Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014-09 Shearwater, Lowes Inlet then Ketchikan: Taking Advantage of Good Crusing Weather

Thursday, May 15th:  Ketchikan

Good morning from City Float in downtown Ketchikan.  We arrived under the glow of city lights last night at 11pm ADT.  Although it was dark for the last 90 minutes, our floods lit up all the floating debris allowing us to adjust course around it.  City Float was packed with fishing, pleasure, and work boats so we opted for the unoccupied "passenger loading and unloading only" zone.  We'll be asked to move to an appropriate moorage soon.  We woke up the US Customs Service duty officer who promptly woke up another Customs Officer who inspected us at midnight.  We passed muster and were allowed back into the USA.

Ketchikan's City Lights last night.

Tuesday, May 13th: Shearwater to Lowes Inlet

Over the last couple days we caught up on our sleep, installed the new galley sink faucet, and added more Sleemans Honey Brown to our stash.  Except for beer, wine and liquor, the regular provisioning supply barge was delayed.  The local innkeeper and fresh cookie maker was way behind on her orders so was happy to barter with us for eggs: a dozen for a baker's dozen cookies.  Fresh, warm cookies were delivered to the Wild Blue and quickly devoured.

At 6am Tuesday, the forecast was for building southeast winds up to 20 knots but Shearwater was quiet as we slipped our lines.  We headed westbound in Seaforth Channel.  The seas were pretty flat but the Admiral (Pat) still opted for the inside route via Reid Passage.  We passed Westerly, another pleasure boat,  who opted for the outside route, but eventually found her 4 miles ahead when rejoined the outside traffic lanes. 

The ride was uneventful until Jackson Passage.  After passing Rescue Bay and clearing Jackson Narrows, we were forced to detour around two new log booms, two tugs with barges, and a prawner.  A loggers housing and supply barge complete with heli-pad is newly moored in the Passage.  The theme this year has been logs, logs and more logs, all headed south to the mills. Now Jackson Passage has become another source to satisfy what must be a huge lumber demand.  There has to be a housing boom somewhere!

The good news for us boaters: Jackson Passage has an additional source for excellent non-password protected free wifi.  Of course we took advantage.

Ivory Island Light at the Reid Passage turnoff.
Log booms, wrangler tugs and foresters in Jackson Passage.
Log harvesting helo for deep forest operations.
More Jackson Passage logging activity.
New logging camp in Jackson Passage with fast wifi!
Jackson Passage logging barge.
Prawner with salmon fish farm in background.  And yes,
Jackson passage again.
Remnant of logging ops.
Tug with double tow: wood chips and market logs
We continued past the Boat Bluff lighthouse and into Princess Royal Channel.  It was a quiet ride with zero traffic.  Usually we see a sports-fisher or five near Hartley Bay, but this year....nada!  Lucky for us we seemed to somehow time the currents correctly so that we almost always had a "push", including nearly 2 knots up Grenville Channel.  By 8pm, after 14 hours we were "pushed" into Lowes Inlet for the night.  A highly productive day distance-wise, but rainy, overcast with little activity besides Jackson Passage.  Pat prepared face-up apple turnovers to help with the gloomy surroundings.

Verney Falls at high tide in Lowes Inlet.
Pat's "face up" apple turnover.
Wednesday, May 14th: Lowes Inlet to Ketchikan

Being the only boat in Lowes Inlet is a first for us in the seven times we've anchored here. This is typically a busy anchorage being directly off the main thoroughfare to Alaska.  After a restful night anchored directly in front of  Verney Falls, we were ready to go on Wednesday at 7am.   Not need to signal out right turn back into Grenville Channel, but there was traffic!

The Mary B was just a few miles ahead going between 4 and 6 knots.  we approached and eventually passed her, the only boat until nearing the top of the Channel. Mary B looks to be a barge that has been converted into a boat, of sorts.  We noticed over time it would glide from one side of the Channel to the other, the driver correcting just before scrapping the side.  Of course we hailed Mary B of our intention to pass, and the crew responded "She steers like a herd of sheep!" When ready to complete our pass, we added 200 rpms, but still almost got squeezed into the channel side.

Mary B "steers like a heard of sheep" says the skipper. We
tried to give her a wide berth.

By 9am the sun was breaking through and the wind and rains eased away.  The day looked great at noon as we entered Chatham Sound, just southwest of Prince Rupert.  The seas were glassy and flat so we knew we would easily make Dundas Island, the planned night's anchorage.  This would make it easy to cross Dixon Entrance early tomorrow.  And the Admiral was certain she wouldn't attempt to cross Dixon Entrance in anything but the best conditions!

At 5pm PDT we rounded the northeast tip of Dundas to view a pleasant site: flat water all the way across the usually mighty Dixon Entrance.  In 2008 we waited 3 days at Prince Rupert for the right conditioned to cross. Reluctantly the Admiral gave to order to push on to Foggy Bay.  We checked in with US Customs via cell and obtained their permission to anchor at Foggy Bay then clearing in Ketchikan first thing tomorrow.  This bay is about 2.5 hours from Dundas and offers excellent protection in all conditions.

As expected, the Entrance was perfect even with a 3 knot ebb current! So by 6:30pm PDT, now 5:30pm Alaska Daylight Time, we're just off Foggy Bay in these totally excellent conditions, and once again, the Admiral orders the fleet to continue.  And, after 16 hours of continuous motoring, we did arrive at 11pm in the blackness, just somewhat lighted by Wild Blue's headlights and the glow of the City of Ketchikan.

Grenville Channel was starting to clear up.
Looking into Watts Narrows which leads to Baker Inlet
from Grenville Channel.
Hanjin Paris, eager to unload its contatiners,  blasting
into Prince Rupert at 20 knots.
Alaska ferry Malispina southbound.
Celebrity Solstice southbound after visit to Ketchikan.
We're here for a few days then cruising to Sitka starting May 28th with a new crew.  See you then.

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