Ketchikan to Kasaan

After yesterday’s gale that blew through Ketchikan, this morning is calm and clearing for our departure.

We had sympathy for the Celebrity Infinity whose docking yesterday in the gale was made famous on YouTube. The current as we left Thomas Basin lived up to its reputation. Although we had a close encounter with the pilings as we made our way into Tongass Narrows, we did not suffer the fate of the Infinity that is now sporting a large scrape on her boarding side. I wonder if the Captain had the mishap painted over while the passengers were enjoying the lumberjack “competition” in town.

While there were a few cruising boats leaving Ketchikan as we departed, including the smile-inducing Disney Wonder, we soon parted ways as we crossed Clarence Strait to make our course to Kasaan. Kasaan is one of two Haida Villages in Alaska (the other is Hydaburg).  Kasaan is home to the only standing Haida longhouse in the United States, the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House. It is in the last stages of renovation with a planned re-dedication in September, 2016. Historically, the docks at Kasaan were best described as “awash”. That is now not the case, with the open harbor now enjoying beautiful new docks worthy of a much larger city.

A sure sign your have arrived in Kasaan

Not all signage is traditonal

The shore comes up quick here and with the 20 foots tides, and a minus 5 foot low, we chose to tie on the outside. The inside of the docks would be fine in high water, but our morning departure would be delayed waiting for enough water to get between the docks and the shore. Out on the west end, we never saw less than 27 feet on a minus 5 foot tide.

Mind the tides

We saw only one other boat on the docks, a local couple that was about to head out for some time on the water. They pointed us in the direction of the long house, and asked “Are you carrying?”  While Karen was slow to catch on, I immediately understood that they were strongly suggesting we carry some sort of bear protection!

Follow the signs to the long house

It’s a 1.75 mile walk to the long house. About 1/3 of the journey is on local roads and the remainder on one of the nicest forest paths I have ever seen. Karen commented that she thought you could push a wheel chair along the tree-lined path it so flat, wide, smooth and free of obstacles.

Great path on the way to the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House.

At the transition from the road to the path is the Totem Trail Café. Set up to serve the mini-adventure cruise boats that visit the area, it looks as if it could seat 100 people. Open from 7am until 3:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, they have a full menu and are very friendly. We stopped briefly on our way back and I can vouch that their smoothies are delicious.

We were not expecting to see such a modern facility as the Totem Trail Café.

Inside the Totem Trail Café.

The work on the long house was almost complete. There are some amazing restored totems inside the longhouse.

Inside the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House

Surrounding the compound are a wide range of totems dating from the 1930’s to more contemporary installations. It represents one of the best selections of intact and restored totems you will find in Southeast Alaska.

 A very traditional styled totem

A not so traditional totem. Have the guides tell you why this totem is topped with this figure.

Anybody else see Bozo the Clown in this totem.

There is a view to the beach, and a short trail that allows you access to walk along the shore. It’s easy to imagine the Haida landing their canoes!

Guided tours are available by contacting O.V.K. at 907-542-2230. 

We had a very quiet night. The weather was calm, and we were they only transient boat on the docks, with just a few local skiffs and some eagles for company. The views down the channel were lovely, with the only traffic being the Inter-Island ferry on its way to Hollis.

OceanFlyer on the new docks at Kasaan.

The name Kasaan come from the Tlingit word meaning “pretty town”. We definitely agree.

Kwatsi Bay to Boughey Bay

Today is a four hour run to position ourselves for our six hour trip down Johnstone Straight. Our noon departure was dictated by trying to go through Chatham Channel near slack tide. Chatham Channel has good depth, and is reasonably wide except for the southeast end where there are two range makers to keep you in the channel.

OceanFlyer on dock at Kwatsi Bay

happy hour dock on the left

our host's home

our local sentry

It has been a while since we transited Chatham Channel, and our passage today reminded us that is it no big deal. Currents can run to five knots, but in a boat such as a 49 Grand Banks, passing with a 2-3 knot current is no problem.

As we were nearing the last quarter of the channel we saw traffic going our same way. Leading the procession was a very small “yard tug” pulling a large barge. It looked as if they were repositioning a logging camp. We slowed a couple of knots so as to not run too close to the other powerboat following the barge.

GYPSY traveler

Our late departure also meant that the morning fog had burned off and we were able to enjoy the first day of sunshine in three days. Karen and I opened up the flybridge and ran the boat from there. We did need light jackets as the wind picked up to 15 knots on our nose.

fog is our traveling companion THIS year

We arrived at Boughey Bay at our planned four hour mark only to find a  boat anchored in “our spot”. So we motored around the anchorage checking depths and found a suitable location three hundred feet in front of them. Oh well, there goes their view. The wind was still at 15 knots from the northwest, but even though the bay was open to the northwest, swells never formed.

Chicken and corn tonight for dinner; some homemade brownies for dessert and then early to bed is the plan. Our wakeup call is for 5:00am.

Monday Anchorage to Kwatsi Bay

Fogust, the name given to the month of August in these parts, is in full swing. This morning the visibility is, as we say in the aviation world, ZERO, ZERO. We don’t mind traveling in this weather, it’s just less fun because you must be very vigilant and cannot relax and enjoy the scenery. Of course there is no scenery when it the fog is this low and dense.

not much to see outside

I keep my scan inside the boat, focusing on the radar and the chart plotter. Karen maintained a lookout for debris in the water. Since we could not see more than one to two boat lengths, we reduced out speed so we would have time to dodge and obstacles in our path.

The radar performed well, it would even trace logs on the flat water and small flocks of birds as they flew close to the surface. In Misty Passage we did get close enough to see a fishing boat anchored in the pass. But the couple of other returns from vessels produced no visual sightings.

birds are a big help in spotting logs

As we transitioned into Tribune Channel, the fog began to lift and by the time we reached our destination, the base of the clouds were about 1500 feet with good visibility below.

fog lifting in tribune channel

Kwatsi Bay is one of our favorite stop in the Broughtons. Max and Anca have been here 16 years and provide a most welcoming venue. It is not large but the 5:00 happy hour is a big draw. Every boat brings something to munch on and we all sit around and get to know one another. You always meet great people that you have so much in common with. Boats, cruising and fishing are, of course, main topics of discussion, but Max and I had a long discussion about how the “personality” of a country influences the cars they build. Karen, on the other hand, began to sing the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” while another attendee began to dance.  The dock was full, and the night was peaceful.

Pierre’s Echo Bay to Monday Anchorage

Pierre’s Echo Bay to Monday Anchorage

Cinnamon rum French toast with imported Berkshire bacon, now that is the way to start the day. I slept in until 8:30, and then got to work in the galley making the aforementioned breakfast. Slowly, one by one, the other boats let loose their lines and departed Pierre’s.

Although our new acquaintances in Morveren had left as I fired up the stovetop, they returned about an hour later. They had run into a wall of fog on their way to Port McNeill. They hovered alongside us and asked what we thought. All we could do is tell them the pattern we have been seeing the past three days: the fog starts to lift around noon, an hour from now.

So off they went again to get it another try.

It was a little after the check-out time of 11:30 when we cast off. I topped of the dinghy fuel, fileted a salmon and paid our moorage. We both spent a half hour under the WIFI antenna downloading messages and sending more. It will be three days before we might have cell or WIFI.

While the fog had lifted some, visibility was still less than a mile and in some locations it was a quarter of that. Our plans are changing constantly. We were going to stop at some middens between Insect Island and Eden Island and do some exploring before moving on to a funky anchorage Karen found in the Dreamspeaker book between Fly Island and Eden Island.

Since the anchor spot was essentially in what could be considered a small pass where boats could transit, we abandoned that idea because of the fog. We did not want to be sitting exposed to traffic in dense fog.

A quick look at the charts and we set our course for Monday Anchorage. It got its name from the novel, Curve of Time, where the author was blown from her anchorage one Sunday night (now known as Sunday Anchorage) to this anchorage now known as Monday Anchorage. It was a fairly tense journey, as the fog had come down almost completely and Karen was out on the bow looking and listening for a boat we saw on radar. Turned out to be a small fishing boat, no AIS.

PLAYING pee-a-boo with our neighbors in the anchorage

With the fog forming a white blanket with no signs of dissipation, Karen and I spent the afternoon in the boat. Karen worked on reports for her clients, and I woredk on pictures and text for our blog and took care of “boat chores”.  We really didn’t get to see any of the anchorage, or explore the white beach behind the second island. Oh well – there’s always next time.

Waddington Bay To Pierre’s Echo Bay

To no one’s surprise, it is foggy this morning. Waddington Bay provided us with a peaceful night. I don’t think we moved more than one boat length in any direction in response to the coming and going of the tides.

We were the first to depart, about 11am. Our plan is to go drop the hook in the Burdwood Group and do some exploring before backtracking a little to Pierre’s.

Clouds paint the landscape

There are not many places to anchor in the Burdwood’s, and we wanted to go back to the ledge we found between two islands so many years ago [insert link to old blog entry].

Our travels are uneventful, but with the big tides, the waters are rich in debris. An “as plotted” course never works for long, as we end up dodging all manner of logs.

"hairy" logs are the easy ones to spot

As we round the small island that guides us to our chosen spot, we find a sailboat already there. We figured there was a 50/50 chance it would be occupied. So reverse course, and off to Pierre’s.

Pierre’s at Echo Bay is one of few success stories for a marina in the Broughton’s. It has become a destination spot you must visit when in the area. Pierre and his wife Tove have continued to build facilities and innovate with interesting events that are a major draw for the boating community. Tonight is Prime rib night. The prime rib is roasted in the huge BBQ pit made famous by Pierre’s pig roast. Karen is not a fan of prime rib but she says she is doing it for me. Really it’s just how the schedule worked out that we were here on a Thursday, one of two prime rib nights; the other being Monday.

Pierre's iconic "lighthouse"

great dinghy tricked out for salmon fishing

Our assigned spot on the dock was behind Morveren, a boat in the same charter fleet as ours: NWExplorations. We said hi to the people on board and later joined them at the prime roast feast.

full house for prime rib dinner

the houses on the other side of echo bay

How was dinner? Exceptional. Even Karen liked it very much. I got my “end cut” which is the only way I enjoy prime rib; it was tender, juicy and full of flavor. The BBQ pit makes this the best prime rib I have ever had. Along with the entrée, you get a baked potato with every topping, two vegetables, bread, salad, and dessert; all fresh and well prepared. We were amazed at the efficiency of the operation. With 55 for dinner, they did a marvelous job of getting everybody fed in only one hour, but you did not ever feel rushed.  In addition to Pierre, Tove and two staff they had 3 volunteers that served the crowd with cheer. If you’re going to be in the area, check out the schedule of activities and meals at Pierre’s [link] and make it a point to stop. You will not be disappointed.