Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Back Door

We spent two nights at Shearwater and had the pleasure of meeting some other boaters who had come in for the weekend. We met Bryann on his sailboat who is a conductor by profession for the historic Steam Train out of Skagway on which we have ridden.  Bryann lives in Port Townsend, Washington during the winters, and in Juneau, Alaska during the summers; he is making his way back to Juneau on his sailboat, Aegean.  We also met Phil and Uno from Anchorage, Alaska who just purchased their boat in Tacoma, Washington and are bringing their new boat, Uno, to Whittier in Prince William Sound.  They have owned small runabout type boats in the past but this is their first experience with a larger boat traveling through new territory.  
Dryad Lighthouse, Campbell Island
We headed out the next morning and Uno wanted to follow us as a buddy boat.  Got d’ Fever and Uno left Shearwater at 10:30am, passing the cute Dryad Lighthouse on the northeast end of Campbell Island.  We had several northbound channels from which to choose while heading west toward Milbank Sound.  
Dolphins, Seaforth Channel
As we neared Milbank Sound, ocean swells were reaching into Seaforth Channel so we decided to make our north turn up the narrow channel of Perrin Anchorage, a passage way that becomes Reid Passage.  Although careful negotiation around some rocks and shoals was required, the passage was protected from the ocean swell.  Sometimes the back door is better than the front door!  At the north end of Reid Passage we needed to cross another exposed area before going through Perceval Narrows into the next protected passage of Mathieson Channel.  We were mindful of our friends who were following us in a smaller boat and kept them apprised of what was ahead.  It can take a day or two for the ocean swell to lie down after a storm, so there was some lingering swell in this exposed area.  To get across to the Mathieson Channel, we had to head south into 5-6 foot steep swells in order to make a sharp turn back northwest over the same swells and through the cut known as Percevel Narrows, bringing us into calm waters once again.  The best technique is to start the turn at the top of a swell so you end up in a trough during the turn; we advised our friends that they would need to be well south of the rocks before making the turn back north, northwest to enter the narrows.  Sorry, no pictures since we were busy negotiating the swells, navigating for the entrance, and communicating with our friends.  Everything went well with calm, smooth sailing for the rest of the day.  It was our first time to be a lead boat for someone else, which is valuable experience.  We have considered the possibility of providing this service for groups headed to British Columbia and/or Southeast Alaska.  There are several businesses who organize group excursions for boaters and offer paid positions for lead boats.  
Looking out from Bottleneck Anchorage
But I digress; we still had a few more passages and channels to traverse before reaching our anchorage for the night.  From Mathieson Channel, we turned west again through the very narrow passage of Jackson Pass.  The passage is so narrow that boaters must announce over the radio that they are entering Jackson Pass when westbound; charted rocks and shoals are an added challenge but going very slow makes the passage quite doable.  Jackson Pass leads into Finlayson Channel where we headed north once again until reaching our anchorage at 5pm in Bottleneck Inlet. 
Uno anchored at Bottleneck Inlet
Our new friends Phil and Uno very much appreciated our help through the day’s journey and we equally enjoyed their company.

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