Center Console 25'

{Why was a 30’ Protector in Juneau?  We made a promise to a customer who agreed to buy a new boat only if we could deliver it for his yearly trek up into Alaska from Seattle.  We got held up due to west coast port issues and missed our delivery date so we loaned him a new boat until we could complete and deliver as promised.  Our new customer pulled the loaner boat behind his big boat up into Alaska and upon completing his new boat, we decided to go retrieve the loaner boat moored up in Juneau so we could run it back down to Seattle for the adventure of a lifetime!}

Ralph and I arrived in Juneau Tuesday to the misty mountains surrounding the airport.  There was so much untouched thick forest; Alaska lived up to its name of the final frontier.  We met Brian Peterson there (no relation) at the airport in the world’s largest car.  Our Nissan Spark was tried and true and took us the 12 minute journey to the boat where we meet a surveyor who assisted us with trip itinerary and local knowledge for our trip.

Our first night in Alaska was spent eating fish and chips and drinking some Alaskan Amber Ale and planning out our journey.  Wednesday we left Auke bay and headed just south of Juneau to get the go ahead from our insurance.  Ralph and I watched Brian’s less than expert fly fishing skills and demanded salmon, but left Juneau starving and fishless around 5pm.  Luckily we had enough crackers and cheese aboard to save us, and headed down the 151 mile journey to Petersburgh.  The ride was fairly smooth, with a bit of chop along the way.  The entire Alaskan coastline looked more like something out of Jurassic Park than anything else.  The green severe cliffs shrouded in clouds dwarfed the passing boats. All I could think of were the pioneers who settled the area and wondered how they could navigate the passageways and dense forest.  We then entered Stephens Passage, which proved to be difficult due to whale traffic.  We slowed to about 20 knots and watched pods of humpback whales all around us.  We could see the spray from hundreds of blowholes as we entered the open passageway.  There were massive tide lines that were schooling up whatever it is they were eating, and they took advantage.  We slowly made our way through the pods until we cleared the passage and came back up to 42 knots for the rest of the run to Petersburg.  With glaciers in view off to our port we turned to head into Petersburg when we spotted what we thought was a boat, but turned out to be an iceberg.  Brian the resident Titanic fan shouted “Iceberg right ahead!” in his best English accent.  The iceberg happened to have a rainbow right behind it and after several expletives and lots of photos we continued on to Petersburg.  We arrived just before eight and grabbed some sort of pizza folded into a sandwich at the only place still open in town.  Petersburgh is known as “little Oslo” and we stayed at a cute inn called the Scandia House.  The Norwegian style painted wood was a staple of the quaint fishing village’s style. Petersburg is a town that was constructed around several canneries, and the majority of the residents are transient for the fishing season.  So if you’re looking for a nice lady to settle down with, I’d skip this town, they’re all spoken for.

Up and at ‘em around 7:00 we fueled up with Brian and Ralph’s signature two large coffee’s (each), and continued our clean living with more donuts and baked goods for the journey.  We headed out around 9:00 after fueling the protector. We then took the21 mile run from Petersburg through the Wrangell Narrows, the slim and narrow run behind Mitkoff Island.  We made the run on a very low tide and you can see why this is one of the most marked bodies of water in the entire world (rocks, rocks, and rocks).  The remaining 130 miles to Ketchikan was easy, the waters were glassy, visibility was excellent and we took advantage of the conditions and arrived by 11:45.

Had lunch downtown Ketchikan where Ralph made the (aggressive) choice of the three chowder sampler.  The port was lined with five cruise ships and no shortage of shopping, but after our brief jaunt around the town, we headed off to Prince Rupert, Canada.  Were buzzed by a few seaplanes leaving Ketchikan at 1:00 pm and then we passed a cruise ship headed our direction.  We made the run to Prince Rupert hugging the coast expecting heavy seas as we were exposed to the pacific, but we encountered small conditions and arrived at Prince Rupert by 3:00 pm.  We fueled the boat, and hailed the Prince Rupert Yacht Club harbor master (who had the greatest Canadian accent) and nestled into a slip.  On the dock, a fishing guide was cleaning a 40-pound+ king salmon for his charter and we then made plans for dinner. Customs was a three-minute phone call from a phone booth at the marina, and we walked into town to find the Crest Hotel.  We ate dinner at Opa Sushi  (our best dinner of the trip), then back to our rooms.

We headed out from Prince Rupert at 8:00 am on our run to Hartley Bay for fuel (90 miles).  The run from Prince Rupert until we got into the narrows was foggy, to say the least, and a little slow going until it lifted.  The scenery in this stretch of the inside passage was filled with 1500’ cliffs that come straight down to the water, waterfalls, bald eagles and mint green waters.  About 15 miles north of Hartley Bay we saw a whale calf about ½ mile off our bow traveling south.  As we approach the calf turns 180 degrees and gives us quite the show.  Leaping out of the water and pounding down on his nose at first, then rolling onto his back for the last few leaps.  After about 10 jumps he turned around and waved at us for a few minutes before he sounded.  Second moment on the trip where we were all left amazed.  We made it to Hartley by 10:30, fueled up, and grabbed a few more cups of coffee.  Hartley Bay is a tiny town with streets made of planked wood in the middle of nowhere inhabited by an Indian Tribe.  We pushed off the dock by 11:30 and headed for Shearwater cove (120 miles).  The conditions were so glassy that you couldn’t tell where the sea stopped and the sky began.  We made fantastic time getting to Shearwater arriving around 2:00 pm for fuel and sandwiches

Departed Shearwater quickly (3:00 pm) because we wanted to cross the Dickinson Entrance before the wind picked up.  We had 115 miles to Port Hardy.  As we came out of the narrows behind Culvert Island, we began encountering some high winds and 3’ chop.  We jogged over to the west side of Culvert hoping to avoid the winds but were unsuccessful.  As we cleared Culvert into Dickinson Entrance we realized we would be encountering nasty conditions for the next 40 miles until we cleared God’s Pocket on the north end of Vancouver Island.  The seas got bigger and bigger as we made our crossing, estimating 8-10’ seas with 25-30 knot winds.  Ralph had the helm and did a fantastic job of navigating the conditions. The boat and motors handled the conditions flawlessly, and instead of taking it easy we decided to cruise at 25 knots to get it over with.  We arrived at Port Hardy at 7:00 pm without having seen another boat once we entered the Dickinson Entrance.  We debated on making the run down to Telegraph Cove before dark but were unsuccessful in securing rooms, so we stayed in Port Hardy for the evening.  At dinner we noticed a sailboat dry-docked with the owner giving his vessel a fresh coat of bottom paint.  With massive tides in this part of the world, when you need to have your bottom painted you simply tie your boat to the dock closest to shore, let the tide run out and paint the bottom of your boat.  When we woke the next morning there was no sign of the sailboat.

We awoke early on Saturday to make the run from Port Hardy to Roche Harbor in the Orca Islands.  I was very excited about this day, as all of the locals had told us this is where we would most likely see Orca’s cruising.  As we left Port Hardy at 7:30 am for the run to the whale Museum in Telegraph Cove we saw a disturbance on the water before we hopped onto a plane.  It was a seal with a large Salmon in his mouth contending with a hovering eagle trying to snatch his catch.  The seal violently swung his head with the salmon clinched between his teeth to thwart off the eagle and was successful.  After about a minute the eagle flew off.   We arrived at 8:30 in Telegraph Cove and were welcomed by colorful cottages and lush foliage.  We took a walk around town and stopped in the whale museum j just as it was opening.  On the hunt for a walrus penis pone souvenir requested by my roommate, we instead found a museum full of interesting skeletons and bones that made you feel truly miniature.

We departed Telegraph Cove at 10:00 am for the 107 miles to Refuge Cove.  We left into a fog that seemed to have no end.  We had very little visibility and everything seemed to be just one color of gray through the Johnson Straights.  We arrived in Refuge Cove at 1:00 pm, had lunch (salmon burgers), fueled up, and did a little bit of window shopping before we loaded back up at 2:30 and headed for the Orca Islands 145 miles away.  As we approached the tip of Hernando Island, which marks the beginning of the Georgia Straights, which can be a nasty stretch of water, we spotted a white sand beach.  Upon closer inspection we notice another Protector moored to a buoy off the beach and see the owner up at the point house waving to us!  We knew the owner and were hailing to him to come down, however don’t think he recognized us, so we settled for a wave and off we went.  Coming out behind Hernando we expected to encounter big conditions and could see what we thought were white caps on the horizon.  Turns out it was fishing boats lining the coast, and we made the run across in completely flat conditions.

We crossed the Georgia Straights right down the middle and tucked in at Nanaimo to run the inside down to San Juan Island.  Shortly after passing Protection Island in Nanaimo we found the Dodd Narrows.  A 250’ wide opening that looks more like a river than a pass.  We caught the narrows on a strong outgoing tide.  As we idled before passing through the narrows we noticed that the water on the other side appeared to be much higher.  We came up on a plane and carefully navigated the narrows and when we popped out the other side we all had a huge smile on our face.  Hard to have more fun on a boat than running in a river!  So we turned around and did it again and again taking videos and photos until we decided it was time to head to Roche Harbor.  Arrived at Roche at 6:00 pm and cleared customs right at the dock, fueled up, grabbed a slip and had dinner at McMillians.

My only disappoint was that we hadn’t seen an Orca yet.

Coffee and a famous Roche Harbor doughnut for breakfast on Sunday before departing on the last let of our adventure to Seattle, 88 miles away.  Ralph and Clare had flights out of SeaTac at noon, so we left around 8:00 am.  As Ralph navigated us through the back channel from Roche we came up onto a plane for a few minutes before he told us to keep our eyes peeled, he had seen Orca’s in this area before.  Ralph clearly missed his calling as a whale-watching guide, because sure enough we came up on several pods of orcas on the west side of San Juan Island.  We sat there for 15-20 minutes as they cruised north.  The sound of their breath exhaling from their blowholes sounded like bombs going off underwater, tremendous amount of bass.  You can gauge their size by their sound, it was awesome, and they move much faster than you would think.

After finally meeting our wildlife checklist, we sprinted south to Seattle arriving south of Downtown to a friend’s place arriving at Fauntleroy Cove at 9:45, completing our adventure.  Offloaded Clare and Ralph and headed back to Shilshole Marina to have the boat hauled and prepped for transport to the East Coast.

There wasn’t a single part of the trip that didn’t have you glued to the scenery.  I didn’t get tired of the bends of the narrows, edges of the cliffs that rise out of the water, the huge tides and currents, and the small remote towns that come alive this time of year.  Granted we did the trip mostly at 40+ knots (Ralph was generous enough to slow down once or twice for a photo op) but the docile conditions were no match for the Protector with the twin 300 Verados.

Total trip miles according to SPOT GPS tracking Device was 1,098 miles.

Click here to read the feature story in Yachting Magazine.