Venture Re-Visits Southeast Alaska - May 2022
Venture re-visits SE Alaska. May 2022.
Blog 1 Sidney BC to Juneau,
June 4th Saturday
Underway 0728. We had to go “round the flag” at Roche Harbor to get our Canadian Cruising Permit. When provisioning in Canada we had overlooked that we are not allowed to have on board any fruit, vegetables or meat when entering the USA. so, yesterday we offloaded all of our provisions into another Fleming moored at Delta Marine. We crossed the US border at 0840 and Chris called up US immigration and got us cleared in. We did not have to tie up at customs dock. We then turned around and headed back to Delta and encountered Blue Pearl and Bonito on the way. We stopped at the Canadian customs dock at Van Isle and Chris called in to log us back into Canada. No problems.
We then tied up at our previous dock at Delta at 10.20 and reloaded our provisions. We finally and seriously got underway at 1032. No issues during our journey to Nanaimo where we anchored at 1515. En route, we passed through Dodds Narrows where we had two knots in our favour. No other boats. Overcast all day. Occasional rain. I checked the camera on Mac mini connected to TV in fwd cabin. System worked well but saw spots on video only. Tests narrowed it down to the camera sensor.
Anchored off the pub in Nanaimo Harbour at 1515. Christine cooked nice dinner of chicken with gooey rice and asparagus. I tried to get Garmin InReach going, not sure whether I succeeded. The instructions are ridiculously confusing. Quite cold below decks.
63.8 miles today.
June 5th Sunday
Underway at 0655. More like November than June. Exited the anchorage through the harbour which Chris said is 1/2 mile shorter. Chain counter on the windlass remote stopped working. Heading north up Georgia Strait quite windy and rough but from aft so no problem.
Took photos of sail boats and freighter. Comfortable ride for us with following seas. Strait of Georgia is 110 miles long 20 miles wide. 20 knots from SE and can be really nasty Hit 14.3 kts surfing. Vessels heading south were having a hard time.
Entered Seymour Narrows at 1435. 4 knot current helped us through. Anchored in Camelion Harbour on Sonora Island. Windlass counter worked OK. 99.86 nm today.
June 6th Monday
Underway at 0649. Cold with light rain. Lovely clouds over the mountains. While at anchor, genset shut down due to blockage in cooling water intake. Chris switched to alternate intake and after a few minutes genset shut down again. Caused by jelly fish in intake strainers.
Uneventful passage up Johnstone Strait. Had both wind and tide behind us most of the way. Traveling up to 11.2 knots at just over 1200 rpm. Arrived at North Island Marina at 1401. Bruce met us at the dock. SE wind at `10 kts. Temp 57.8 F - with windchill 55F. 71.84 nm today.
June 7th Tuesday
47 degrees F. this morning. In view of the weather, decided to go across to Cape Caution today. Ideal conditions. Departed Port McNeill at 0835. Had phone coverage until into Queen Charlotte Sound. No problems.during crossing Had a hard time deciding where to spend the night. Tried to anchor in Warrior Cove but too rocky for anchor to hold. Eventually went to Kisamet. Anchored at 1838. I cooked two versions of Shepherds’s pie. Oner for Chris and self and another vegetarian for Christine. Two other pleasure boats at anchor plus one fish boat came in while we were trying to get the anchor] to set. 96.51 nm today.
(Below: VENTURE at North Island Marina, Port McNeil, Vancouver Island.)
June 8th Wednesday
Departed 0658. Lovely light this morning. Occasional light rain. Able to get phone coverage while passing Bella Bella and, by using phone Hotspot, connected computer to internet,. Had storm forecast and were expecting rough conditions while passing Ivory Island lighthouse but conditions turned out not to be anything like we were expecting although some quite big swells. Got some good still photos and video of the scenic lighthouse. Turned into lovely day with beautiful clouds with occasional rain showers. Anchored in Bottleneck at 1347. Already five boats there. With ourselves and later arrivals eventually reached a total of 10 boats. The most we have ever seen. I cooked pork chops with roast potatoes and sauted cabbage with wine for dinner. Miles today 64.35.
June 9th Thursday
Up anchor at 0650. Rain and gloomy. Videos and photos waterfalls which were impressive due to the rain. Made a diversion at Hartley village so could briefly connect to internet and e-mail. Rained all day. Winds gusting to 40 knots. Anchored at 1648 in Exposed Inlet off Klewnugget inlet. Narrow channel between underwater rocks. Christine cooked beef bourguignon which was really good. 93.26 nm today.
June 10th Friday
Another grey day with intermittent rain but no wind. Underway at 0708. Itchy night from bugs in Bottleneck. Rained on and off during the day. Lots of waterfalls running fast. Had a quick look at Butedale. More clean up but did not look as if anybody there. Wind up to 30 knots from aft and day finished up with broken cloud and patches of blue sky before rain returned. Saw BC ferry Northern Expedition heading south. Anchored at inner end of Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island. at 14.32. Was finally able to get In Reach to work. 76.73 nm today.
June 11th Saturday
Rain overnight but just grey in the morning. Underway at 0705. Forecast not too good for crossing Dixon Entrance with gusts up to 35 kts but all weather from SE so we went ahead with crossing. We surfed as much as 14.3 kts with throttles set to 1175. The seas and sky looked quite ominous but not as bad as forecast and with weather from aft quite a smooth passage although plenty of whitecaps. Crossed border back into US and had good internet. Took a lot of video of the waves etc on iPhone which is actually better than that shot on Lumix. Watched it on TV in fwd cabin and it sparkles. Had a hard time finding a berth in Ketchikan. Finally found one at Doyon’s Landing which is about one mile south of the town center and cruise ships docks. Tied up at 1135. There were three cruise ships docked. in town. One a Carnival ship and also a fine looking Disney Wonder. We took on 1098.9 USG of diesel which was delivered by road tanker. The slip is quite exposed but the people very nice. We were joined by an Offshore 95 footer and later by a massive Fedship named Ice Bear. It was raining on and off.
(Below: VENTURE crossing Dixon Entrance.)
Clocks fall back one hour here.
Went out to dinner by taxi to Cape Fox Lodge. Main dining room was full but we ate in the lounge with chairs rather too low for the table so had to eat doubled up. 55.97nm today.
June 12th. Sunday
Chris and Christine walked into town to supermarket to pick up limited supplies. Round trip walk - 6.4 miles! They got back seconds before a heavy rain shower. Huge cruise ship came by Celebrity Millenium. Other huge cruise ships docked Carnival Splendour and Celebrity Soltice. Underway at 10.10.
Overcast with nice clouds. Got to Myer’s Chuck at 1400 just after float plane landed. The dock was completely full so we attempted to anchor. This was not successful in deep water with rocky bottom. As we could not tie up at dock and walk ashore, we decided to go elsewhere so pulled anchor at 1410 and left. After some discussion decided on Ratz Harbor on Prince of Wales Island. Nice anchorage with view of Clarence Strait. Anchored in deep water at 1555. Let out 400 feet of chain. 50 ‘ feet of which from below sole in anchor locker. Lovely views of distant snow covered mountains with sun on them. Chris launched the new drone. It is so tiny it is impossible to see it when in the air so forced to use the iPhone screen which is the correct method anyway. 51.26 nm today.
(Below: VENTURE anchored in Ratz Harbor.)
June 13th. Monday
Perfectly still morning. Overcast. Ships in the Strait heading south left a wake which took a long time to reach us and gently rocked the boat. Videoed it coming across the still water. It turned out we had let out almost the entire 400 ft of chain and the rope tied to the bitter end was almost at the point of coming up on deck. Chris was not satisfied with the strength of this rope and felt it was too long to the extent that it would go over the bow roller so he decided to add a second shorter rope. This was done and in the process the whole anchor locker was cleaned out and washed down. This drains directly overboard so no problem with dirty water running throughout boat. Finally got underway at 0943. We encountered a group of Dall dolphins traveling at great speed. They stayed for a while passing extremely close to the bow and only surfacing to breath for the briefest of moments. I later brought a video clip into FCP editing system and was able to determine that they do not breath out under water and breath in and out in about 2/3 of a second! I estimated this by counting the frames at 30 frames/second. We entered Wrangell narrows at 1415 with a strong tide against us. Met a tug towing a large barge but were able to take a side diversion channel to avoid it. Had to keep a slow speed because of the many small fishing boats in the channel. Chris called ahead and was able to get a berth in Petersburg for two nights. On approach to the harbor we spotted a Fleming which turned out to be Mola Mola! Amazing! We have run into them by chance in so many places from Alaska to Mexico. We tied up at 1630. We had dinner on board cooked by Christine. 63.63 nm today.
June 14th Tuesday
We have been getting underway each day at around 0700 but arose today slightly later. Sunny morning but soon turned gloomy. Chris and Christine went out for breakfast while I stayed on board. Christine went to see a local friend while Chris worked on opening the windlass and found the magnet used to signal rpm was grungy with crud. I spent most of the day working on and organizing photos and, after much trouble, posting a couple on Facebook.
We went to dinner early at 4.30 to Inga’s Galley and there ran into the crew from Mola Mola and their friends who just arrived from Newport Beach. Another coincidental meeting!
June 15th Wednesday
Awoke to beautiful sunny morning without a cloud in the sky but very chilly at 49 degrees. Slowly, mist appeared which morphed into thick fog by the time we got underway at 0835. We felt our way through the fog avoiding the many small fishing boats that were out there. It cleared when we reached more open waters. We saw our first ice in the distance and the mountains looked lovely with a lot of snow. I always feel that the real Alaska starts at Petersburg. The wind was now from the northwest at 15 -17 knots and there were plenty of white caps and spray over the boat. I took some shots with the iPhone which came out really well including in slo-mo. The spray had rainbows, The wind dropped to 4 knots but then increased again to 17+. We had some phone coverage in Frederick Sound. We saw no whales which is unusual for this area. We could just pick out Baranof Island in the distance with tons of snow on the mountains. We were going to anchor in Snug Harbour but saw other boats on the AIS so we anchored in an unnamed cove off Gambia Bay at 1434. I downloaded all the stills and video and those taken on the iPhone was the best!
June 16th Thursday
We awoke to a calm, sunny morning. Not a single cloud in the sky. Underway at 0658. The anchor counter was not working when pulling up.. A great disappointment. As soon as we got out into the Strait we had strong winds against us as well as a strong tide. Speed down to less than 8 knots. Queen Elizabeth cruise ship overtook us as we traveled up Steven’s Passage. Hazy. Lots of snow on mountains but very little ice in the water.
The 20 knot wind and the tide were both against us so we only traveled at around 8.5 kts over the ground. Our plan was to get to the entry of Ford’s Terror in time to video the rapids running at full chat using the drone. We turned into Endicott Arm where there was very little ice and . passed the SumDum Glacier which has noticeably retreated. The mountains bordering Endicott Arm reach heights of 7,000 ft. When we reached Ford’s Terror, we found our timing was well off and we had arrived just after low water slack! It is recommended to transit this passage only at high water slack but we decided to try it cautiously at low water. We could see the bottom in places but made it through safely. Once inside, we saw three pleasure boats already at anchor at the head of the bay. They were all friends from Mercer Island and the Seattle Yacht club and it was their first time in Alaska.
(Below: VENTURE approaching Endicott Arm, Southeast Alaska.)
At 1245, we anchored in 125 ft of water which meant that once again we had to let out all our chain. However, while anchoring, when Chris asked for slight ahead on the port engine, the port shaft went into reverse, which I did not initially realize as, when I moved the lever from the neutral position to the fwd position, the port engine stopped. Later, after investigation, the problem was traced to one of the solenoids on the port transmission not acting as it should. At the time of writing this blog entry we did not know whether the problem was the solenoid or the Glendinning control sending false signals. Chris called Kevin at Delta Marine in Sidney using the sat phone. Kevin said he would call Glendinning on the phone early tomorrow morning.
Quite a lot of biting flies and bugs flying around so had to use screens. Barn swallows flying around snatching insects on the wing helped to keep them away. These birds seem not to be wary of humans and allow you to come quite close. One barn swallow even flew into the engine room while Chris was there. Chris turned off the light and left the hatch open so the bird came out on his own. One pair showed signs of starting a nest above the port windshield wiper! I was able to get some quite nice stills and video.
Chris and Christine took the large tender for a cruise around the fjord while I worked on backing up photos. While in the tender, its depth sounder was found not to be working. Chris later traced this to a poor plug in connection. We are having a rash of annoying problems - most likely due to the equipment not being used for such a long period.
Christine cooked a very nice dinner of Halibut cheeks with mashed potato and Brussel sprouts.
The air was filled with the sounds of running water - especially from the large waterfall at the head of the bay - providing a soothing lullaby in these unique and magnificent surroundings.
June 17th Friday
Chris called Kevin early in the morning (who had contacted Glendinning on US East Coast) and as a result of the conversation swopped over the cables on the Glendinning boxes for port and starboard engines to isolate the problem We then ran tests which showed that the problem had gone away for both engines! This meant that either the problem had corrected itself - as had happened on a previous occasion - or plugging and replugging the cable had done the trick.
After breakfast we got ready to head to the entrance to video the water rushing through. Getting ready meant boots - in case we needed to go ashore to provide a stable platform to control the drone - donning warm clothes, hat, sunglasses and life vest. Then camera gear with extra batteries etc and of course the drone. At 0800 we left Venture and headed for the entrance which was just under 5 miles away. It was quite chilly but the water smooth and it was a clear sunny day. We took a quick look at the rapids which were running quite fast and decided our best option was to anchor the tender just upstream of and around the corner from rapid water flow. We did all this before we realized we had forgotten to put a mini SD card (about the size of a finger nail) in the drone camera. Aaaargh!! There was nothing for it but to make the 10 mile round trip back to the boat to get a card. So that is what we did! Once we returned we soon had the tender anchored in the original chosen spot and Chris got busy flying the drone. He brought it back after a while to exchange batteries and we also changed SD cards so that we would at least have the pictures on the original card if we lost the drone on the second flight! Where we had the dinghy anchored was in a back eddy and mini floating islands of flotsam circled lazily around us while the tender also joined in a lazy waltz. Finally Chris successfully brought the drone home to land on an improvised mat landing surface held by Christine. We took a quick look at the turbulent waters at the entrance before heading back to Venture. We had been out at least two and a half hours on this mission and were quite chilled by the time we returned to the boat. We had hot chocolate prior to hot soup for lunch.
Of course we were anxious to check out camera footage especially from the drone but there was also video and stills shot from my GH5 as well as from my iPhone which I had already found out to produce remarkably good results. All this had to be downloaded and backed up which too quite a while. Much to my relief at all came out very well from all cameras. So - finally - mission accomplished as far as videoing the Ford’s Terror rapids is concerned. I certainly have all the material I need to make a Revisit to Ford’s Terror video with more emphasis on the Terror for a video in the “Being There” series.
We decided to spend the night here and leave at around 0430 tomorrow morning to head up to
Dawes glacier at the head of Endicott Arm.
I had long been fascinated by a dramatic waterfall high up with water spilling over the edge of a precipitous, curved cliff close to 1,000 above the water. At my suggestion we took the tender down to spot just below the cliff and Chris flew the drone up to the waterfall from the tender which was drifting in the brisk wind. I knew this was a dodgy mission especially as the drone gave us a warning that there was no GPS signal in the narrow gorge and this was a risky operation. But I decided it was worth taking a chance. When it came time to bring the drone back, the image on the iPhone controller disappeared and after some tense moments with the time remaining on the battery ominously counting down, we sadly lost the drone. I felt sad at this brave little gadget doing such a good job and then getting lost in the 400 ft deep water of the fjord. Chris got the image back just moments before it crashed into the water so the chances are that we would have been able to save it had there been just another few minutes of battery time. However, the saving grace was that the images had been captured on his iPhone and they turned out to be spectacular.
June 18th Saturday
We staggered out of our berths at 0330 and got underway at 0503 in order to pass through the entrance at high water slack. Sunrise was at 0352 so it was not dark. As the sun rose it turned into a beautiful, brisk and sunny morning but, we had to admit, the fjord was not nearly as atmospheric as the previous time we were here when beautiful mist lay draped across the green water. We said a farewell when we crossed the spot where our drone had gone to its watery grave ands exited though the narrow entrance which had been the site of so much drama the previous day.
We headed up the Endicott Arm in stunning weather. the only problem being that it was straight into the rising sun.
Patches of thick ice alternated with clear areas as we proceeded up Endicott Arm. The scenery was truly stunning with the surrounding mountains covered in masses of snow, The very rocks themselves were fascinating and myriad sparkling water falls thundered down precipitous slopes. When we reached Dawes Glacier prominent spires of ice, over 300 ft high, dominated the craggy face. These seemed surely ready to fall at any second especially as frequent cracks of sound reached us across the water. Large chunks did fall off with a big splash which created gentle swells and left a mist hovering over the water but the main spires remained intact. The water temperature was a chilly 40 degrees F.
I decided on another risky mission - using our older, back up drone Chris skillfully flew it over the glacier and landed it safely back on the foredeck capturing spectacular images. With this drone we would not have got the pictures if the drone failed to return to base. We were drifting away from the glacier at around 1 knot so we motored up closer to it a couple of times reaching to with 1/4 mile of its face. Eventually after a couple of hours - with the towering spires remaining intact - we headed back down Endicott Arm this time, with the sun behind us, the views were magnificent and awe inspiring. We filtered our way through the bands of ice keeping a sharp look out for the almost awash and barely visible chunks of crystal clear ice. We stopped to collect some glacier ice for our cocktails. Numerous bergy bits had seals resting on them and we tried to steer well clear of them but they were very skittish.
We reached the junction with Tracy Arm and passed through the narrow entrance in the moraine from where the glaciers had terminated many years ago. The red marker buoy indicated a strong current and our speed jumped from 9.5n knots to over 14.
We turned into Tracy Arm Cove at the entrance to Tracy Arm where several boats were already at anchor. We anchored at 1405. This is the only tenable anchorage for several miles.The last time we were here we had been assaulted by a large chuck of ice - larger than Venture - and, with that memory in mind, we anchored over to one side of the bay. More boats came in until there were 10 boats anchored in the bay. Amazingly one of them was Mola Mola. When we had met in Petersburg by chance a few days ago, neither of us had planned to be in this anchorage on this date. We had salmon with boiled potatoes and asparagus for dinner.
It had been a very long but rewarding day. I spent ages downloading and backing up from multiple cameras and drones. Once again the iPhone looked best of all! Pam Bacich on Mola Mola said she now uses only the iPhone for landscapes.
Sunday 19th Sunday
Underway at 0905. By the time we left most of the other boats had already gone. Fully overcast today in complete contrast to yesterday. We headed in the direction of Juneau.
I took some photos of birds on ice floes which came out rather well. We had no cell phone signal until the entrance to Gastineau Channel and then only one bar despite this being the capital of the State of Alaska. I received an e-mail from Marc saying that downtown slips were charging $5 per foot per day. Chris called Auke Bay which is a few miles beyond Juneau to see if we could find a slip there. It was first-come-first-served but we decided to go there anyway.
We arrived at 1500 and found a berth inside the marina. It was spitting rain and quite windy and cold. Chris and Christine went off to airport to pick up a pre-booked rental car. We only one bar on phone.
So here we are - essentially in Juneau. We will be here about four days to fully provision until we reach Sitka in three weeks and pick up our first guest.
Read The Next Updates To This Blog:
June 2022: From Auke Bay To Close By Sitka
Early July 2022: Circumnavigation Of Baranof Island
Late July 2022: Visiting Prince Of Wales Island