Return to Tracy Arm; Exploring White Pass and the Chilkoot Trail; Home to Vancouver

The final two legs of our Alaska trip took us in different directions: south to Tracy Arm on His Idea – so we could share that memorable experience with our daughter Vanessa, who joined us for a week – and north via ferry to Skagway. The second leg gave us a chance to see the Lynn Canal, plus the opportunity to take the White Pass and Yukon Railroad along the path of the Klondike goldrush.

Although it was the second time for us, Tracy Arm did not disappoint, with even bigger icebergs and clearer waters that allowed us to get closer to the face of the North Arm Glacier (perhaps our growing familiarity with these waters had increased our confidence…..or made us more foolish).

The excursion to Skagway and beyond was a nice change. Someone else was doing the driving, we had a chance to regain our ‘land legs’, and interesting history that shaped both Alaska and the Yukon was on full display. If you plan on visiting this part of Alaska, taking a trip on the ‘narrow gauge’ WP&YR is highly recommended. The inland Alaska and Yukon scenery also made a major impression, so much so that we’ve been inspired to return on a road trip one day.

After an unexpected overnight delay in Skagway – our small plane, a Cessna Caravan, was grounded due to poor visibility along the Lynn Canal – we bid farewell to Vanessa on July 27th. It was time to start the journey home, with a deadline to be back in Vancouver by no later than mid-August.

Fortunately the sea conditions continued to be favourable. Although very windy weather in the straits north of Ketchikan caused a further days’ delay, and foggy conditions with visibility less than a quarter mile slowed us down a few times, the rest of the trip was generally calm all the way back to Vancouver. With respect to navigating in foggy conditions, this trip necessitated greater use of our radar and VIS (ship identification) systems than ever before. Although dense fog is still somewhat unsettling, this experience has served to boost our capabilities and confidence with these technologies, which is a good thing.

Our trip to Alaska was interesting, enjoyable, and at times exciting. It turned out to be cooler and damper than expected, however the seas were more friendly, a very fair trade in any seafarer’s book. It exceeded our expectations, and will remain a highlight of our cruising adventures. Although we probably won’t cruise as far north as Alaska again – it’s a long way – we’ll likely return to explore the mid-coast again, where we barely scratched the surface of all there is to see there.

We hope you enjoyed our pictures and commentary. Thanks for joining us.

(Note: The usual trip stats will follow the pictures.)

Revisiting Tracey Arm with Vanessa, the icebergs were bigger than ever.

When revisiting Tracy Arm with Vanessa, we found the icebergs were bigger than ever…..

 

.....including the ones that found their way ashore.

…..including the ones that found their way ashore.

 

Our first encounter with Orcas, passing by the mouth ot Tracey Arm Cove.

Our first encounter with Orcas, passing by the mouth of Tracy Arm Cove.

 

Hapag Lloyd's MS Bremen, a small cruise ship capable of managing the tight turns of Tracey Arm.

Hapag Lloyd’s MS Bremen, a small cruise ship capable of managing the tight turns of Tracy Arm.

 

The towering face of the North Arm Glacier.

The towering face of the North Arm Glacier.

 

Route of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad; a major feat of 19th century engineering, the entire 68 mile route was completed in 2 years.

Route of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad; a major feat of 19th century engineering, the entire 110 miles from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon, was completed in 2 years (1898 – 1900).

 

A view of Eldred Rock Lighthouse as we head north to Skagway aboard the MV LeConte; often windy and rough, 90 mile long Lynn Canal was mostly calm for us.

A view of Eldred Rock Lighthouse as we head north to Skagway aboard the MV LeConte; often windy and rough, 90 mile long Lynn Canal was mostly calm for us.

 

Walking from the harbour into the town of Skagway, one quickly notices the large number of well preserved wooden buldings and the prominent location of the White Pass & Yukon Railway terminal.

Walking from the harbour into the town of Skagway, one quickly notices the large number of well preserved wooden buldings and the prominent location of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad’s terminal.

 

kagway's most famous building is the two-story Arctic Brotherhood Hall. This driftwood-decorated frame building was the home of a fraternal group founded by gold seekers on their way to the Klondike. The building of "Camp Skagway No. 1" was erected in 1899, and the facade was put up the next year.

Skagway’s most famous building is the two-story Arctic Brotherhood Hall; this driftwood-decorated frame building, erected in 1899 and featuring a facade of over 9000 pieces of driftwood, was the home of a fraternal group founded by gold seekers on their way to the Klondike.

 

Lonely Fraser, B.C., sight of the Canadian Customs outpost near the Canadian/U.S. border.

Lonely Fraser, B.C., sight of the Canada Customs outpost near the Canadian/U.S. border.

 

Some of the magnificent 'big sky' scenery we saw on our way to Carcross to catch the train; it has inspired us to return by road one day to further explore the Yukon.

Some of the magnificent ‘big sky’ scenery we saw on our way to Carcross to catch the train.

 

An unexpected find - deserts in the Yukon.

An unexpected find – deserts in the Yukon!

 

Waiting for the train in Carcross, an interesting place worthy of a return visit.

Waiting for the train in Carcross, Yukon  (originally known as Caribou Crossing).

 

Heading south to Skagway alonh the shores of Lake Bennett.

Heading south to Skagway along the shores of Lake Bennett in northern B.C.

 

We were fortunate to get a spot in the final car of the train, which allowed for excellent views of the receding scenery.

We were fortunate to get a spot in the final car of the train, which allowed for excellent views of the receding scenery.

 

During our short stop in the ghost town of Bennett we climbed to western terminus of the Chilkoot Trail, which provided us with a grand view back down the lake.

During our short stop in the ghost town of Bennett we climbed to the western terminus of the 33 mile long Chilkoot Trail, providing us with a great view of the lake towards Carcross, 27 miles away; over the winter of 1898-1899, 30,000 stampeders built makeshift rafts and boats to take them across Lake Bennett and down the Yukon River to the goldfields.

 

During the gold rush Canada's trusty North West Mounted Police was standing on guard for thee; prospectors were not permitted to cross the border unless they brought with them 1000kg of supplies, supposedly enough to last them one year.

During the Klondike gold rush Canada’s trusty North West Mounted Police were standing on guard for thee at the White Pass summit (873 metres); prospectors arriving from Skagway were not permitted to cross the border unless they brought with them 1000 kg of supplies, supposedly enough to last them one year.

 

Begimnning our descent from thesummit, this is a shot of the orignial tressel over 'the gulch', which lasted almost 60 years until replaced by a tunnel the shorter tressel een in the background.

Beginning our descent from the summit, this is a shot of the original steel bridge over ‘the gulch’; constucted in 1901 it lasted almost 70 years until replaced by a tunnel and shorter bridge (seen in the background).

 

A look over the edge into Dead Horse Gulch, where 3000 pack animals perished due to overloading and neglect during the stampede of '98.

A look over the edge into Dead Horse Gulch, where 3000 pack animals perished due to overloading and neglect during the stampede of ’98, a sad chapter in goldrush history.

 

Down, down towards Skagway.....

Down, down, down towards Skagway…..

 

.....visible in the far distance.

…..afar in the distance.

 

Coming to the end of the line - what great excursion!

Coming to the end of the line – what a great excursion!

 

Boats, trains and planes - Skagway harbour below as we depart for Juneau.

Boats, trains and planes – Skagway harbour below as we depart for Juneau.

 

The weather delay was worth it - we flew with enough visibility to get some excellent shots of the mountains and glaciers that line Lynn Canal to both east and west.

The weather delay was worth it – we flew with enough visibility to get some excellent shots of the mountains and glaciers that line Lynn Canal to both east and west…..

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

On the journey from Juneau to petersburg we cam a cross a very large number of Humpback whales; this was a behaviour we had not yet seen, in which it appears the whales gather together with there mouths in the air - perhaps for feeding?

On the journey home from Juneau to Petersburg we came across a large group of Humpback whales, perhaps a dozen or more; we observed behaviour we had not yet seen, in which it appears the whales gather together with their mouths in the air – perhaps for feeding?

 

Ria finally managed to capture that elusive shot of a substantial breach, of which we saw several.

Ria finally managed to capture that elusive shot of a substantial breach, of which we saw several.

 

After very stormy seas in Clarence Sound , north of Ketchikan, we scored beautiful weather to cross Dixon Entrance; the weather window that day was so good we decided to make a run all the way from Meyers Chuck, about 40 miles north of Ketchikan, to Prince Rupert, a total distance of 135 miles.

After holing up in Meyers Chuck – about 40 miles north of Ketchikan – for an extra day due to very stormy seas in Clarence Straight, we scored beautiful weather for our crossing of Dixon Entrance; the weather window was so good we decided to make the run all the way to Prince Rupert, cruising a total distance of 135 miles.

 

The narrow entrance to Baker Inlet, another excellent and beautiful anbchorage off of Grenville Channel, south of Prince Rupert.

The narrow entrance to Baker Inlet, another excellent and beautiful anchorage off Grenville Channel, south of Prince Rupert.

 

The captain taking a soak in the waterfront pools of Bishop Bay Hot Springs, about 40miles south of Kitimat as the crow flies.

The captain taking a soak in the waterfront pools of Bishop Bay Hot Springs, about 40 miles south of Kitimat, as the crow flies.

 

Ona beaytiful day in Johnstone Strait, after the fog and mist had disapated, we encountered a pod of many, many Pacific White Sided Dolphins; they love to frolic near moving boats and this group put on a fantastic show, with as many as 8 to 10 riding all around us; a couple in particular loved to jump up in front of us to slap their tail, splashing Ria on the front deck as she took pictures; what a blast!

On a beautiful day in Johnstone Strait, after the fog and mist had disipated, we encountered a pod of many, many Pacific White Sided Dolphins, who love to frolic near moving boats; this group put on a fantastic show, with as many as 10 to 12 riding all around us.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few of them went so far as to jump just  in front of us to slap their tail, splashing Ria as she took pictures from the front deck; what a blast!

 

On our final day, early morning tranquility on the peaceful waters of Georgia Sraight - a fitting end to an excellent cruise typified by early mornings and calm waters.

On our final day, early morning tranquility on the peaceful waters of Georgia Sraight – a fitting end to an excellent cruise.

Postscript – the Final Stats for Cruise to Alaska 

  • Statute miles traveled – 2618
  • Hours of motoring – 221
  • Average MPG  – 3.6
Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Glacier Bay National Park

map

Glacier Bay National Park & Reserve, which covers an area of 3.3 million acres, was created in 1980. It is renowned for its glaciers – there are over 1,000 within the park – and a number extend all the way to the sea. The longest and widest of the Glacier Bay tidewater glaciers is Grand Pacific, with a length of 35 miles and a width of 2 miles. Among the deepest is John Hopkins, with 250 feet above and 200 feet below the waterline.

We were fortunate to be able to visit and view 5 of these tidewater glaciers – Grand Pacific, Johns Hopkins, Margerie, Lamplugh and Reid. Sometimes we could only reach within a few miles because of the amount of floating ice they create, however they are so large that one still feels their size and grandeur. In other cases, we were able to get as close as we dared – about a quarter mile – while still maintaining a safety zone in the event they calved an iceberg and created a large wave. At Reid Glacier, which is only touched by the sea at high tide, it was possible to use the dinghy to go ashore and get very close to the glacier’s face, and peer into the many fissures and ice caves that are present there.

From the mouth of Glacier Bay, where it meets Icy Strait, it’s approximately 60 miles in a northwesterly direction to the tip of the West Arm inlets, the apex of our Alaska cruise. Although this is not a long distance the change in topography is very noticeable. Beginning with forested lowlands and islands in the south, the end of Glacier Bay is defined by narrow fiords surrounded by high peaks. Few trees can be found here, and the temperature is significantly cooler. Although this is partly a consequence of the higher latitude, most of the cooling effects come from the surrounding mountains, glaciers and iceberg-chilled waters. In the evenings and especially the mornings, we were so very thankful for our generator and space heater!

For us, the other key attraction of this cruise is the potential for wildlife viewing. Although we did not see everything on our list – mountain goat and grizzly bear viewing remain elusive – we were blessed with numerous sightings of many other creatures. Humpback whales frequent these waters in the summer, and a particular highlight was our encounters with them while cruising and dinghy exploring.

Many, many pictures were taken. Here is a just a small sample……

 

Our first stop after Tracey Arm was Juneau, the capital of Alaska; another popular destination for crusie ships, it is larger and more commercialized than Ketchikan, but still retains a large number of interesting heritage buildings.

Our first stop after Tracey Arm was Juneau, the capital of Alaska; another popular destination for cruise ships, it is bigger and more commercialized than Ketchikan, but still retains a large number of interesting heritage buildings.

 

A view of the moutains to the east of Juneau from our anchorage at Swanson Harbour, which is located at the juncture of Lynn Canal and Icy Strait.

A view of the moutains to the east of Juneau from our anchorage at Swanson Harbour, which is located at the juncture of Lynn Canal and Icy Strait.

 

We stopped at Gustavus, the last community before entering the park; greeting us at the dock was a very large and friendly (?) sea lion, who hung around to take the scraps tossed overboard as sportfishermen cleaned their catches of salmon & halibut; the fishing in this areawas amazing, with salmon jumping all over the place.

We stopped at Gustavus, the last small community before entering the park; greeting us at the dock was a very large and friendly(?) sea lion, who hung around to take the scraps tossed overboard as sportfishermen cleaned their catches of salmon & halibut; the fishing in this area was amazing, with salmon jumping all over the place.

 

Entrance to the park is strictly controlled, with only 25 boats allowed in the park on any given day; you had to arrive on your allotted entry day or lose your entry priveleges, so we anchored near Gustavus in a fairly exposed area; it was very hard to set the anchor; clearly it was a marginal set, and here's why; lucky for us it was dead calm overnight and we had no issues with dragging the anchor.

Entrance to the park is strictly controlled, with only 25 boats allowed in the park on any given day; you are required to arrive on your allotted entry day or lose your entry priveleges, so we anchored near Gustavus in a fairly exposed area where it was very hard to set the anchor – clearly it was a marginal set, and here’s why; lucky for us it was flat-calm overnight and we had no issues with dragging the anchor.

 

After the mandatory orientation at park headquarters and an overnight stay at Bartlett Cove, we headed northwest for the West Arm of Glacier Bay; while looking for mountain goats at Gloomy Knob we were lucky to encounter three active Humback whales, that put on quite a show for us; this included a breach by each whale, one after the other (this caught us completely off guard, so we weren't quick enough to get pictures).

After the mandatory orientation at park headquarters and an overnight stay at Bartlett Cove, we headed northwest for the West Arm of Glacier Bay; while looking for mountain goats at Gloomy Knob we were lucky to encounter three active Humpback whales who put on quite a show for us; this included a breach by each whale, one after the other (this caught us completely off guard, so we weren’t quick enough to get pictures).

 

Reid Glacier from our anchorage in Reid Inlet, our base of operations while we explored the area.

Reid Glacier from our anchorage in Reid Inlet, our base of operations while we explored Tarr and Johns Hopkins Inlets.

 

Reid Glacier from it's moraine beach.

Reid Glacier from it’s moraine beach.

 

An ice at the bottom of the glacier; because the ice is densely packed it projects intense blue colours.

An ice cave at the bottom of the glacier; because the ice is densely packed it projects an intense blue colour.

 

Grand Pacific Glacier from a distance; it is the longest and widest tidal glacier in the park.

Grand Pacific Glacier from a distance, winding its way to the sea; it is the longest and widest tidal glacier in the park.

 

Margerie Glacier, where we could only get within a mile due to the ever moving pack ice......

Margerie Glacier, where we could only get within a mile due to the ever moving pack ice……

 

......even despite our attempt to sneak in using the path created by a passing cruise ship; the pack ice closed in so quickly we had to retreat.

……even despite our attempt to sneak in using the path created by a passing cruise ship; the pack ice closed in very quickly and we had to retreat.

 

The captain going for the consolation prize - 200 year old ice cubes for his margaritas!

The captain going for the consolation prize – 200 year old ice cubes for his margaritas.

 

They last way longer than the ice cubes from the freezer!

They last way longer than the ice cubes from the freezer!

 

Approaching John Hopkins Inlet.

Approaching Johns Hopkins Inlet; the challenges of cool and sometimes damp conditions have been offset by the blessings of flat-calm cruising conditions, which we’ve enjoyed for much of our trip.

 

The vistas in John Hopkins Inlet were spectacular.

The vistas in Johns Hopkins Inlet were spectacular…..

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

John Hopkins Inlet is reputed to be difficult to access much of the time; we were suprised that we were able to get within 3 of miles of it's face.

Johns Hopkins Inlet is reputed to be difficult to access much of the time; we were pleased that we were able to get within 3 miles of the face of the glacier.

 

Up close and personal with the Lamplugh glacier.

Up close and personal with the Lamplugh glacier.

 

Sea otters were wiped out by the fur trade in Alaska during previous centuries; since reintroduction to Glacier Bay in the mis-1970's, there are now more than 15,000 within the park; we saw them happily floating along on their backs everyone, often with a yougster in tow.

Sea otters were wiped out by the fur trade in Alaska during previous centuries; since reintroduction to Glacier Bay in the mid-1970’s, there are now more than 1,500 within the park; we saw them happily floating along on their backs everywhere, often with a youngster in tow; this fellow was happily munching his lunch when we passed by.

 

At long last we had a bear siting, a mom with three cubs foraging on the beach; this was in North Sandy Cove, where we spent our last two nights in the park.

At long last we had a (black) bear sighting, a mom with three cubs foraging on the beach; this was in North Sandy Cove, where we spent our last two nights in the park.

 

Getting closer to sunset , fromour North Sandy Cove anchorage.

Getting closer to sunset; one of the benefits of crusing at higher latitudes in the summer is the length of the day, where it has generally been light enough for us to see from about 4 in the morning until 11 at night.

 

We found ourselves very close to this fellow when he surface unexpectedly very close to shore; this encounter gave us a serious 'oh sh**' moment, but happily our dinghy was safely anchored behind outlying rocks.

We found ourselves very close to this behemoth when he surfaced unexpectedly very close to shore; this encounter gave us a serious ‘oh sh**’ moment, but thankfully our dinghy was safely anchored behind outlying rocks.

 

Our anchorage at North Sandy Cove; we had sunshie in the anchorage, but the clouds and showers were lurking close by in the nearby mountains and valleys behind us; this was often typical of the weather conditions we experienced.

Our anchorage at North Sandy Cove; we had sunshine in the anchorage, but the clouds and showers were lurking close by in the nearby mountains and valleys behind us; this was often typical of the weather conditions we experienced.

Our next post will include a return visit to Tracy Arm with our daughter Vanessa, plus an excursion up Lynn Canal to Skagway for a trip on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Cruising Alpine Alaska

Up, up we go. Not just our latitude, but our sense of climbing into alpine regions, where the tree line, meadows, glaciers and mountain tops get closer and closer to sea level.

Around Ketchikan the passageways are mostly forested, with snow-capped mountains visible in the distance. In many ways it has a similar feel to the waters of coastal British Columbia. So does the weather too – a mix of mist and rain, with limited visibility, to clouds and sunshine, with spectacular views. By Petersburg the mountaintops were feeling much closer, and reminded us of travelling the Banff-Jasper Parkway. This was where we saw our first icebergs too, albeit just from shore. They came from the Le Conte Glacier, near the mouth of the Stikine River.

This section of our cruise culminated in our exploration of Tracy Arm, which is located about 50 miles south of Juneau. This long fjord twists and turns for 25 miles into the heart of the coastal mountains, ending not far from the border between the U.S. and Canada. After dodging numerous icebergs and bergie bits we achieved our destination, the face of the North Tracey Arm glacier where it reaches tidewater. We’re no strangers to many beautiful sites at home and around the world, however our cruise of Tracey Arm was truly breathtaking. It ranks among the best travel experiences we have ever had.

Hopefully our pictures will say more than our words…….

A very early morning departure from Prince Rupert is rewarded with glassy calm conditions in the Chatham Sound approach to Dixon Entrance.

A very early morning departure from Prince Rupert rewarded us with glassy calm conditions in western Chatham Sound, which is the most direct approach to Dixon Entrance.

 

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel anchored near Green Island Light Station, which is off Dundas Island and only eight miles from the Alaska border.

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel anchored near Green Island Light Station, which is adjacent to the northeastern tip of Dundas Island and only eight miles from the Alaska border.

 

Crossing the international boundary in Dixon Entrance; the seas were rougher here, but very decent for this stretch of open water.

Crossing the international boundary in Dixon Entrance, where the seas were rougher but still very decent for this stretch of open water.

 

Ketchikan, about 100 miles from Prince Rupert, was our first stop in Alaska; fishing boats, pleasures cruisers, cruise ships, and many buzzing seaplanes reflect the hectic activity in the harbour.

Ketchikan, about 100 miles from Prince Rupert, was our first stop in Alaska; fishing boats, pleasure cruisers, cruise ships, and many buzzing seaplanes are representative of the lively activity to be found in this harbour.

 

A view of Ketchikan's historic Creek Street, which flourished as the town's red-light district from the early 1900's after the city fathers decreed that such activities were only permitted on the eastern side of the creek.

A view of Ketchikan’s historic Creek Street, which flourished as the town’s red-light district beginning in the early 1900’s after the city fathers decreed that such activities were only permitted on the eastern (left) side of the creek.

 

It rained so much the morning we left Ketchikan that even the local eagles were looking somewhat bedraggled.

It rained so much the morning we left Ketchikan that even the local eagles were looking somewhat bedraggled.

 

Cruising the back passages on our way to Petersburg, the next community where we stopped for a few days; after morning showers, the mists lifted and we enjoyed sunshine and grand views this day.

Travelling the protected back passages on our way to Petersburg; after morning showers, the mists lifted and we enjoyed sunshine and grand views this day.

 

Not all the joys of cruising are a feast for the eyes.

Not all the joys of cruising are a feast for the eyes.

 

Another misty but calm early morning departure, this time from our anchorage near Wrangel.

Another misty, but calm, early morning departure, this time from our anchorage near Wrangel.

 

His Idea moored among a fleet of fishing boats in Petersburg harbour; this community, founded by Norwegian immigrants in the late 1800's, receives no large crusie ships like Ketchikan and Juneau, and retains its small fishing village feel.

His Idea moored among a fleet of fishing boats, both big and small, in Petersburg harbour; this community, founded by Norwegian immigrants in the late 1800’s, receives no large cruise ships like Ketchikan and Juneau, and retains its fishing village feel.

 

We celebrated American Independance Day with the residents of Petersburg; the evening's fireworks at the local ballfield were very impressive, as were the 'red, white, and , blue' carrotops which we saw by the edge of the road throughout the town.

We celebrated American Independance Day with the residents of Petersburg; the evening’s fireworks at the local ballfield were very impressive, as were the huge ‘red, white, and blue’ carrotops which we spotted by the edge of the road everywhere throughout the town.

 

Our first close-up look at the mountains and glaciers of Alaska; these are east of Petersburg at the boundary between the U.S. and Canada; the tall rock monolith is called 'Devil's Thumb', and rises 9700 feet above sea level.

Our first close-up look at the mountains and glaciers of Alaska; these are east of Petersburg at the boundary between the U.S. and Canada; the tall rock monolith on the left is called ‘Devil’s Thumb’ and rises over 9000 feet above sea level.

 

Another perspective of the Stiken Icecap as we depart Petersburg for Stephen's Passage and our day's destination. Tracey Arm.

Another perspective of the Stikine Icecap as we depart Petersburg for Stephen’s Passage and our day’s destination, Tracey Arm.

 

 

It may be cold up here on the bridge, but the views are worth, plus it's better for spotting wildlife.

It may be cold up here on the bridge, but it’s better for spotting wildlife, and the views are worth it.

 

Our whale watching views have been mostly fleeting so far, although got a few pretty good vies this day; that's Holland America's 'Amsterdam' crusing in the distance.

Our whale watching views have been mostly fleeting so far, although we had a few pretty good views this day; Holland America’s ‘Amsterdam’ is cruising in the distance.

 

Tracey Arm Cove, where Ria got to paddleboard with the icebergs that were floating around our anchorage; fortunately none of them got too close to His idea.

Tracy Arm Cove, where Ria got to paddleboard with the icebergs that were floating around our anchorage; fortunately none of them got too close to His Idea.

 

Some of the bergs floating by were quite large, and they come in unlimited shapes and sizes; like cloudwatching, it's fun to find other images with in their varied forms.

Some of the bergs floating nearby were quite large, and they come in unlimited shapes and sizes; like cloudwatching, it’s fun to find other images within their varied forms.

 

Stunning views greeted us around every corner as we made our way up Tracey Arm.

Making our way up Tracy Arm, where stunning views unfolded around every corner.

 

A number of lush valleys lead off from Tracey Arm; here's just one of them.

A number of lush valleys lead off from Tracy Arm; here’s just one of them.

 

Abundant waterfalls cascade thousands of feet from the snowfields high above.

Abundant waterfalls cascade thousands of feet from the snowfields high above.

 

Icebergs and bergie bits become much more numerous as one approaches the icefields at the end of North and South Tracey Arms; from here on there was much maneuvering to find pathways through the floating ice.

Icebergs and bergie bits become much more numerous as one approaches the icefields at the end of North and South Tracy Arms; from here on much maneuvering was required to find clear pathways through the floating ice.

 

We spotted a mom and her pup on one of the bergs; the pups are born here earlier in the spring.

We spotted a mom and her pup on one of the bergs; the pups are born here earlier in the spring.

 

The South Arm icefield is about 3 miles distant from the junction of the north and south arms; there was too much floating ice to risk an attempt to get closer, so we headed for the less congested North Arm instead.

The South Arm icefield is about 3 miles distant from the junction of the north and south arms; there was too much floating ice to risk an attempt to get closer, so we headed for the less congested North Arm instead.

 

It was impossible to avoid all the ice as we approached the end of the arm, so the trick is to slowly make your way through the smaller pieces if you have too.; even these smaller pieces can damage a prop, and we felt fortunate that full skegs protect our props and rudders.

It was impossible to avoid all the ice as we approached the end of the arm, so the trick is to slowly make your way through the smaller pieces when you have to; even these smaller pieces can damage a prop, and we felt fortunate that full skegs protect our props and rudders.

 

We were very pleased to make it all the way to the face of the glacier, where we spent a couple of hours in the sunshine eating lunch, taking pictures and hoping to see the glacier calve and iceberg - the bigger the better; even though we witnessed only small events, the cracking noises and splshes reverberated off the narrow canyon walls.

We were very pleased to make it all the way to the face of the glacier, where we spent a couple of hours in the sunshine eating lunch, taking pictures and hoping to see the glacier calve an iceberg (the bigger the better!); we witnessed only small events, however the reverberations in the narrow canyon caused by the cracking and splashing of ice makes for a lasting impression of this very special place.

Our next post will cover the Juneau to Glacier Bay National Park to Juneau section of our cruise.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

North to Alaska

A trip to south-east Alaska via the Inside Passage has been a dream of ours – well, the Captain’s anyway – for many years. After a couple of year of planning, we finally pushed off from Point Roberts on June 17th, with plans to return by mid-August.

This trip – approximately 2500 miles in length – will likely be our most challenging voyage so far. Although we will be travelling when the weather is at its best, windy conditions and very rough seas can occur anytime, especially in the open water sections at the northern end of Vancouver Island and across Dixon Entrance from Prince Rupert to Alaska. As always, we plan to be cautious, and not push forward when the conditions are not right for a safe and comfortable passage. Fortunately, His Idea is capable of much tougher sea conditions than the crew can tolerate, and our desire for comfort should ensure a good margin of safety as far as sea conditions are concerned. There are other potential challenges of course – fog (the crew has a strong dislike for fog, even with a chartplotter, radar and new AIS tool that identifies ships and their movement), narrow passages and strong currents, and very large tides that complicate anchoring.

Despite these risks, our voyage to Prince Rupert has generally been in comfortable conditions, with good visibility, more sunny days than not, and little rain. Only during our first attempt to round Cape Caution were we turned back by rough seas. That’s pretty good for B.C’s west coast at any time.

One of the main attractions of this trip will be the opportunity to view abundant wildlife. So far we’ve spotted humpback whales, orcas, Pacific White Sided dolphins, a mink swimming to get his supper, and plenty of eagles, ospreys and other waterfowl. To date the views of what’s in the water have been fleeting; our expectations are for better luck when we reach Alaska.

We hope the following pictures will provide the right flavour of this spectacular area of B.C., not just of the scenery, but some of its diverse and interesting past and present as well.

Enjoy…..

images

Yikes, it's getting away! Our first anchorage - in the Copeland Islands near Lund - and life is already going amiss....

Yikes, it’s getting away! Our first anchorage – in the Copeland Islands near Lund – and life is already going amiss!

 

When John joined Federated Cooperatives after university he visited co-ops in remote places all over B.C., but never had a chance to get to Sointula; founded in 1909, it's the oldest operating co-op in western Canada.; better late than never!

When John joined Federated Cooperatives after university he travelled to co-ops in remote places all over B.C., but didn’t get a chance to visit Sointula, home of the oldest operating co-op in western Canada.; better late than never!

 

This evocative mural of small fishing skiffs, which is painted on the side of the Sointula Co-op Store, captures part of the history of this very interesting community. Sointula - which means 'place of harmony' - was founded by Finnish immigrants in the early 1900's who were looking to establish a utopian society based on communal ideas.

This evocative mural of small fishing skiffs, which is painted on the side of the Sointula Co-op Store, captures part of the history of this very interesting community. Sointula – which means ‘place of harmony’ – was founded in the early 1900’s by Finnish immigrants who were looking to establish a utopian society based on communal ideas.

 

Heading up the coast towards Cape Caution, across from the northern end of Vancouver and open to the Pacific; shortly after this picture was taken the conditions become uncomfotably rough.....

Heading up the coast towards Cape Caution, which is across from the northern end of Vancouver Island and open to the Pacific; shortly after this picture was taken the conditions become uncomfotably rough…..

 

......so we turned back for the safety of Miles Inlet, with the hope that tomorrow would be a better day.....

…..so we turned back for the safety of Miles Inlet, with the hope that tomorrow would be a better day.

 

Thankfully, the next morning, it was; still too bumpy for fast cruise, but comfortable at 10 knots.

Thankfully, the next morning, it was; the swells and chop were still too much for a fast cruise, but comfortable for a passage at 10 knots.

 

Fury Cove, our favourite anchorage so far, is located at the mouth of Rivers Inlet, and was our first stop on the Inside Passage.

Fury Cove, our favourite anchorage so far,  is located at the mouth of Rivers Inlet and was our first stop on the Inside Passage.

 

Who neeeds to go to the Caribbean for beautiful beaches and clear waters?

Who neeeds to go to the Caribbean for beautiful beaches and clear waters?

 

The rocky shore at Fury Cove was full of wildflowers....

The rocky shore at Fury Cove was full of wildflowers…..

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Cruising the protected waters of Fitz Hugh Sound on a sunny morning.

Cruising the protected waters of Fitz Hugh Sound on a sunny morning.

 

A group (flock?) of sea-doos just south of Bella Bella; can't be sure, but they appeared to be outfitted for long distance travel; perhaps following the same route we are?

A group (flock?) of Sea-Doos just south of Bella Bella; we can’t be sure, but they appeared to be outfitted for long distance travel; perhaps following the same route we are?

 

Fueling up at Bella Bella; Shearwater Resort is nearby, and this area was abuzz with boats and planes .

Fueling up at Bella Bella; Shearwater Resort is nearby, and this area was abuzz with boats and planes; the racing cat was returning from the ‘Race to Alaska’, which runs from Port Townsend to Ketchikan and does not permit motor power or other support; this team, from Crescent Beach, finsished third.

 

Yes, there's a passage in there.....

Yes, there’s a passage in there…..

 

.....our tightist so far.

…..our tightist so far.

 

As we exited narrow Jackson Passage we spotted the cruise ship Seaborne Sojurn, here preparing to send its passengers on various excursions.

As we exited narrow Jackson Passage we spotted the cruise ship Seaborne Sojurn, here preparing to send its passengers on various excursions.

 

One of the excursions was to the nearby native village of Klemtu, which is tucked away just off Finlayson Channel.

One of the excursions was to the nearby native village of Klemtu, which is tucked away on a narrow channel just off Finlayson Channel.

 

Rowing up the creek looking for bears - no sightings so far - at our anchorage at Bottleneck Inlet.

Rowing up the creek at our anchorage at Bottleneck Inlet, looking for bears (no sightings so far).

 

The remains of the long abandoned cannery at Butedale, once B.C.s largest on the coast; the docks are maintained by an on site caretaker, and one can stay there to explore the ruins.

The remains of the long abandoned cannery at Butedale, once one of the largest on B.C.’s coast; the docks are maintained by an onsite caretaker, and one can stay there to explore the ruins.

 

Grenville Channel is sometimes referred to as 'the ditch, because of it's length (50 miles) and narrowness (less than 1500 feet at it's narroest point); it's the last section of the Inside Passage before reaching the more open waters south of Prince Rupert.

Grenville Channel is sometimes referred to as ‘the ditch’ because of it’s length (50 miles) and narrowness (less than 1500 feet at it’s narrowest point); it’s the last section of the Inside Passage before reaching the more open waters south of Prince Rupert.

 

Lowe Inlet, off Grenville Channel, is our second favourite anchorage so far beacuse it is open enough to offer great views of the surroundng valley, but is still well protected, and.....

Lowe Inlet – off Grenville Channel – is our second favourite anchorage so far beacuse it’s open enough to offer great views of the surroundng valley but still well protected, and…..

 

it offers impressive Verney Falls, here up close and personal from our little dinghy.

…..it provides water access to impressive Verney Falls, here up close and personal from our little dinghy.

 

our berth at Cow Bay Marina, Prince Rupert, 613 miles from our departure point at Point Roberts.

Our berth at Cow Bay Marina, Prince Rupert, 613 miles from our departure point at Point Roberts.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

West Coast Cruising – Discovery Islands to Broughton Archipelago

In 2015, after shipment of His Idea to British Columbia from Florida, we made a few short trips to the Gulf and San Juan Islands to reintroduce ourselves to cruising on the west coast. The rocky coastline, large tides and swift currents, and relative frequency of fog create different cruising conditions from the waters of eastern North America and the Caribbean. Following further short excursions earlier this year we felt ready to tackle an extended cruise up the coast, beyond where we had been before, to the Discovery Islands, Blackfish Sound, and the Broughton Archipelago.

Essentially this area covers the islands and channels between Vancouver Island and the mainland from Campbell River to Port McNeill/Port Hardy.  It has a history of long First Nations habitation, early twentieth century settlement to take advantage of its forestry and fishing resources (although often on a small and/or remote scale), and abundant fish and wildlife. The latter resource now fosters the sport-fishing and eco-tourism industries, which in turn are helping to sustain the remaining small communities and outposts that are spread around the region. With a labyrinth of calm channels, numerous protected anchorages, both rustic and high-end marinas and resorts, great opportunities for viewing wildlife, and spectacular scenery, this region is an outstanding cruiser’s destination.

To get there from Georgia Strait, potential challenges for the mariner include the swiftest currents and most dangerous tidal rapids anywhere, fog any time of year, and the chance for rough seas, particularly when transiting 65 mile long Johnstone Strait. Although we encountered some fog in Johnstone Strait, both northbound and southbound we were blessed with very little wind and calm seas throughout this area, and generally excellent cruising conditions.

Ironically it was in Georgia Strait that we encountered our roughest weather, as well as our first serious mechanical breakdown with His Idea. While heading south for Point Roberts from our overnight stop at Jedediah Island (located west of the south end of Texada Island), we were being bounced around in 3-4’ moderate seas. To shorten the duration of the rough passage we decided to head towards Nanaimo to duck in at Gabriola Passage and continue south in the protected waters behind the northern Gulf Islands. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision, because about 5 miles off Nanaimo we lost power to the port engine. Upon shut down and inspection it became apparent that a high-pressure fuel line had ruptured and was spewing diesel fuel around the engine compartment – not a good thing. Except at very slow speeds His Idea handles well with only one engine and we were able to plow through the swells and limp into Nanaimo harbour. To make a long story short, after waiting for repairs and the now gale force winds to abate, we returned to Point Roberts in good form, albeit four days late.

Despite our challenges near the end of the journey, this trip lived up to all our cruising expectations, and we will definitely return to the area again. This was also an excellent learning experience for us, as we will be retracing much of this route during the excursion to Southwest Alaska (Glacier Bay) we are planning for 2017.

We hope you enjoy the following pictures and commentary…..

About 50 miles up Georgia Strait from our home port in Point Roberts is Merry Island Lighthouse, here about to be visited by Coast Guard hovercraft.

A Coast Guard hovercraft visits Merry Island Lighthouse, about 50 miles up Georgia Strait from our home port in Point Roberts.

Our first stop, cozy Smuggler Cove ....

Our first stop, cozy Smuggler Cove …..

.....where Ria enjoyed her first explorations by paddle board.

…..where Ria enjoyed her exploration by paddle board.                                            

While at Smuggler Cove we made a dinghy trip to nearby Thormanby Island, to enjoy the great beach there; the view is across Georgia Strait towards the Ballenas Islands and Parksville.

While at Smuggler Cove we made a dinghy trip to nearby Thormanby Island, to enjoy the great beach there; the view is across Georgia Strait towards the Ballenas Islands and Parksville.

Among the typical evergreen forests of B.C., the distinctive Arbutus tree can be spotted Georgia Strait's rocky shores as far north as Desolation Sound; this was a beautiful specimen.

Amidst the dominant evergreen forests of B.C., as far north as Desolation Sound, distinctive rusty-coloured Arbutus trees can be seen along Georgia Strait’s rocky shores.

The impressive remains of a large wreck are fully exposed during low tide at Squirrel Cove, Cortez Island.

At Squirrel Cove, Cortez Island, the impressive remains of a large wreck are fully exposed at low tide.

Our chartplotter showing His idea entering the Yuculta Rapids, the first of three we would transit through the narrow passes north of Desolation Sound.

Our chartplotter shows His Idea entering the Yuculta Rapids, the first of five (including Gilliard, Dent, Greene Point and Whirlpool) that we would transit on our way through the narrow passes north of Desolation Sound.

This area is renowned for its salmon sportfishing, which attracts visitors to impressive resorts.

The area around  Big Bay is renowned for salmon sport fishing, which attracts visitors to impressive resorts; we were working against a 4 knot current as we approached Gilliard Passage, however the boils and whirlpools were manageable.

This view is typical of the winding passages through the mountain-bound channels of the Discovery Islands,which anchor the north end of Georgia Strait.

This view is typical of the winding passages through the mountain-bound channels of the Discovery Islands, which define the area north of Georgia Strait.

Our anchorage at Forward Harbour was well protected from the westerlies of Johnstone Strait, with great views of the coast mountains to the east.

Our anchorage at Forward Harbour, east of Hardwicke Island, was well protected from the westerlies of Johnstone Strait, with great views of the coast mountains to the east.

Heading down Sunderland Channel towards notorious Johnstone Strait, the busy marine channel between Northen Vancouver Island and the mainland; it can often become very rough, but fortunately not today!

Heading west down Sunderland Channel towards Johnstone Strait, which often can be very rough; fortunately for us, not today!

A carved native canoe in front of Alert Bay, a large First Nations community on Cormorant Island near port McNeill.

A carved native canoe in front of Alert Bay, a large First Nations community on Cormorant Island near Port McNeill.

A misty and moody morning after a rainy night, Waddington Bay, Bonwick Island, Broughton Archipelago.

After a rainy night, a misty and moody morning at Waddington Bay, Bonwick Island, Broughton Archipelago.

A fellow boater's misadventure in Hopetown passage, Watson Island; we picked up their call to the Coast Guard on our VHF radio and went to take a look in the dinghy from our nearby anchorage in Turnbull Cove; with assistance from their companion cruising boat they were able to get off the rocks at high tide and eventually make it to Port McNeill for (expensive ) repairs.

Oops! A fellow boater’s misadventure in Hopetown Passage, Watson Island; we picked up their call to the Coast Guard on our VHF radio and took the dinghy from our nearby anchorage to take a look; with assistance from their companion cruising boat they were able to get off the rocks at high tide and eventually make it to Port McNeill for shaft, prop and rudder repairs (expensive, no doubt).

Abandoned logging equipment near our anchorage at Turnbull Cove; although there is evidence of logging on the mountainsides throughout this area, for the most part reforestation efforts cover most of the unsightly scars that remain, and we did not find it was particularly obtrusive to the beauty of the area.

Abandoned logging equipment near our anchorage at Turnbull Cove; although there is evidence of widespread logging throughout this area, reforestation efforts mostly cover the unsightly scars that remain, and we did not find them particularly intrusive to the beauty of the area.

This is the 'main street' of Sullivan Bay, a delightful marina on the north side of Broughton Island; up until the mid-fifties Sullivan Bay was the busiest floatplane base on the coast.

This is the ‘main street’ of Sullivan Bay, a delightful marina and floating community on the north side of Broughton Island; up until the mid-fifties Sullivan Bay was the busiest floatplane base serving the coast…..

It now sports beautiful 'suburban' floathomes, with sophisticated transportation methods to get there.

…..while now it sports beautiful ‘suburban’ floathomes, with sophisticated personal transportation methods to get there…..

.....and its own one hole golf course; this is the Captain practicing for the evening competition, where 'closest to the pin' wins a freshly baked turnover for the next day's breakfast (showing great determination, the Captain was finally rewarded on the third and last day of competition!).

…..and its own one hole golf course; this is the Captain practicing for the evening competition, where ‘closest to the pin’ wins a freshly baked turnover for next day’s breakfast (showing great determination, the Captain was finally rewarded on his third and last day of competition!).

Wildlife viewing on this cruise was excellent - we spotted grey whales, orcas, otters, etc. etc., and our favourites, Pacific White-sided Dolphins; they are increadibly fast swimmers, love to jump high in the air, and enjoy playing in the bow waves of slow-moving boats.....

Wildlife viewing was excellent – we saw grey whales, orcas, otters, etc., plus our favourite, Pacific white sided dolphins; they are incredibly fast swimmers, love to jump high in the air, and enjoy playing in the bow waves of slow-moving boats…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking for bear up the Ahta River at the head of Bond Sound (His Idea is a speck in the distance); we were unsuccessful.....

Exploring for bears up the Ahta River, at the head of Bond Sound, off Tribune Channel (His Idea is a speck in the distance); we were unsuccessful…..

.....but it didn't matter, as this fellow (and his cousin) showed up to entertain us when we anchored in nearby Wahkana Bay, Gilford Island; at low tide the bears use their powerful forearms to to move large and small rocks to get at the goodies exposed beneath.

…..but no matter, as this fellow and his cousin showed up to entertain us when we anchored in nearby Wahkana Bay, Gilford Island; at low tide the bears use their powerful forearms to move large and small rocks to get the goodies exposed beneath.

Mamalilaculla, once a thriving but now abandoned Kwakiutl village on Village Island, Knight Inlet, is slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding forest; native gatherings or 'potlatches' having been banned by the Canadian government in 1884, Mamalilaculla means 'village of the last potlatch', after a large gathering in 1921 led to mass arrests and confiscation of native regalia.

Mamalilaculla, once a thriving but now abandoned Kwakiutl village on Village Island, Knight Inlet, is slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding forest; native gatherings or ‘potlatches’ were banned by the Canadian government in 1884, and Mamalilaculla means ‘village of the last potlatch’ after a large gathering in 1921 led to mass arrests and confiscation of native regalia.

Approaching calm but foggy Johnstone Strait, from Havannah Channel east of West Cracroft Island; visibility was down to less than a mile for a good portion of this passage, so a sharp lookout and and close watch of chartplotter, radar and AIS was required for much of the southbound passage.

Here we are approaching calm but foggy Johnstone Strait via Havannah Channel, east of West Cracroft Island, on our return home; visibility in the Strait was sometimes less than a mile, so a sharp lookout and close watch of the chartplotter, radar and AIS was required for much of the southbound passage; despite the restricted visibility, the extreme calm and misty vistas lent an eerie beauty to the scene.

In addition to this lone Orca we spotted near KelseyBay, we also caught saw the disappearing tail flukes of a close aboard grey whale - better a quick glimpse than bumping into one!

In addition to this lone Orca that frolicked near us for awhile near Kelsey Bay, we also caught sight through the mist of the nearby tail flukes of a grey whale – better a quick glimpse than bumping into one!   

After an overnight stop at Small Inlet on Quadra Island, we tackled infamous Seymour Narrows, just north of Campbell River; maximum currents for the morning were 13 knots, howver by the time of our noon passage the ebb was reduced to 'only' 6 knots, and the seas were calm; lots of large boils and whirlpools though, and at the worst reduced to just 7 knots of headway.

After an overnight stop at Small Inlet on Quadra Island, we tackled infamous Seymour Narrows, just north of Campbell River; by the time of our noon passage the ebb was reduced to ‘only’ 6 knots (maximum 15 for the day) and the seas were calm; still, there were lots of large boils and whirlpools and at the worst we were reduced to just 7 knots of headway.

Our final stop in the Discovery Islands was Rebecca Spit, on the east side of Quadra Island; it's a wonderful location for beachcombing and swimming during the summertime.

Our final stop in the Discovery Islands was Rebecca Spit, on the east side of Quadra Island; great views, and it’s a wonderful location for beach combing and swimming during the summertime.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments