So we’re making good time, cruising through the Queen Charlotte Islands in Northwestern British Columbia on our way up to Alaska. It’s quite beautiful here, even more dramatic than the scenery further south, with lots of snow-capped mountains and blindingly white waterfalls. We’re traveling through the Inside Passage, which is partially composed of long very narrow waterways which are deeper than they are wide. Since this is a major thoroughfare, it’s not unusual to pass other boats, and it can be a bit intimidating when encountering a large cruise boat or a tug pulling a barge. We’ve been trying to time our days so that the tidal currents through these passages are going our direction. Most of the currents peak out at 2 or 3 knots (we’re generally traveling around 7 or 8), but the first one we encountered went up to 15 – we wouldn’t really want to be riding those waves in either direction!
The terrain is getting more remote, the towns fewer and smaller. Monday evening we stayed in a place called Namu that used to be a thriving community built around a cannery. Many canneries in these waters have gone out of business, as refrigeration has been added to the fishing boats and they haven’t needed to depend on shore-based ice. This town of a couple thousand residents is now a ghost town, with only three residents who have been hired by the landowner to man a tourist outpost. The place is falling into disrepair, but the woman we talked with had planted lots of flowers and created a greenhouse where she was able to grow peach trees along with lots of veggies. She told us there were three rules: no drugs, stay 20 feet apart when walking on potentially rotten wooden walkways, and don’t feed the (grizzly) bears (either intentionally or otherwise). We took a short walk up an old road into the forest, but didn’t go far afield. 🙂 There was a wonderful sunset that night, and we’ll post a few photos on the Photos page.
We’ve pushed through several long days, with the idea that we’ll appreciate having more time to dawdle through the Alaskan wilderness. Tuesday evening we stopped in another town named Klemtu. It’s been difficult to find places to anchor, because the shores drop off steeply in most places. If it’s shallow enough to drop an anchor, then it’s often too close to the rocks. So we pulled into the Klemtu harbor and tucked into a corner that wasn’t directly in the way of the main traffic. The charts we’ve got for this area are pretty old and not as detailed as we’re used to – we’re combining information from our navigation program, some paper charts that were hand-me-downs from a friend we made in Astoria (thanks, Dave!), and an iPhone app that Dan downloaded for our summer vacation two years ago. From all we could tell, the bay was 65 feet deep and sloped up to 20 or so. Sounds good. When we dropped the anchor, we were exactly on the 65 foot notation. By the time we’d finished putting out our anchor-line, we were at 32 and our calculations were that the overnight low tide would bring it down to 24 feet around 6:45. Since we draw 10 feet, this seemed reasonable. So we had a pleasant dinner and went to bed, intending to get an early start in order to time a pass through a narrow passage.
At 3:30, we woke up to the depth gauge alarm, saying that we were in less than 20 feet and the depth was dropping quickly. How could that happen!? We considered pulling anchor and moving, getting a *really* early start on our day, and a few other options, but by this time we were only in 15 feet of water – and then Dan noticed that the boat seemed to be tilting forward. We were aground, and unable to make a move! We lowered the dinghy and headed into town, uncertain whether there was anything to worry about – or anything to be done about it. We wandered around town for a few hours in the early morning, before the town woke up, catching glimpses of our boat from time to time and seeing it tilt more and more each time we did. It stopped around 20 degrees off vertical, tilting forward and to the port side. We wandered around town for a few hours, talked with a couple of early-rising townspeople. One woman told us that boats go aground here several times a year, and that last year the crew of a wooden boat had gone around town knocking on doors looking for help to support their masts to prevent them from breaking under the strain. Yikes! We watched a number of bald eagles and another type of eagle (mottled brown and gold) moving around the shore and trees, and saw some really large crows in a number of places around town. We whiled away the time until the tide had come back up to the same level where we’d left the boat, and then made our way back to the dinghy and motored back across the bay. When we got back home, we poked around looking for damage to the boat, but things were in remarkably good shape. Quite a few things had fallen off the table-tops, and a few broken, but nothing significant. Thanks goodness we live on a cement boat! We cautiously started all systems and headed back out into the channel to resume our travels north.
Since then, we’ve traveled up the Princess Royal Channel and Grenville Channel, admiring majestic waterfalls and astoundingly brilliant rainbows. There have been a few short-lived wildlife viewings, including Dall porpoises, orcas, other unidentified whales and nearly innumerable bald eagles. We ran into a little rough water in Dixon Entrance but we’ve finally made it to Alaska. Aria’s comment upon sighting the houses on the outskirts of Ketchikan was, “where are all the igloos?”:) Life is good.