Cruising Southeast Alaska - 2009

By Linda Lewis


17. Grenville Channel to Laredo Channel (Fish!) then Bottleneck Inlet


Grenville Channel is the common route south from Prince Rupert; many cruisers lovingly call it "The Ditch." We were happy to be 'doing the ditch' in the sunshine because we have had so much rain on our trip this summer.

After stopping to anchor in Klewnuggit Inlet, the next day we popped out of the south end of Grenville Channel and I took one last look back. I love the shade-upon-shade changes of green to gray along the Channel. In my imagination, this is what infinity looks like.

We decided to divert from the usual cruiser's route and go out Whale Channel, heading for Laredo Sound. As we passed Gil Island, I took a photo to 'mark' the spot of Gil Rock. You don't see anything special in the picture, do you?

That's because Gil Rock is below the water and quite close to this shoreline. But it is noted on the chart and you would have to go out of your way to hit it. And that's just what the BC Ferry "Queen of the North" did some years ago. The boat sank, but all passengers were saved by the quick action of the nearby First Nations community in Hartley Bay. If you want to read more about that story, go to my 2007 photo blog at and click on "Alaska Cruising," then find the entry about Hartley Bay.

We wanted to go back to Laredo Sound and a favorite anchorage: Cameron Cove. Well, actually, it's the great fishing we wanted.

Not from the boat, Dave! OK, this is just a practice run.

Here's the real thing - done from the skiff, The Green Devil. (The Devil really needed to pay its way after all that drama in Queen Charlotte Sound.) Dave finally had his long-sought-after Coho salmon. It was the biggest Coho that Dave had ever seen. He thought it was a King salmon at first.

This one is about 15 lbs...

Moving towards the cooking stage...

But he wasn't finished! He went back out and came back with a double-header and crabs to boot.

Dave says taking the picture from above is bad because it makes the fish look smaller. Sounds like a fisherman's tale to me.

After leaving the Laredo area, we encountered a first for us. We saw what we think was a northern elephant seal. It had raised itself straight up out of the water, right in the path of the boat; just stationary and staring at us - as in: "I'm not moving out of your path, so you better give way." And we did! They're about twice the size of the sea lions that we usually see - and they have a very big, odd-shaped muzzle. This was one of the few times I didn't have my camera close at hand and I couldn't tear myself away from the scene to go get it. So... you'll just have to use your imagination.

We once again went through Meyers Passage, a very handy shortcut back into "the inside."

We went through just after high water slack (on a Spring Tide) and the ebb was already running about a knot and a half as we made our way past the one and only (but very helpful) aid to navigation in Meyers Passage.

This passage also gave me another opportunity to get one of my "kaleidoscope" pictures. I love these images of the shore reflected in still water.

We needed water and had read in the Waggoner Cruising Guide ( that you could get good water at the fuel dock in Klemtu. So we stopped, got a bit of fuel, a few groceries, and the water we needed. Then we pressed on. You can see a couple of cruisers at the transient dock.

Our goal for the night was another of our favorite spots: Bottleneck Inlet. Here's the classic photo looking out the tiny inlet. It's plenty big enough for boats our size (45' length overall) and larger, however, and you don't need to take it at slack. It's one of those "bombproof" spots if you need to duck in out of the weather.

Bottleneck Inlet is also one of those spots where there is a known (by cruisers) "snag" - a log embedded in the bottom but sticking up high enough to create problems for boaters. Long ago some cruisers did their best to mark it with a crab pot float. Why? Because the snag is underwater at high tide!

The next photo will puzzle you because it's hard to see what's going on. That is an eagle IN the water - struggling to flap its wings. Possibly drowning. Apparently, once an eagle locks its talons onto a fish and tries to fly off with it, they can't unlock their talons and drop the fish if it's too heavy. This fish was too heavy. We saw the commotion and worried that this eagle was going to drown.

We watched as it flapped its wings furiously and clearly headed for shore. We crossed our fingers that it was close enough to make it. Yes, he made it. He climbed up onto the rocks with his catch and immediately started eating. Drama at sea.

We left Bottleneck Inlet to make our way up to Sheep Passage and eventually to Kynoch Inlet.

We crossed through a patch of fog as we left the Inlet. Looking back, I was hoping we were also leaving the fog behind us.

Oops, not yet. We rounded the corner into Sheeps Passage and found more patches of it.

And more patches...

I met a boater this year in Alaska who said he brought his boat up from Prince Rupert - without using his radar once. That is called blind luck. In my opinion, you can't cruise the Inside Passage without having good radar equipment and good skills using it. Expecting fog is part of the deal on the Inside Passage.

In the next installment, we'll take you with us into the beautiful Kynoch Inlet.



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