We had good weather for the passage into the port of Ketchikan, though the leaking hydraulic hose the day before was a hint of more things to break.  We cleared Customs with just a phone call – we had submitted a Float Plan via Customs’ Small Vessel Reporting Service that had all our boat and personal information, and we called ahead from Prince Rupert.  We just had to call as we were approaching the harbor to get our clearance number, and the officer told us that we were the only people to use the Float Plan system this year.

Armed with our clearance number we could proceed to the fuel dock to fill all our tanks.  When we fuel Jim operates the nozzle and I’m down in the engine room (“bilge bunny” duty) to watch the sight gauges on each of the 4 tanks.  We have 2-way radios and I let him know as we reach certain thresholds.  While we were fueling I saw that the hot water heater overflow was overflowing, and Jim told me that it sometimes happens because it’s in the engine’s water circuit (free hot water when that engine is running).  The only problem was that it kept overflowing and it should have stopped, so we had to shut off the water pump.  Which meant no water to wash our hands after fueling.  Then we tried to start the engines to leave the fuel dock and the battery switch for the engine start batteries was cracked.  Gremlins!  Jim just flipped another switch to start from the house bank and we were on our way, but we felt spooked by the sudden rash of little problems.

We tied up in Ketchikan’s Thomas Basin among the commercial fishing boats, with a huge cruise ship just outside the basin.  20140526_014 ketchikan jim and sign RESIZEAlthough it was a Sunday we lucked out – the hardware store was open for a few more hours so we caught the city bus and zipped up to get a new overflow valve for the hot water heater – that was the first priority so we could turn the water system back on.  We found what we needed and a spare just in case, and walked back to the boat, passing the cruise ships getting ready to depart.  It was a good way to get a little overview of the town as we walked back, but we were focused on getting the hot water heater fixed so I could finally have a shower!

Here’s a map showing our path from Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, AK – we’ve traveled 804 nautical miles in the last 4 weeks.Victoria to Ketchikan mapThe next day was Memorial Day so we explored the town and relaxed a bit after the long days underway.  There are 3-4 cruise ships in town every day, and someone told us that there are sometimes more, so the town can be quite crowded for a while.  We watched groups heading out on kayak tours, fishing tours, high-speed catamarans going to the Misty Fjords National Monument, and float plane flightseeing tours.  In fact, we were buzzed repeatedly by a long string of float planes as we were entering the harbor – now we understand what that was all about.  When the ships leave in the afternoon the whole town breathes a sigh of relief.  The tourist shops close and the only restaurants and stores that stay open are the ones that serve the locals, which we enjoyed.  20140526_021 ketchikan creek street RESIZE20140527_029 ketchikan alaska troopers RESIZEAs soon as the holiday weekend was over and the marine services opened back up we hopped on the city bus to find the hydraulic shop.  The shop was located behind an Alaska State Trooper office at the other end of town, and I couldn’t resist a photo op because of the TV show…

The hydraulic guy was very nice and in just a few minutes we were on our way, though we had a long wait for the bus which only runs once an hour.  Fortunately, normally-rainy Ketchikan was enjoying a week of beautiful sunny weather and it felt great to just sit outside for a while.  On our way back to the boat we stopped at some marine stores for a few more parts for our various little repairs.  Jim fixed everything pretty quickly and we made plans to take a float plane tour of the Misty Fjords area since we don’t have time to explore it by boat right now.  We’re very excited about the flight, and the weather should be great for it.  We’ll post more about the flight in the next entry.20140527_047 ketchikan fishing boats sunset RESIZE

Goodbye Canada

The day after the gale blew through we headed into the port town of Prince Rupert – our last port of call in Canadian waters.  20140523 7606 pr shipping port RESIZEPrince Rupert is a busy place, with facilities to load cargo ships with coal, grain and containers.  It has a large fishing fleet, ferry terminal, and rail service that comes right to the docks, connecting with railroads across Canada and the U.S.  It’s not quite like coming into NY harbor, but it has been so quiet on the water lately that it was a surprise to see so much activity.  Prince Rupert is also one of the stops along the Alaskan Marine Highway – a “highway” on the water that runs from Bellingham, Washington 3,500 miles to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.20140524 7633 alaska marine highway RESIZEThis ferry route (funded partly as an interstate highway) serves many towns and cities that are not accessible by road, such as Ketchikan, Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, etc.  We’ll take this ferry in the fall to bring our car to Petersburg, where we’ll spend the winter months aboard.

The marina in Prince Rupert was damaged by the gale the day before – they had 50+ knot winds and one of the floating docks broke – with over a dozen good-sized boats still tied to it.  Fortunately it broke inside some big pilings, and the pilings kept the chunk of dock from taking off down the waterway.  We only spent a quick overnight there because we had a great weather window to cross Dixon Entrance – the last wide open spot that requires careful planning and good conditions to transit safely.  Unfortunately we had to leave the dock at 0500, at slack tide.  We were docked broadside to the current and at 0500 it was just starting to turn to flood, which would pin us to the dock and make it very difficult to leave if we waited until a more civilized hour.  The tides are getting bigger here – this is what the marina looks like at low tide… and the ramps from the floating docks to shore get pretty steep to climb!20140523 7618 pr low tide  RESIZEWe wiggle-waggled through the narrow Venn Passage, a short cut heading north, and we were warned to follow the range marks behind us and not to trust the navigation markers because they are sometimes hit by log tows and dragged out of position.  That kind of navigation first thing in the morning is more effective than coffee, but the misty sunrise was a nice reward.20140524 7629 pr fishing boat in mist  RESIZE20140524 7634 dixon entrance mill pond RESIZEDixon Entrance was like glass, and it’s important to remember that it can get very ugly with wind, swell, and tidal outflow opposing incoming wind waves.  During the crossing Jim discovered a leaking hydraulic hose on our stabilizer pump, so we had to pin the stabilizer fins and shut the system down until we could replace the hose.  If you have to lose your stabilizers, it’s sure nice to lose them on a day like this!

We crossed the official U.S.-Canada line on the water and were very excited that we finally made it to Alaskan waters after so many years of dreaming about this.  Plenty of people have been making this trip in all kinds of boats for ages – it’s not that big of a deal, except when you start out living on the land in Virginia and dreaming about someday getting a boat and taking it to exotic and interesting places.  We dreamed and saved and prepared for 15 years before we were able to buy our ADVENTURES, and then more years getting her (and us!) updated and ready for extended cruising.  We would get these ideas about places we wanted to take her – we call them “pictures on the refrigerator” – and it’s a very wondrous thing when a wild idea comes off the refrigerator and slides under the keel.

We were bound for Ketchikan, the U.S. port of entry, but it’s a bit far from Prince Rupert for slower cruising boats, so we made arrangements with U.S. Customs to anchor in Foggy Bay for the night.  Foggy Bay was a beautiful cove, though the entrance is very narrow and the chart is not accurate – you have to watch the depths and read the water.  We were greeted by a bald eagle sitting proudly in a tree at the entrance to the cove, and after we were anchored and had a nap we watched a black bear munching on grasses on the shore.  He was around in the late afternoon, and came out again in the morning when we pulled anchor and headed out.  He looked up briefly at the sound of the anchor chain rattling, but then went back to his breakfast.20140524 7572 foggy bay bear 3 RESIZE