Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Moving north again into the long Channels & Mountains

Day 11: Rescue Bay and through Princess Royal Channel to Lowe Inlet.  95 Miles

I asked Cindy where she wanted to go, and her response was "to Alaska".  By this she meant that it was time to lay down some miles.  We both loved the greater Fitz Hugh Sound and Fjordland area.  It is fabulous cruising and really quite accessible.  We will be back as there is still a ton of exploring to be done, hopefully we will come back many times.  What Cindy was referring to is that this trip is about Alaska, and I too was feeling the pull to get moving north.

Jackson narrows.  Only one boat wide, channel is the left.

Looking at the charts on Sunday night I saw that we had two Narrows to navigate.  I had heard of Hiekish Narrows, it can run 4-knots with or against you depending on timing.  The other Narrows was Jackson which is just around the corner from Rescue Bay at the east end of Jackson Passage.  Our days intended destination was the Bishop Bay at the far end of Princess Royal Channel.  To get there we first needed to navigate Jackson Passage, Finlayson Channel and Hiekish Narrows. 

Finlayson Channel.  Magnificent!

I read everything I could trying to find information on the currents in the channels, these are large and long channels that can really move a lot of water, it seemed the currents would be important.  Turns out not much is written and there are only a few official Current Stations.  I eventually found a small reference at the bottom of a page in the Fine Edge Publication Proven Cruising Routes by Monahan & Douglass.  The words "Tidal streams from north and south meet near Swanson Bay".  What that means is the Channel fills from both ends, and it would be great to have high tide when near Swanson Bay.  But I needed to get past Hiekish at slack... 

We left Rescue Bay at 8 am, Jackson Narrows is easy on most parts of the cycle.  Later that day I read in "The Waggoner" that it is wise to call a "Securite" on VHF-16 prior to entering Jackson Narrows as it is really only one boat wide.  In hind sight this is very good advice and I will next time through.

After Jackson Passage, Cinnamon Girl turned north up Finlayson Channel.  We hit Hiekish at slack.  Easy.
The terrain had been changing for two days.  Ocean Falls is high granite mountains, and was really a large fjord.  The area near Shearwater was low coastal islands and heavily forrested.  As we proceeded up Finlayson we were moving back into the bigger fjord country and in fact are not that far from Ocean Falls as the crow flies. 

So many waterfalls.  You get tired of taking pictures...  So many!

We moved into larger granite fjords and bigger mountain country in Princess Royale Channel.  Truly gorgeous.  Our timing on the currents was good.  This is the "Inside Passage" main route and we saw a few heavies. 

Northern Expedition heading south.  The BC Ferry serving Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.

Butedale & the falls.  Another old cannery town being retaken by nature.  Click for larger.

Cinnamon Girl did not want to stop at Bishop Bay, the pull north was strong.  We settled on Lowes Inlet in Grenville Channel...

The area around McKay Reach, Wright Sound and looking up Verney Passage is absolutely breathtaking.  Gorgeous country.  They call this the "Yosemite of the North". 

Granite Basins on south side of McKay Reach.  Click to see full size.

Verney Passage "Yosemite of the north"

Entering Grenville we were starting to oppose the current. Never planned on moving this far in a single day, so had not researched the currents here.  Lowe Inlet and its Verney Falls are 14-miles up the "Grenville Ditch".

South side of Grenville Channel.  Mainland.

This is big country.  I was already tired of taking waterfall photos, and had moved on to taking pictures of Granite Bowls and Mountains. 

As we neared Lowe Inlet the current was costing us 4-knots and we generally only cruise at 8-knots, that is half speed.  It was time to unleash "Oly" the big swede in the engine room, I ran the final 4-miles at 12-knots and enjoyed it.  We burn 3-times the fuel at this speed but were going twice as fast over ground, fair trade-off in my mind, that is exactly what a semi-displacement hull like the American Tug is for!  Made it easy.  It is the best of both worlds and perfect for northwest cruising.

The CH Claire heading to Kitimat loaded with Bauxite for the aluminum smelter.  Lowe Inlet entrance.

Lowe Inlet is beautiful anchorage.  At its far end is Nettle Basin where Verney Falls empties.  The falls are small and pretty, OK another picture of a waterfall (see tomorrows entry, morning was a better shot).  Cinnamon Girl covered 95-miles, one sixth of the distance to Alaska in a single day.  We anchored in 92-feet of water and slept very well, good holding here.  Another anchorage I will visit again.

What a great day on the water.