After six days in Ketchikan, I was ready to get back out on the water. During this time, there must have been 25 cruise ships come and go, each with a couple thousand passengers to see the sights. They arrive early in the morning and are gone by 5pm. The town seems to breathe a sigh of relief every evening, but the cruise business has transformed the town from a fishing and logging village to a tourist stop on the cruise line. There is still commercial fishing here, but the people I talked with said it is dwindling. Perhaps the old fishermen can get jobs in the many diamond, jewelry, T-shirt, and souvenir shops in town. I still don’t understand why cruise ship ports have so many diamond and jewelry shops.
One morning I awoke to a strange sound on the boat. I get used to hearing the normal sounds, such as the fridge running, the cooling pump kicking on, the beep of the coffee pot when it is done brewing. But when I hear something new, I have to investigate. It sounded like a pump running, sort of a humming sound. It was coming from one side of the boat, perhaps in the engine room. Shutting down all power and disconnecting all batteries didn’t stop it. Some batteries are difficult to get to, such as the one for the bow thruster where I have to take the bed apart and remove a couple of panels. It could only be coming from outside of the boat, but I couldn’t hear it outside. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting, I went out on the dock to contemplate the situation. An older gentleman a couple of boats away said good morning and asked how it was going. I began to explain the strange noise and he started laughing and said the first time he heard it on his boat, he drove himself crazy one morning trying to figure it out. That’s what I just did. He told me that certain cruise ships running their generators or some type of motors transmit the sound through the water that we can hear inside our boats. Well, there you go.
Cathleen and I left the dock, stopped for some fuel, then headed for our next destination, Meyers Chuck, about 35 miles away. This village has a mix of locals and seasonal residents, though not many in total, but enough to have a post office. It gets mail once a week.
There is a government dock for boaters like us passing through. We didn’t feel like docking, so we anchored in the scenic bay. The dock was nearly full anyway.
We were hardly settled when a lady in a small jon boat motored over and greeted us. Her name was Cassie and she asked if we would like fresh cinnamon rolls delivered in the morning. What?! Of course! Walnuts, cranberries, or plain? I don’t like walnuts, and Cathleen didn’t want one, so I ordered two with cranberries.
We dinghied over to the government dock and walked to shore. Not much to see really. We walked along a path until it ended, then walked a bit in the other direction. There was some funky artwork along the path and a “gallery” that wasn’t open. We peeked in the window and it looked like a collection of crafts and baskets. There were other visiting boaters walking the same path. No locals though.
We went back to the dinghy and explored the pretty bay. Back on the boat we ran the generator for a couple of hours and it seemed to be working fine after replacing the seal in the sea water pump.
Right on time at 8am the next morning, Cassie motored over with two freshly baked cinnamon rolls. What a treat and a great start for our 52 mile trip to Wrangell.
We arrived in Wrangell around 4pm and docked at Heritage Harbor Marina. The harbormaster met us at the dock and unlocked the power outlet for us. I guess they had trouble with some boaters arriving after hours and plugging in. These small towns have to generate their own power, so it is more expensive. It happens more frequently than I would like to admit, but I’ve seen other boaters arrive at a marina after the harbormaster goes home. They plug in to charge batteries, take a shower in the facilities, and leave without paying in the morning before the harbormaster returns. We chatted a bit with the harbormaster and he recommended the Stikine Inn for dinner. It was a mile walk to the restaurant and it is always nice to have a long walk after a day on the boat.
The Stikine River starts nearly 400 miles away in British Columbia and empties into the waterway just north of Wrangell. It has a major impact on the area. Long before we got to Wrangell, we noticed the water become murky and greenish in color. There was a lot more drift and other debris than usual and the river’s outflow current can make docking in Wrangell difficult.
Our waiter recommended the chicken chop something or other, which sounded good and I ordered it. It was a breaded chicken breast over garlic mashed potatoes with a piece of bacon on top, all covered in white gravy with bacon. I couldn’t eat it all, but now have some leftovers.
The next morning we walked back to town and stocked up on produce and other groceries. I also called the marine supply store in Seattle and arranged for them to send the right sea water pump to my niece, Amy, who will be joining us in Sitka. She will bring the pump with her.
We left Wrangell at 11:30am enroute to Petersburg, a small fishing town with a strong Norwegian heritage. The route takes us through Wrangell Narrows, a narrow, shallow channel with 21 miles of navigation aids all along the way.
The channel is one of those that has the flood tide enter at the same time at both ends, then ebbs out both ends. The best way to transit this is to time your entry during the last of a flood tide so the current is with us, then about half way through it changes to an ebb tide and the current remains with us the rest of the way. It worked great and we arrived in Petersburg, docked, and walked around town. There were historic buildings and Norwegian displays that were interesting. And lots of commercial fishing boats.
The next three nights we went off-schedule to different anchorages than what I planned from home. Being here and seeing the lay of the land/water makes it easier to decide where to go, and there are a lot of places to choose from. Just outside of Petersburg we saw Dawson Glacier in the distance. Across the water on the opposite shore I saw what I thought were a couple of boats. Looking through the binoculars I could see they were big icebergs that had washed onshore. They were too far away to take a picture without a big zoom lens.
The Whitney Island anchorage is well protected and pretty big. I set out the crab traps, caught only one keeper, but let him go in disappointment, but also not worth the effort to clean and cook just one crab.
Our anchorage at Ell Cove was small and beautiful, surrounded by mountains.
Ell Cove is a small cove. We were hoping to be the only boat there, but as we entered we saw two boats rafted together. There was still plenty of room for us. I took the dinghy and set a crab trap, motored around the cove and over to the boats rafted together, chatting a bit with the man on deck. They have been out a month and were from the Seattle area. The next morning he knocks on our boat and asked if I wanted a picture of our boat that he took from his drone. Of course I do! That was nice of him to do that.
Our last anchorage before getting to Sitka was in Deep Bay, just outside of Sergius Channel. Sergius Channel is one of those reversing tidal rapids that is dangerous to transit at all times except near slack when the current slows, stops, and changes direction before speeding up and causing dangerous conditions again. One the way, just before entering Peril Strait, I saw in the distance a lot of whale spouts.
As we approached closer, we saw at least 10 humpback whales that were bubble-net feeding! The whales blow bubbles around a school of fish, forcing them to the surface. Then the whales swim up with their mouths open, eating all the fish. That’s great teamwork!
We chose Deep Bay because we would be 20 minutes from Sergius Channel and able to catch the morning slack and get into Sitka by early afternoon. We also heard it was a good place to crab. In an hour and a half we had a bucket full of crabs! I was up until midnight cleaning and cooking them, well worth it.
Sergius Channel was calm at slack in the morning and off we went to Sitka, arriving at the dock in the afternoon.
We will be here for three nights, plenty of time to explore this unique town, reprovision, and catch up on some chores. Sitka is 315 miles from Ketchikan. Amy and her friend Kristin arrive Sunday and will join us for the leg to Juneau.