Saturday, June 27, 2009

#28 – Baby Bear Bay to Sitka

By first morning light, 3:20AM, there was just a slight ripple on the water. The Bay had protected us from the big winds, and while the crew rallied, a relieved and sleepy Alex slept in. We got underway at 8AM with +5 feet of falling tide as a depth cushion while exiting the Bay. Once free we set our course for Sergius Narrows, just 3 miles south, with slack tide just after 9AM.

Note the Sergius Narrows chart descriptions: tide ripes, whirlpools, strong currents, swirls, rapids. We get the point!

The boat accelerates as we approach the Narrows going south. We have 2 to 3 knots of current in our favor and hit 11+ knots over the ground, with still 30 minutes to go before slack tide! The channel has been dredged to 24 feet for ship travel, but this still doesn't let enough water pass, and the tidal waters build up on one side of the narrows creating the fast water and rapids. Lucky for us there is no oncoming traffic and we cruise, rocking and rolling, through the tide ripes, whirlpools, strong currents, swirls, and rapids. Just as we clear, the VHF Radio comes to life as a northbound Alaska Ferry warns oncoming traffic of her intentions to transit the Narrows in 15 minutes. Other vessels will standby while the ship navigates this “no passing” zone.

Sergius Narrows is well-marked but one-way only when a ship transits.

This Alaskan Ferry runs from Sitka northbound via the Narrows. Lookout!

Today's route to Sitka

At last we can relax and enjoy the beautiful Alaskan scenery as we make our way to Sitka. We note many fishing boats going our way and overhear them on the VHF grumbling about the lack of fish. Apparently June's 20+ days of sun and little rain has kept the salmon away from amassing at river mouths, as the rivers are too low for the salmon to make it upstream to their spawning habitat.

Just before noon, we pull into Sitka Harbor's Western Anchorage and call the Harbormaster on VHF. Turns out the fishing fleet is in and there's no dock space. We are told to anchor in the bay. An hour or so later the Harbormaster calls back via cell phone and gives us a slip assignment. We take a break and fill up with diesel, just about 800 gallons worth.

Entering Sitka from the north

We end up with prime dock space just in front of the dock office with an easy walk to the grocery and liquor store. We plan on staying until July 5th, and by then we're sure to be bored with Sitka.

Sitka must be OK: It already has an Olga and a Pat!

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