Ketchikan to Kake
(Mostly copied verbatim from our journal)

 

Day 1: June 2--Ketchikan to Totem Bight State Park (Tongass Narrows)--8 miles

Up to alarm on the ferry at 5AM.  Bid farewell to friends we'd made on the ferry trip, then disembarked at Ketchikan about 7AM.  Taxi to Thomas Boat Basin.  Had boat assembled and loaded by 9:30 AM.  To Discovery Center for USFS map of Tongass Forest then to Tongass Trading for gloves and stove fuel.  To Tatsuda IGA for $198 of food (2 weeks worth) and returned to kayak heavily laden.  Loaded food then walked to Pioneer Cafe for late breakfast.  Picked up burritos to go at Chico's Mexican Restaurant, money from ATM and back to boat.  Occasional light showers.  3 cruise ships at dock.  Scads of tourists. 

Got off about 3:45PM against 10-15mph headwind under mostly clear skies.  Water choppy.  Slow going.  Checked out Mud Bay, but no good camping.  Rounded next point into Totem Bight State Park about 7:30PM.  Nice beach and got permission from park hosts Bob and Linda to camp. 

Tired, but excited to be off!
        

Ready to set up kayak in Ketchikan

 

Back from the grocery store, we get ready to load

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A quick trip downtown for breakfast before leaving.  3 cruise ships dump thousands of tourists into town.

 

Ready to go!

 

Day 2, June 3--Totem Bight State Park to north of Niblack Hollow (Clarence Strait)--25 miles

Woke to sunny, calm and beautiful morning.  Wanted to take advantage of good conditions, so packed and left without breakfast and ate a couple granola bars en route.  Had sail up before end of Tongass Narrows with light SE breeze behind us.  Headed across to Camano Point, mostly under sail.  Paddled until 3 PM before stopping for lunch.  Right afterward, humpback surfaced just ahead of kayak.  Slapped hull to alert it to our presence.  Finally stopped about 5:30 on good beach about 3 miles north of Niblack Hollow.  Some mosquitoes and many gnats, but otherwise good camp.  Rain began just as we got into tent.

Longhouse at Totem Bight State Park

 

Dinner on the beach, Totem Bight State Park

 

Day 3, June 4--North of Niblack Hollow to Meyers Chuck (Clarence Strait)--7 miles

Both slept deeply, almost 12 hours.  Rained off and on during night.  Could hear logging equipment on Native land a few miles south of camp.  During breakfast heard forecast for small craft advisory and 25 knot winds during day.  Quickly finished breakfast, loaded boat and left about 10:30 AM.  Sailed for about 20 minutes in rising wind before striking sail.  Boisterous paddle until about noon when we turned out of Clarence Strait into shelter of Meyers Chuck.  Glad to get in.  Very windy, rainy and chilly. 

Paddled to dock in front of post office where we were met by Steve and Cassie Peavy, long-time residents and commercial fishing folks at Meyers Chuck.  They invited us in where Cassie, the post mistress, had a roaring fire going in the woodstove.  That, plus fresh cookies and hot coffee soon had us warmed up, which felt wonderful as we listened to gusts driving rain against the building outside.  Spent a couple hours there with them and Daryl, another Meyers Chuck  resident.  Cassie worked on post office business while Steve told stories of commercial fishing and growing up in Meyers Chuck and Kassan, another small community on Clarence Strait. 

Steve and Cassie Peavy

 

Cassie in the post office.  Thanks Cassie and Steve for the great cookies, coffee and conversation!

 

Our deluxe digs for the night!  Again, thanks Steve and Cassie!

 

Day 4, June 5--Meyers Chuck to Onslow Island (Clarence Strait)--11 miles

Up early to listen to weather.  Forecast called for diminishing winds in the afternoon, so went back to sleep until 8:30AM.  While packing up kayak, mail plane came in and residents in skiffs came from all directions to get mail.  We went over also and chatted with Steve and Cassie for awhile, then hiked around the bay, keeping an eye on the whitecaps in Clarence Strait.  Had lunch, then decided to head out about 3PM.  It was a bit rough at first, but wind diminished as we crossed Earnest Sound.  The crossing went well and we found a good camp on a point on the east side of Onslow Island. 

 

Meyers Chuck post office

 

Pearl with Japanese glass float in Steve and Cassie's yard.

 

Steve and Cassie's fishing boat Patsy, which they've owned for 40 years.

 

The mail plane comes into Meyers Chuck

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Sign in Meyers Chuck

 

Day 5, June 6--Onslow Island to McHenry Anchorage (Clarence Strait)--7 miles

Rained on and off during night and morning.  Windy, but waves small until gap between Eagle and Stone Islands.  Took several wave crests over the deck in choppy water.  Several Sitka deer on shore of Stone Island.  Decided to go on to Etolin Island, then push on to McHenry Anchorage.  20-25 knot winds but waves not too bad given short fetch.  Sea lions snorting loudly as we entered McHenry Anchorage.  We found a good place to camp in first cove around point at around 12:30AM.  Set up camp, had lunch, then took refuge in tent.  Read from The Cheechakoes, then long nap. 

Forecast for 30 knot winds in afternoon.  The wind in the tree tops sounded like it reached that too.   Red-breasted sapsucker flitted around camp.  Took walk to point in strong wind and scared up a porcupine on the beach. 

 

Pearl fixes dinner, sheltered from the rain by a hemlock tree.

 

Ready for a warm, dry nights sleep

 

Day 6, June 7--McHenry Anchorage to Stanhope Island (Clarence Strait)--8 miles

Rained all night.  Woke to alarm at 4AM.  Forecast was for small-craft warnings, but it was calm then and swarms of biting gnats clouded around us.  We decided to go and despite long carry, we were off by 5:20AM. Clouds  lovely on snowy and forested slopes.  Paddled steadily except when swatting bugs that hitched a ride with us.  Crossing went smoothly until 7AM when wind increased quickly.  Paddled hard for last half hour in rising wind.  Tide rip around Point Stanhope made seas steeper. Occasional crests broke over deck giving us a chilly bath. 

Once around Point, water calmed and we found best camp yet on west side of Stanhope Island.  Commanding view of Clarence Strait.  Fresh water pools above tidewater, fairly easy carry, protected tent site in forest.  We set up camp, then ravenous for breakfast, we ate, bathed and did laundry in rock pools.  Then read in tent, napped, and explored.  Relaxing afternoon--the wind was blowing hard and we were glad to be watching waves from shore.

We'd like to cross to west side of Clarence Strait tomorrow, but forecast for tomorrow isn't good.  This will be a good vantage point to monitor conditions. 

     

It's a long carry in the morning

 

Day 7, June 8--Stanhope Island (Clarence Strait)--0 miles

Rained all night.  Woke to alarm at 5:30AM.  Forecast for 20 knot winds with higher gusts.  Lincoln Rock just a few miles away in Clarence Strait reported 18 knots gusting to 30.  We went back to sleep until 11AM.  Had breakfast, read The Cheechakoes, then David went back to sleep until 4PM.  Watched whitecaps, tug boats, cruise ships and fishing boats on Clarence Strait.  Took beach walk and saw hermit thrush, loons, and heard a humpback whale spout.  Over dinner, we watched a mink gamboling on shore and up rocks to forest.

Forecast is for decreasing wind tomorrow.   Partly sunny this evening.

 

David looks over Clarence Strait from Stanhope Island

 

Flowers above beach, Stanhope Island

 

Day 8, June 9--Stanhope Island to Coffman Island (Clarence Strait)--11 miles

Woke to alarm at 4AM, packed and off by 5:15AM.  Clarence Strait finally placid.  Morning incredibly beautiful with rays of sun spotlighting snow-covered mountains above Strait.

Harbor porpoises followed us for awhile.  Arrived at Coffman Cove by 8AM.  Talked for awhile with Archie Bunker type on dock, a retired logger who resents Tongass Forest ban on large-scale logging.  Walked up to Riggin' Shack store, got a cup of coffee and ordered breakfast burritos at cafe next door. 

Headed up to library, where volunteer had opened up even though it was outside of regular hours.  Caught up on email and sent out trip update email.  Librarian asked us to tend library while she left for awhile.  Love the laid-back attitude of bush communities.  Walked around village, had lunch then departed around 5PM. 

Found nice cobble beach just north of village on Coffman Island .  Beautiful evening, mild, sun shining, hermit thrush singing, fabulous view of snow-covered Coast Range on mainland.

 

Finally a calm morning on Clarence Strait

 

A few hours later, we've crossed Clarence Strait and are enjoying breakfast out at Coffman Cove

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Done paddling for the day

 

Dinner overlooking Clarence Strait

 

Enjoying the evening.

 

Day 9, June 10--Coffman Island to north of West Island (Clarence Strait)--16 miles

Had breakfast of honeyed cherrios, about the only cereal available in Coffman Cove.  Off by 7:35AM.  Calm.  Paddled north to Blashkee Islands, then into labyrinth of channels inside islands.  Went over minor tidal overfall into lagoon, then discovered much stronger flooding overfall on other side.  Had lunch with kayak on siwash anchor and waited for slack current.  Napped for an hour, then paddled against remaining flood current and got through.  Saw 2 pairs of stunning Harlequin ducks as we left Blashkes.  Paddled through maze of islands to north of Blashkes, then found good camping island just north of West Island. 

  

A humpback whale accompanies us

 

Pearl checking the chart in Blashke Islands.  Kayak on siwash anchor in background.

 

Waiting for slack water to leave Blashke Islands.

 

Day 10, June 11--North of West Island to south of Point Colpoy (Clarence Strait)--12 miles

Slept well as usual early in trips.  David for 13 hours.  Left about 10:30, paddling against flood current.  Ferried across to POW Island, where we found stream to replenish water bottles.  Shortly after found larger stream and stopped to bathe while waiting for current to switch.  Continued on after slack water about 2PM.  Made brisker progress, arriving at camp near Point Colpoy about 5PM.  Humpback whale came by as we set up camp.  Another good camp with outstanding views.

 

A beautiful morning to be paddling.

 

Day 11, June 12--South. of Point Colpoy to Alice Creek (Sumner Strait)--13 miles

Up at 6AM to humpback blowing and breaching.  Sunny.  Wind light and variable.  Soon reached Point Colpoy and paddled along the south side of Sumner Strait. A couple salmon trollers and tugs with barges passed. us. 

Despite light contrary current we made decent time.  Made camp around 2PM on nice sand beach beside Alice Creek.  Set up camp, took nap, then paddled up creek to explore estuary.  Pristine looking wilderness up creek.  No sign of bears.  Surprised several female merganzers.  No salmon here yet.  Nice Indian paintbrush along shore. 

Again, beautiful views from camp across Sumner Strait to mainland mountains.  

  

Exploring estuary at Alice Creek

 

Indian paintbrush in Alice Creek estuary

 

Day 12, June 13-- Alice Creek to Port Protection (Sumner Strait)--6 miles

Cloudy, SW breeze.  Cool.  Got off at 8:30AM, stopping briefly at Point Baker.  Not much happening there.  Rather run-down looking.  Defunct-looking cafe, maybe too early in season to be open.  Post office, community building and cafe all on floats.  On to Port Protection a couple miles away.  Choppy water and chilly.  Pearl getting a bit chilled. 

Turning corner into Port Protection quite a contrast with Point Baker.  Lively place with many fishing boats in snug harbor, homes surrounding the harbor linked by boardwalks.  Stopped at Jack's float and went up to store.  Met Mayra, Puerto Rican woman with great sense of humor.  Wolfed down several cups of coffee, burritos and a sweet roll.  Then took free shower and did laundry ($1.50 per load, a bargain up here).  Everyone friendly.  Met Lance and Ellen and their dog.  Lance is long-time commercial fisherman.   Also met Litzy on the dock, who invited us to stay at her place.  Sorted through food box we'd mailed here, then bought more food and stowed it all.  Phoned Rocky, who we'd come across on the internet while looking for information on PP in the spring.  Paddled over to beach near his place where we met Mike Nichols, another commercial fisherman.  Then his wife, Gail walked up and we chatted a bit more, and they offered us a spot in their guest house.  Sweet!

Rocky had invited us to dinner and we helped him prepare salmon, fresh bread and rice.  Delicious!.  Turns out he's also a gifted artist and he showed us some of his artwork, paintings which are quite striking.  

       

Point Baker, a small fishing village

 

Port Protection, also a small fishing village

 

Day 13, June 14--Port Protection (Sumner Strait)--0 miles

We slept in until 8AM then made ourselves a pancake breakfast from mix in the guesthouse.  Finally we went out exploring the village boardwalks, community center and school.  Also chatted with Terry who is prepping for the Solstice Festival next weekend.  Everyone in the village is talking about it, one of the big events of the year here.  If we'd known, we would probably have delayed our trip by a week.  Next time...

Paddled to Back Bay in the afternoon, stopped at Litzy's place and talked with her awhile, then checked out some float houses before paddling back.  At the state dock, enjoyed talking with Lance and Ellen.  Ellen, a woman with a lot of gumption, has recently moved to Port Protection, purchased a fishing boat and is learning the salmon trolling trade from Lance.  We were so busy talking we had to hustle to make a dinner date at Mike and Gail's. 

More salmon--delicious!  As is Mike's home-brewed beer.  Enjoyed talking about life in PP, fishing, etc.  They report the "kayakers" are the latest talk of the town.  Most enjoyable evening.   

 

Boardwalk in Port Protection

 

Mayra at Port Protection store.  A lady with a great sense of humor.  She's from Puerto Rico, a long way from Alaska. 

 

Rocky and his son Obi.  Rocky is the local school teacher and a gifted artist.  Thanks for the welcome to PP, Rocky!

 

Our generous hosts, Mike and Gail.  Like many Port Protection residents, they make their living commercial fishing for salmon. 

 

Our home for 2 nights in Mike and Gail's guest house.  Thanks again guys!

 

Mike and Gail's salmon troller Longshot

 

Ellen's hand troller "Raggedy Ann"  Good luck Ellen!

 

Day 14, June 15--Port Protection to south of Rocky Pass--18 miles

Up around 7AM, had breakfast, then got photo of Mike and Gail.  Headed out about 10AM; as Mike watched from a rock on shore.  We both felt that Port Protection was a great stop and hope to return.  

Conditions calm as we rounded Point Baker and headed across Sumner Strait.  Beautiful paddle across strait with frequent stops to watch humpback whales, sea lions, pelagic cormorants, etc. 

As we neared Rocky Pass, there were sea otters in quantity.  Many family groups with young on their bellies as they back-floated watching us.  The place was alive with sea otters, whales, sea lions and birds.  Many sand beaches here and we stopped on one, a magical scene with otters all around.  We watched two of them wrestling in the water, then stopping, huffing and puffing, then go at it again.  Not sure if it was play or fighting. 

At the entrance to Rocky Pass we chose a small island surrounded by beach to camp for the night.  Cooked dinner with many otter eyes watching us.  Gorgeous evening.

     

Sea lions and pelagic cormorants on buoy, Sumner Strait

 

Crossing Sumner Strait, Pearl makes lunch on the foredeck. 

 

Camped at south entrance to Rocky Pass

 

Day 15, June 16--South of Rocky Pass to middle of Rocky Pass--8 miles

Up around 8AM to sunny skies again.  Leisurely morning waiting for current to turn.  Warm day.  Saw large raft of 100 or so sea otters in kelp bed shortly after leaving.  In constant chatter with each other.  Many with young on their stomachs.  Sailed  for the first hour into Rocky Pass.  Then wind shifted to NW and we had to paddle.  Fortunately had current with us.   Saw black bear briefly on Kupreanof shore.  Stopped for water at a stream on Kupreanof shore and saw moose tracks.  Heard thunder around mid-afternoon.  Very unusual for SE Alaska. 

Met group of 4 kayakers from Sitka shortly after Devils Elbow.  All work with Sitka Conservation Society.  We shared one of our maps with them and they encouraged us to visit the offices when we got to Sitka.  Encountered strong counter current at Summit, midway through Pass.  Camped shortly after that, around 5PM, on small islet with many Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers.  Lovely views up and down Pass. 

Watched black bear grazing on Kupreanof shore as we had cookies and tea after dinner.   We also saw long centipede-looking thing in water near shore.  About 2' long.  Quite unusual looking and appeared to exude milky substance from back end.  Fertilizing eggs?

 

The day dawns clear over Rocky Pass

 

Pearl enjoys breakfast in the sun

 

The wind cooperates as we enter Rocky Pass

 

A 2' long sea worm in Rocky Pass.  It looked like a giant centipede.

 

Day 16, June 17--Middle of Rocky Pass to Hamilton Island--21 miles

Overcast sky and cooler.  Up about 6:30, then ate and read until slack current about 10AM.  SE wind filling in, so raised sail and made good time.  Clearing skies as we left north end of Rocky Pass.  Little wildlife inside Pass compared to south entrance.  Sailed north end of Hamilton Island where we found decent camp.  Bathed in small stream nearby.  Just a few miles from Kake and resupply.   

 

Morning on our little island in Rocky Pass

 

Pearl works on the journal at Rocky Pass camp