Cruising Southeast Alaska - 2009

By Linda Lewis


21. Broughtons: Crease Island to Port Harvey to Campbell River


I love Crease Island anchorage in the Broughton Islands because I can look all around me at the many small islands and passages and nooks and crannies. The dramatic, high-bowled anchorages of Southeast Alaska are wonderful and I enjoy them. However, the open-landscape anchorages are also very special to me. Crease Island is great for that kind of luscious, panoramic view.

Among the many joys of anchoring is being able to get in the skiff (or, for some cruisers, kayaks) to go exploring. This is the scene I found in Indian Pass. Wonder how that boulder manages to stay upright.

We were joined at the Crease Island anchorage by The Spirit of Balto.

Dan and Sally were having a grand time trying out their crabbing and shrimping gear.

The Spirit of Balto is a steel-hulled, custom boat that Dan and Sally built together over the last eight years. Their loving work shines back at them in the bright reflection of them in the boat's smooth-as-satin blue hull.

We were also joined at Crease Island by Pegasus. Stew loves his kayak.

And their guests like to kayak, too. Pat is making sure Jurgen doesn't take an unplanned, cold bath. That wouldn't be a good story to take back to Germany.

I got caught up in watching them store their kayaks. So did Ursula, apparently. Every cruising boat that takes kayaks has their own storage method. Here is their unique method. Float the kayak alongside. Run lines to it from the two small booms and pulleys. See the big hooks on the side of Pegasus? That's the end resting point.

Start to hoist. Wait for Pat, Stew! Together now.

Almost there.

Tuck it in.

Snug it down. All ready to go now.

We slipped out of the mainstream of the Broughtons and started down Johnstone Strait. We had heard about a new marina in Port Harvey Harbour (not Port Hardy which is north of Port McNeill) so we went to take a look. It's location in Johnstone Strait is prime. For those going northbound, it lies about 2/3 of the way up Johnstone Strait and just next door to Havannah Channel - the 'back door' entrance to the Broughton Islands. It will also be a good stop-over spot for those going all the way up Johnstone Strait to Port McNeill or Port Hardy.

The Port Harvey Marine Resort is located way, way up at the head of the Port Harvey Harbour - on the very end, towards the right.

This photo doesn't readily reveal that the long dock you see is (will be) 300 feet long. The owners plan a second dock the same size, so there will be well over 1200 feet of dock space. Power, water, wifi, small grocery store, restaurant, and very cordial, helpful owners.

I like the owner's positive attitude that is revealed with the presence of a sun deck. A real plus at this marina is that they will take moorage reservations (250-902-9003; website under construction). Reservations for the basic fare restaurant are also appreciated; and, for now, anyone who anchors nearby can also make reservations at the restaurant. (Check out the details in next year's Waggoner Cruising Guide. I'm sure you'll find all the latest information there.)

I'm sure this will be a very popular marina in the coming seasons. I have always heard it said that there are three important issues when it comes to real estate; they are: location, location, location. These folks have the right idea. Good location and good service; they should do well. We plan to stop for a visit next year.

I thought I should tell you about our "Alaska Smile." That would be the brown mustache-looking stains you see on the hull at the bow. The tannin (brown run-off from trees) in the water does that. I'm usually the one to wash our fiberglass hull with a robust cleaning product (I like FSR) and then give it a good wax job in the spring. I didn't get that done this year and it really shows.

And do you notice the little tiny red flag on the burgee staff? That's my wind indicator. Dave and I dock the boat 50-50. When it's my turn I always work from the flybridge. That gives me the visibility I like and I can feel the wind. (Once a sailor, always a sailor - at heart.) Even at that, I wouldn't want to be without my little flag. That sailor's flag is one of the best tips I have ever picked up from another cruiser. I can look at that flag and know what the wind is doing right at the bow of my boat.

One last thing about the picture above. We are big fans of anchor bridles for lots of reasons. For example, the bridle arrangement takes the load off the windlass and puts it onto the nylon lines. The stretch in those nylon lines allows the boat to 'bungee cord' a bit against the anchor as opposed to a non-forgiving chain making sudden, hard yanks on the anchor that can pull it right out of its set. Using this gear also helps to reduce the noise of the anchor chain dragging across the rocks all night long. If you want to read a great description of how to use a bridle (and other anchoring tips), read a sidebar called "Anchoring Challenges in Southeast Alaska" written by Capt. Brian Pemberton - in the Douglass Exploring Southeast Alaska, 2nd Ed. (2007) book.

We made our way down Johnstone Strait, electing to hold our departure time from Port Harvey until both the wind and the current were moving in the same direction. That's always our preferred choice. Wind and current in opposite directions mean snarky seas. I would even rather go against the current and against the wind than have them opposing each other and throwing us around. Fanny Island is the wind and sea-state reporting station that we pay lots of attention to in Johnstone Strait. "Strong wind warnings" are almost a given during the summer for Johnstone Strait. You just have listen to the real-time reporting - especially Fanny Island - and decide for yourself when to go. You can always turn back and re-anchor. We have done that a number of times in our cruising history.

We were timing ourselves for the Seymour Narrows slack and had to throttle way back because the flood was carrying us so nicely. And it was sunny. Imagine that.

I noticed a few interesting things as we poked our way along. The barge below is typical in that it is dragging a long piece of cable - about 200 feet? If the barge parts from the tow that cable is helpful for getting it back in control. I know to always assume that unseen cable is there and not pass too close behind a barge. What I had not seen before is the orange float at the end of the cable. I wish all barges would use that float. You can just barely make out the orange ball on the left side in this picture. I could definitely see it while underway and was glad I could.

I saw something else I haven't seen in this section of water before: a gill netter fishing in Discovery Passage (just above Seymour Narrows) on a fairly strong-running flood. I spotted him suddenly turning hard around towards me and was at first puzzled, although I clearly signaled that I was getting out of his path by making a big course change. We think that he might have been trying to reposition his net and was having a hard time doing it in the current. Look at that port list.

Not much maneuverability...

It's a tough way to make a living. I have been reading a great (old) book about fishing the Inside Passage: Alaska Blues by Joe Upton. It was written in 1977 but still rings true for today if you want a real look at the work of a commercial fisherman. There is a 2008 reprint out and The Armchair Sailor in Seattle WA keeps it in stock.

Once I passed him, I had to get down to business about just how much ahead-of-slack I was going to transit Seymour Narrows. I'm willing to "challenge" Seymour Narrows (go a little early or a little late) by about 30 - 45 minutes because we have done this passage so many times. However, I'm not willing to challenge it by two hours! We are a 7-8 knot boat. I went through the narrows one year (30 minutes early) and watched a tug and log tow who had started through too early transit the entire narrows SIDEWAYS. That isn't going to be me.

So we kept slowing down. Based on what we were experiencing when we arrived at the narrows (as in: driving the boat in the real world), we went through on this particular day one hour before slack (flood to slack turning to ebb). The current was running less than predicted so we were good to go. We found a 2.5 knot flood as opposed to the predicted 3.7 knots. And... seeing this sailboat making its move northward meant they also were driving in the real conditions.

A quick look back at the little rip on the corner, then we continued on for an overnight at Campbell River.

The next challenge is making our way down the Strait of Georgia. Many new Inside Passage cruisers worry about the open-ocean stretches like Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance. They may not realize it, but the Strait of Georgia is an 80-mile long 'inland sea.' With a fetch like that and the inevitable, occasional storm systems going through, it can be a big, big challenge.

Let's see how we do.



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