Ketchikan still has
its 100% boarding policy, but here’s a new twist. If you call Customs
about 30 minutes before your arrival in the area
(say, at Mountain Point for a 7 Knot boat) and
give them your pertinent information, they will
let you stop at the fuel dock. (Be ready during
the call with your boat registration numbers,
Passport – names & numbers, and User
Fee Decal number.) Then they’ll meet you
at the fuel dock and finish up the process.
As we headed for Bar Harbor Marina after our
clearance, we were quite surprised to see only
two cruise ships in Ketchikan. Quite a difference
from the five! we saw in 2007.
Both ships decided to leave the dock in quick
succession. David had gone off in the Green Devil
to park it and meet me at our assigned moorage
in Bar Harbor Marina.
In the mean time, I wanted to get a quick photo
of Casey Moran (former City Floats). I had heard
it has excellent recreational boat “open
moorage” now. And that was true. Open moorage
in SE AK means just picking a spot, tying up,
then calling the Harbormaster.
As I was peeking
into the opening I was really impressed with
the facilities. Power and water; relatively
close to town; not the greatest cruiser amenities – as
in no really close grocery store, boating store,
or laundromat. We still like Bar Harbor for
those reasons. But others have stopped at Casey
Moran and enjoyed it for a few nights.
While I was maneuvering for the photo of Casey
Moran, the second cruise ship decided to pull
out and hailed me on Channel 16: “Royal
Sounder, Royal Sounder, this is the Infinity
Millennium.” Now I am rarely tongue-tied,
but in my effort to respond I was saying: “Infinity
Minnelenmum …" er Infinity Minmimumlem…" er "Infinity
this is Royal Sounder.” We hopped over
to Ch 13 and in their polite way they asked me
to fish or cut bait. As in: move out of their
way by either going into Casey Moran or not.
I opted to not and said: “Infinity: I am
diverting.” You bet. I know when I’m
outsized and outmaneuvered.
Approaching Bar Harbor I was again reminded
of the oddly placed, very low float that houses
the marker to the marina. If you’re not
ready for that one it might be quite a surprise.
See how it sticks
out perpendicular to the breakwater like a
log float? Here’s a clearer look.
When we got our
perennial assignment to Float 8 (we are 45’ LOA),
we were delighted to renew our friendship with
Heidi – who
lives on her boat on this dock, with her Lab,
We met Heidi in 2000 when we had helped a friend
of hers maneuver his boat back to his home port
(her dock in Ketchikan) after suffering what
seemed to be a mild stroke. He was wandering
around, confused, in Exchange Cove and needed
to get his boat back to home port. My E.R. nurse
background came in handy as I assessed his symptoms
and suspected a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack – mini
stroke). Ultimately the E.R. doc came to the
same conclusion. Dave boarded his boat and helped
him bring it back to Ketchikan. Heidi has been
our friend ever since because we helped her friend
in a time of need on the water.
At home, Dave feeds squirrels. Here is the Ketchikan
version of feeding the squirrels: Heidi’s
We love being in
fishing ports and in fact we often need to
move because the slip we are in is needed by
its rightful tenant. They call that “hot-berthing” up
here. On this particular day, this seiner was
returning to his slip right next to us. And
I do mean right next to us. Big. Black. Imposing.
The crew had a big
orange “walking” fender
they were moving along ‘just in case.’
We really appreciated the careful Skippering
and that extra courtesy and felt comfortable
just watching and admiring their approach.
The Skipper seemed
to delight in our admiration and wanted to
show off his great King Salmon catch.
What goes round comes
round. He liked our interest and gave us a
wonderful filet from that King Salmon - the
best of the fish that he had kept for himself.
That’s SE AK for you.
After we left Ketchikan we decided to try a
new anchorage on our way to Wrangell Narrows
and stopped in Coffman Cove. I was fascinated
by the off-loading of numerous fishing boats
on to the tender "Miss Mary". Here
are several gill netters hovering while one
is being off-loaded. The tender affords the
fisherman the opportunity to off-load their
fish and take on ice without having to return
to a fish-processing port.
See the big blue
bag of fish being craned over to Miss Mary?
We watched that kind of thing going on for
at least an hour.
Wrangell Narrows (on the way to Petersburg)
is probably the best-marked passage in SE AK.
It is a route between (among other places)
Wrangell and Petersburg. I wish they had named
it Petersburg Narrows. Well, actually, I wish
named it “Narrows” at all. Yes, it
gets quite narrow in a few places, but it is
not a passage that must be done at slack water.
You’ll definitely buck a 3 K current if
you do it at the wrong time, but it can be done.
Even by slow-go boats like us (we cruise at 7-8
I even exchanged a VHF discussion with a couple
I had taught (back in the Seattle area) just
below the south end of Wrangell Narrows as we
were approaching it. Both boats were in Sumner
Strait - crossing wakes; they were headed for
Ketchikan. The skipper said: you taught us not
to fight the currents – but, he also added,
I also remember you saying the predictions aren’t
always ‘right’. In fact, we’re
a much slower boat than they are so we were slowly
making our way to what we hoped would be a favorable
current by the time we got there.
Here is a radar-screen shot of a section showing
TEN markers at “Christmas Tree Rock” – a
term coined for this particular spot by the Douglasses
in their invaluable cruising guide: Exploring
Southeast Alaska published by Fine Edge
It’s a mess,
isn’t it? That makes
the point. This is a passage where you must look
out the window and move from marker to marker.
Here’s what that looks like in the real
There are TEN markers in this picture. Hard
to see in a photo. But oh-so-welcome as you proceed
along this passage.
Here is the approach to Petersburg.
The South Harbor
And the North Harbor – which
we love. It’s
closer to town and full of fishing boats. We
were told they are going to do an upgrade on
these North Harbor docks over the coming winter.
Everyone seems to
be interested in catching the millions of herring
that congregate in Petersburg, living on the
discharge from the fish plants. David says: “What
is illegal in the lower 48 is a fountain of
life in SE AK.”
Here’s David trying to get his piece
of the herring action.
And here are two young girls doing the same.
Except their catch is a baby cod.
Even these Bonaparte
Gulls are in high thrall as they waltz their
way through the feast.
Everyone is proud
of their catch, no matter how large or small.
(David freezes the herring to use for bait.)
Here is one of the
unusual sights we see now and then along the
Inside Passage. Small boats. And I do mean
These two young women
were kayaking from Gabriola Island (Gulf Islands,
B.C.) to Glacier Bay in SE AK (a thousand miles).
Yes – in these
kayaks. We came across them on the dock in Petersburg
pouring over their paper charts. Angela (L) and
Christine (R) have a wonderful blog where you
can read all about “The Dream” at:
describe this trip as being about “learning
how to fly”. I urge you to check out this
blog. Christine (the dream originator) is a truly
lyrical writer infused with passion.
We awaited the arrival of David’s dearest
friend, Michael, while we were in Petersburg.
The next email will reveal what two long-time
buddies can manage to get into when released
on a boat together. Oh boy. Stay tuned.