Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Past the rapids and into the Broughtons

Day 3:  Past Yaculta & Dent, through Johnstone and to Lagoon Cove - 93 Miles

LaBelle at Sunrise with Desolation Sound in the background (click to make it full size)

The rapids around Stuart Island set the timing for today's adventure.  Slack water at Yaculta was 9:32am and Dent rapids went quiet at 8:52.  We were coming from the south and Yaculta comes up first and Dent is a mile later, we entered at 8:50am to find a comfortable average for both.  The plan worked great!

Slack water at Dent Rapids - near Big Bay, Stuart Island

Two hours later we were nearing Green Point rapids and it was gushing, we chose to turn and head past Blind Channel and go directly into Johnstone Strait.  Originally we planned to dock at Blind Channel and enjoy the day, the weather was great with no wind so we forged on to make more northerly progress.

Porpoise playing in Cinnamon Girls bow wake

Johnstone Strait is the piece of water that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland.  Most of Vancouver Island has large water around it with many islands, but for about 18-miles it narrows down to form Johnstone Strait.  The current can be very strong here, and when the current meets oncoming wind the waves can really stack up.  Normally I try to go with the current and wind (smoothest ride and great fuel efficiency), today we chose to go against the 2-4 knot current and a minimal wind (very smooth water and lousy efficiency) as this would get us north faster.  As the trip went on the wind built to 20-knots and it got a bit rougher.  Not wanting to put up with a rough ride and the opposing current I decided to play a hunch...that the south side between Kelsey Bay and Hickey Point (7-miles) would be somewhat more protected and may have some back eddies, this shore is sort of in the "lee" of the main flood current.  It worked!  The ride smoothed out and I picked up a full knot of boat speed.  I wanted to prove my theory and to do this needed to compare my ride with that of Sam & Diane aboard LaBelle.  I didn't tell them what I was up to and left them in middle.  Sam said it was rough and he may need new windshield wiper blades from all the spray.  Sorry Sam! 

Our track up the beach.  We stayed on the 20-fathom line, 75 yards offshore.  Smooth!

We finished the day moored at Lagoon Cove.  We put in three good days of travelling and have arrived in paradise.  The weather is beautiful.  Time to start playing!  Tonight we are enjoying a bottle of Rob Warner's Merlot.  Tomorrow is a short day, just 26-miles around the corner to Pierre's Echo Bay Resort.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Alaska Trip 2011: Cinnamon Girl & LaBelle are underway!

Day 1:  Bellingham to Telegraph Harbor, Thetis Island - 63 Miles
Day 2:  Telegraph Harbour to Cortes Bay, Desolation Sound - 97 Miles

Cinnamon Girl - American Tug 41 at Bedwell Harbor Customs dock

I give all the credit for getting underway on time to Cindy.  She got us organized, provisioned, packed, and loaded the boat, nicely done!  We were on the water at 8:30am Friday morning.  On our way to Alaska! 

Sam & Diane Hill aboard LaBelle, an American Tug 34, snuck out of Anacortes on Thursday and spent the night at Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island.  They got the jump on us and cleared customs in Bedwell Harbor a few hours before we made it there.  We rendezvoused late Friday afternoon at Telegraph Harbor on Thetis Island.  They are travelling with Maggie, their 12-year old semi-retired cattle dog. 

We compared notes on Friday evening and decided to stick with the original plan and lay down serious miles at the beginning of the trip, so that we could play longer and explore more places farther north. Day 2 was going to be a long Desolation Sound.  Sam & I agree that an 8-knot cruise is a nice comfortable pace.

LaBelle in the Pylades Channel  - click for larger image

We pulled up the anchor on Saturday morning at 6am and headed for an 8:25 slack at Gabriola Pass.  Once through and around the corner past Silva Bay we headed across the Straits of Georgia, aiming for the south end of Texada Island.  Whiskey Golf (Canadian Forces torpedo test range) off Nanaimo was not operating and so we were able to go straight line and did not need to jog around it.  They announce WG status daily on the VHF radio's weather channel.  The wind was blowing 10-20 out of the north with an ebb tide, so the seas were only 1-3 feet, easy for the tough American Tugs.

LaBelle topped up her fuel tank, and Maggie ran around the grass at Pender Harbor.  A short stop. 

We then headed back into Malaspina Strait and up past Grief Point, Powell River, Hardy Island, Savory, Lund, and through the Copelands.  I think the Copelands are gorgeous, what a cool passage.  Weather was great!  Sunny and warm.  We entered Cortes Bay at 7:45PM.   A great day on the water.

My "office" for the next three weeks.  The chart plotter says Savory Island is to port!

LaBelle entering Cortes Bay in the warm evening sun!

Thanks for following along on our trip to Alaska.  I will keep this updated as I find internet service along the way.  You can subscribe to the blog, where it says "follow" in the right hand column.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trip Plan: Revillagigedo Island & Misty Fjords National Monument

Circumnavigating Revillagigedo Island and exploring a pristine wilderness:  135 miles

Click on the chart to see full size

A chance to explore the Misty Fjords National Monument is a dream of mine.  This is a HUGE wilderness.  Known for its unique geology of massive Granite and Basalt formations, it is called "the Yosemite of the north".  Cindy & I had the opportunity to see Yosemite a few years ago and it was incredible.  It will be interesting to see if we draw the same conclusions. 

Click on the map to see full size

Revillagigedo Island, click here for the pronunciation, forms the western side of the area and is the part that we can access with the American Tug.  Named by George Vancouver for Juan Vicente de G├╝emes, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo.  Circumnavigating the island by boat is the only way to get to know this remote area.  Best known are Punchbowl Cove and New Eddystone Rock.

New Eddystone Rock is Basalt pillar reaching 237-feet.  More impressive is that it is in the middle of Behm Canal with nothing around it but deep water.  Formed by volcanic action and then carved away by glacial movement, leaving this huge column.

The Punchbowl behind Punchbowl cove.  It does remind one of Yosemite.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

American Tug 395 - Interior photos

The new AT-395 has a great 2-cabin 1-head arrangement, now with convertible second cabin!

Main salon with a recliner in the port aft corner

Settee converts to a double berth

Galley with a second freezer and drop-down television

Pilothouse - Big windows, six open for ventillation

Forward slanted pilothouse windows keep fogging & glare to a minimum

Master with queen berth and abundant storage

The upper bunk can fold to become a couch - perfect for a reading room

Please call me with questions at 360-466-2961 or email

You can click on any of the photos above to see full size.  I would be happy to get you additional information, arrange a factory tour or get you aboard a boat.  Let me help any way.

See details of the AT-395 electrical system here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anacortes Waterfront Festival - Quick & Dirty Boat Building Contest

American Tug team competes in the Quick & Dirty Boat Building Contest!  

Kurt, Eric and Bill - Team American Tug!

The Quick & Dirty Boat Building Contest is a wonderful event held annually at the Anacortes Waterfront Festival.  Teams come from the local marine industry or marine trade schools and build the best boat they can in 5-hours with a limited amount of resources; 4-sheets 1/4" plywood, 6ea 2x4's, 50 zip ties, 100ea screws, 2ea tubes quick dry caulk and this years secret item, a bamboo tree.  Points were given for returning unused supplies, the guys only needed 2-sheets of their plywood.

After building the boats they are judged by a panel, a peoples choice judging and then the big race.  The American Tug entry was a really nice boat with many traditional details.  Do you spot the bamboo?

A fast start by Kurt & Bill

Foul!!  Being hit by another local boat builders entry

A strong finish... But I don't think American Tug will be introducing this new model anytime soon.  The American Tug entry won the Best Design and Best Construction categories.

Looks like fun to mess around with boats.  Good job guys!

Halibut fishing - I have to try this!

I keep reading about halibut fishing in BC and Alaska.  They are even doing pretty well with halibut out at Neah Bay and on the Straits.  Since we are heading to Alaska.... Time to learn more!

These can be from 30 to 300 pounds!

I grew up in the Seattle area in the 1970's and as such never did well salmon fishing.  The few times we went to Westport for a charter were a real blast, as we actually caught fish.  Puget Sound fishing for me was more about dogfish and drifting around Jeff Head or Possession.  It never dawned on me that nobody I fished with knew what they were doing... Sorry dad.

The internet really brings a great many resources to your fingertips, so this is how I have learned about fishing for halibut in Alaska.  Every internet resource has a slightly different twist but I think I have a general consensus which I am going to go with.  This is a good site.

Pacific Halibut are a slow growing bottom fish that enjoy salmon carcass, herring and squid.  They live at depths between 50 and 900 feet deep.  I think we will try for fish in the 100-200 foot depth range.  Because of the great depth it is easiest at slack tides so that the current does not affect the line as much.  Sounds like most use 80lb test modern braided lines to minimize the diameter and hence the current sweep.   The line is attached to a "Halibut Spreader" which is a stainless right-angle with a 1-4lb weight on the short angle and your halibut leader on the long angle.  The leader is wire with "circle hooks" that are suppose to keep the fish on the hook much better.  Bait with herring, octopus or fake squid, I also read that they enjoy a salmon head.

Halibut spreader with lead weight and some scent - looks tasty!

The pole used is a short stiff pole, generally about 5  feet in length with a larger reel.  The fishing is done from a drifting or anchored boat, you must need a pretty good anchor package for those depths.  Drop the weighted halibut rig to the bottom and then bring her up a few cranks.  You want the lead ball to bounce along the bottom.  My goal would be something in the 50-pound range, any larger and I don't know what I would do with it.  The American Tugs do have good freezer capacity! 

When the halibut hits it is suppose to be kind of gentle,  but sometimes they run a short distance.  You crank them to the surface.  The fish are flat and don't fight too much.   Once you muscle their heads towards the surface just keep cranking.  I was told it is like you have hooked an old tire.  Once they get to the surface watch out as  they are pure muscle.  A mad 120-pound fish fighting for its life can really damage your boat.  The technique is to harpoon or gaff and tie them off to the boat and let the fish expire, bleed them out asap. 

As a yacht broker I have heard stories of selling boats with holes in the swim steps.  When the owner is asked about the holes..."bullets from shooting a halibut!"  Still have not sold that boat myself. 

Wish me luck!   If you have firsthand experience or any tips, as always please help me out.

This looks really wonderful.  Here is the recipe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cinnamon Girl's trip to Alaska

Wow!  I am going to Alaska aboard an American Tug!!   I am excited.  The reality of the trip is just hitting me.  Cinnamon Girl, an American Tug 41, is needed in Alaska and my wife Cindy & I are going to take her up for the owner.  The American Tugs are the ideal yacht for this trip.

I have posted our intended route and trip plan here on the   You can subscribe (that is over on the right column) and follow along .  As we head north we will post photos and write articles about our experiences.  This is the trip I have wanted to take for 20-years and it will be fun to keep a journal.  The journal is of course dependant on our finding internet access, we will cover that story as well.

Charts courtesy of Fine Edge Publications.  Thank you Mark!

The American Tugs are great boats for the inside passage, I plan to cruise at approximately 8-knots and take advantage of positive current whenever possible.  Cinnamon Girl has a Volvo D9-500 engine and is fully capable of cruising faster, but I like to use that reserve power to "control my own destiny".  That means when it is rough I will go faster as a little speed gives a semi-displacement planing hull tons of stability, plus it gets you across faster.  I use the reserve power to get thru adverse current and get "around the corner" to areas where I will find the positive water.  In other words I use the 13-knot fast cruise to make my life easy when needed.  It is the very thing that I always wanted to do when cruising my sailboat at 8-knots, but couldn't.  The semi-displacement planing hull is the perfect boat for inside passage cruising!

In reading the Exploring Southeast Alaska book I found some great route plans.  The Appendices in the back have several plans with different time frames.  The "Highlights Itinerary" on page 511 really fit my schedule well with a pace of 50-70 miles per day. we go!

The Inside Passage Planning Maps have also been a HUGE help in getting a good grasp on the trip. Mark publishes a North & South version of these charts and in total they cover Olympia to Glacier Bay, when folded out each is about 6-feet long and shows the normal routes, fjords, anchorages, and their surrounds like no other resource.  Be sure to get both.

Let me know if you have any questions.  Steve Scruggs   Cell 206-930-6139 or   If you have done this trip and have recommendations or advice...Please pass it on!

Trip Plan: Revillagigedo Channel to Ketchikan

Foggy Bay to Ketchikan:  35 miles

Click on the chart to see it full size

Ketchikan is the the fifth largest city in Alaska with a population of about 8,000.  It is a lumber, fishing, shipyard, cruise ship town.  It also is the transportation hub of the lower SE area with an airport and terminal for the Alaska Ferry that heads to Bellingham, WA.

We hope to arrive in Ketchikan around June 12, 2011.  Our plan is to clear customs and then head off into the Misty Fjords National Monument, circumnavigating Revillagigedo Island.  More on that later!

Trip Plan: Crossing Dixon Entrance and into Alaska!

Prince Rupert to Foggy Bay, across Dixon Entrance and back into the USA.  50 miles

Click on the chart to see full size

Crossing Dixon Entrance is much like rounding Cape Caution.  You are exposed to the big Pacific and need to do a bit of research on the weather prior to heading out.  We will access the internet in Prince Rupert and do our diligence.  We will make this leg when the weather permits.

Foggy Bay is on the US side of the line, Dundas Island is on the Canadian side.  Both make a good half-way stop on the road to Ketchikan.   Weather permitting Ketchikan can also be had in a single day, this would be a long one at about 75-miles with an ocean leg.

US Customs will allow anchoring in Foggy Bay prior to "clearing", but you must let them know in advance and be on "the list".  Clearance is made in Ketchikan.  I hope Cindy reminds me to call them prior to departing Prince Rupert...

Trip Plan: Grenville Channel to Prince Rupert

East Inlet to Prince Rupert, BC:  57 miles

click on the chart to see full size

Prince Rupert is a town of 13,000 and is the hub of British Columbia's north coast.  Like most towns on the west coast at one time it vowed to be the terminus of a railroad.  It is the third deepest port in the world.  Mining, fishing, forest products and now the cruise ship industry sustain it. 

I just read that there is a Safeway store just two-blocks from the marina.  Fresh veggies!  I bet that I walk to that store more than once.  We are planning to bring a couple of small backpacks as the "walk to the store" is the norm in most of these towns.  A chance to stretch the legs will be most welcome.

The USA/Canada border is just north of Prince Rupert.  This town is the Canadian Customs entry point for southbound cruisers.

Trip Plan: On to Grenville Channel

Bishop Bay to East Inlet heading up Grenville Channel:  56 miles

Click on the chart to see it full size

Grenville Channel is the second of the long "inside passage" channels and is a fjord much like many of our inside passage routes.  A Fjord is defined as:  a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.  I always think of them as a coastal mountain range that has been filled in by the sea.  Often the side walls extend down to great depths with no beach.  I look forward to seeing these magnificent reaches and stretches.

East inlet is a protected anchorage that is half-way up Grenville Channel.  Should be a great place to spend the night before heading on to Prince Rupert.

Trip Plan: Princess Royal Channel

Oliver Cove to Bishop Bay - Up the Princess Royal Channel: 74 miles 

Click on the chart to see it full size

Time to head north and lay down some miles towards our eventual destination of Ketchikan.  This looks like the "inside" part of the Inside Passage. 

Bishop Bay is at the head of Ursula Channel and features a natural hot spring.  We will be ready for that!

Trip Plan: Exploring Fitz Hugh Sound

Penrose Island to Oliver Cove - Seems like a shame to spend only a week here

Click on the chart to see full size

The greater Fitz Hugh Sound area.  The American Tug owners really like to cruise this area.  Many have chosen to spend months exploring, and then return the following year.  I have heard glowing reports and have seen several presentations on cruising this area from our extended AT family.  Time to check it out for myself.

The destinations have interesting names like: Shearwater, Namu, Ocean Falls, Rivers Inlet, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Hakai Passage.  I wonder who Bella was?  Bella is Italian for "Beautiful" and the pictures do look good.  Time to find out.   Check back in early June and I will have a full report.  Be sure to subscribe (it is over on the right column).

Trip Plan: Getting around the corner

Day 6, maybe 7, possibly 8)  Picking a nice day for an exposed passage: 53 miles

Click on the chart to see it full size

It is only 53 miles from comfortable Port Hardy to safe Fury Island Cove on Penrose Island.  For most boats and boaters it might as well be a million, as this will be the road less traveled.  Getting around Cape Caution and making way beyond the north tip of Vancouver Island exposes one to Queen Charlotte Sound and the Pacific Ocean.  There are only two parts of the Inside Passage from Olympia to Alaska that are exposed, and they are each about 40 mile stretches.  That is why this 800 mile run is called the "Inside Passage" as 90% IS protected. 

The American Tugs were designed for this trip.  They are tough boats and make a stable platform for playing in the ocean.  I could not be happier or feel safer knowing that we will be aboard Cinnamon Girl for this leg.

Cindy & I will be patient, get the latest weather data and make an informed decision.  I am told that Bob Hale has written a good article on how to do this section comfortably in The Waggoner Cruising Guide.  We will read that a couple of times...then off we will go!

Trip Plan: Preparing for Cape Caution

Day 5 - May 31)  Echo Bay to Port McNeill and then to Port Hardy:  47 miles

Click on the chart to see full size

Day five is the last day that I will assign a date, May 31.  June will be all about watching the weather and making wise decisions, and really about discovering new places, things and making new friends.  From here forward we are going to be flexible.  On Day five Cindy & I will cross a threshold to places we have never been before.  We have cruised the Broughtons a couple of times previously and really love this area.  But we have not been past Port McNeill.   New water for us!

We plan to reprovision in Port McNeill or Port Hardy.  We are going to top up the tank, put some veggies and groceries on the boat.  I bet we hit a hardware store and maybe a tackle shop.  Port Hardy is "the end of the road" and the last large grocery store for a while.

We will be looking for an internet connection in town and will download weather, take a look at the offshore buoy data and get a good handle on making our way around Cape Caution safely and comfortably.   Check this blog for an update on our progress on the evening of May 31st, hopefully we will have a forecast for you.   Steve

Trip Plan: Johnstone Strait and the Broughton's

Day 4 - May 30)  Blind Channel to Echo Bay: 67 miles

Click on the chart to make full size

Johnstone Straits is the narrow piece of water that separates the North American Continent from Vancouver Island.  This body of water is full of whales, tugboats (American and working), beautiful tree lined shores, and current.  I really enjoy this transit. 

I like to be on Johnstone early in the morning before the wind rises and go with the current.  Peak current on May 30 is about 7am.  We will leave Blind Channel near 5:30AM and plan to ride the current north. 

Cinnamon Girl will take a right turn up Havannah Channel and thru Chatham Narrows on the way to Echo Bay.  I keep hearing what Pierre & Tove have done with the Echo Bay Resort and look forward to seeing them again.

Trip Plan: Navigating through Yaculta & Dent rapids

Day 3 - May 29)  Cortes Bay to Blind Channel via Big Bay!   41 miles

Click on the chart to make full size

I love Desolation Sound.  It will pain me to pass right on thru this area without exploring it further, but we will be sliding out of the narrow entrance of Cortes Bay and moving north early. 

Slack tide at Yaculta and Dent rapids is the key to this leg.  We want to be there when the water is calm, as three hours later it will be boiling and not navigable.  Our slack is at 9AM on May 29th.

Blind Channel is a very nice resort with a restaraunt, fuel, supplies, and a great hike on their nature trail.  We will have an early night as the next day will come very early...

Trip Plan: Gulf Islands to Cortes Bay: Heading up the Straits of Georgia

Day 2 - May 28)  Moving north past Texada Island to Desolation Sound: 80 miles

Click on the chart to make it full size.

Day 2 is a long day, one of the longest of the whole trip.  My thought is to make tracks early and leave more time to explore the areas between Rivers Inlet and Alaska. 
We plan to rendezvous with a pair of American Tug 34's near Silva Bay; LaBelle and Peapod.  We will be cruising together up through the Broughton Islands.  More about the other boats as the trip unfolds.

Slack tide at Gabriola Passage is approximately 8:30am.  Cinnamon Girl will make her way through on this slack when there is only minimal current in this narrow passage.  Hopefully the wind will be down and the trip north up the Straits of Georgia will be smooth.  We will have a little current with us.  Cortes Bay is a nice protected anchorage and will be a welcome sight.

Trip Plan: The road to Ketchikan: Day 1 Bellingham to Gulf Islands

Day 1 - May 27)  Bellingham to the north end of the Gulf Islands: 67 miles

Click on the chart to make full size

We will slip off the docks in Squalicum Marina in Bellingham and make our way past Lummi Island.  Our initial destination will be the Canadian Customs dock in Bedwell Harbour.  Then we  will find a quiet anchorage in the north end of the Gulf Islands.  I am sure that night we will be looking through every cruising guide aboard Cinnamon Girl in anticipation of a great trip.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fine Edge publications: Discounts for American Tug family

Mark Bunzell at Fine Edge publishes the very best cruising guides and planning books for cruising the northwest.  I have always relied on the yellow "Exploring" series books.  A few years ago I discovered the new "Dreamspeaker" series and they are a great compliment to my on board library.  Mark has generously offered a 15% discount on all of his books to the American Tug family. 

These books will be with us on our trip to Alaska later this month.

See: .  Mark is also now the publisher of the Waggoner Cruising Guide and has the new 2011 book on his site.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

AT-395 and AT-435 Side by side in the Swinomish

Did you ever wonder how much larger an American Tug 435 is than the AT-395?

"Click" on the photo to see in higher resolution.

Today we drove AT-395 #2 and her big sister AT-435 #45 to Anacortes for display at Trawler Fest.  The boats were side by side heading up the Swinomish Channel.  This is a new AT-435 was just put into the water yesterday for the very first time.

It makes an interesting comparison.   They both look great on the water!!

Cell 206-930-6139

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Heading to Alaska aboard Cinnamon Girl: AT-41 #9

I am pretty excited... Cindy and I will be skippering the American Tug 41 Cinnamon Girl to Alaska in a few weeks.  Cinnamon Girl is in charter with San Juan Yachting and she has a charter booked in SE Alaska for five weeks.  We are delivering her to Ketchikan for the owners.

We will be posting photos and blog stories as we make our way up the inside passge.  I have wanted to do this trip for twenty years and am really looking forward to seeing Alaska.  A couple of the other American Tugs will be heading north with us, which I am confident will lead to some fun adventures.

Please subscribe to this blog and you can keep track of us.  Cindy is a great photographer and we will post many of her pics.   This will be a good time!  Steve.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tonka is heading home to Vancouver!

Congratulations to Per & Janet Palm on their new boat Tonka.

American Tug 34 Hull #65 now renamed Tonka. 

Thank you very much for working with me.  Please let me know how I can continue to be of service and support with your American Tug.  Call me anytime at 206-930-6139.

Steve Scruggs, CPYB
Broker & owner of Expedition Yacht Sales, LLC
Anytime 206-930-6139