Monday, June 13, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: To Petersburg via the Wrangell Narrows

Day 17:  Meyers Chuck to Petersburg.  A fun scenic cruise.  75-miles

You may recall from an earlier posting that we have some extra time in Southeast Alaska due to our fast trip up from Bellingham.  Upon reviewing the charts we decided to use the extra time to see Petersburg and spend more time fishing around Wrangell.  Today is our day to make way to Petersburg.  This is a 75-mile run via the famous Wrangell Narrows, a 21-mile canal marked with 62-buoys.  Before tackling this leg I needed to read up on it, Cinnamon Girl has an excellent library. The Exploring Southeast Alaska book by the Douglass's covers this thoroughly.

Meyers Chuck at first light.

We set our alarm clock for low tide, as the flood will push us up Clarence Strait.  Guess what time...4am again.  This flood would get us to Point Alexander and the entrance to the Narrows.  Wrangell Narrows fills from both ends much like Grenville Channel, with a natural convergence near marker "R48", a little over half-way up.  We would probably buck the ebb current for 12-miles, but big deal as this was one of those channels I always wanted to see.  We should get the current with us for the final 9-miles.  Now we have a plan for the day.  75-miles is an aggressive day, but we have found the American Tug is really comfortable.  We have been cruising nearly all of the trip at 8-knots with Oly turning 1240-rpm, using the reserve power several times to make the trip easier.

Off we go!  We cleared the docks and worked our way out the rocky entrance, the rocks were all hidden last night at high tide.   Now we see why Meyers Chuck is so well protected!  Be sure to follow that entrance carefully when you visit.

Here is the log of June 12, 2011:

4:05 am: Engine checks OK, fired up Oly.
4:10 am: Underway at low tide, wind 6-knots easterly.  All reefs exposed!
7:45 am: Humpback whale on port side.  Calm. 
8:20 am: "Disney Wonder" (966' loa) passes south bound doing 22.1-knots.

The "Disney Wonder" heading to Victoria.  I would take a cruise if they would let me drive!

9:05 am: Humpback whales at Snow Passage.  Calm & no-wind. 

11:20 am: Entered Wrangell Narrows at Point Alexander.  Calm, still getting positive flood current!
2:05 pm:  Arrived Petersburg.  Slip C-651 South Basin.

Petersburg from the water.  Click for larger photo.

We did get positive water up the first third of Wrangell Narrows.  Cinnamon Girl arrived as predicted, but the current was still pushing us nicely, which was great.  Eventually we started losing about a knot of speed and that was fine as the Canal is very scenic with many nice houses, resorts, tributaries and waterfowl.  It is a great cruise in itself.  The current started flowing with us right where the guide book said it would!  When we reached Petersburg we had a 2-knot push. 

The Narrows is very well marked with 62-marks, 5-ranges, countless other indicators.  It was fun and should not be intimidating, it is an easy run.  Wrangell Narrows is the only protected waterway linking north and south Southeast Alaska, it is used by all types of commerce including barge traffic.  The alternative is to go "outside" and that means the Pacific.  Be sure to do this in your boating career.  We get to go back down Monday or Tuesday, I am already looking forward to it.

The other Cinnamon Girl.  Click for larger photo.  Note all the marks.

62 numbered buoys and marks on the Narrows.  Very easy to navigate.  Click for larger.

Petersburg is an authentic commercial fishing town.  They also do a little logging.  No cruise ships call on this port.  Main street reflects its Norwegian settlers heritage, kind of like a working Poulsbo.  The people we met were very nice.  I am glad that we came.

Fisherman's Memorial and the Sons of Norway Lodge.

The streets of Petersburg.  Norwegian heritage.  A work boat town.