Foggy Bay to Ketchikan

We knew that the rest of the Mother Goose fleet was completing their 7-day tour of Misty Fiords. Our boat was to join up with the fleet in Ketchikan. Knowing that if we let the rest of the fleet get there first, they would find slip accommodations and we could then join up with them, ensuring that all the boats were conveniently moored.  So we hung out til about 10am and then headed north to Ketchikan.

Again, it was fairly calm, and we dodged a few  gillnetters as we motored north. It wasn’t too long before the rest of the “fleet” popped up on AIS, and they were about an hour ahead of us. Perfect! We contacted Captain Bill by phone and told him our position and asked if he’d be sure to get us a slip when he brought the rest of the goslings into Ketchikan.  All organized, we sat back and enjoyed the 5 hour trip. About 15 minutes out, we called Customs to tell them that we would meet them at the Fuel Dock, so that we were able to kill two birds with one stone.  We filled up with diesel, filled up the propane tank, and cleared customs easily.  However, when it came time to leave the dock, we were wedged in front and aft, with a fishing boat’s stern sticking out only inches behind us and a nice Nordhavn tight in front. The Nordie captain and the fuel  dock attendant helped us wedge our way out by holding the bow in while we swung the aft out into the channel, and all was well.

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A rare sight. Only one cruise ship in Ketchikan. That will change soon!

It was a short ride up to Bar Harbor to join  the rest of the Grand Banks fleet, and we passed some cruise ships along the way. Met by smiling faces and helping hands, we docked Alaskan Dream near Deception (the lead boat) and proceeded to greet friends we hadn’t seen since January. 

Some summary statistics: we were on the boat for 35 days. Of those days, 86% were at anchor and only 14% at a dock. When we anchored, 77%% of the time we were totally alone in the anchorage with no other boats and 13% of the time there was only one other boat with us. Definitely some solitude on this trip!

It was a lot of fun, this trip…and we left the boat in Ketchikan already thinking of where we could go and what we could do in 2012!

Brundige Inlet to Foggy Bay, AK

In my never-ending desire to avoid long days of crossings, we planned to go about 30 miles and overnight in Foggy Bay, Alaska. It will be good to get back to US waters!  Foggy Bay is an anchorage that US Customs allows boats to stop in prior to clearing Customs in Ketchikan. We had made prior arrangements to do so from Prince Rupert, so there was no stress.

We were off by 7:52, having heard that winds will be strong from the SE. We wanted to get up and going, expecting some lumpy seas as we headed north across this open body of water. Instead, we found calm conditions crossing Dixon Entrance.  Very little wind or swell. The weather gods have definitely been kind to us on this trip.

I was at the helm when we crossed the boundary line. At one point on the electronic navigation charts, the bow (and I!) were in the US but our stern (and Bob!) still in Canada!  Once we crossed into Alaska, we started to see more targets on the AIS, including the St. Jude, the same fish buying vessel (it anchors near the fishing fleet where they off load their catch and go back to the fishing grounds) we saw last year taking on Salmon in Elfin Cove.  It’s a small world!  And we also started to see lots and lots of fishing boats on the horizon.  As we approached, it was clear they were gillnetters. It took a while to “see” the picture: orange balls marking the end of nets, but which ball went with which boat? Bob took over and ducked and weaved and dodged his way forward, in very calm and smooth conditions.

We entered Foggy Bay, enjoying the smooth ride in. It was a zero tide, so we saw lots of rocks and reefs exposed along our route.  We made our way to the inner bay and were totally alone...yet again. The anchor set well and we had planned to go kayak exploring. Before we could get ready, that wind from the SE really started to come on strong. Plus, it was misting and drizzling, not the most conducive weather for kayaking. So we started to pack up all our stuff instead, anticipating tomorrow’s unloading at Ketchikan.

Late in the evening, a small gillnetter motored by and graciously offered us a fresh salmon. We had to decline, given that it was our last night on the boat and it would go to waste. What a bummer! At least we had one boat for company on our last night at anchor.


Prince Rupert to Brundige Inlet

We were up at a reasonably early hour to head through Venn Passage and the Duncan Bay “shortcut”, knowing this route would shorten our trip to Dundas Island considerably.  We had not heard much about Venn Passage, and the Douglass book certainly made it sound quite doable – but a couple we had spoken with at Ocean Falls was extremely negative on the pass and said that they had many friends who had tried to take the shortcut and had ended up grounded.

Hmm…a quick call to Brian Pemberton at NWExplorations, our charter company,  and we were back on track, heading through Venn Passage,  prepared to keep extra sharp situational awareness with the range and various channel markers.

So…we wake up to hit a nice high tide in Venn…and find fog. Not totally obscured, as we pilots would say, but enough to get your attention.  The wind was calm, though, and we got off the dock easily, slipping away with ease. Given all the wood and kelp in the water between the boat and the dock, I had worried that we might have more difficulty than we did. We liked Prince Rupert and look forward to coming  back.

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The fog settles in Prince Rupert harbour.

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Prince Rupert peeks out from under the fog.

Good thing Bob is an IFR pilot, we had to keep a very close eye on the radar. The navigation over toward the start of Venn Passage was uneventful, except for all the fast moving fishing boats that would appear, ghostly and silent.

We had enough visibility to identify the airport dock and to validate that the Nobeltec marker placement was spot on. However, when we had to turn onto the range markers, they were totally obscured. Luckily, about halfway through, the fog started to lift and we could see Metlakatla in the distance. About this time, water taxis and fishing boats started to zip by. Glad we could see better!

We followed the buoys through a very circuitous route and kept an eye on all the fishing boats coming in through Duncan Bay from the north. We felt this passage was not a big deal and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The weather was calm, and we set course for Dundas Island. I had always wanted to go there. Why? I’m not sure…it’s the northernmost part of Canada that was on our course, and it would make for an easy day the next day to Foggy Bay, AK.  I had heard that the horseflies were bad in Brundige, but we hadn’t had any problems so far and how bad could it be, right?

So off we went, sunshine abounding. We were being quasi-paralleled and overtaken by a tug (Ocean Navigator) with tow. The AIS kept forecasting that we would pass quite close, and I wanted to fall off and let the tug take the lead, but Bob insisted we hold our course. About the time we got to the lovely Green Island Lighthouse and dodged a few small fishing boats, we had to give way so that the tug could pass and we could cut west.

As we rounded the top of Dundas, we saw a fancy floating fishing resort and some of their boats tooling around. Headed into Brundige, we saw one lonely sailboat headed out to cross Dixon Entrance back into the US. That would be us tomorrow.

We arrived about noon. Brundige Inlet was very long and not that visually exciting, but as we dropped anchor at the head,  I was excited about doing some kayak exploring. However, as I was outside doing the anchor dance, I was enveloped in a sea of flying insects that were totally annoying. I was too busy to see exactly what they were, and I was totally covered except for my head.  The anchor did not bite the first time, so we had to reset, extending my exposure to the flying (but apparently not biting) creatures. I even pulled my hood up to keep the darned things out of my face. Bob told me later my jacket was bug-covered when I was dropping the anchor.

As soon as I came inside, though – a different story. I had bites the size of goose eggs on my forehead, neck and hairline. They HURT! And they were a real pain for at least 3 days. This immediately dissuaded me from any attempt at outside exploration. YUCK!  We were extra appreciative of the custom door screens on Alaskan Dream that allowed us ventilation without having our blood sucked dry.

We watched a movie, and later in the afternoon we saw two large sandhill cranes on one of the beaches. I was bummed we couldn’t go out and get closer to these magnificent creatures, but there was no way I was getting more bites.

Dinner was grilled pork and mashed sweet potatoes. I admit I thought Bob would get eaten alive while grilling the pork outside, but though he saw lots of flies and bugs, nothing bit him. Guess he’s not as sweet.

We watched the movie Wimbledon and were joined by the boat Whiskey Way out of Price Rupert about 9pm.  Like many, he came into the anchorage at full speed and waked us for no apparent reason other than that he could. Grrrr.

We had a good night’s sleep, as it was quiet once his wake settled down and all was well.


Prince Rupert

We had planned to stay 2 days in Prince Rupert, and we’re glad we did. It was nice to see people and all the harbour action after so many days away from other people and boats. Bob rented a car from “Car Go”, an old Impala “beater.”We went to Cowpuccino’s for a great latte and homemade apple/carrot/raisin muffin before heading out to the North Pacific Cannery Museum in Port Edward. It was a short drive, maybe 15-20 minutes, but the Cannery Tour was superb. It was just Bob and I with a guide. This cannery is one of the only remaining North BC canneries that is not in total ruins (or still totally operational). It closed in the early 80’s, and the decision was made to turn it into a museum before too much was destroyed, burned or otherwise destroyed.

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Karen gets some more detail from our guide

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The net loft where the fishermen's nets were repaired

The tour gave us a lot of information about the canning process, before and after. They showed us the PC-incorrect “Iron Chink”, a machine so named because it replaced 30 Chinese fish “butchers” who had to cut the heads and tails off the fish and gut them before the fish moved on to the “slime tables”, where First Nations women washed them off. I can only imagine the smell of these canneries.

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The cannery process is fully laid out in North Pacific Cannery Museum

You get to see the cannery and the different sections, as well as what remains of the housing. It’s clear that the housing was totally segregated – Chinese from First Nations from “Europeans” from the Japanese. Again, hard to fathom today.

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The boardwalk in the “European” housing section of the cannery

The cannery is right on the train tracks, and three big CN trains came by while we were in Port Edward.

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We're right on the tracks

We continued our sight-seeing on the way back to Rupert by detouring to Ridley Island, and driving all the way out to the Grainery and coal plant. You could get very close to the large ships and it was cool to see. We also stopped at Butze Rapids, which weren’t running all that hard at the time. We drove to Seal Cove to see the SeaplaneBase and were rewarded with a seaplane that landed and taxied in. We drove to Rushbrooke Floats, which were dominated by commercial fishing vessels. The street waslined with big Ford 350 trucks and boat trailers, as Rushbrooke has the only boat launch in the area. We felt out of place in our Impala!

We leveraged our “city location” by getting a Starbucks Iced Tea for me and another Slurpee for Bob before heading back to the boat. More laundry, then off to dinner at the Crest Hotel.WE had forgotten that it was Father’s Day, and it was really busy. We had a nice meal though, I had Halibut Cheeks and Bob had an Alberta Sirloin.

We dropped off the car and walked back to the boat. There was a lot going on. We saw the Canadian Coast Guard boat The Arrow Post come by and fuel up, then spend the night at the fuel docks. Also a large cargo ship anchored just off the PRRYC docks in the main channel. Lots to see in this busy port!

Captain Cove to Prince Rupert

We departed Captain Cove at 7:25am, anticipating a 5+ hour trip to Rupert. Coming out the top of Petrel Channel into Ogden Channel, we saw the BC Ferry Northern Expedition heading south, and the Coast Guard Ship Tanu (the one we had seen via AIS earlier this week) heading north. These were the first boats we’d seen in days. Made us feel like we were headed back toward civilization a bit!  We also started to see prawning boats and a few pleasure boats as we headed up Arthur Passage.

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The ubiquitous BC Ferry crosses our path

Bob had plotted a course slightly “starboard” of the normal traffic flow, which was fun because it brought us closer to the extremely shallow sand  flats off the Skeena River. We were in deep water, but we could surely see the shallow areas.

We also started seeing a lot of cargo ships. Prince Rupert is a big port, and the train runs from Rupert east all the way to Memphis.  One cargo ship, the Ogna, was anchored in mid channel. The Coast Guard Ship Tanu reversed course to go over and give her a close look before continuing on patrol.

You can see Prince Rupert from a long ways off, especially the Grainery on Ridley Island. It took a long while, especially at reduced speeds of 5 knots, to really get into Prince Rupert proper. Prince Rupert is located on Kaien Island, and has a population of about 20,000, so it’s a real city. Apparently, it’s also the 3rd deepest natural harbour in the world. Entering from the south, you see big ships being loaded with coal or grain, and then lots and lots of ferries and fishing boats at Fairview. We continued north In the harbour to our destination of Cow Bay.

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Loading grain from the Canadian Plains at the Prince Rupert Grainery terminal

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Container port at Prince Rupert is hard to miss

We had called Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club in advance, to get a mooring reservation. We were told it was a “waiting list” system, and when we arrived there was room for us, but it was on the outside dock that runs perpendicular to the shore. Prior cruiser stories had prepared us for the fact that this dock was going to be bouncy.

Docking conditions were favorable I guess – the wind was howling toward the dock and the current was running toward the dock, so we nestled in pretty easily. Departing would have been a different story! Dockhands caught our lines and also hauled the garbage off the boat, so I was happy for the assist. We saw a few boats at Prince Rupert that we had seen earlier in the trip.  One good thing about these docks was that unlike the typical bullrails, where tying off is always a challenge, they had “cleats” made of half inch steel rod. Very easy and fast to secure the lines to these. We did have to seriously fender the boat due to all the wake, fetch and swells. If you are prone to seasickness, this dock is not for you. To me, it was like riding a horse…with a bad gait.

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Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club. See the little yellow object in the lower right?

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PRR&YC always has a smile, visible even at high tide.

We walked to lunch at the Cow Bay Café, which was terrific. I had a slice of brie and sun-dried tomato quiche, and Bob had a good chicken quesadilla. It rained, then the sun came out.  The Café was totally booked for dinner, and then closed for a few days – definitely a good place to check out next time. Cute, small, and good home cooking.

We walked into town and visited the Museum of Northern British Columbia, which was lovely and had lots of First Nations historical pieces as well as displays about Prince Rupert and the history of the port. Bob was more thrilled at finding a 7-11, where he could indulge his need for a Slurpee.

When we got back to the docks, a 65’ Fleming (Dorado) and a 54’ Ocean Alexander (Sunshine) had come in behind us on the outer dock. They were all rocking and rolling, just like us. We had internet access on the docks, and we were happy. Bob was able to post some of the blog and check email, while I downloaded a few more books for the Nook.

On the “T” portion of the dock, the Ocean Light II, a 71’ ketch sailboat that is a crewed charter boat, was preparing to sail the next day. They were onloading and offloading kayaks, and it was fun to watch. They had so many, 2 were stowed on the sail cradles on the two booms! Wild!

Did a couple loads of laundry and had a nice burger for dinner at the Breakers Pub just up at the head of the docks. It was a busy evening in Prince Rupert, we saw lots of vessels coming and going all night. Also lots of eagles in the area. The wake and fetch finally quieted down, and we had a good night’s sleep.