Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Inside Channels to Open Ocean: Ketchikan, Alaska to Juan de Fuca Strait, Washington, August 2016



Brown bear fishing for salmon, Southeast Alaska

Our last post ended in Southeast Alaska, where we’d encountered a whole range of sailing conditions, revisited places we’d enjoyed in 2014, and discovered new places including a river where both black and brown bears fished for salmon.

Upon leaving the touristic town of Ketchikan, we once again entered deserted channels between forested islands. Our last stop in Alaska was a little cove just a mile or two north of the Canadian border, and then we set off to Prince Rupert to clear Customs into Canada.


One of our last evenings in Alaska: coming into Ketchikan at night

We only spent one night in the town of Prince Rupert, eager as we were to see as much as possible of northern British Columbia, a place we had missed entirely on our way north in 2014.

It proved every bit as beautiful and wild as we’d hoped for, and we were lucky to have perfect weather: bluebird skies and a good strong breeze from astern. We flew down a narrow steep channel that felt like a fjord, making 60 miles in an easy daylight day. We anchored in lovely deserted coves, on islands and on the mainland coast, and explored with the dinghy and ashore on foot.


Celeste at anchor in the Inside Passage

Eagles, kingfishers, and seals were our constant companions, and we spotted black bears, a pack of wolves(!!), and, perhaps most exciting, the elusive white “Spirit bear” (a subspecies of black bear unique to that part of British Columbia).


Black bear – actually in Southeast Alaska – we sadly lost all our pictures from British Columbia due to a faulty SD card 😦

Even just this little bit further south, we could tell we were no longer in Alaska – the forest was lusher and included more deciduous trees, and we were wearing T-shirts more and more often (unlike in this picture – below – from Alaska…).


The two of us in Southeast Alaska – as mentioned, we don’t have any pics of British Columbia 😦

Because time was running short, we made a nonstop passage outside Vancouver Island, covering about 450 miles in four and a half days. The weather forecast was for 35 knot northerly winds, which would have been strong but good for us going south. Instead we had 15-knot south winds (directly contrary!) and thick fog for the first night, making navigation among fishing boats and shipping stressful! Fortunately the skies cleared and the wind shifted into the north throughout the next day and by Day 3, we had the predicted 35 knots from astern. That was the best day of the passage, flying downwind, averaging around 8 knots, and visited by dolphins riding our bow-wave. By the end of the passage the wind had died and we had a long, 75-mile motor into Port Angeles.

Our route from Ketchikan (most northerly dot) to Prince Rupert (second dot from top) and through northern BC and around Vancouver Island to Juan de Fuca Strait and Port Angeles (last dot).


Our full route for Summer 2016: Dutch Harbor – Alaska Peninsula – Kodiak – Kenai Fjords- Gulf of Alaska – Inside Passage – Juan de Fuca Strait

It was fun being back in Port Angeles and seeing the people we’d gotten to know there in 2014. We spent five days in the marina, getting Celeste ready to be hauled out of the water and squeezing in a few hikes in the magnificent Olympic National Park.


Ellen atop Mt Storm King overlooking Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Our biggest hike was an 18-mile loop, gaining and losing 3000ft of elevation, so that we saw everything from high alpine meadows to towering rainforest.


Mt Olympus seen from the trail of our big loop


Olympic Marmot in an alpine meadow – isn’t he adorable?!


Looking up at the rainforest canopy, high overhead!

On August 18 we hauled Celeste out of the water, and she’s now in the care of Platypus Marine boatyard, having the damaged toerail and other items repaired. We hope to launch again in early October and go from there!
As we mentioned in a couple of photo captions, we very sadly lost all our pictures from British Columbia due to a faulty SD card – it died right in our camera just hours before we were about to upload them to the camera! We tried to recover the data at a bunch of computer-repair shops throughout the Seattle area but no luck! We’re obviously really disappointed to lose all those shots of the beautiful BC wilderness… but it doesn’t seem there’s much we can do… 😦 Hopefully better luck next time!

18 thoughts on “Inside Channels to Open Ocean: Ketchikan, Alaska to Juan de Fuca Strait, Washington, August 2016

  1. Pingback: Hiking the Olympic Peninsula | Gone Floatabout

  2. You have just completed a dream voyage, how lucky you are to be able have this amazing experience. Wish it was me! 🙂 Too bad about your SD card, guess it means you’ll have to go back to BC… 🙂

    • Thank you, Inger! We definitely feel lucky to have had these experiences and gotten to see such a beautiful part of the world! Though have to admit, I envy your time in the Canadian Rockies and Scandinavia – both places I’d love to see sometime!

  3. Pingback: Stories in Print! | Gone Floatabout

  4. Sounds like the sailings still good. Would love to ask the west coast. We are visiting friends who live just north of Seattle 12th October for 12days if your still in the area let’s meet up?

    • Hi D + E! So good to hear from you!! It’d be great if we could meet up when you’re in WA – my guess is that we’ll still be there madly trying to get our projects done… nothing new…. We’ll definitely be in touch by email and work something out!
      E + S

  5. Hi Ellen. I’m Bud Bell, you dad’s first cousin. I have thoroughly enjoyed, for some time, following you and Seth on your travels…… such beautiful photos. My son Mike and his family live in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. If you ever are close by and have some time, they would love to see and visit with you and Seth.

    • Thanks very much, Bud! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the blog and gotten in touch! I’ll send you an email – it’d be great to connect with your son and his family!

  6. Boo on the card. Was it a major brand card? You can write them an email to have it replaced (at least). I use Sandisk and Lexar and have had only one failure, but they replaced the card with an even better one 🙂 I didn’t lose images though. Sometimes they can help recover items too.

    • Thanks for the tip, Todd! Yes, the card was a big brand – a Kingston! We’ve never had trouble with them before, though we’re thinking we might stick with SanDisk now… We’re not so upset about losing the card itself – it wasn’t a huge expensive one – but losing the images is a pretty big bummer. Not everyday you see a white Spirit bear cub and get it on camera…. Anyway, worth writing the company and seeing what they can do!

  7. We went down the West Coast of VI at the same time you did! Except we tucked in and bounced down the coast, instead of going offshore. The fog was pretty brutal! If you have time in the future it’s worth exploring that area, lots of beautiful places.

    • Fun coincidence we were there at the same time! That area is really beautiful – we got the chance to see a little of it on our way north but sadly didn’t have time to gunkhole this year. Hope to get back there, though – it’s one of those places you could spend a lifetime! Where are you now? Still sailing or is the season wrapping up?

      • I’m done for big trips this year, back in Victoria. I usually try to get out a few times in the winter for weekend trips to the San Juans or the gulf islands though! Best thing about this area, you can sail year round.

        What are your plans after you launch again?

        • For sure – it’s great to be able to sail in the winter too! We have tentative plans to sail south a bit after launching, although it all depends on the weather! Plans are written in sand at low water, right?

  8. Great to hear from you two! Beautiful pictures. Sorry to hear you lost your other ones.

  9. Am enjoying your blog and photos. What a beautiful part of the world!