Log #59m Sitka to Prince Rupert

September 15, 2015 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 59, The Logs

Ganges, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
Sept. 15, 2015
Hi Folks,
This log finally gets us out of Alaska, visiting some interesting caves and hot springs on the way.
This will probably be my last log for a couple of months, as this weekend we are putting Veleda away for the winter, and heading over to Vancouver where we will board the Holland America Line ship the Statendam for a 30 day passage to Singapore, stopping at Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Chuuk), Saipan, Guam, and Malaysia. After Singapore we will tour China and Vietnam for another month, arriving back in Vancouver Nov. 21. Judy and her friends, Barb and another Judy, will be going to Whistler for a girls holiday together while I stay in Vancouver dog sitting a lovely golden retriever. After that we will go back to Victoria to get our trailer ready for the winter trip down south. However, before leaving for warm climates we will fly back to Toronto to get some medical checks and visit family and friends for ten days or so in early December. Then upon returning to Victoria we will take our trailer south, probably to Arizona or New Mexico until April.
Next sailing season in 2016 we will cruise the B.C. coast until mid August, and then we are thinking we will head south to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and down to the Mexican Baja Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. After that we don’t know where we will go.
All the best,
Aubrey

Log #59m Sitka to Prince Rupert
Mowgli Island, B.C.
Sept. 7, 2015
We left the inside of the cruise ship dock at Halibut Point on July 3rd and the weather was warm and sunny, a major change from the last two days when we were up on the hard doing bottom paint in the rain. We motored around the outlying islands and shoals five miles down to moor alongside Thomson Harbour in Sitka. Across on the next pier we saw a small fishing boat advertising FRESH FISH. Sounds good, so we went over to see what he had. Unfortunately he had only whole fish, lovely large salmon, but too large for us. We thought we might get another boat to share one; but no luck.
When we went back to let him know he gave us a bag of salmon fillets that he said he couldn’t sell us as his license only covers the sale of cleaned whole fish. We thanked him and in talking with him found out he had a couple of grandchildren. Judy then came back to Veleda and brought him two copies of her dad’s children’s books as a thank you.
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  Judy’s dad’s books
We have many copies of these books as they were bought from the publisher years ago, and after her dad passed away she couldn’t bear to throw them out. So we have many copies on board and in our trailer that we then give away to sailors with children or grandchildren and to local libraries.
Sitka is situated on the west side of Baranof Island, a Russian town, centre of the fur trade before the Alaska Purchase of 1867, and was the first capital of Alaska until moved to Juneau. It is a tourist mecca with cruise ships visiting frequently in season. The Russian influence is still evident from the Russian Orthodox St .Michael’s Cathedral to the restored 1843 Russian Bishop’s House, now a museum.
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The Sitka National Historic Park on the site of the 1804 battle between the Russians and Kiksadi natives now has tranquil paths through towering trees including a totem park and an excellent museum displaying Tlingit and Haida cultures.

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The Independence Day Parade was a bit of a disappointment, as there were no floats, no marching bands, no cadet or military units other than the straggling local Coast Guard members, just groups of people from different organizations throwing candies to the kids from cars, trucks and motorcycles. A few of the cars were of interest, but there was no crowd control and people and kids were jumping into the parade to collect the candies thrown around.

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Vehicles in the Independence Day Parade in Sitka
Later there was a water fight with hydrant hoses between the fire department and the coast guard and the fireworks in the evening were enjoyable.
We left next day, July 5, motoring around the lava crusted Saint Lazaria Island off Sitka, a bird sanctuary where Judy saw tufted puffins, murres, pigeon guillemots, eagles, and gulls. On the way over we had a panoramic view of the classic volcanic dome of Mount Edgecumbe (3,271 feet) before going south along the east side of Baranof Island 30 miles down to Kliuchevei Bay. There we enjoyed Goddard Hot Springs, where another couple of local built cabins housed metal tubs with water coming down from the hot springs above.

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Lava Formation on Saint Lazaria                                Mount Edgecumbe

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  Judy in Goddard Hot Springs
En route we actually sailed for seven minutes before the wind died again.
We wended our way down Baranof Island through a couple of narrows, and were actually able to hoist the main and sail for three and a half hours, the longest sail this season yet, to anchor in Sandy Bay after a 32 mile passage. We tried to leave next day going out into the open waters of the Pacific coast, but turned back due to heavy fog.
We were now south of Baranof Island into the open waters towards Coronation Island. Again we saw plenty of sea life, including porpoises and humpback whales as we anchored in Egg Harbour (55 54.780N, 134 18.780W), a long narrow cove. We dinghied along the shore to see a few of the caves and arches along the shoreline.
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Arch and one of many caves in Egg Harbour
One of the enjoyable aspects of sailing in this part of Alaska is that there are good anchorages every ten to twenty miles in the passes, narrows, coves and bays of the off-lying islands. We could spend a whole season gunkholing around these islands and down through the myriad of sheltered islands off Chichagof, Baranof, and Prince of Wales Islands.
As we continued south through the many islands we were especially interested in a sheltered area on the northwest coast of Prince of Wales  Island called El Capitan, noted for an extensive cave network. As we anchored in a bay across from the US Forestry Service docks, we were watched by a black bear, solidly settled on its rear end on the shoreline keeping tabs on us. This was the only bear we have seen this season so far. Next day I dinghied over to the dock in time to join a noon hour group being led up 370 wooden steps to the caves. Judy declined my offer for her to join me for this climb.
The rangers were young university students on a summer job, but quite competent to conduct the tour and to explain the formation of the caves. We were provided with hard hats with head lamp lights for the excursion. We went in about 500 yards into the labyrinth, being careful not to twist an ankle or hit our heads on the craggy narrow passages. The cave went another mile or so, but would require creeping and crawling through small openings and up and down narrow chasms, not suitable for the general public. This was an interesting basic cave, not a grandiose illuminated one such as the one we went through at Carlsbad Caverns in southern USA.
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  Cave Entrance                                           Narrow passage in the cave
The rangers were interested in our lifestyle and invited us to come alongside their floating government dock for the night and to join them for a pot luck supper. We made a large pot of jambalaya which we contributed to the effort, and enjoyed an evening talking with these young people.
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  Aubrey with the staff at El Capitan
We wended our way another 57 miles south between the islands dotting the west coast of Prince of Wales Island to Craig, with a population of 1200, the major port on the west coast of the island. It was here that we encountered a pleasant helpful librarian packing a pistol, mace and hand cuffs. He was doing volunteer work at the library but was also the police constable for the community. I wouldn’t want to be late with a book or be caught talking loudly in that library.
We were frustrated while there. Originally we intended to sail 55 miles south from Craig to Masset on Haida Gwaii, back in Canadian waters. But we realized from another pilot book that there was no longer a seasonal Customs office in Haida Gwaii. If we wanted to visit Haida Gwaii, we would have to go 175 miles east over to Prince Rupert to check into Canada, and then about another 100 miles west over to Masset or Queen Charlotte City, including 60 miles of open treacherous waters of Hecate Strait. We decided to skip Haida Gwaii, go over to Prince Rupert and down the coast.
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