Log #59n Craig, Alaska to Hartley Bay, B.C.

October 13, 2015 in Logs by Series, Series 59, The Logs

Log #59n Craig, Alaska to Hartley Bay, B.C.

Rusty’s RV Ranch, New Mexico, USA

Jan. 2, 2016

Happy New Year 2016! This log is about five months behind, dating back to July when we were leaving Alaska from Craig on Prince of Wales Island, the southernmost island of the Alaskan panhandle. Let me repeat the last paragraph of the last Log #59m to start off this log.


We were frustrated while there (in Craig). 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.

We left Craig (55 28.488 N, 133 08.580 W) early afternoon July 15 under grey cloudy skies, the bleak drizzly weather ameliorated by the sight of a humpback whale breaching the surface with giant splashes. We anchored off Trout Creek Cove the first night, and continued for three more days, anchoring in the grey rainy weather each night.

Our final anchorage before getting to Prince Rupert was at Port Tsongass (54 46.463N, 130 44.029W), still in Alaskan waters.

A bit of history

To make Port Tsongass, we motored 51 miles across the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to the mainland, just north of the Latitude 54 40N, along which is the border between Canada and the USA (see the map above). We saw many fishing boats several of which were Canadian. As we mused over whether some Canadian boats were in US waters legally or otherwise, we recollected the history behind this particular part of the border. In 1844, the relatively unknown Democrat, James Polk, won a one term presidential election against the more well-known orator, Henry Clay, appealing to the expansionists who advocated Manifest Destiny with the aggressive slogan “54 40 or fight!” They wanted the border to extend along the latitude of 54 degrees, 40 minutes from the Pacific to Hudson’s Bay, and were prepared to go to war for it. However problems with Mexico and the might of Britain’s Royal Navy caused the fight proponents to back off (They didn’t want to fight a three front war with Mexico in the southwest and Britain in the northwest and east.). A compromise was reached and the border was established at the 49th parallel, cutting off the northern section of Oregon Territory. Only this line in the water at 54 40 south of Prince of Wales Island survived to separate Alaska from Canada, but not it was not established until after the Alaska purchase in 1867.

The Americans were very determined to enforce this border compromise to the extent we now have the ridiculous situation of Point Roberts, cut off at the 49th parallel at the tip of a Canadian peninsula south of Vancouver being American soil rather than logically allowing the border to dip a few miles down to encompass the whole peninsula in Canadian territory. Another semi humorous border situation in that area arose with the Pig War of 1859 about the border separating the Gulf Islands of Canada (British Columbia) and the San Juan Islands of the US.

The sale of Alaska to the USA in 1867 and Canadian Confederation in 1867 are linked. The Confederation of the Canadian provinces was stimulated in part because of American hegemony, and the sympathy that many Americans still had for “Manifest Destiny”, the belief that all of North America was destined to be part of the USA. America conquered and took over Texas and New Mexico from Spain (Remember the Alamo?). There was major expansion into the west after the Civil war of 1860-1864, and many Americans were coming north of the Oregon Territories, causing concern that they might vote or fight to join the USA, in a scenario similar to the Alamo. Thus Canadian Confederation in 1867 forestalled such a development, and the extension of the railroad to B.C. asserted Canadian sovereignty over what are now the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia.

Back to Sailing

On July 19, my birthday, we left our anchorage in Port Tsongass at 0809 and by 0900 we entered Canadian waters on our 40 mile passage to Prince Rupert. On the way we were able to motor sail and were favoured by the sight of another whale before going alongside at Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club. We phoned into Customs and were cleared in without any inspection (Clearance number 2015 2000886). We had sailed 175 miles from Craig just to check in with Canadian officials with a phone call.

After resupplying over town in a drizzling rain, we left next day working our way down the coast. The rain and grey weather lasted for a couple more days until we finally got some warm summer weather when we anchored in Hawk Bay (53 16.286N, 129 20.967W) on Fin Island 100 miles south of Prince Rupert.

We were wending our way down this archipelago of islands, inlets, narrows and channels which we had passed through on our way north in May when we went for fuel at Hartley Bay, an isolated Gitga’at First Nations reserve. After refueling we motored over to an inner dock where we stayed, free of charge, for a couple of days, exploring this native board-walked town. We found the people friendly. The first day we had lunch at their community hall with a few other cruisers who were moored there. Small world department; one of the boats was one that wintered over at Thetis Island just down the dock from where Veleda was moored for the winter.

In exploring the settlement, boardwalks were the only means of transport.

Board walk intersection

There were several 4×4’s as well as a few small narrow Japanese vehicles that plied the wooden walkways, including a couple of electric fire trucks, and an emergency services van specifically ordered from Japan for their narrow width to be able to go along the boardwalks.

Fire trucks and emergency 4×4 Emergency services vehicle plugged in

Band office and Fire Hall


This band had assisted in a rescue in 2006 of passengers from the Queen of the North, an 8,000 ton B.C. ferry from Prince Rupert that sunk nearby shortly after midnight on a cold March night in gale conditions.

The Queen of the North

The passengers were brought to the town and housed and fed in their cultural centre. The article below was excerpted from Wikipedia.

The sinking of the Queen of the North in 2006[edit]

On March 22, 2006, the people of Hartley Bay helped rescue the passengers of the BC Ferries vessel Queen of the North, by arriving before the Canadian Coast Guard. The town community centre was turned into a rescue center with the small community providing aid. According to Betsy Reece, “everyone not out on the water was helping keep people warm and fed at the cultural centre.” [1]

The town’s populace received the Governor General‘s Commendation for Outstanding Service on May 3, 2006, for “initiative, selflessness and an extraordinary commitment to the well-being of others” in the rescue; the honour also cites the town’s “tremendous spirit and the remarkable example it has set”. [2]

B.C.Ferries recognized the town’s efforts only by a few hand-made outdoor climbing gyms for children, which were so poorly constructed that the metal edgings were hazardous to the children, and they remain unused.

The band is also opposed to the Northern Pipeline project, as they fear the ships coming down from Prince Rupert would contaminate their waters and fishing grounds if there were to be an accident. A billboard below the band office showed the route the tankers would take from Prince Rupert through their territory.

Sign opposing the tanker route

(I personally disagree and hope the project goes through to get Alberta oil to the refineries and to the North American and Asian markets.)

Rain and grey skies followed us for the next five days as we cruised through the magnificent scenery of tree covered hills with snow clad mountains on the mainland for a dramatic backdrop, although at times the mountains were shrouded by low clouds and rain.

Grenville Channel

We anchored in several coves and bays of the islands on our way down to Shearwater, a good resupply base we have been to a few times earlier this year and last. On the way we saw several whale and dolphin displays. Judy logs all sightings of whales or dolphins.

One advantage of all the rain is that we were able to keep our water tanks full with the drain holes at the forward corners of our hard bimini, and funneled into a jerry can.

Starboard side drain tube

I actually measured the rate of water accumulation one day while at anchor in a heavy rain. With a measuring cup, I was able to determine that we collected a litre every four minutes from one drain tube. That would work out to a rate of 30 litres or 8 gallons per hour, all free clean rain water.