Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hidden Thorne Bay

Approaching Thorne Bay
We left Ketchikan after topping off with fuel and continued up Tongass Narrows where we exited at the intersection of Behm Channel and Clarence Strait.  It was another nice day for cruising with light winds (10-11 knots) and 1-2 foot chop. Snow peaked mountains could be seen in all directions from Clarence Strait as we made our way to Thorne Bay on the eastern shore of Prince of Wales Island.  The narrow entrance is rather hard to find and is charted with shoals and rocks, requiring careful navigation.  Perhaps this is why transient boaters often bypass this hidden gem. 
Thorne Bay Marina
Once inside the entrance the Bay opens up and is actually a collection of bays and small inlets with charming houseboats along the shoreline.  The tiny community of Thorne Bay has one grocery store, one liquor store, one cafĂ©, and a post office along with a city hall, a library, one school, and a park.  The small marina offers transient guest space and a seaplane float located north of the marina next to the post office. 
Thorne Bay Community of Homes
The community receives supplies for their well-stocked grocery store by barge; in fact the barge was just leaving the Bay as we were heading in, a most unsuspected surprise.  We found the people of Thorne Bay to be incredibly friendly and welcoming; everyone waved and greeted us as we walked through the village. We met one couple who said they moved here from Upstate New York and another couple from Port Townsend, WA who now call Thorne Bay home. 
The Cute Liquor Store/Shop
The recurring theme was the quiet, peaceful setting they had found here. Thorne Bay was once one of the world’s largest logging camps through the “big time logging era” of the late 1960’s into the early 80’s. 
The Claw
As logging operations shifted, Thorne Bay became a hub for transporting log rafts.  At the heart of the operation was a huge grapple which hoisted whole bundles of logs weighing up to 200,000 lbs. from the salt water. The “Claw,” as it came to be called, was saved for its historical significance and today welcomes visitors to Thorne Bay. The Claw is one of the world’s largest log-handling grapples ever. 
Pulley of yesteryear's Logging
We noticed helicopters and other equipment engaged in modern logging along Clarence Strait. 
Modern day Logging Operation with Helicopter, Clarence Strait
It’s no wonder we encountered a minefield of logs in the water to negotiate around as we made our northward.

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