GSSR#10 – Port Hardy to Pruth Bay

Greetings all!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 404 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 4,872 nm
Tomorrow’s goal: 50 nm

Waggoners Guide begins their discussion on Cape Caution with this advice:

“… Queen Charlotte Sound and Cape Caution comprise the most difficult waters of the entire Inside Passage. While this passage should be treated with caution, it is not difficult if one is well prepared, and willing to wait for good weather…”

This seemed like great advice to me. We decided to sit in port for a day, and use the time to explore Port Hardy.

Roberta’s parents and us jumped in a taxi, and spent the day exploring the area. That took care of waiting for good weather.

The trickier bit was being “well prepared.”

Queen Charlotte Sound, between Port Hardy and Cape Caution, is packed with islands and reefs. I needed to plot a course through them. I have a couple different books that suggested routes. One book, “Proven Cruising Routes – Precise Courses to Steer, Seattle to Ketchikan” suggested three different routes. Another book, “Marine Atlas Volume 2, Port Hardy to Skagway” suggested a fourth route. I took the time to enter the options into Nobeltec, and stared at them for a bit, thinking the “perfect route” would jump out at me. But, I really didn’t see one route that seemed best.

Of course, the deciding factor is the sea conditions, and the wind. Different routes have different advisability based on the different strengths and direction of the wind. I phoned a few friends who’ve crossed the Sound before, to get their advice. Now, the funny bit in all of this is that everyone asked the same question first: “What’s the forecast?”. I had to admit that the forecast was for light 5-15 knot winds from a variable direction. Admitting this immediately caused my friends to lose interest. When the winds are light, and the direction unknown, any route works. One of them even said “Ken. You got to understand. These books are written for people in 32 foot Bayliners. In these conditions you can shoot across the middle. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Deep down, I do not have absolute faith in weather projections. For instance, we have had gail warnings for five of the six days we’ve cruised, and haven’t seen a drop of rain, or had wind over 15 knots. I figured that if they can be wrong about the gale warnings, couldn’t they be wrong on a beautiful day? I figured that if I prepare for the worst, and the weather is good, I’ll be just fine. However, if I prepare for light winds, and the you-know-what hits the fan, then…

I decided to get some local knowledge. I figured the fisherman are out there every day, and know the waters, so why not just introduce myself to a local captain, and see what he says. Sans Souci was at the fishing docks and the only “recreational boat” in site. I knew I’d look a might look a bit silly carrying my charts down the docks, seeking a commercial fishing captain, but I figured “why not?”

My efforts were quickly rewarded! The captain of the first boat I knocked on invited me aboard. Boarding his ship was quite a project. There was no obvious entrance. I had to scale the side of his boat, dodging the rust. Once on board, he gave me his route, and walked me through it on Nobeltec.

I mentioned that our next major destination was Ketchikan, which led to an amusing conversation.

“When do you need to be in Ketchikan?” he asked.

– “May 10th.” I responded.

“That’s ten days away! It’s only a two-day run”

– “Yes, but that would mean running at night, and I worry about all the logs in the water.”

“Yes there are a lot of logs in the water. You just got to be careful.”

– “I don’t know how to be careful, when it is night and there are lots of logs around. They don’t show on radar, and I’ve got a big plastic boat. What do you do?”

“I don’t like hitting logs either. I avoid traveling at night when I can, but sometimes you have no choice.”

– “You see my problem then.”

“Yep. 10 days should be plenty to get to Ketchikan.”

– “Yep.”

To “profit from the current”, we departed Port Hardy at day break. I was monitoring a buoy ( ) which gives the wave hieght and wind speed in the middle of the sound, as well as several other weather sources. The wind was averaging under 2 knots, and had just dropped to under 1 knot.

We could handle that!

Here’s a photo of the notorious Cape Caution as it looked when we crossed it.

The trip couldn’t have been smoother, or the weather better. Blue skies. We even ran with the doors open, just to enjoy the conditions.

Some of you may point out that we could have left the prior day, when the report was for 15-25 knot winds. With a Nordhavn, the winds probably could have been significantly higher and we’d have still been safe. All I can say in my defense is “Given my choice, I prefer calm seas.” There’s that old saying: “There are old captains, and bold captains, but no old bold captains.” A few of you asked for video of us slamming through stormy seas. No worries. That will come, whether I lilke it or not. I just want to push it as far into the future as I can.

Having “crossed over”, we can now relax. We are on the inside passage, and should have hundreds of miles of calm seas ahead.

Our first stop was as near perfection as it gets.

This is Calvert Island. Note the long channel going through the middle of it. That channel runs for nearly eight miles! At the head of the channel is a series of anchorages and a seasonal tourist lodge. We dropped anchor in front of the lodge and tendered in.

Here’s a video showing our visit to the island. If you don’t see the video player, then click this link:

We spoke to the caretaker who said that the lodge wouldn’t be open until mid July. We then hiked back a short, perhaps one mile, trail to a beautiful beach on the Pacific side of the island.

Wow! A beautiful sand beach, and as you can tell from the video, it was a warm day. Shelby enjoyed her chance for some off-leash time, and a chance at a “real” bathroom.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow’s goal: Shearwater Resort!

Thank you, Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

20 Responses

  1. Thanks Ron! I was able to follow him with Spot easily. I was just curious about the AIS system. As he neared Prince Rupert, I once again picked him up on AIS.

  2. OMG – no Internet for 3 days?? I would have been suffering from withdrawal by the 2nd day. Been fun watching your progress on SPOT

  3. Sans Souci is now in Prince Rupert. We had no internet for three days; a combination of high mountains, and the Mini Vsat people not registering me on their northern satellite. I think all will be fine now (I hope!)

    I’m working on a blog entry, and will send it out tomorrow morning.

    Prince Rupert is great!

    -Ken W

  4. So, accordingly, looking just now at SPOT, he pulled into Prince Rupert at 3:14 his local time….

  5. The primary purpose of the AIS system is to communicate information between ships. This is independent of reception by shore stations. As long as an AIS carrying vessel is in VHF range of the AIS VHF transmission of another vessel, they will “see” each other. Where there is shore-based traffic control, controllers and other ships can see one another within VHF range.

    Where Ken is now, there do not appear to be any shore-based stations to relay ship AIS information to us armchair sailors. When he gets further North where there are major ports, we will likely see him again on an AIS website.
    Ron Rogers

  6. Ken,
    Maybe you can clear something up for me regarding the AIS system. When you get out of VHF range, you loose the ability to transmit to Marine Traffic and we can no longer see you. When this happens, is the AIS system still able to communicate ship to ship? Thanks!

  7. Hi Ken. We will be leaving on a fishing trip tomorrow eve. Will be going over to the Peninsula and fishing for big stuff. We will probably stop into Geographic Hbr. and see if we can prepare the bears for your arrival. We will be gone a week+ and delivering to Homer AK. You have my Skymate address on the Miss Lori still I presume. Have fun. Best Regards. Bill

  8. Ken: I may have missed this in a previous blog: I assume Nordhavn has a suggest list of tools as does the manufacturer of the engines, generator(s), refer, hydraulic systems, electrical, etc. Did you purchase additional tools?

  9. All:

    We are in narrow canyons surrounded by tall vertical mountains. This means no tv, and no internet. I seem to have a connection now, but I don’t know for how long. All is going very well, and we are back on the move. I have a blog entry I’m writing and hope to post later today (assuming an internet connection). We’re plannning to drop anchor tonight, and be in Prince Rupert tomorrow. Reasonably high winds now. We’re seeing 20 knots in well protected waters, so I’d imagine the wind must be screaming on the outside.

    -Ken W

  10. Hey Ken et all,

    While watching your progress today via internet at the SPOT, your route numbers only updated to mark 50. so every 10 or so minutes, the new one said 50, then 50, then 50…… Number 1 was in the right place, but seems after either 24 hours, or up to 50 waypoints, thats it. What was then 50 became 49 then 48 then 47…hehehe you must be distracted with that awesome view today. dont forget the videos!!!! Ron

  11. Hi Ken, I’m not surprised that the weather is treating you kindly. I am planning an Alaskan trip in Summer 2010 and all of my research says go in mid May and June. By July the rain and fog start rolling in.

    But more important, I think I noticed that you were not wearing the kill switch for your outboard (in your video). If you weren’t I highly recommend using it. I was thrown from my tender a couple of years ago and my tender came back and whacked me in the head. Had I had my kill switch I would have been wet but unhurt. If I’m mistaken, never mind. Thanks for the blog. I am really enjoying it. Tom

  12. Sans Souci has a Furuno Class “A” AIS. All AIS is VHF only. Class “A” AIS trnsmits more frequently than Class “B”. AIS Internet coverage is infrequent in the area where San Souci is now. SPOT is satellite based.
    Ron Rogers

  13. Hello San Souci! I see you are on the move again Sunday 5/3/09 1100 EST. What an adventure you are and will be having. I have followed you for quite a while, dreaming of our retirement in 3 years with a new(er) vessel. I hope this is appropriate here, but you have certainly piqued our interest on electronics. Noting you are now SIMON capable, I ate up that info online, and seems you really know your choices vs the competitors for systems monitoring. How is all going on that front? This looks so user friendly. Very cool! Next, the SPOT system seems way to easy. Is it just the handheld on batteries? If so, it certainly looks to provide redundacy to an EPIRB, and perhaps adding another unit can be on your tender?? Of course this is not to say this is any kind of substitute for actual sat transmission; all of it is important. But this gadget seems so neat, and cheap. So, as I watch you on the internet, can you watch yourself with SPOT on your nav? OK, some more… ON the Simrad/Furuno (AIS150) AIS sys, as a class B you can turn off the transciever, to hide from other ships, but when turned on, it transmits DSC VHF so others can see. Seems fair enough, and flexible. However, in the class A, is that a sat transmission for commercial ship tracking and also DSC? If so, that is probably why I cannot see you on any AIS tracking internet software, since class B is vhf only…if I am correct. But that SPOT is good and easy for friends and family with high speed..
    Looking forward to following more adventures, Sincerly, Ron M/Y Amanda Rose

  14. Hal:

    I wish we would have had more time at Pacific Beach. Incredible! Roberta’s parents got wore out on the walk there and were looking beat (they are in their 80s). We hope to revisit the beach someday.

    We’re in Shearwater now. There is a water taxi that goes to Bella Bella. We have a boat cleaning scheduled for tomorrow morning. As soon as they finish cleaning the boat we’re going to head over.

    One bit of silliness here at the Marina:

    In the pub tomorrow night they have a Chippendales show. Roberta and her mom will be attending… I told her I want pictures for the blog!

    -Ken W

  15. Sam:

    I forgot to shut off the radar while we went ashore. oops… busted.

    In the old days I used to use the radar to do my anchor watch, but these days I just use Nobeltec.

    Some of you may have noticed how fast the radar is spinning. That’s the radar for Navnet 3d, which is capable of doing two different ranges simultaneously. Perhaps the dual range mode necessitates the fast spin rate? All I know is that it works amazingly well.

    -Ken W

  16. Pruth Bay is one of my favorite stos on the trip north, Ken. Glad you found the Pacific Beach.

    I’ve usually had more fun at Bella Bella than at Shearwater, but YMMV. Dingy across to Bella Bella and walk the town for a glimpse into the lives of the First Nation, as the injuns are called in Canada.

  17. Ken, I noticed in the video that you had one of your radars running while anchored. Why? Also, have you been able to run the boat overnight on batteries or do you end up running the generator the whole time?


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