Ketchikan to Prince Rupert, BC (August 26-28)

One last trek down the steep walkway at Ketchikan
Last look at Ketchikan waterfront downtown

Words by Les and Kel Rohlf Photos by Kel Rohlf

Kel’s Musings

Prince Rupert, BC

Arriving at Prince Rupert marks the last leg of living on the water, we will traversing the waterways of British Columbia back to Everett, WA to put the Intuition on its trailer. Then we will hit the road trip to head back home, first swinging by California to see our son and daughter-in-law for a visit.

As we waited for the harbormaster in Prince Rupert, we noticed Sybo pull up to the customs dock. We met Sybil and Bo in Ketchikan in the Covid testing line, so we reintroduced ourselves and had a nice chat while they waited for customs. We went to get groceries, and they had moved on by the time we got back. We hope to catch up with them again on the way south.

Return trips are a mixture of familiarity, seeing different aspects of the route and longing to be back in our home port. After Prince Rupert we will retrace the route for about five days, then we plan to take an alternate path back to the Seattle area. We’ve heard great reviews of the Broughtons south of here. So we’re looking forward to some new experiences.

Transiting the Canadian waters will be much more relaxed this time as things have opened up. We are able to stay at marinas with showers, and walk around town to eat out, get groceries and shop at thrift stores. Prince Rupert had a nice Salvation Army store, where I found sundry art supplies. They also had Walmart, which was a bit disappointing. It had limited groceries with no fresh produce section. We got groceries at Safeway. We ate fish and chips at Breakers Pub, and found diner food at Naomi’s Grill for lunch on Saturday.

On Saturday, I also checked out Dollarama and Dollar Store with More. Found some fun art inspiration at both of them. (Not everything was $1.00…more like Five and Below pricing with Dollar Tree and Big Lots inventory. These two stores were very clean and well-organized.) I walked back to the boat, and Les went to Safeway to pick us up dinner from the deli there.

Prince Rupert another rainy port
Pay phone actually had a dial tone

It was refreshing to move about. Although the marina moorage prices were higher than Alaska, the harbormaster gave us 6 Loonies for the showers. 1 Loonie for three minutes. I budgeted my coins and enjoyed a 6min shower first day, and 3min shower today. A Loonie is a Canadian one dollar coin.

I also wanted to mention that I did finish reading Moby Dick, after trying to do so for the last twenty years. I bought Robinson Crusoe on CDs at a thrift store, so I plan to listen to that while we transit British Columbia waters.

Les’Notes

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Ketchikan to Foggy Bay

Miles: 46

Hours: 4.9

Took one last shower, checked out with the harbor, and grabbed a final bag of ice before we departed Ketchikan’s Bar Harbor South at 10:00 am. We stopped by Petro Marine on our way out of town to fill up with fuel.

Our plan for the southbound Dixon Entrance crossing is to take two days with a stop the first night in Foggy Bay. We originally wanted to take this approach, and I think it’s the only option given the narrow weather window that appears to be available.  Conditions are less than optimal for the crossing today, but will allow us to get to Foggy Bay. It looks like the weather will settle slightly overnight to allow the passage from Foggy Bay to Prince Rupert early in the day on Friday before the next ugly system arrives late that day.

We had a nice smooth ride down the Tongass Narrows and took the passage on the north side of Bold Island. We ran on plane and the ride was pretty smooth until we passed the entrance to Behm Canal. The waves weren’t terribly big but were directly beam on, making the ride and steering annoying. We stayed at the higher speed, since slowing down wouldn’t be comfortable, and made a left turn toward the islands on the east side of Revillagigedo Channel instead of the more direct route just east of Mary Island. We got better protection once we were against the eastern shore. As we continued south toward Foggy Bay, the waves became more disorganized, with larger swells, so we slowed down to 7 mph for the last 10 or 12 miles. The wind doesn’t seem too strong, but the waves haven’t yet calmed from the last couple days.

We followed the narrow channel into the inner portion of Foggy Bay. It’s a very pretty and extremely well-protected anchorage. I can hear the waves crashing against the rocks in the outer bay, but there’s hardly a whiff of wind and perfectly calm water here.

It sounds as if the weather will become extremely nasty by late Friday afternoon. The winds won’t be high early tomorrow and will be shifting from NW to SE, so hopefully we’ll be able to run at speed directly toward Prince Rupert in the morning.


Friday, August 27

Foggy Bay to Prince Rupert

Miles: 65

Hours: 7.8

Entering Foggy Bay
Calm and Clear at Foggy Bay

We woke up at 5:00am and I had just barely enough of a cell signal to get a couple light station reports. Green Island Light Station was indicating 2-foot seas, which is slightly more than I’d like, but will work. Winds are expected to decrease until noon, and then dramatically increase from the southeast as a front moves in late today. There are Small Craft Advisories and Gale Warnings all over the place, but they reflect the system due to arrive this evening. We pulled the anchor and started moving just after sunrise at 5:45 am. Unless the water was very flat, my plan was to take the longer route staying closer to shore and the available bail-out options should the weather and seas turn bad quickly.

Foggy morning getting to Dixon Entrance

The inner part of Foggy Bay was calm with good visibility, but the fog in the outside bay limited visibility to only ¼ mile. I turned on the fog horn, and we started the slog through messy, disorganized waves heading south toward Cape Fox. We passed several fishing boats as we ran approximately one mile offshore. We couldn’t see the shore, but were able to see the boats from about ¼ mile away and stay clear of their nets.

I was almost giddy when the waves subsided to long low swells with just a light chop as we got close to Cape Fox and the open waters of the Dixon Entrance. The fog relented a little and visibility increased to two miles. The 8:00 am Green Island report indicated 1-foot seas, so things seemed to be settling as I had hoped. Rounding Cape Fox, we pushed up the power and ran on plane. I decided not to get too greedy and take the shorter route toward Dundas Island, but passed just north of Lord Rock and took up a heading toward the north end of Finlayson Island. I wanted to keep a protected option rather than leave us in the shorter but more exposed Holliday Passage which runs just east of Dundas. Midway through that section of the crossing, waves became bigger again, forcing us to slow down to 7 mph for a little more than an hour until we could duck behind Finlayson Island. We also saw a lot more debris (i.e. big logs and trees) in the water through this section.

We fixed lunch while passing behind Finlayson Island. By the time we popped back out into open waters at the south end of the island, the waves were less steep and more on the nose. The sea state continued to calm and we were able to run on plane again for the last several miles before turning into Duncan Bay and north entrance to Venn Passage.  We dodged the Digby Island Ferry in the last narrow section before entering the Prince Rupert harbor about 2:00 pm. 

Our first item of business upon arrival was to check in with customs. We looked for the customs dock that we had passed 2 months earlier, and couldn’t find it. Apparently, it’s been removed, so we moved up to the Cow Bay floating breakwall, where there is a section spelling out “Customs” using yellow tape. We tied up there and called CBSA to report our arrival. After giving the agent all our information, she approved our entry and provided us a clearance number – much easier and less stressful than our last arrival.

View of Cow Bay Marina from Breakers Pub (Can you find the Intuition?)

There was nobody at the harbormaster’s office and no one answered the phone, so we motored over to the gas dock to fill up. Per the marina’s phone message instructions, we emailed a slip request, not certain we’d get a response late in the afternoon. We tied up to the inside of the breakwall and went to Breakers Pub for some dinner. While we were there the harbormaster contacted us and met us 30 minutes later to provide a more protected slip. In retrospect, I should have made a moorage request before leaving Ketchikan; I’ve become accustomed to the process at Alaska harbors where you just show up and request a spot or park in a designated transient section. Robin, the harbormaster, said that their season was rapidly winding down, and they’re now seeing very few southbound cruisers.  

It’s a relief to be tied up in Prince Rupert with a gale-force front arriving tonight. The weather window we had for this crossing was less than ideal, and I don’t think I’d want to make the crossing in worse weather. We were fortunate to have an accurate forecast and two days’ time to take a slower, less-direct, less-exposed route.

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