The day after the gale blew through we headed into the port town of Prince Rupert – our last port of call in Canadian waters. Prince 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.This 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!We 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.Dixon 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.