Friday, June 15, 2018

Ketchikan to Petersburg!

Note: I'm not sure why a white background appears on this post. Strange. I'd try to fix it now, but the sun is out! :)

June 6 (Day 37)        

We originally planned to leave Ketchikan and start our Misty Fjords visit today; however, with depths shallower than De Novo’s draft (the depth of a boat underwater) around her, we could only leave at or near high water. Unfortunately, those hours just happened to be the same time a squall blew through, so we stayed put an extra day.

The silver lining of this decision was we got to spend more time with my dad! Also, despite the torrential rains, the extra day gave us the opportunity to hike the beautifully well-maintained Rainbird Trail behind the University. 

View of Ketchikan from the Rainbird Trail

View of Ketchikan from the Rainbird Trail

View of Ketchikan from the Rainbird Trail

June 7 (Day 38)

7:30am. It wasn’t quite high tide yet, but the winds had slowed to 12-15 knots, so these were the best conditions for leaving the dock we were going to get. We would need to rotate on a dime to make the full 180 degrees turn before the pylons. My dad befriended Julian, the hotel pub’s bartender, so he and my dad helped us as we untied. That way, Dave could drive and I could watch the pylons while they watched the dock.

With their help, it was surprisingly easy. It probably wasn’t worth the time I spent drawing up diagrams of the departure and making Dave rehearse it with me, but I take my self-appointed title of De Novo’s safety commissioner seriously. 

Most boats visiting the Misty Fjords will head south from Ketchikan back through Tongass Narrows and circumnavigate Revillagigedo Island counterclockwise. With the prevailing winds, that route makes sense. However, with reports calling for chop and 25+ knots from the south today, we just didn’t want to beat into that. So instead, we decided to “go where the wind takes us” and head north. By doing so, we crossed Misty Fjords off our agenda. As disappointing as that sounds, we were ready to follow the winds and get ahead of schedule. We also figured that with so much rain and cloud cover, we wouldn’t see much of the fjords anyway. With the wind at our back, and clear skies ahead, we knew we made the right choice. To quell any remaining doubt, a pod of dolphins stopped by to ride our bow wave. :) (Dolphin video to be uploaded when internet is faster.)

Good winds in Behm Channel

Good winds in Behm Channel

Without the destination of Misty Fjords, there was only one reason to enter Behm Channel north of Revillagigedo: a hot spring! Our cruising books spoke of a trailhead in Bailey Bay, but we learned from local knowledge that the trailhead ends in a remote hot spring. Now you know too. :)

The sea floor is deep and rocky throughout Bailey Bay, so anchoring is not an option. The only way to visit is to tie to the one mooring ball near the trailhead.

As we sailed closer, our AIS receiver showed another boat moored at the buoy. We would need to anchor elsewhere, and the hot spring would have to wait. We were thankful this boat installed AIS; otherwise, we would have sailed 12 miles one way just to turn around!

Instead, we anchored in comfortable Yes Bay (originally Yas, the Tlingit name for mussels) in the southwest basin past Yes Narrows. Despite a large float in the middle of the basin, we had plenty of swinging room. With the immediate return of heavy wind and rain, we stayed aboard, turned on our heater, prepared a hot meal, and cozied up with a movie. Not a bad way to spend an evening!

Safe and secure in Yes Bay, though we couldn't say the same for the house on the float! :/

June 8 (Day 39)

After breakfast, the rain eased up, the other boat cleared out, and the Bailey Bay buoy was ours. After tying up, we kayaked to the trailhead, where a large wooden A was nailed to a tree. A mile marker mentioned a shelter about 2.2 miles away, and in small, faded marker next to it, someone added the barely visible words “hot spring.”

Good morning from Yes Bay

Though 2.2 miles isn’t long, this trail is no joke. It’s rugged and slippery. We found ourselves climbing branches and wet boulders, bushwhacking blackberry bushes, and sliding in mud. The heavy rains this month flooded the trail at several places, so we were happy we wore our XtraTuf© boots (also known as “Alaskan sneakers”). At a couple places, the trail had eroded into Lake Shelokum, forcing us to climb the roots sideways along the bank.

We loved it! After staying inside for so long, we were in need of some adventure and this trail came through for us.

Flooded trail

Flooded trail

Drop off at waterfall

Drop off at waterfall

Swing ferry across Lake Shelokum; we didn't trust it!

Lake Shelokum

The head of Lake Shelokum finally cleared to a grassy, marshy valley, and we had arrived. We hung our packs and wet clothes in the nearby shelter and walked the 200 yards or so to the tub. It leaned up against a steep granite precipice on one side with a rock wall on the other. Hot spring water rushed down the precipice freely and by hose; another hose ran cold water so the bathers could control the temperature. A nearby plug closed the drain, and the steep basin filled up. The whole set up was pretty clever.   

We were the only humans in this valley, only humans for miles and miles. The sky cleared, and we warmed the chill out of our bones. If we brought dinner and sleeping gear, we would’ve been tempted to spend the night in the shelter.

Shelter near hot spring

Shelter near hot spring

Shelter near hot spring

Hot spring tub at arrow

With warm bodies and a dry change of clothes, the way back was much easier. In fact, I even overheated and changed back into my wet pants halfway down the trail.

Soon after, I saw tree branches ruffle about 100 yards in front of us. Some black emerging. A bear. I crouched backward to Dave. Look! Bear! We peered around the corner and saw the full body stretch across the trail. Dave quietly pulled the airhorn from my pack and whispered to get behind him.   

Unlike the adolescent we saw on shore in Allison Harbour, this bear was big enough to be an adult and round enough to be well-fed. So Dave reminded me in a whisper to me to scan the trees for cubs. If a black bear mother has cubs nearby, she will hold her ground and protect them to the death. And a healthy adult female would have cubs this of year. If we seem threatening, she will attack. The best action would be to back up slowly out of the area and wait her out.  

No cubs. Ok, so most likely an adult male. We would need to be as loud and threatening as possible, showing him that we aren't prey. However, before we made a sound, he noticed us and scrambled up the hillside away from the trail. He was more scared of us than we were of him.

Regardless, we wanted to make sure he kept moving. Dave blew the airhorn every 5-10 seconds as we crossed his path, and I had bear spray locked and loaded. We waved our arms around and yelled everything we could think of: “HUMANS ARE SCARY! SCAAARRRRYYYY! (AIRHORN BLAST) RRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWRRRRRRRR! DON’T APPROACH HUMANS! (AIRHORN BLAST) WE ARE PREDATORRRRSSSS!” When I ran out of things to shout, I just started yelling about everything I saw on the trail, including colors and shapes—until finally, Dave told me we were a good quarter mile from the bear crossing. Better safe than sorry.

We highly recommend this trail and hot spring to anyone coming out this way. Stay flexible in case buoy is in use. Bring tall muck boots, raingear, towels, and change of clothes. And be prepared for bears.

Bailey Bay

June 9 (Day 40)

We left the mooring buoy in the morning in case another boat was waiting for it as we had. We headed west out of Bailey Bay for the day’s sail, leaving it up to the wind to decide where we would anchor for the night. The winds chose Helm Bay, and we didn’t want to argue with the winds. We docked up at a free US Forests Service float, unattached but near shore.

We noticed we had some phone coverage here, and while we couldn’t make calls, we could receive some texts. My mom wrote me that she read about overly friendly bears in Helm Bay. We stayed put on our island of a float. We had one bear scare already, better not push our luck.

Helm Bay

Safe from bears on our floating dock

June 10 (Day 41)

In Behm Canal, the wind picked up and we were flying! But with the wind came more sideways rain. I remember shouting to Dave that the rain seemed sharper than usual before realizing it was hail!

The only other time we’ve sailed through hail was in the Broughtons, earlier this trip. Dave was at the helm so he was in the thick of it; I stayed in the companionway (the sheltered entranceway from the cockpit to the cabin), laughing and taking pictures. Now Dave was savoring the karma!

Hail is a trip in heavy winds!

Despite the less-than-ideal weather, we can’t complain. Winds are high, seas are low, and our solar panels don’t seem to mind the cloud cover. It may seem counterintuitive, but we highly recommend solar power as an energy source for sailing SE Alaska. With our 450 watts, our batteries have stayed surprisingly topped off.  

The only thing that’s frustrating us is the cabin dampness. We keep it ventilated, but there’s only so much ventilation we can afford in this rain. Without shore power in Ketchikan, we haven’t been able to run the dehumidifier since Prince Rupert, and it’s rained (mostly hard) every day since. And without a full cockpit enclosure (which would not be possible based on our traveler location), we can’t hang out wet clothes anywhere but in our head (cabin bathroom). As a result, we were happy to learn Thorne Bay on the east side of Prince of Wales Island offered shore power. With the dehumidifier running, we can air out every compartment and check for hidden mold. Then we will tackle our toughest, most formidable challenge yet: we will thoroughly clean our boat.

June 11 (Day 42)

Cleaning day! To air everything out, we needed to hang cushions, bedding, and clothing out for several hours in the sun. Ha, just kidding—there’s no sun. In fact, anything we’d hang outside would get soaked within minutes. Instead, we strung clotheslines across the ceiling of our cabin for clothes and bedding, opened every storage locker, and balanced every cushion and foam in high, architecturally-unsound forts. As the space heater and dehumidifier did their work, we climbed through our fort structures to treat any hint of mold. Even the fridge got a good scrub down. With Novi sparkling again, we set out to explore the town.

Thorne Bay was originally known as DA’QXUQ and was home to the Tlingit Dak Lawedih, Stikinekwan Kiksadi, and Kaigani Haida. In the 1880s, white settlers disregarded clan claims and developed saltery, mine, and later logging operations there. Captain Vancouver named it “Thorn Bay” to honor one of his contemporaries, Frank Manley Thorn. Despite his many contributions to the maritime world, Vancouver had the quirky habit of finding places that already had names and, just for funsies, renaming them after his friends. Sometimes I wonder if Dave and I sailed to a new area we couldn’t pronounce, if we could rename it after our cat, Uma. As for Thorne Bay, the E was added when it was misspelled on a chart.

We liked DA’QXUQ/ Thorn(e) Bay/ Uma Bay and would have stayed longer if Petersburg wasn’t calling. People were friendly and inviting, especially the librarian who let us check email (and research the history about this place in case we wanted to write about it in a blog).

Cute float homes all around Thorne Bay

"Alaskan taxis" (float planes)

Thorne Bay Marina, looking south

Thorne Bay Marina, looking north

Thorne Bay Courthouse (front) and library (back);
in a town of around 500, you don't need huge buildings!

June 12 (Day 43)

Despite occasional drops, we enjoyed clear skies today in Clarence Strait. And I don’t want to jinx it (knock on teak), but tomorrow is calling for sun! Sun!

With a favorable current and good winds from the south, we hit 8.5 knots over ground. The wind died in Kashevarof Passage, so we chose to anchor in Exchange Cove on the northeast corner of Prince of Wales Island for the night. Despite the current in the passage, we found Exchange Cove calm and comfortable.   

Wing on wing in Clarence Channel

Clarence Channel
 June 13 (Day 44)

No rain today! Not a drop! That meant a whole day without raingear or thermal underwear! 

Unfortunately, there was also no wind. 2-3 knots, max. After so many days with perfect winds for sailing, a day without wind was expected. We motor-sailed all afternoon, from Exchange Cove, out of Clarence Strait, across glassy Sumner Strait, and into protected Deception Point Cove—a small anchorage between Woewodski and Mitkof Islands, at the southern entrance of Wrangell Narrows.        
Beautiful yet calm Sumner Strait

Our family has asked if we’ve seen more whales. Yes, lots! We enjoy an average of at least one whale sighting per day. We’ve wondered why we saw them so rarely in Washington and BC, and now we know—they’re all up here! They’re always too far to photograph well—and neither our phones nor our non-zooming GoPro are good wildlife cameras anyway—so we simply enjoy them in the moment. We think we usually see humpbacks, as they’re common up here. We also see a lot of bald eagles. All we need to do is find the highest branch in any group of trees, and at least one eagle is perched there, surveying the shore. Other frequent visitors include ravens, gulls, scoters, and seals.
But today, we saw two sea otters and a moose in Deception Point Cove! Two sea otters and a moose! The sea otters were grooming their faces with their paws in their cute otter ways, and the moose was grazing on shore in its badass moose way. We love Alaska!

MOOSE! (Sorry for the fuzziness)

At anchorage at Deception Point: without rain, we could enjoy our hammock again!

June 14 (Day 45)

Wrangell Narrows is the safest, most direct path to Petersburg. It’s a 22-mile narrow (hence the name), winding traffic route with over 70 channel markers. We heard the depths weren’t as accurate on charts outside the markers, so we felt compelled to stay within them. Sailing is not advisable here, especially with so much anticipated traffic, so we had to motor. 

The cruising guides warned to expect lots of commercial traffic through this passage, so we expected to be on the radio much of the day weaving our way around tugs pulling barges, cargo ships, etc. Though we were passed by several pleasure and fishing boats, we didn’t encounter any such large commercial traffic. We only had one conversation on the radio: from the captain of a 110-foot luxury yacht asking if we’d prefer to be passed on port our starboard
Strong currents from each entrance flow towards the middle during a rising tide (the “flood current”). Guidebooks suggested transiting the narrows near the end of the flood current so that we’d hit slack tide in the middle and be able to ride a favorable, but manageable current throughout the journey. Dave considered this an interesting puzzle, so he spent time the night before calculating the most fuel-efficient passage. According to our handy tide book, Ports and Passes, slack current in the middle of the passage was going to happen at 2:43 pm, and it was 9 nautical miles from the entrance to that slack, so he decided we should pass by the entrance (December Point) at 1:15 pm assuming we’d travel at 6 knots the entire way. He even made a sheet listing each channel marker and what minute we should pass by each one! While we didn’t try to time it exactly, the list proved invaluable for keeping track of our time and marker position.

We’re now enjoying our time in the beautiful Norwegian town of Petersburg. And it's sunny! Up next: glaciers!  

Velkommen to Petersburg!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hartley Bay, BC to Ketchikan, AK

May 28 (Day 31)

We woke up around 7:30 (early by our standards) to allow MV Christina Rose to leave.

With this extra time, Dave explored the town while I got some work done. He reported everything was closed, but people were friendly. He relayed a conversation with a man working at the wharf:

“We’ll be leaving the marina soon. How much do we owe for moorage?”
“No charge. It’s a public wharf.”
“Oh, but we’ve been using shore power for 24 hours straight.”
“Great. It’s still free.”
“Yup. If you really want to give back, you’re welcome to take the whole village out to breakfast.”
“Is there a cafĂ© or somewhere where we could do that?”
“No.” Laugh.

Hartley Bay is something special. When the passenger ferry “The Queen of the North” sunk in 2006, Gitga’at fisherman and recreational boaters were first on the scene, saving all 99 survivors. Residents set up a rescue center in their community hall. With the approximately 58,000 gallons of fuel and 6,100 of oil dumped by this sinking, this environmental disaster wreaked havoc on North BC’s ecosystem. For this reason, the Gitga’at have been active in the fight against the Enbridge Pipeline, understanding the devastation a tanker spill would unleash. They are also currently fighting for cleaner energy options for their community. As stewards of the approximately 7,500 square kilometers of land and water surrounding their community, they fight fervently to protect them.

Hartley Bay

Hartley Bay

Hartley Bay School

Community Hall

Hartley Bay

Leaving Hartley Bay (center left)

Entering Coghlan
Yesterday’s wind and rain let up and there was sunshine! After looking at a few weather sources online, we decided it was a good time to get going again. We thought we’d take the shortcut through Coghlan Anchorage, where we stayed previously, but it did not turn out to be a shortcut after all. 

I renamed Coghlan “@!%# Passage.” The wind funneled through it as it had two nights ago, so we spent an hour or so tacking and trimming sails in many surprising directions. And we swear, the rain clouds appeared only over this passage.  

We were relieved when we made it to Wright Sound—the wind was still strong, but at least it was consistent! We decided to take the longer route north through Principe Channel rather than Granville Channel because we read Granville was too narrow to sail and crowded with commercial traffic. Later, while sailing through Squally Channel, we saw another boat we recognized from Seattle approaching from the south: the 935’ long Westerdam Cruise Ship. I guess it’s that time of year again. Westerdam turned up Lewis Passage and into Granville Channel. We overheard them on the Vehicle Traffic Services [VTS] station, coordinating with a tugboat about squeezing by its barges in one of Granville’s narrowest spots. We’re glad we avoided that!

The winds calmed in Otter Channel—surprising, as we thought they’d get stronger towards the ocean—so we unreefed the sails. Soon after, we turned north from a close haul to a beam/broad reach (the bow is pointed 90-120 degrees off the source of the wind) as we headed north up Nepean Sound to Principe Channel. Flat seas, sunny skies, and 10-15 knots on our hindquarter. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Not squally at all in Squally Channel

Wide open Principe

Around 7pm, we pulled into Monckton Inlet on the west side of Pitts Island. We chose a small, hidden cove behind Monckton Point and held our breath as we squeezed through its narrow entrance. The passageway opened to a snug, private anchorage, about 200’ wide for swinging. With 60' of depth and 240' of chain out, we were careful to hook right in the middle. We could almost reach out and touch the ferns and mossy vines around us, but strangely, the closeness made us feel safe rather than anxious.

Each area we visit seems to have its own personality, almost like its own soul. And as syrupy as this sounds, it makes sense—the ecosystem of each forest or tideland works together as one connected organism. And in Monckton Inlet, it felt so alive. I felt a presence so loving, so warm, it seemed to envelop us. It was a feeling of pure peace. Perhaps it was just my own transference: we were, in fact, in a reassuringly safe anchorage, and the perfect day of sailing and sun could have provided a biological euphoria. Who knows. But it’s a feeling I forget when living in the city.

Heading into Monckton Inlet

Close shores

One of my favorite parts of this voyage is feeling connected to places. And the hardest part is leaving them. I can never write about any place with the justice or respect it deserves because we leave it too soon. And we’re regretfully ignorant about the history, real names (rather than the newer, European names on our charts), and stories of the places we visit, anchor, and pass. As a result, our blog tends to sound more like Google road directions (“first we went here, then we turned here, then we rounded this point, etc.”) rather than intimate revelations of these spaces. We can feel awe of these areas and we can let them wash over and humble us, but we can never know the souls of them. We’re sailing through areas with over 13,000 of years of established history, and we (Dave and I) know so little of it. It says a lot about our privilege that we’re able to. We’re tourists.    

Regardless, these places have changed us, and for the better. We’re slowing down to hear the wind, weather, and waves more…and maybe, we’re listening to something a little deeper.


May 29 (Day 31)

Today was rainy and nearly windless, so we spent most of the day motoring. We dislike motoring, but we can’t complain. We were told we’d motor at least half the way up the Inside Passage, yet that hasn’t been true at all. Not even close. Several explanations may account for this:
  • We have a mostly flexible schedule that allows us to sail in light winds.
  • As far as cruising boats go, Novi’s lightweight.
  • We try to stick to recommendations in Taken by the Wind by Marilyn Johnson, the only cruising book for these areas primarily for sailboats.
  • We’re patient with low winds (well, Dave is).
  • Dumb luck
We’re pretty sure the last explanation is most likely. And that luck could change any day.

The sun came out as we rounded McCauley Island into Beaver Passage, and we anchored in a secure little nook within the Spicer Islands.

Beaver Passage

Beaver Passage

Beautiful Spicer Anchorage

Calm in Spicer Anchorage

May 30 (Day 32)

It’s Dave’s birthday today!

Warning: I gush about Dave and our marriage in the next paragraph. It’s like textual PDA. Feel free to skip. You’ve been warned.

Several friends have asked how we can live and travel in such tight quarters without driving one another crazy. It’s simple, at least on my end: Dave’s pretty damn awesome. Sailing together means trusting one another, putting one another first, and always seeing the best in one another. Dave makes this easy, and with him, it never seems like the “work” people say marriage is. Though he’s a Vulcan, he’s the one who’s taught me to love. And any day to celebrate Dave is a good day.

Ok, gushiness over.

The electronic gods did not seem to care it was Dave’s birthday, however, and his cell phone randomly started burning. His charging port melted his cord and rendered his phone nonfunctional. The issue seemed to originate from the phone rather than Novi’s electrical system, thank goodness, but it’s annoying nonetheless. Looks like Dave’s birthday gift will be a new phone in Prince Rupert.

Fortunately, the winds made up for it. We sailed in smooth seas and consistent winds through Beaver Passage, Arthur Passage, and Chatham Sound, right into Prince Rupert Harbour. Although Prince Rupert is a small town compared to our home in Seattle, we couldn’t help but feel like we were entering a big city as we sailed by all the cargo ship terminals and all the commercial traffic. Was that a train that just went by? This was a very different world than the wilderness of the last few weeks. We anchored just across the inlet from Prince Rupert in Russell Arm. Though it was open to the wake of commercial traffic, the anchorage was surprisingly calm. Man, we love these good anchorages!

Arthur Passage

Arthur Passage

Prince Rupert! So urban!

Anchored in Russell Arm, Prince Rupert in the distance

May 31-June 1 (Days 33-34)

We were about to leave the anchorage when the harbour patrol stopped by. It doesn’t matter how confident a sailor you are, seeing an authoritative vessel coming near you is unnerving. We scrambled to get ready. Did we do something wrong? Were we not allowed to anchor in Russell Arm? Will we be boarded? 

Fortunately, he was just coming by to welcome us to Prince Rupert and offer suggestions for food and moorage. Oh, Prince Rupert, we think we love you. Could you imagine this happening in Seattle?

We had planned to stay at the Cow Bay Marina anyway, so we pulled up anchor and headed in. After docking in a finger slip, we learned the breakwater was $12 cheaper, so we untied the docklines to move. 

Because our initial docking was smooth, we were oblivious to the 3.5+ knot current in the marina; if we had looked into it, we would have waited. This means when we motored out of our slip in idle at about 1 knot, we couldn’t reverse normally. Dave worked to do a 20-point turn while I stood with the boat hook ready to push off. And then the wind gusted through, and another man rushed to help from the dock (thank you, anonymous man!). Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough space within the marina’s fairway to pick up enough speed to counter the wind and current, so we pushed off slip after slip. The tourists on the wharf didn't hesitate to record this moment of shame, so I'm sure we're a cautionary tale somewhere on Youtube by now.    

Despite the morning’s adventures, we enjoyed Prince Rupert. We highly recommend the Museum of Northern British Columbia and the Sunken Gardens, cared for entirely by volunteers.

Moody skies at Cow Bay

Cow Bay

BIG boat!

Museum of Northern British Columbia

Museum of Northern British Columbia

Prince Rupert
On the night of June 1st, we prepared for the big Dixon Entrance crossing to Alaska. Preparation included calling Ketchikan customs for permission to anchor in Foggy Bay on the east side of Dixon Strait. When entering the US, a vessel is technically prohibited from anchoring or docking anywhere until they are cleared by customs. The only exception is Foggy Bay with approval ahead of time. Don’t know why that specific anchorage is allowed. Homeland Security doesn’t always make sense. But they approved our request, so the next days’ route was shortened by 35 nautical miles.

Next was route planning. From Prince Rupert, we could take the shortcut to open water through Venn Passage, shaving nearly two hours from the route. Strong rapids course through the shallow shortcut, so ideally, we would transit at high tide slack.

Dave: We need to enter Venn Passage at high water slack. It looks shallow.
Me: Definitely. Whatever time that is, we go. When will it be?
Dave: <Searching tides> …4am.
Me: …
Dave: …
Me: We don’t really need to time it with high water slack, right?
Dave: Hmmm…it doesn’t look that shallow.

June 2 (Day 35)

We left Prince Rupert at 8:30am, just in time to hit Venn Passage at low water slack. J  We were fine.
Out in Duncan Channel, we started to feel wind on our back, and we sailed the spinnaker in following seas for hours. We toasted at the Alaskan border--we made it! And then we toasted again because we accidentally toasted at the wrong line. And then the wind died. It wasn’t exactly triumphant, but we made it (for real)! Alaska at last!

So far, Alaska doesn’t seem different. Rugged rocks. Evergreen trees. Rain. Stunning. 
Foggy Bay’s inner harbor looked full so we ventured into the snug southeast corner of the outer bay. Like most of the best anchorages lately, it was protected by a narrow entrance. The cruising guides sing the inner harbor’s praises, so boats cram in there, sometimes rafting up if necessary. In our opinion, however, the outer harbor was excellent. 

Back in open water in Duncan Bay

Foggy Bay's Outer Harbor

Foggy Bay's Outer Harbor at high tide

June 3 (Day 36)

We're excited my (Denise’s) dad is visiting us in Ketchikan. He’s staying at the Rodeway Inn with its own small marina on the north end of Ketchikan. Moorage is cheap there, so we reserved space for Novi. Cheap, check. Close to my dad, check.



The customary time to do this is when passing the US Coast Guard station in Tongass Narrows and ask where to tie up. Done. Customs agent arrived, looked at our passports, let us on our way. Done. Easy.

Coming into the docks at the motel, on the other hand, was not easy. It’s not identified on any of our charts. It doesn’t advertise, so it's pretty empty. Fortunately, my dad waved to us on from the dock. He pointed to the dock with the one 30-amp power outlet and texted “port tie” to us. Dave readied fenders and lines while I eased Novi around the breakwater (a bunch of logs tied together with anchors on each end). My dad texted the north entrance, while narrow, was the only option. He was right: the south entrance was too shallow for our deep-keeled boat, and the middle entrance was fouled with buoys. The floating breakwater logs had drifted closer to shore, so the entrance appeared about 15 feet wide. 

But then we noticed my dad rushing to a different dock and yelling to us. We couldn’t understand him. He was pointing frantically to the immediate float as we entered, a starboard tie. We weren’t prepared with starboard fenders, so we kept going.

What he saw but we hadn’t: a line, floating but nearly completely hidden, tied across the 20-foot waterway. And I was driving Novi right up on it. Eek! Dave yelled, “Hard reverse!” and I reversed HARD. But then I was backing into the breakwater, so I put us in forward and turned to port HARD. But then of course I was going toward the dock hard. During this time, Dave was jumping over the cabin top with fenders and tying them to starboard as quick as he could. I reversed again but the momentum still carried us, and I hit our anchor on a pylon. Damn. Fortunately, those Mantus anchors are strong! Dave jumped off with the midship line, threw the stern line to my dad, and pulled. With 12 knots from our starboard side, Novi wanted to drift away from the dock, so as soon as she had slowed, I ran to throw the bow line to Dave. It took all our strength to pull Novi in sideways against the wind.

Once she was finally secured to the dock, we all took a deep breath.

“Well, welcome to Ketchikan!” my dad laughed. “You look like you could use a drink.”

The next day, the hotel manager returned, and my dad asked her about the floating line. Apparently, the breakwater anchor dragged out into the channel, so the motel staff tied this line between the dock and the breakwater as a temporary fix. Further south, obstructions within marinas are usually marked with buoys, so this was a valuable reminder to stay vigilant, especially as we continue venturing north.

Floating line we didn't see

Novi, secure at the marina

We made it to Alaska!!

Despite the excitement of our landing, we’re having fun with my dad in Ketchikan. Next up: Misty Fjords!

Creek Street

Creek Street

Creek Street

Creek (sans street)
Thank you to everyone who reads our blog. :)