The Inside Passage

June 20, 2008

At Anchor, Kelp Passage

N 54 00' 860"

W 130 15' 820" 

Dear Friends and Family: 

It's been several days since we've written -- we've focused on getting north, trying to knock off at least 50 miles a day.  We did spend one layover day in Five Finger Cove (near the bottom of Rivers Inlet.)  It was raining most of the day, so we lazed around, baked bread, read books, watched a movie.  But since then, we've been pushing north.  From Five Finger Cove we went to Shearwater (adjacent to Bella Bella), where there's a big marine resort, catering to boaters like us.  We did laundry, had a restaurant dinner, renewed our acquaintances with Bryon and Brandee (of San Simone), and got to know some of the other boaters a bit better.  We saw "Final Approach," a 50-some foot motor cruiser (Bob & Carol) for about the third time. 

The next night we stayed in the high-walled Bottleneck Inlet (near Klemtu), along with four or five other boats.  Looking out the neck of the "bottleneck", you could see snow covered mountains, making for a gorgeous sight when the sun came out (briefly) in the morning.  Mostly, we've had overcast weather, rain showers, and at times continuous rain.  We're hoping it's just that it's June, and that things will get better (weather-wise) in July and August.

Above:  Final Approach leaving Bottleneck Inlet in the morning's brief sun break

Today we experienced perhaps the most emblematic portion of our trip up the inside passage.  We motored up the Grenville Channel, 45 miles long and so straight that from the midpoint you can see each end.  Defined by snow-capped ridges to either side, the channel is less than a quarter of a mile wide at its narrowest.  It was a little like a trip up I-5, except that the autopilot lets you sight-see with only an occasional lookout for traffic or flotsam.  For the most part, our depth sounder was blinking "599-no reading," its way of letting you know that you would sink a long time before finding the bottom.

It was a surreal passage, with the ridges shrouded in mist and light rain.  These mountains speak of a bold and sharp-edged youth, but also having been carved by glaciers before humanity's time here.  Although the slopes are covered in fir and cedar trees, the ridge tops often are so steep that only bare rock shows, with snow on the less vertical slopes.  Mile after mile, a series of streams form broad falls on the bare rock.  Indeed, looking at the islands, I can easily imagine that they are solid rock with only the thinnest layer of organic material to support the impenetrable forest.


According to our cruising guide, there are often a number of boats in Grenville Channel, including at times one or two of the big cruise ships.  We've seen at least one cruise ship each day, but surprisingly, we saw only a couple of small boats in the entire length of Grenville Channel. 

We spent last night in a little inlet on Fin Island called Hawk bay, just south of the lower mouth of Grenville Channel, where it opens into Wright Sound.  Expecting an uninhabited cove, we were somewhat surprised to find a new fish resort at the head, complete with more than a dozen aluminum runabouts that zoomed back to the base all evening.

Today, we had a leisurely morning, since the flood tide didn't start until 11:40 am.  Grenville Channel is so long that it floods into each end!  Ideally, you should start north on a flood tide, reach the midpoint as the tide changes, and continue north with the ebb tide.  It didn't quite work out like that for us, but at times we had a boost of more than 3 knots from the flood tide. 

Left: notice that our speed (through the water) is 7.8 knots, but speed over the ground ("SOG") is 10.4 knots.

Tonight we anchored a few miles north of the northern mouth of Grenville Channel in a  narrow channel called Kelp Passage.  We put our normally reliable Spade anchor down three different times before we got a good set.  We pay very close attention to the weather forecast before choosing an anchorage, but even with a series of lows passing through and the resulting southerlies, we haven't seen any strong winds (knock on wood -- there's supposed to be another front passing through tonight). This feels closer to civilization, as we can see many clearcut areas on the surrounding islands, and briefly, we saw a signal on our cell phone. We are only about 20 miles from Prince Rupert, and following days of motoring, will need to stop for fuel. 

In about two days, we'll be crossing the border into Alaska.  At this point we'll allow ourselves to slow down a bit, since Alaska is the goal of the trip.  Perhaps we'll be able to catch some crabs and shrimp, and maybe some of those elusive whales will show up (so far, we've seen spouts in the distance, but nothing up close.)  The mountains to the north are looking snowier and snowier.  We're glad we brought lots of warm clothes, and very glad for our reliable cabin heater!

Best wishes to all!

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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