. However, no rain which is a change. After breakfast, we all embark for an extended trip in the big tender through a narrow channel called The Eye of the Needle where we see a couple of bears. One is quite skittish but the other pays us little attention. We see a large group of otters on the way back. Christine and Scott use kayaks to explore the shore around the anchorage. Chris shoots drone footage.

I receive a message forwarded from Nicky from John Thomas re Carleton Mitchell’s boat. Lands End. I respond and he sends me copy of article from Yachting magazine in which I receive a brief mention. Even though there is no fog where we are, we hear big ship sirens every two minutes indicating fog in Chatham Strait.


July 26th Tuesday

We awake to dense fog but it does not last for long in our anchorage. However it returns once we get out into the main channel but it comes and goes throughout the day. We come across a group of large whales bubble feeding but I miss the main event of them surfacing immediately forward of the bow as I had gone aft having spotted a lone whale. The fog returns and we lose sight of the whales and continue on our way. We turn into Frederick Sound and see the town of Kake in the distance before anchoring at 1425 in Dukaneek Bay on Kupronof Island.


July 27th Wednesday

We awake to a really beautiful morning and a seriously minus tide. We do not get underway until 0905 because we want to delay reaching the Keku Straits (aka Rocky Pass) until the start of the rising tide. We had avoided this strait in the past because of its reputation but recent research has indicated that perhaps the risks had been overstated and the safe route through it is well marked.

(Below: Venture’s displays simplify navigation through Alaska’s tricky inland passes.)

keku straits

We are traveling from north to south which means leaving green, square markers to starboard and triangular red beacons to port. The green beacon at Entrance Island has fallen over. Most of the markers are OK but there are some - no longer on the current chart - which have toppled and there are a few missing altogether that are on the chart. Navigation is not difficult but care is needed and we are down to having just three feet below the keel in one place even at high water slack. We fly the drone and also take some time lapse footage which will eventually be combined into a video.

(Below: Venture enjoys a rare sunny day while passing through Keku Strait - also known as Rocky Pass.)

rocky pass

After a successful transit of Keku Strait, we drop the hook at 1404 in a very beautiful anchorage in the northeast lobe of Labouche Bay. Labouche Bay is named after stern wheeler which carried people between San Francisco and the Stikine river in the distant past.


July 28 Thursday

We awake to grey skies and a band of fog on the horizon. Another ultra low minus tide reveals a skein of rocks and skerries which gives the appearance of being landlocked - hemmed in by fog and rocks. So different from yesterday evening. We thread our way out between myriad islands and islets each wearing its wig of trees. Today we pass through Capitan Passage which to my mind is even more interesting and scenic than Keku Straits. Also it is deeper even though narrower. One narrow and short section is called Dry Pass so, presumably, has been dredged.

(Below: A starboard marker while heading south through a tight spot in El Capitan Pass.)

capitan passage

Capitan Passage separates Prince of Wales Island from Kusciusho Island. We see cars and a camper along the shore plus a dock for El Capitan Cave. Later we see numerous boats, docks and vehicles on Prince of Wales Island. We anchor at 1435 in Kaguk Cove on Prince of Wales Island. There are many otters among the numerous islands in this area of Prince of Wales Island.


July 29th Friday

Overcast morning. Underway at 0743 to Craig. We crossed the Gulf of Esquibel which is open to the ocean and, even with many islands in the way, we could still feel the gentle ocean swell. We call Craig requesting a slip. They are very helpful but they are completely full. At 1114 we anchor in Crab Bay off the north harbour along with several seiners and fish tenders. Rain descends seconds after anchoring.

(Below: Craig harbor is packed while the commercial fishing fleet awaits an official opening.)

anchored near gulf of esquibel


July 30th Saturday

Scott has been suffering from dental problems for several days and his situation requires immediate attention. He is able to pick up a prescription from pharmacy in Craig which, being Saturday, is only open 12 - 2. We decide we need to change our plans and head for Ketchikan right away so we get underway at 1322 . We go through Tlevak Narrows against a strong adverse tide. I am in the pilothouse when huge whale leaps clear of the water right along the starboard side of boat. I am only one to see the whole event but it happened too fast to be able to take any photos.

We enter the northern edge of Dixon Entrance which divides British Columbia from SE Alaska.
We anchor at the extreme top of Nichols Bay at 2117. The bottom is rocky in places and we let out over 300 ft of chain. We have covered 76.77 nm today. There is a fish opening and we see many commercial fishing boats out working. Many use the same anchorage in the evening.


July 31st Sunday

When pulling the anchor the chain comes up with a jellyfish clinging to the chain. We initially get underway at 0722 but masses of steam are pouring out from starboard engine bypass outlet with no raw water alarm. We stop and Chris checks the strainer and Venture’s unique butterfly shut-off valve in starboard exhaust. We drifted in the still. protected anchorage while this is going on. Eventually we get going again at 0812 without really resolving problem but steam has stopped and everything appears normal. We assume it was due to a temporary obstruction probably something to do with jellyfish but that doesn’t explain why the raw water alarm failed to indicate an obstruction - and we know the alarm is functioning because we check it. One of those mysteries. Dixon Entrance remains calm as we move east along southern tip of Prince of Wales Island. We reach Ketchikan without incident at 1327. There is no problem getting a slip in South Bar Harbour.

Hard to believe that this is the last day of August and from here we will be saying goodbye to SE Alaska and moving south across the border into British Columbia.


Previous Updates To This Blog:

May 2022: Venture Re-Visits Southeast Alaska

June 2022: From Auke Bay To Close By Sitka

Early July 2022: Circumnavigation Of Baranof Island