We returned to Ketchikan from Seattle on Sunday, 6/13. Dave and Linnea Mattson were great hosts. They ferried us to and fro from SEATAC and to the event in Everett. That plus a great dinner and two wonderful breakfasts. They are great friends.
The trip to K’kan was fast and uneventful. We arrived at the boat by 13:00 local time. The following morning we were under way by 07:00 heading for Meyers Chuck at the northern tip of the Cleveland Peninsula. Meyers Chuck is not a metropolis but it is a good harbor out of all
weather. We had mist interspersed with rain for most of the afternoon. Up at 07:00, again,
Downtown Meyers Chuck
Tuesday. Our original plan had called for us to go up stream 3 hours to Frosty Bay but we decided to go all the way to Wrangle. That is normally a seven-hour trip but we had a good following current of 1.0+ knots. A knot may not sound like much but when you only go 7.5 in the first place, it is significant – it cuts a seven-hour trip to six. By 15:00 we were tied up in Wrangell next to a couple that came across the North Pacific from Hong Kong in their custom motor sailor. We will probably stay two nights then head to Petersburg.
Norsk Town: Petersburg June 16-17
We made the trip from Wrangell to Petersburg today, the 16th. It’s a 5+ hour trip at least 3 of which is needed to traverse the intricate Wrangell Narrows. It is a narrow waterway, much of which is a dredged channel. Most of it is about 500’ wide. There are almost 60 pairs of red/green numbered markers and buoys which serpentine the way north. To keep track of where we are we check them off a list as we go. Its easy going, as long as you pay attention, until you meet a tug and barge coming around the bend or get overtaken by a ferry. Today there wasn’t much traffic and it was a beautiful, sunny day.
Petersburg was founded by Peter Buschmann who started the first sawmill and cannery here in the late 1800’s. He chose this spot because of the proximity to the glaciers. He used the ice to pack the fish. The Norwegians came to fish and since there was never a native village here the town still has a Norsk character. You can buy a krumkaka iron in the hardware store. Some Tlingits and Norwegians did intermarry – they refer to themselves as “Tlingwegians”.
The Fleet is InWe are one of the few pleasure boats tied up at the dock among the fishing fleet. They are expecting the best season since 1960 - 500,000,000 pounds! The price is good too – averages about $0.60 per pound depending on the species. A couple of years ago some of the species were going for only about $0.065 per pound. A good seine boat can catch 1 million pounds in a season. You do the math.
They used to have a “derby” fishery. That is the boats fished until the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) estimated that the total allowable pounds of fish had been caught by the fleet. Then they closed the season. A captain never knew when the season would close so they fished in nearly all conditions. Very dangerous. Several years they changed to a quota system. Now, every boat has a maximum it can catch as long as the season and area is open. So, a boat can take more time and fish in safer conditions.
Cruising in the Ice: Petersburg to Tracey Arm
Sunday - We left Petersburg under clear blue skies headed for Fanshaw Bay, a stop on pour way to the glaciers in Tracey Arm, which is about 45 miles south of Juneau. We no longer see as much timber in the water as we did south of Petersburg. Just north of Petersburg we entered Frederick Sound. There we began seeing ice bergs from LeConte Glacier which is found a little to the south. We even saw a couple that had sneaked their way into Petersburg harbor. As we moved north they disappeared. We are still having flat seas. A typical day starts overcast but without rain. By evening it is sunny and since the sun stays out until nearly 21:00 so it’s like having two days in one. We still have not seen a day with more than 15 knots of wind since we left Anacortes.
Monday – We crossed a bar as we entered Tracey Arm. Unlike the mouth of a river, this bar is a terminal moraine (a pile of gravel) left by Sawyer Glacier as it receded from its farthest
advance 10,000 years ago. The glacier is now 20 miles away at the head of the arm. But, this is a
Tracy Arm Bar
tidewater glacier so it “calves” ice into the fjord. (In a few years it will become a terrestrial glacier. In time there will be no glaciers at all.) So, there were icebergs the size of big houses grounded at the bar but the central channel was clear. We anchored in a cove just inside the entrance with two other boats. We learned from other boats and the forest service rangers (who are here counting new born seal pups on the ice as well as monitoring the emissions of cruise ships) that we will not be able to reach the face of the glacier as the fjord is choked with ice at about two miles from the face. That was expected. This is a beautiful anchorage with snow capped peaks looking down on us as icebergs drift by the mouth.
Tuesday - We got under way at 07:30 to beat most of the cruise ships into the fjord. The sky was perfectly clear. We made our way into the arm encountering more and more ice as we went. The sides of the fjord rise straight up with waterfalls cascading down out of hanging valleys. As
Tracy Armit winds its way new vistas continually surprise us. Many of the bergs are several times the size of our boat but we are not likely to hit them. It’s the little “bergie bits” that most concern us. They are “small”, crystal clear chunks that float right at the surface. (Glacial ice is more dense because the air has been squeezed out.) Like floating rocks with knife-edges. They can really do a number on your hull. We were traveling into the sun on the way up and they were very hard to see. At several points we proceeded at dead slow while Rolynn poled ice out of the way from the bow. The ice takes on fantastical forms. We had fun identifying the shapes like we did with clouds as kids. In the
right light the larger bergs seem to be illuminated from within by blue neon lights. As predicted, we were not able to get within sight of the face. About two miles away the channel was closed with densely packed ice, so we carefully came about and headed back. On the way out we captured a small “bergie bit” with our fishing
Ice On Radar - 0.5 Miles
Ice On Radar - 0.5 Miles
net. Later, we had gin and tonics with 1000-year-old ice. We were back at our anchorage by 13:00 after the most spectacular day of cruising we have ever had.
We were watching a DVD at about 21:30 when we felt a grind and a bump on our hull. I looked out the port window and saw an iceberg laying along side. It was about as long as the boat
counting the 75% that was under water. I pushed it away with a boat hook but it was soon
Rolynn Poling Ice
against us again. It was probably 3-4 times as heavy as our boat so I was really pushing the boat away from it. (Newton’s Third Law of Motion). We didn’t want it to damage the hull or foul the anchor line so we played dodge ball with it for a couple of hours. Eventually, the tide began to ebb and the berg decided it wanted to be somewhere else. There was another about the size of a four-plex apartment building grounded on the shoal at the mouth of the cove. We were happy it had not decided to come in and play, too.
Tomorrow, we will try out “Ford’s Terror”. What do you think?
Wednesday & Thursday - In 1889, seaman Ford of the steamship Patterson rowed his skiff into this Fjord only to get trapped overnight by the falling tide. Apparently, he did not enjoy his stay because this has been called Ford’s Terror ever since. It is off Endicott Arm, about three hours south of the Tracy Arm bar. The chart for this area is, well, approximate and there is a debate among cruisers and the guidebooks about the entrance and on which tide to take it. The tide tables are also approximate. We decided to go at local low tide, about 1.5 hours after low tide in Juneau. We wanted to see the rocks better and, boy, did we. There are a lot of rocks and those still below the surface are obscured by the milky glacier water. The situation was further
Ford's Terror Anchoragecomplicated by a grounded iceberg blocking part of the skinny channel. We proceeded at dead slow with, Rolynn on the bow, and skimmed in with a minimum of 4.6 feet under the keel. No sweat. (OK, we did pucker up a little. OK, a lot.) 100 yards on either side of the entrance the water is 400 feet deep. We originally planned this as a one nighter but it is about eight hours to our next stop, Taku Harbor, so we would have to leave on an early morning high tide. We will stay two nights instead so that we can enjoy a full day in this spectacular setting. We are located in front of a water fall, about 40 feet from the shore, with the anchor dug into the face of an underwater ledge in 80 feet of water. 100 feet further out from the anchor it is 400 feet deep. The mountains rise 4000 feet above us on all sides and waterfalls cascade from hanging valleys in every direction. This is a world class anchorage – the most striking we have ever seen, by far. Almost surreal.
We have been timing the local tides and determined that they follow Juneau by 50 minutes. That makes tomorrow’s high slack at 08:50. It is 35 minutes from our anchorage to the exit channel and it will take us about 10 minutes to raise the anchor. So, we will fire up the boiler at 08:00.
Auke Bay and Mendenhall Glacier
Friday - We headed towards Taku Harbor. As had a good following flood current (2 knots much of the way) and flat, gray seas all the way. If we stopped in Taku and started up again the following morning we would have to fight the same current as an ebb so we just kept going. 10 hours later we pulled into Auke Bay just north of Juneau with Mendenhall Glacier looming above. The marina here is open moorage. Boats can stay no more that 10 days then they have to leave for at least 6 hours. So, any open slip is up for grabs. We got here late and there are no open slips so we tied up on the outside of the breakwater. Check out time is 11:00 so we should be able to find something tomorrow.
Saturday – Rolynn worked on her book marketing while I went scouting for a parking space. Found one on “B” dock so we moved the boat over there where we have power and water. We took the bus into downtown Juneau – cruise ship Mecca or hell, depending on your point of view. Some boating friends are coming over later for drinks. We will take it easy tomorrow and plan for the trip to Skagway. Its two days up Lynn Canal to Skagway and the canal can be snotty. Its big and runs north-south. Any wind is almost always from the south so it doesn’t take much of a south running ebb to kick up the seas. It is complicated by the fact that there are few places to hide. So, we need a couple of good weather days each way. Fortunately, the tides are small just now and the winds continue to be mild so it looks pretty good.