Chastened, We Hastened....

Leaving Clarence Strait behind us.
Clarence had a few lesson yet to teach, though

June 5, 2015

Ripple is a go-boat. Even empty, her accommodations below are tight. Loaded as she was, there isn't much lounging space below decks: a day at anchor is penance, purgatory. Even as we reviewed our mistakes, we re-assessed our plan, and reluctantly pruned them.

We had wanted to transit the Keku strait, one of the least travelled passages of the Inside Passage, and take Frederick Sound all the way across the top of Kupreanof Island, and south through the Wrangell Narrows. Later I would be told that staying in Rocky Passage (the crux move in Keku strait), one could still hear wolves baying at night.  But we revised out plan and elected to go up through the Wrangell narrows to Petersburg, dip our toe into a glacial inlet (Thomas Bay), and turn back south. The total would put us under 400 nMiles, and each day we charted our progress and re-assessed our options.

This particular day was overcast, but the seas were calm as we worked our way north through Kasheverof Passage towards Sumner Strait.  We saw whales nearby, seemingly but a fin's length away from the Kasheverof Islands. We had been told that whales engage in collective harvesting along steep underwater cliffs of Admiralty Island, one scraping off the critters as others followed, filter feeding on the now-loose bounty. I wondered if that is what we were seeing now.

Gregg Dietzman on Poplar III in Clarence Strait
Our new friend Gregg came alongside in Poplar III, and remarked that he had wondered how we had managed in the blow from the previous day. We allowed as how it had been an adventure, for sure. As we topped out of Clarence into Sumner Strait, we headed north east towards the Duncan Canal. We had decided on Little Duncan Bay as a plausible anchorage, well protected and with easy access to the Wrangell Narrows for the trip up to Petersburg. When we got there it was only 1500 hours, with many hours of near-solstice light in the day, and the tides were favorable for continuing on north in the Narrows to Petersburg.

fishing community along the Wrangell Narrows
The great challenge of the Wrangell Narrows is the traffic... large ferries, barges, and cruise ships plying a narrow channel with very constricted maneuvering room.  That is, it is incumbent on us to stay out of their way. There was little traffic this afternoon and the aids to navigation are plentiful along the passage.

At one point the passage widened considerably and we were rubber-necking rather than attending our route, and noticed a small outboard skiff moored seemingly in the middle of the channel... WTF? Mathias looked at the chart plotter to see that we were aground!  Well, we weren't, but had it not been for high tide, we would have been, as we were in the middle of a large drying bar, well off our intended course, deceived by a seemingly broad passage.  A good lesson.

Petersburg is small, friendly, and quaint, with a friendly harbormaster and 8 minute showers! Decadent! But not so quaint that it doesn't have a great pizza place. Papa Bear Pizza, a stone's throw from the marina, served up as good a pizza as I can recall eating in my life. I overheard a retired Boeing engineer at another table telling the story of how Alaska Airlines had prevailed upon Boeing to modify and certify the Boeing 737 for take-offs and landings on gravel strips, thereby bringing a whole new category of airstrips world-wide into the web of passenger jet transport.

Petersburg municipal marina.  8 minute showers and a great pizza place!
We also met some very nice folks on the dock who had seen our old-timey gaffer come in and made a point of coming over to chat us up. One was a shipwright who had learned his trade at the Northwest School for Wooden Boat Building, where Ripple came from. Another was John Weber, a bush pilot in the area who had fallen in love with s/v Serenity, an English center-cockpit sloop and is restoring her to live aboard and sail.

s/v Serenity, John Weber's wooden center-cockpit sloop


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