Day 32A overall, Day 25 afloat, Lake Bay to Petersburg

Pictures: Wrangell Narrows and the view coming out of the narrows and into Petersburg. It took my breath away!

Blog Reader, Blog Reader, Blog Reader, a tricky day on vessel Domino and Tammy here at the Blog. No one sleeps today—-Today we navigate from Lake Bay through Kashevarof Passage into Clarence Strait then Sumner Straight. We will will see Midway rock and then enter the Wrangell Narrows from Deception Point to Petersburg. We will travel 50 NM through 21 NM of narrows facing larger ships and opposing vessel traffic, 63 range markers and buoys, tidal flats, flooding tides and barges under tow with log booms. With any luck the weather will be our friend today and we will not have to fight with rain, wind and ocean swells as well.

Kevin Monahan, the author of “Local Knowledge” helped us tremendously during the flotilla. He is a wealth of useful as well as local knowledge. Maybe he should name his next book Useful knowledge and make it a short radar lesson, navigation lesson, etc. I think I will write him about that! If you are reading this Kevin give me a call and help you write that one! Anyway, Kevin recommended that we write out all the markers that we would have to spot through the narrows. So the night before I sat down with a map of the narrows and the log and wrote out all markers on the map that we would need to navigate around, through or use as range markers. Once I was done with the list Andrew and I went over the map and the list and made sure that I captured everything. I admit that I was more than a little nervous after I saw the three page, 63 item list. So the list was set up so that I could quickly read across the item and know the color (red or green), range marker, buoy or a hazard marker. The idea was for me to stand watch with the binoculars and call out the markers as I saw them ahead and give the captain directions. It sounded like this Red “1”- right or Green “2” left, etc. Each Buoy is numbered and if the buoy is red then you have to stay to the right of the buoy, if the buoy is green then the safe water is to the left of the buoy. Sometimes a marker or buoy is a range marker which means you have to line them up and keep them behind you aligned one on top the other until you get out of the channel. Those range markers usually mark a channel that is deep in the middle and you want to stay in the deep safe water and not feather to the right or left and hit shallow water or a reef.

I thought the day was going to be a hair raiser but we just worked together and made our way down the list. We actually had fun calling off the marker numbers to each other. We took turns at the helm while the other spotted the markers ahead with binoculars. We used my chart to determine which channel marker we were seeing and what we had to do at that marker. We started between December Point and Deception Point and spent most of the day working our way through the markers and late in the day we popped out into Papkes landing. We got to Papkes by 5:24 against a plan of 5:30 so that was almost exact. The reason that we needed to get there at a specific time was because the tide then turns around and runs back out to the ocean. So the idea is to get a push on way in from the incoming tide and a pull on the way out. Imagine trying to go in on a push and be running against a 2-3 kts in a boat that only goes 6 kts. Not only would it take forever and waste a lot of fuel it could be dangerous in our case in these specific narrows.

5:45 We arrived at Greens point where the tides meet and we could see some turbulence in the water. By the time we got there the surface just had a lot of very small surface whirl pools but as I have mentioned before arrive here at the wrong time and you will be greeted with strong tide pools. Another reason to get through at the right time is that once the water begins going back out to sea on the ebb tide the water level goes down so severely that the channel becomes even more narrow and a great deal of additional shore appears which are called tidal flats. Bears love tidal flats and so do birds. You can see thousands of birds arriving on the flats to eat the mussels and small sea life that died on the flats when the water level dropped. I read that the state dredges this channel to the passage open otherwise this would be the end of the trip if the channel closed up with silt.

The view coming into Petersburg from the straits is spectacular with Devil’s thumb which reaches 9077 ft (2,767 m) and crossing into the Canadian border about 40-50 miles. Buoy 61 essentially lands us in Petersburg. We are assigned a slip and there you have it. A very difficult day done and the reward is a couple of nights eating out and a chance to stretch our legs and take a little walk about. Now that we are at the dock and given that we have guests coming soon we will need to take a few days to clean up and work on the boat. Time to check the oil, clean the sea strainers, test the bilge pump, tighten the alternator belt. I of course am off to laundry and the grocery store.

This is Tammy on vessel Domino signing off and headed out for provisions. See you tomorrow and standing by on channel 16. (Why 16 now instead of 68? 16 is the channel everyone is required to monitor. This is the coast guard and distress channel. Once you hail someone you then politely ask them to jump to another channel, say 68 or 9 for example. The flotilla chose 68 as their home channel to communicate during the trip but now that the flotilla is over we don’t have anyone looking for us on 68. So we do as every prudent boater does, we monitor channel 16 (as is required for safety) and if we find someone to talk to then we pick another channel and hop over to that one to chat.

  • Left Dock/Weighed anchor: Ropes off at 10:30 AM
  • Cruise Log: 22 Nautical Miles of narrows and 50 NM total for the day
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and calm
  • Navigational Obstacles: Channel Markers, Range Markers, Hazard markers. You name it we saw it today. Thanks to Kevin and Sam at the Waggoner group who helped us learn about all of these tricky navigational obstacles. Sumner straight was a mind field of shrimp pots. Yikes this was be very furtile shrimping grounds! Wish I had time to drop a pot!
  • Wildlife Sighting: Too busy today paying attention to the range markers but still saw Eagles and seals.
  • Arrived Dock/Dropped anchor: Arrived @ 7:30 PM
  • Slip for the night: $40

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