transiting the Inside Passage  aboard "room Seven"

Just for grins, as we rounded Cape Caution, with nothing to our left but the vast reaches of the North Pacific, we put a waypoint on Cape Hinchinbrook at the entrance to Prince William Sound. Just 839 as the gull flies! I think we'll stay on the scenic route...


Considering that I had chosen our June 10 sailing date more than 3 months ago, and that the QCS crossing naturally followed a few days after that, it was blind luck that we caught this window in time to make what has to be one of the smoothest days anyone EVER sees out there. In fact, the Friday forecast is calling for NW 35-45 which would surely have made QCS uncrossable for us. Timing is everything.


At 1030 we had Cape Calvert abeam, steaming into the glassy waters of Fitz Hugh Sound under bright sunshine. Here are the views ahead, and astern toward the placid waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. What was all the fuss about?


We decided to make this an early stop, and selected Kwakume Inlet for our overnight. We anchored at 1245 and had lunch while the Alaska State Ferry cruised by outside our cove. I had raised our Alaska flag for the QCS crossing, so it felt kind of good to "salute" a fellow Alaskan vessel.


About a mile south of our anchorage, we found a beautiful white-sand beach and went ashore for a stroll. Although it was a postcard-perfect day, the size and quantity of driftwood logs attested to how ferocious the waves here can be. We found this enormous tree fetched high up on the rocks, by far the biggest beach log I've ever seen. Hitting this bad boy while underway would bring anybody's voyage to an abrupt conclusion.


Tomorrow we'll continue N with plans to overnight at Bottleneck Inlet. The next day we hope to stop at Butedale Cannery for a tour of the ruins, then end at Bishop Bay Hot Springs for a long, relaxing soak. Stay tuned!

Day 4

13 June 2012: Forward Harbor, British Columbia


Another long run today. Weighed anchor at 0655 and by 0830 passed York Island and entered Johnstone Strait. Back on the "I-5" portion of our route. By mid-morning the sun came out, and we enjoyed a smooth run along West Cracroft Island. At 1115 we passed Swaine Point, where the route splits to go either N or S of Malcolm Island. The Comox weather broadcast hinted at 10-20 knots winds in Queen Charlotte Strait, and although the prediction was from 0800 it seemed prudent to stay in sheltered waters as long as possible.


Tomorrow is our planned crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, the first of 3 big-water transits on our voyage. At 1420 we passed Pulteney Point, at the W end of Malcolm Island, losing the lee we had enjoyed all afternoon. The Sound was putting 4-footers right in our face, but the boat danced over each set with no problem. For about an hour, there were so many logs and other debris in our way that I rode on the flying bridge with binocs, paging Kent on the bridge intercom and telling him which way to jog.


After intense study of the charts, and review of our planned route for tomorrow's Sound crossing, we chose to overnight in Port Alexander, on Nigei Island and shut down the engines at 1800.


After dinner, the crew made a shore excursion. Along with the usual beach treasures, they found giant mottled slugs eating (?) deer poop in the woods, along with huge old-growth stumps that hint at the forests that once covered this area.


Tomorrow, we cross Queen Charlotte Sound!

Day 5

14 June 2012: Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia


As famed treasure-hunter Mel Fisher used to say, "Today's the day!" we are transiting Queen Charlotte Sound, the first of our three big-water crossings between Vancouver Island and Prince William Sound.


According to one of the many cruising guides on board, in QCS "the seas can be high and steep, the result of shoaling from 100-plus fathoms off the continental shelf to 20 to 70 fathoms in QCS itself. The problem is made worse when outflowing currents from Queen Charlotte Strait, Smith Sound, Rivers Inlet and Fitzgerald Hugh Sound meet the incoming swells."


Up at 0500 for a final check of the forecast. The West Sea Otter buoy reported 1-meter swells at 7-second intervals, and Comox radio called winds "light" (WTF that means), building to 5-15 knots in the afternoon. It's a go!


We chose the so-called Pine Island Route, which took us up the E coast of Nigei Island from our anchorage at Port Alexander, then NW past Pine Island and the Storm Islands, then NNW to a point 2 miles off Cape Caution, and finally due N into Fitz Hugh Sound. We found conditions to be not just "good", but unbelievably perfect! Not a breath of wind, and just a low, gentle, even swell with zero wind chop.


At 0830 we crossed 51 degrees N, passing Cape Caution 2 miles offshore. Here's a photo of our chart plotter, and our view out the window of the dreaded QCS, with Cape Caution in the distance.