Our last day in Winter Harbor we used to repair the jib—each stitch took a blow with awl and hammer so it was an all-day project—and making a bug screen for our main hatch, a project we’d put off in Port Angeles in favor of more pressing ones. We also repositioned our autopilot’s compass to reduce magnetic interference from the engine and worked out what was wrong with our wind vane, adjusting it to steer correctly. But all this was pleasant—there wasn’t too much to get done in the day and the sun shone warm on the decks as we did it.
We had a short weather window to head north before a big low pressure would bring 35-40 knot winds careening over our area, so we took advantage of it by sailing an overnight passage to the Queen Charlotte Islands.
The passage was happily uneventful: the swell was a bit less than on our first passage; the wind was favorable; we were neither of us sick or even nauseated; the sails and self-steering behaved; and we reached the Queen Charlottes, now known by their native name of Haida Gwaii, just before the wind built into the predicted gale. The misty isles that I had always wanted to see as a kid growing up in BC lived up to my expectations of wild forest and empty bays. We were all alone in our cove with the deer and birds and rushing stream.
The gale more than lived up to expectations, though, making the islands rather more wild than we would have liked. Huge gusts (katabatic winds) blew down the mountains and reeled Celeste all ways on her anchor, heeling her over like she was sailing a race, and fraying our nerves raw that we’d drag onto rocks. There were several gusts clocked 60 knots.
This was the first test our 45lbs Mantus anchor had been put to and it performed amazingly. Even with 60 knot gusts, even with Celeste yawing about and heeling hard, our anchor never budged and we worried for no reason. Previously we were convinced of the Mantus design in theory, and now we have the wonderful peace of mind that comes from experience. With the deep fjords, mountains, tides, and williwaws on our new route up the Inside Passage and out the Alaska Peninsula we’re very happy to have three Mantus anchors aboard.
We got another good weather window after the gale passed and used it to cross Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance to Ketchikan, Alaska.Again the passage was wonderfully uneventful, notable like all the others for the many birds winging over the waves and the cetaceans below. We were especially excited about the blackfooted albatrosses we saw on the passage to the Queen Charlottes and by the Dall’s porpoises that rode our bow wave into Ketchikan.
Ketchikan itself surprised us with how big it is and how convenient the harbor is to everything a cruiser needs: a good grocery store, chandlery, laundromat, and showers. The people were all super friendly, too, from our Customs officer to fishermen we met on the docks to the waitress at the bar where we had our We-Made-It-To-Alaska celebratory dinner. Ketchikan is very touristic: an average of 3-4 cruise ships dock every day and the sky buzzes with sea planes taking off for tours. As our Customs man said, it sounds like WWII every morning. Seth and I walked to the downtown on our second night (after 5pm when all the cruise ships had left) and checked out the historic boardwalk district, neat to see but completely filled with knick-knack shops. Still, none of the touristic-ness takes away much—we had a great time there, even though most of it was spent doing chores.