Monday, June 15, 2009

#18 – Ketchikan, around Cape Chacon, to Nichols Bay, Prince of Wales Island

Today we are returning to Alaska after a month long “visit” to California. It was great being home in SLO town. Alex went trail riding with the Caballeros again and both of us enjoyed our sons graduations: Ryan received his MS; Max earned his BS, and a job offer in Silicon Valley. Alex is now on the boat through September while Pat will return home for a short visit in mid-July to help Max with his move to Santa Clara.

On Monday, we hitched a ride to San Jose airport with our crew for this the next leg, Bill and Karen Almas. Our plan was to provision the boat, spend a leisurely day sightseeing in Ketchikan, and then get back to cruising on Tuesday. This week's cruise itinerary includes rounding the south end of Prince of Wales Island (Cape Chacon), visiting various anchorages on POW's southwestern coast, stopping in Craig, cruising into El Capitan Passage, touring El Cap Cave, winding up the Keku Strait, and exchanging crew in Kake. This somewhat ambitious plan could easily be derailed by poor weather, but since we left in May, Ketchikan has enjoyed almost 20 days of continuous sunshine, temps in the 70s and 80s, and a minor drought. So just as we board in San Jose, Alex fires up his iPhone for Alaska SE weather, only to learn a storm is approaching, and Tuesday's marine forecast calls for 7 foot seas!

Our Route Around Prince of Wales Island

Adjustments are necessary, and while plane-ing to Seattle, Alex pulls out the boat's backup navigation PC, and examines the options to rounding Cape Chacon. On last year's cruise, we rounded this Cape in miserable conditions: 7-9 seas, 20+ knot SE winds, 2+ knot current against wind, and seasick crew. We prefer not to repeat this memory, and because this event was well-documented in last year's Blog, Bill and Karen, our well-informed crew, have identical preferences. The iPhone weather update at Seatac shows 4-foot seas maximum for the Cape today, then building to 7-foot overnight. We adjust our plans: lunch on the plane, quick provision on arrival, and exit Ketchikan ASAP. We remind the crew to chew eat mouthful thoroughly, just in case! It stays light until 10PM so we'll have about 7 hours of daylight cruise time.

We're out of Ketchikan's City Float by 2:30PM, and at 7PM just off the SE coast of Prince of Wales Island. It sucks! The seas are not sea kindly, the boat is pitching fore and aft continuously, and even with the roll-stabilizers on maximum, the seas cause a stomach-turning, side-to-side rolling motion. Only the experienced SLO town crew couple from last year's Cape Chacon rounding (who will remain nameless) could possibly describe it better! Finally at 8:30PM we round Cape Chacon, put the bad seas behind us, and within 20 minutes surf into Nichols Bay anchorage. Relief at last for three out of fourth of us, but one crew had already fed the fish! It's good to know what happens in Alaska, stays in Alaska.

Nichols Bay Anchorage just out of the BIG ocean swells.

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