Ketchikan | Maintenance | Preparation

Spring visited us today


Barb tidies up the halyards

Occasionally Ketchikan sees spectacular boating weather, even in winter. Today was one of those days–warmer temperatures and blue skies were too much to pass up today.

We dressed up CAMAI in her sails and removed most of the winter covers so we could take her out for a shakedown cruise. We motored around Pennock Island in calm conditions for about two hours, checking out all of the new equipment installations.

Oh yeah...THIS is why we have a boat!

Oh yeah…THIS is why we have a boat!

The new depth transducer reads flawlessly down to 600 feet, and the Samsung Android tablet works well as a viewing station for the Raymarine display.  The engine runs well, and the drive train is smooth and quiet since we aligned the engine last summer.

We also identified some new items that need attention such as winches, and that persistent engine starting problem (electrical)… so tomorrow it’s back to the old grind.

Ketchikan | Maintenance | Weather

Winter arrives…

camai-snowThat’s right, winter snow started falling the day after we arrived. Our friends tried to convince us that it really WAS a nice winter, until we brought the cold and snow with us. Oh well, there’s plenty to keep us busy for the rest of the season…like fixing the furnace.

Ketchikan | Ketchikan Yacht Club | Maintenance | Weather

Welcome Back?


Walking on ice is easy…it’s getting to the fish that’s tricky.

So it’s a little early to reappear in Alaska, but for a number of reasons we needed to be back in early February. Besides, all of our friends told us what a beautiful winter they were having in Ketchikan. And with a summer of cruising ahead, we need the time to put the boat in top condition before departure.

We arrived via the Alaska State Ferry Malaspina early in the morning on February 10th and were greeted by 15-degree temperatures and no snow on any of the mountains. The east channel of the Tongass Narrows was covered with ice as far as we could see–something that old timers talk about, but is rarely seen in recent years.

CAMAI was in her slip, just as pretty as we left her, but the furnace was not working so we took all day to warm her up with electric heaters and the propane fireplace. Still, our first night was a little cool. Thank God for warmth of the nearby KYC clubhouse.

Ketchikan | Ketchikan Yacht Club


WEATHER: 55 F., Cloudy, Calm, 1019.1 Mb
FORECAST: Cloudy, chance of rain

Ketchikan Yacht Club in Thomas Basin

After six years of living in quiet Haines, our first impression of Ketchikan was of extreme activity and business. We had forgotten how incredibly busy the harbor is in the summer time–Ketchikan is still a blue-collar working town, and nearly everyone seems busy. The shipyard is in full swing, and the marine traffic includes ships, sailboats, airplanes, tugs, barges, charter boats and pleasure boats. The noise is remarkable, the noisiest activities being float planes and jet traffic at the nearby airport.

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Clarence Straits | Ketchikan | Ketchikan Yacht Club

Dora Bay to Ketchikan

WEATHER: 57 F., Overcast, Calm, Pressure 1019.7 Mb & rising
FORECAST: Wind SE 10 to N 10 by afternoon; seas 3ft.

We spent a day in Dora Bay visiting with Floyd and Darlene, and prepared to sail on the 20th.

After the morning radio net, took the dog to the beach, and they invited us up for breakfast. Floyd predicted a good crossing, based on his weather observations: “If the clouds are moving overhead, then there’s enough wind to make Clarence Straits rough. Today it looks calm.”

We dropped the mooring buoy at 0845 hours, and motored into calm seas in Cholmondeley Sound and eastern Clarence Strait. During the crossing, the south wind built to about 10 knots with seas of 2 feet. As we came around Vallenar Point, the wind built to 15 with a 3-foot chop in Tongass Narrows–typical for this passage.

At 2:40 we tied up at the Ketchikan Yacht Club, and were welcomed by our good friends, Marvin Davis, Alan Rockwood and Bob St.Clair!

Boats | Dora Bay | People

Dinner aboard ALICE J

WEATHER: Warm, clear, calm

Boaters benefit in many ways from the Great Northern Boaters radio net, including the chance to get acquainted with folks we wouldn’t otherwise meet. Over the past few weeks we have been hearing Jim (AF6JL) and Betty (AI6QP,) aboard the ALICE J, with reports of their travels on the northwest coast of Chichagof Island and Lisianski Strait near Pelican. This evening they are tied up in Dora Bay, and invited the Minors and us dine aboard.

The Alice J. is a 52-foot DeFever, built to Jim’s specifications. It is roomy, comfortable and immaculately maintained, looking more like a boat that has just come from the factory than one that has just explored to coastal waters. We carried slippers and changed out of our Xtra-tuff boots before coming aboard.

Dinner was excellent one-pot combination of roast beef and vegetables, home made bread, and dessert. We had some wine and talked until late in the evening. Jim had explored the difficult entrance to Kitkun Inlet on the south shore of Cholmondeley Sound and recorded a GPS track; he gave Floyd and I printouts of his GPS track waypoints for our future reference.

Jim and Betty were planning on leaving early the following morning, destination Prince Rupert.

Upon returning to CAMAI after dark, we were greeted by the sounds of nearby whales. Though they were probably out in the larger channel where we had seen them earlier, in the darkness they sounded only a few boat lengths away. The sounds were coming from some very large animals, and it was a relief to climb out of the dinghy onto the larger sailboat. Within a half hour the whales moved out of earshot.

Dora Bay | Ham Radio | People

Ham Radio Net
Great Northern Boaters Net keeps cruisers in touch

TIME: Daily, 0630 Alaska time; 0730 Pacific Time, summer months
FREQUENCY: 3870 KHz Lower Sideband
REQUIREMENTS: Operator must have an amateur radio license

Darlene and Floyd Minor

“Good Morning, this is Darlene, KL0YC, along with Floyd, WL7CUO, northern net control for the Great Northern Boaters Net.”

Each morning at 0630 hours, as regular as clockwork, Darlene and Floyd Minor host an informal ham radio net to pass messages and information and keep boaters who are ham radio operators in touch with each other. Usually, Darlene starts by calling for cruisers who are underway or preparing to get underway, followed by a general call for anyone who wants to check in to the net.

Continue reading Ham Radio Net
Great Northern Boaters Net keeps cruisers in touch

Cholmondeley Sound | Dora Bay | Trollers Cove

Cholmondeley Sound

ITINERARY: Trollers Cove to Dora Bay
WEATHER: 57 deg. F., overcast, calm, barometer 1017.5 falling
RADIO NET: Checked in with Darlene and Floyd & advised them we would be there by afternoon. Darlene advised that the M/Y Alice J. would be there, so we would probably all be getting together for dinner.
NOTE: Cholmondeley Sound, on the eastern shore of Prince of Wales Island is a maze of little coves and anchorages known for excellent fishing and shrimping. Locals pronounce the name, “Chom’lee.”

At 1015 hours we departed Trollers Cove, and started fishing just outside the entrance. We couldn’t troll close to the beach because several seiners were working in the area–we had no bites. After a short time we quit fishing and motored in to Dora Bay, arriving at 1500 hours.

At Floyd and Darlene’s direction, we tied to their mooring buoy, then rigged the dinghy and met them on the beach. It was nice to see them again, and hard to believe it has been over 6 years since our last visit. The Alice J, a 52 foot DeFever motor yacht was tied to a neighbor’s dock about 1/2 mile away, and the owners invited us all to dinner.

Clarence Straits | Trollers Cove | Vixen Harbor

Clarence Strait

Itinerary: Vixen Harbor to Trollers Cove
Weather: 53 deg. F., Sunny, calm
Forecast: Light winds becoming southerly to 10 knots by late afternoon

After a long morning walk on the beach, we raised anchor at 0930 hours. The bottom in Vixen is heavy, black glue-like mud that takes some effort to remove from the anchor before taking it aboard.

We departed at 0930 hours, encountering a least depth of 2.87 meters under the transducer. With the angle of the sun, we were able to see rocks under the boat for the last third of the passage. I made a note in CAMAI’s logbook: “For future ref.– This passage not suitable for CAMAI on less that 3-foot tide.”

Weather and seas were calm in Clarence Strait until ship island. We encountered a 3-foot chop in the narrowest part of Clarence, then lightened as we approached Troller’s Cove. While still several miles away, we could see some humpback whales “bubble-feeding” in the distance. Once again we faced an anchorage with a tricky entrance–this time with plenty of water, but many large numerous rocks to avoid when getting into the inner anchorage. This time, we tied to the USFS Buoy since there was no one renting the cabin and the buoy was available.

We took the dinghy on a lengthy tour of the farthest reaches of Troller’s Cove, taking photos of some unique rocks that were reflected in the water. We later learned from Darlene Minor that these sights are refered to as “shore totems” due to their appearance to horizontal totem poles.

Food | Vixen Harbor

When the Tide is Out…

Foraging adds a gourmet touch to the standard ships stores…

WHEN THE TIDE’S OUT…the table is set.

It may sound trite, but this old Alaskan saying reflects the bountiful food supply along Alaska’s coastline. Although we don’t recommend “living off the land” (it’s a lot more work than it sounds,) beach foraging adds a gourmet touch to supplies that we have aboard.

Today’s dinner consisted of fresh salmon, beach greens, goose tongue and beach asparagus, using only a couple slices of bread and some sliced fruit from out ship’s stores.

A word of caution: Get some good books on foraging and study them carefully, to avoid the toxic plants that are similar in appearance to edible ones. Additionally, we do our foraging on outside beaches that are flushed regularly, staying away from inside of small anchorages which could be polluted from frequent use.


Fresh salmon

Beach Greens

Beach Asparagus

Goose Tongue

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