Ketchikan to Meyers Chuck

After a night of heavy rain, we awoke to calm winds and not a ripple in the marina. It is a good day to leave Ketchikan for Meyers Chuck.  

We cast off at 7:58am, two minutes before our planned departure. I guess we were excited to get on our way. The skies quickly went from mostly cloudy to partly cloudy to downright sunny. The winds were light ranging from 5 to 10 knots. A perfect day for cruising.  

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Just north of Ketchikan, the answer to the question: “Where do I keep my boat?”  

As we approached northern end of Tongass Narrows, a Norwegian cruise ship was starting to enter the head of Tongass Pass, southbound to Ketchikan. We called the bridge on channel 13 and worked out a plan for passing. They were very nice and appreciative of the call. There was not much traffic on our trip. We saw the occasional long liner and a couple of local go-fast aluminum runabouts, but not much else.  

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Our first cruise ship passing of this trip  

Karen did most of the helm work on this leg, as I was preoccupied with trying to find out why my Nobeltec navigation program would not display Course over ground nor Speed over ground. I invested a couple of hours trying everything I knew to solve the problem. We did have a cell signal at Meyers Chuck so, after a 35 minute wait in the queue, I talked to tech support only to find out that my problem was a known issue with version 10.5. The fix, downgrade to 10.2 or upgrade to 10.7. Given that I had recently just upgraded from 10.2 to 10.5 I expressed my disappointment with their bad computer code and reminded them that cruisers like use are seldom in internet access range to accomplish such an upgrade and that this problem was going to be with me a long time. Ever since Nobeltec’s upgrade to version 10, the program has been plagued with bugs. I’ve been a loyal customer for over 8 years, but my allegiance is waning.   

There was lots of space available on the docks at Meyers Chuck. This is not always the case, so we felt ourselves lucky. We secured Arctic Star and took a walk up to the “Gallery”. There we bought a postcard to send home and since the proprietor is also the postmistress, she was kind enough to make certain it got into tomorrow’s weekly pickup. She is also the cinnamon bun lady, so we placed our orders for delivery to the boat at 7:30am tomorrow. Although we are trying to eat lighter this trip, we justified indulging in this famous Meyers Chuck tradition because we skipped it last time we were here in 2006. How’s that for rationalization?  

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Karen at the Gallery  

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The “Pay Phone” at the head of the docks where you cna call to have the gallery opened or order cinnamon buns. I know pay phones are passe, but a bird's nest? Really!  

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“Welcome to Meyers Chuck”  

The rest of the afternoon we explored the paths around the chuck. We made it over to “Back Chuck”, south of the main “chuck”. As it turns out, this is the high rent district. The homes are newer, larger and the floats most impressive. It’s fun to discover something new.  

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A “souvenir” sign back on a dock in Back Chuck  

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Some “spider art” along the trail around Meyers Chuck  

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The docks at Meyers Chuck   


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 You can see Arctic Star with our red Pungo 12 Kayaks  

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The trails around Meters Chuck, Karen loves to check out see the “homesteads” of the year long residents  

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If it is at Meyers Chuck, it either came here on a boat or a sea plane

We met a very nice couple that tied up behind us. They were in Hull #1 of a Kristin 46 steel trawler named Inspiration that they commissioned. It’s a fine boat you seldom see, he told us that there only a handful made, before they went out of business. It had one of the finest looking, most nicely faired steel hulls I have ever seen. They were from Texas, and spend about four months a year cruising Alaska. They invited us aboard and Karen jumped at the chance to “snoop”. It always a delight to see a new boat and add it’s high points to our learning for what we want in our cruising vessel.  

Dinner was halibut tacos with a chipotle “cream” sauce. There is nothing better than fish that’s fresh. The evening was beautiful, the day was perfect. Not a bad start to our five weeks in Alaska.  

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Halibut tacos with a chipotle “cream” sauce


Ketchikan, Day 3

The rain is different in Ketchikan. I say different, not because it rained most all the day, but the drops themselves seem different. They are larger, often spread far apart, but certainly bigger than in the lower 48. They bounce off the pavement with a gregarious splash. They hit you hard. You feel as if sleet is starting to fall, or perhaps freezing rain. But no-- it’s just rain, Ketchikan style.

It did not rain all day today, in fact, as we walked to breakfast the sun made an appearance. It lasted just long enough for me to make a panorama photo of part the Bar Harbor marina. Breakfast was at Dave’s Red Anchor café. Very local vibe, very good. Walk in and sit yourself down if there is an open table. The décor, as you can see from the photos, is home grown and whimsical. The people are a great, although you have to appreciate the straight forward, no nonsense interaction. It’s friendly, but to the point. You quickly understand Sarah Palin’s demeanor.


Dave's Red Anchor


The “Greaters” as you enter Dave's


Barnacle Buck watches over us a we enjoy breakfast. Take a close look at his antlers.

Today was a day devoted to waiting for a break in the winds and the waves. The good news is the waves are down to 11 feet from 20-something yesterday. Given that we were still feeling less than energetic, the weather delay came at good time. We finished putting everything away on the boat. I detailed the galley and organized all the food in the two refrigerators and the freezer. On this trip I should not have to shout out to Karen…”Do you know where the XXX is?” As I stowed it, we are only at the mercy of my memory when it come to locating the components for dinner.

I followed the instructions included with Debbie’s Green Storage bags to the letter: first cleaning then drying all the fresh vegetables before placing them in these bags that promise longer life to our rare and precious cargo. Acquiring and keeping fresh veggies is the biggest negative of this type of wilderness cruising. I certainly don’t expect them to last all five weeks, but if I can get two weeks I will be happy. After that, frozen veggies will be on the menu.

We’re three days into our trip, and I think Karen has finished six books in her electronic library. The advertisements claim the Nook can hold 1500 books. Let’s hope that’s not just marketing hype.

In the afternoon, I got all the electronics up and running. I convinced the Bluetooth GPS to talk to the laptop. The satellite phone made contact and registered itself on the Iridium network. Everything else that takes a battery and blinks or flashes with technological delight is now fired up and running. We’ll see how long that lasts. Even Karen’s newest love, her Nook, is performing as advertised. To her, it seems magical that she can order a book from the Nook and seemingly, like magic, it downloads itself and appears ready for her to devour.

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I have more pictures of Karen in the rain, on the docks, as we provision for our trips

Dinner was at the Oceanview Restaurant, same as last night, but pizza was our choice rather than Mexican. It’s a popular place that serves almost anything you can imagine from the aforementioned Mexican to pasta, burgers, and who knows what. Oceanview is open seven days a week from 11 am to 11 pm, so it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite with the locals.

The Bar Harbor marina is big and a commercial dock. They squeeze in transient boats when slips open as the fisherman go out to sea. It’s only two days until Crab and some fishing seasons open, so the marina is busy with preparation. Pressure washers rumble, lines and nets are attended to, and engines are exercised in anticipation of going to work.

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Bar Harbor Docks

So tomorrow we’ve planned an 8 am departure with a stop at Meyers Chuck that will either become our final destination or simply a lunch stop, depending on our mood. We were there in 2006, but our memories of it are not particularly sharp, so we look forward to revisiting it and forming new memories.

Ketchikan, Day 2


Rain, Rain, Rain; accompanied by wind. That’s today’s forecast and it did not disappoint.


The dinning room at the Cape Fox Lodge; great views

Today is our day to provision. Five weeks is a long time, so we have a long list to fill.  Having done this many times, although usually for a maximum of three weeks, we have the task down to a tolerable marathon. The day before, we reconnoitered the three available sources for provisions. We did this with an eye to which is best for fresh items, meats and who has the best prices for staples.

The Safeway is without a doubt the clear winner with the best selection of meats and fresh veggies. It also had the widest selection of everything else. As for prices, they were pretty much h the same everywhere.

Despite our trio of stores, some things, such as dried mushrooms, were in scant supply. And others, such as half& half and asparagus, were sold out. Due to the fact they everything you see on the shelves has to come to Ketchikan on either a boat or a plane, it’s no surprise that some items are hard to find. We spent about four hours in the Safeway and about one more bouncing between the other sources trying to fill in some of the blanks. Oh well, the chef, that’s me, will just need to improvise.

Gathering the provisions is one thing, transporting them to the boat is another. The marina has oversized two wheeled big yellow plastic wheelbarrows at your disposal. The challenge is that it always seem as if it’s low tide (and raining hardest) when you want to wheel the goods from the car.  Sitting on the end of the pier, the cart is about twenty feet above the floating dock and the resulting angle on the ramp is approaching 45 degrees. Having once taken a spectacular spill in Port McNeill in just such a scenario, I now try to limit my loads. But smaller loads mean more trips. I think I made twenty trips up and down that precarious incline in the pouring rain. The joys of this phase of cruising escape me.

Karen and I were exhausted by the time 7 pm rolled around, our planned time to meet up for dinner with Brian Pemberton and the rest of the Northwest Explorations crowd still around from their Leg 1 trip from Bellingham to Ketchikan.  The location was the Oceanview restaurant, and margaritas were flying off the bar. We enjoyed good fajitas and good company; although by the end of the night we were both starting to fade. A quick trip back to the harbor and off to bed.


Our view from the Cap Fox Lodge back down to Ketchikan. The funicular is the easy way to go by foot.


Today is a day to adjust the body clock, do some sightseeing and a preliminary provisioning run. We’ll buy some wine and beer, and check out the various sources for fish, meats, groceries and the like.

I always like to find out the best source so when the big day of shopping comes, it can be as easy and straightforward as possible.

Having a rental car (nice term for what was clearly an old beater),  we decided to drive out to the end of the road and see what there was too see. It was quite windy, with white caps along the Tongass Narrows. As the road changed from paved to gravel, we passed a few busses from the cruise ships obviously on same mission as us. We had a map of the various “points of interest” along the way. However, none were marked. Karen asked, “How do they expect you to find these spots?”  My reply, “They don’t,  but the bus drivers know where they are, that that’s what’s important.” Ketchikan is a cruise ship-centric little town. The area near the docks exists solely to serve the big ships.

When they arrive, no matter the time, the town opens up and welcomes the guests. The lumberjack display kicks in, even if it’s 7 am in the morning. I have been awakened a few times by the sound of the crowd cheering for one or another of the men dressed in plaid. The other change you notice is that when the cruise ships are in town, there are cross walk guards at every intersection. I wonder how many voyagers they ran over before they started that service?

We did find a waterfall along the road. It was not much to speak of, but after all our searching we had to get out and take a picture. Imagine if you came here on a cruise ship and then piled into a bus and this was the one the highlights of the excursion? To each his own.


Karen at The Falls


Bob joins in the tourist excitement


The Falls is all their glory

As we made our way back into town along the road that parallels Tongass Narrows, we spotted five Grand Banks heading north toward to town. It was the Mother Goose crowd from Northwest Explorations(, the charter company that we’re scheduled to pick up our boat from tomorrow. We stopped at a small marina with a dock and as the lead ship, Deception approached, we called the Captain, Brian Pemberton, owner of Northwest Explorations. We exchanged welcomes and offered to lend a hand tending lines as they docked as the wind and current were being the usual nuisance in Ketchikan. Mother Goose had come in a day early owing to the gales that were forecast to begin that night….but they declined our help and so we headed off for some provisioning. We checked out the Safeway (best), the Walmart (just OK, but not bad for cookware if needed) and bought a bunch of wine and beer. We were pleased to see our favorite, Alaskan Amber, readily available. It’s brewed in Juneau and really quite good.


The Mother Goose fleet makes it way north, up the Tongass Narrows

We joined the group from Mother Goose at Annabelle’s, one of the local attractions. The food is good, the atmosphere a bit touristy, but they do a good job of handling such a large group. Everyone was happy with their selection.

As usual with a Mother Goose “leg”, the boaters were a fun and interesting group that had bonded over their 3 week journey from Bellingham, WA to Ketchikan via the Western coastline of Vancouver Island. A very small percentage of cruisers can say they traveled “the outside” and now these lucky mariners can claim that accomplishment.

In case you were wondering, my missing bag did finally arrive at 3:15 pm today. This is only one reason we build in buffer days at the start of such a long and remote journey. We headed back to the Cape Fox Lodge well fed and ready to sleep.