FAREWEL PRINCE RUPERT

My intentions for an early start evaporated when John produced a pot of fresh coffee and muffins straight from the oven.  We sat in the cockpit of Caro Babbo chatting and eating happily until late morning.  It was almost mid-day by the time I heaved the anchor from the mud and motored out of Russell Arm.

As I departed from the harbour I had one last look back at Prince Rupert.  I don’t suppose I will ever be back.  I first visited Rupert when I was at sea as second mate, back in the pre GPS days.  Rupert was a regular port of call as we were in the Pacific run taking Canadian grain to China and a welcome stop after the rigours of the North Pacific and Bering Sea.

Once out of the harbour the forecast wind didn’t show up so I motored and caught the tide down Arthur Passage and into Grenville Channel.  I hadn’t really wanted to go down Grenville Channel again but the weather really made the decision for me.  This is the classic inside passage route and I suppose I will meet some commercial traffic taking this sheltered route north and south.

This evening I have anchored in Kumealon Inlet, just off Grenville Channel.  Tomorrow if the wind and tide is complaisant I will try and transit the channel without another stop.  I think I will try a little fishing tonight.

GOOD TO BE BACK IN BC

This morning started with flat calm and brilliant sunshine.  I had breakfast in the cockpit in T shirt and shorts.  Thirty minutes after departing the anchorage we ran into thick fog, visibility less than two cables and it persisted all the way down Chatham Sound to Venn Narrows, the northerly approach to Prince Rupert.

The fog was shallow and the sun could be seen overhead like a fried egg nesting in a sky of porridge.  The air was cool and damp with water dripping from the rigging and sails.  No mariner likes fog, thanks to the radar I was able to spot other vessels early and take avoiding action when needed.

As we were approaching Venn narrows I heard the yacht Caro Babbo calling on VHF.  They were coming down from the north and if they hadn’t slowed down we would possibly of hit each other.  All through this trip north to Alaska and back south we have met at various places on the way – very uncanny as we have both been following different interties.  I first saw Caro Babbo on my first night out of Canoe Cove back in April.  We met up again in Desolation Sound where we shared an anchorage in Squirrel Cove.  Later we met up in Prince Rupert, then again in Glacier Bay and finally in Prince Rupert again.  On the 30th May I followed them out of Venn Passage and this time they followed me in.

Once alongside in Prince Rupert I checked in with Canadian Customs.  A friendly Customs Officer checked me in over the phone and allocated me a clearance number that I need to display in a window on the boat.  So simple.  My dealings with Canadian Customs have always been pleasant and it feels good to be back in BC.

John on board Caro Babbo is an excellent cook, he actually enjoys it!  Last night we rafted up in Russell Arm, on the north shore of Prince Rupert harbour and I joined Hillary and Jennifer on board their boat for for a lovely meal.  Tomorrow I will get an early start and continue my southward passage, not decided my route yet, tide and wind will decide for me.

FAIRWELL ALASKA

Last night I didn’t anchor, I found a nice bit of empty sea and drifted for a few hours. The sky was clear again, magnificent stars, shooting starts and the northern lights came up behind the mountains.

Today I crossed Dixon Entrance, a sometimes tricky stretch of water that is open to the pacific Ocean swells and seas. For today it was warm and sunny with great visibility. Unfortunately, the forecast twenty-five knot north west wind didn’t show. I waited until three in the afternoon and then gave up and motored the remaining distance into Dundas Island, rolling heavily in the ocean swells. The sails were up for seven hours today and we made about fourteen miles, pretty miserable but the weather was beautiful and the scenery fantastic.

At three twenty-five this afternoon we crossed out of US waters into Canadian territory. The time changes by one hour from Alaska and my iPad did it automatically when we crossed the line. How did it know and how did it do that?

This evening I have anchored in Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island. Tomorrow I will work my way down to Prince Rupert to clear into Canada. It seems a long since I left Prince Rupert heading north.

WHALES AND SEALIONS

I woke up this morning at four with light shining into the cabin and the patter of raindrops overhead.  It started raining again last night and has continued all day without respite.  It’s hard to believe I was stripped off in the sun only a couple of weeks ago.

Cruise ship Noordam entering a damp Ketchikan at six in the morning. Photo Ray Penson
Cruise ship Noordam entering a damp Ketchikan at six in the morning. Photo Ray Penson

This morning I went for a walk around Ketchikan.  A couple of cruise ships came in early and disgorged their thousands of passengers, many dressed in pastel coloured designer outdoor gear.  We all thronged around the souvenir shops admiring the tat from China, India and Haiti and Bangladesh.  There are some shops with good quality art and jewellery at eye watering prices.

The old part of town has been preserved and you can do exciting things like tour Dollys whore house and indulge in historical follies.  Once out of the tourist area the town of Ketchikan looks quite shoddy and run down.  I planned to spend two nights in Ketchikan, maybe it was the rain but I found it a depressing place so will move on.  This is not the Alaska I had come all this way to see.

Old creek Street Ketchikan. Photo Ray Penson
Old creek Street Ketchikan. Photo Ray Penson

I had to make a visit to the supermarket to top up on some fresh fruit and veg.  The selection was disappointing and not as good as Prince Rupert, pretty expensive as well.  By far Prince Rupert has been the best place for storing up outside Victoria.

Being completely fed up with the rain and Ketchikan I decided to head west to try and find some dryer weather.  I left the dock in Thomas Basin just after noon and headed to the fuel dock to top up on diesel and buy some petrol and two stroke oil for the outboard.  Having refuelled we headed out to cross the Clarence Strait to Prince of Wales Island.

We had wind to start and sailed under the Jib.  Then the wind died so we motored.  Then the wind came back and blew gale force from the South East, we made good time under the Jib hitting seven knots at times.

Ruby Princess cruise ship in Ketchikan Photo Ray Penson
Ruby Princess cruise ship in Ketchikan Photo Ray Penson

Half way across I was startled to see a rock off our starboard bow sticking out the water – Impossible, it was the fluke of a whale sticking up vertically.  I didn’t see the whale but it must have been very big, a humpback maybe.  Later a sea lion came up right alongside the boat with a big fish in his mouth.  He was so close and didn’t seem bothered at all.  I tried to take a shot with the camera but didn’t make it unfortunately.  Heading into the anchorage this evening we had the usual welcome from the nosey resident seal.

I don’t have any firm plans for the next couple of weeks.  Prince of Wales Island looks interesting and worth spending some time around.  I would like to find a nice dry sheltered spot where I can do some maintenance and dry out.  Total voyage distance 762.7 miles.

Logged 31st May 2016

ENTERING ALASKA USA

It rained again last night and continued intermittently all day today.  I feel like a human wick.  Can’t remember the last time I felt the warmth of the sun.  But, today for the first time this voyage we had wind from the right direction.

Last night I heard a high pitched eagle squawking.  A large Bald Eagle had taken a dislike to the wind instruments on a yacht in the marina and decided to demolish them.  Bit of plastic flew everywhere and the poor boat owner will be $1.000 poorer.

We departed Prince Rupert this morning and set sail for Alaska.  The wind was pretty good for the first part and became light for the last couple of hours in an uncomfortable lumpy sea.

We crossed over the boarder but didn’t see the line in the sea.  This evening we are anchored in Foggy Bay which is the designated anchorage for boats entering into Alaska.  Tomorrow we will continue on to Ketchikan, which is a port of entry, to clear into The USA.  Once cleared we should have a cruising permit and be allowed to explore Alaskan waters.  Total voyage distance 704.1 miles.

Logged 29th May 2016

PRINCE RUPERT – SOCIAL SCENE

Rain pissed down all day today, heavy in the morning and light in the afternoon and now what a local refers to as Scotch Mist in the evening.  A busy day doing chores as this is the first port call for a couple of weeks.

Real time location. Yacht Truce.
Prince Rupert Stay over. Real Time

Garbage disposal, two trips to the launderette, ship chandlers, Library for internet access, Canadian Boarder Protection Services, provisions, and general housekeeping.  All good fun and great exercise.   Last night I had a fish dinner, Lemon Sole, very nice fish and fresh.  All washed down with the local brew.  Needless to say I slept well.

This evening I met up two groups of people I had met a couple of times before, they are also travelling the same direction.  We had a good night in the pub swapping tales.  Parked next to me tonight is an American boat I met at the Bella Bella fuel dock – It’s a small world.  Another rest day tomorrow and a bit of touristy and cultural stuff if I can fit it in.  Should sleep well again tonight.

Logged 27th May 2016

PRINCE RUPERT – THIRTY YEARS ON

I woke up this morning and it was still pouring with rain, damp and cold. No hurry this morning and no point in getting out of a warm bed so I rolled over for another hour kip. When making tea this morning I got a drip of water on the head, there is a small leak on the overhead skylight.

Cow Bay and Prince Rupert Yacht Club. Ray Penson
Cow Bay and Prince Rupert Yacht Club. Ray Penson

I will get some materials in Prince Rupert and make it good again, also the one on the other side as a precaution, when we get some dry weather. We set off just after nine from Lawson Harbour towards Port Edward. There was telephone reception so I called ahead enquiring about a berth. The guy gave me a whole load of drama about how busy they were and I would probably have to raft up. I then called to Prince Rupert Yacht club

and they said there was a berth available. So Port Edward was bypassed and we continued on to Prince Rupert in the rain.  The reception at the Prince Rupert Yacht club was very friendly, the guys turned out to help me tie up. They have put me in a berth head in to a small space. It’s going to be challenging getting out without hitting anything. Hopefully it will be calm on Sunday and I can turn the boat around by hand so its pointing in the right direction.

Its 30 years since I had last been to Prince Rupert. We used to load grain here for China. The locals were always friendly and our stays were always pleasant and good fun. The stevedores used to fish from the side of the ship and bring up big halibut and were always generous in sharing it about.

Prince Rupert Grain Silo's.Photo Ray Penson
Prince Rupert Grain Silo’s.Photo Ray Penson

Back then Prince Rupert was a small place – it has really grown to quite a big town. It has a shopping mall and Walmart store so its arrived. The grain silo jetty, where we used to load is still there, the old concrete silos have been replaced with modern steel structures.

This afternoon I had a quick walk around town and the luxury of a hot shower for the first time in two weeks. This evening I will head out to find a fish restaurant and sample some halibut. I already found the local brewery (by chance) and sampled their Gillnetter Pale Ale – nothing to write home about, but as my mate Jim says – ‘there’s no such thing as a bad beer’.

Fresh Caught - but not caught by me.Photo Ray Penson
Fresh Caught – but not caught by me.Photo Ray Penson

Total voyage distance 651.4 miles.

Logged 26th May 2016

A LONG DAY AND SLOW SAIL

Up bright and early today to beat the forecast gale.  Beautiful daybreak and flat calm in Gillespie Channel, the water was like glass.

Six in the morning and clear of Gillespie Narrows. Photo Ray Penson
Six in the morning and clear of Gillespie Narrows. Photo Ray Penson

Up bright and early today to beat the forecast gale.  Beautiful daybreak and flat calm in Gillespie Channel, the water was like glass.  Getting out through the narrows was very exciting with the water rushing out at a rate of knots.  Once committed there is no turning back and no place for indecision, just power on to keep steering control and pop out the other end.

I wanted to sail up Principe Channel and enter approach Prince Rupert from the west rather than the usual route up Grenville Passage.  But the prospect of a thirty-mile tack into a building headwind deterred me.  So I headed off up Otter Channel and towards Grenville Channel.

Captain Ray Penson
Captain Ray Penson

The forecast gale didn’t arrive and instead the wind was from the South and fluky.  We sailed for nearly 12 hours and only made 30 miles progress.

To compensate for the slow sail the weather was brilliant, not a cloud in the sky and visibility forever.  Great scenery all the way back to the snow covered mountains inland.  I didn’t see any sea life at all today and thankfully not many logs after a small bump this morning.

This evening we have anchored in Curlew Bat which is on a small island about five miles south of Grenville Channel.

Not sure if I will start up the channel tomorrow, I will see how I feel in the morning after the efforts of today. Total voyage distance 544.8 miles.

Logged 21st May 2016

WAITING ON WEATHER

The forecast for today is North Westerly Gales.  We stayed put in the anchorage and had a nice relaxed day doing cleaning, maintenance, cooking and some splicing.  There is always something to do on a boat and the time flew by.  The sun came out and was nice and warm for a couple of hours but the wind still has a chill in it.

The wind is howling around tonight and squally blasts are spinning us to and fro on the anchor chain.  I put out an extra ten meters of chain this evening as the wind seems to be increasing.  The bottom here is rocky and I never feel too confident of holding when its rocky.

The forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, I checked Predict Wind and they are giving strong North Westerly for the next five days.  Well there are still options and I am in no great hurry to get to Prince Rupert

Logged 19th May 2016