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.