“Sometimes, when asked where we are, it’s difficult to answer because we’re nearly always on the move to someplace else. But it raises an interesting legal point too. On many occasions we’re formally questioned about where we live and it’s easy to answer that we live on a sailing boat; all the time fully expecting the next question… where is it located? For banking, tax and many other purposes we need a fixed address, which is a remarkable statement on the way society is organised and structured really. So, in answer to your question, we are from England and ‘live’ in Nottingham… although legally I live with my mother. Try and work that one out if you can.” Dave
It’s been another fine summer here in the north-west. The sun came out in Hoonah in early May and throughout our sailing cruise south, through the incredibly scenic Inside Passage, the warm sunshine has hardly diminished. That’s not to say the normally incessant rain has stayed away entirely, there has been some wet days – but not many. The general water shortage has caused restrictions and problems finding fresh water but our onboard watermaker has been a real boon… just like being back in the tropics! All the locals are talking about this summer being the warmest and driest for a good many years – longer than many can remember in fact. Is this global warming?
Everything began in April when we returned to Hoonah, where Sänna had been hauled out for the winter. We needed to get things ship shape with some urgent maintenance to the gearbox transmission and to the prop shaft – which had to be completed before re-launching into the water and, of course, we completed this work ourselves. Furthermore, if you’ve kept yourself up to date and read our blogs then you’ll have already seen that we made so many good friends in Hoonah – it was a very hard place to leave. It’s the usual story… we leave friendships behind.
After sailing to the remote community of Pelican to test the work we’d completed on Sänna, we returned to Hoonah where Gary Cole joined us and together we made our way across the Icy Strait and then into Glacier Bay. Much of it was ice bound and you can read about our amazing sail through the glacier ice-fields here; our experience in Glacier Bay is the subject of our well received blog On Thin Ice. From there it was south. This year we decided to avoid the cruise ship route through the Inside Passage and that made all the difference. Alaska just opened up. Off the cruising tourist trail it’s still easy to find the Alaska we expected; not like our disappointing experience last summer when everything just fell apart because of tourism hell. This time we stayed well clear and found the wild wilderness, the remote communities and the hard-core people this part of the world attracts. Our long winter in Hoonah had prepared us well.
Following the less travelled channels through the numerous islands, we traversed the Peril Strait to wonderful Sitka and its fascinating Russian history, then south again to Craig on Prince of Wales Island… and to our disastrous encounter with the reef in Craig Harbour. Striking the reef there was not our finest hour. You can read all about our near sinking by following this link to our blog.
From Craig it was a long haul back to Ketchikan to exit US territory and then back once more to Prince Rupert, British Columbia to enter Canada for the second time. We’d arrived in Prince Rupert almost twelve months before from Hawaii, then left to head north into Alaska but now we found ourselves making the voyage in reverse. South from Prince Rupert we once again tied up in Port Edward… we were anxious to find old friends there from last year. It all went well. We were fortunate to meet up with Blow by Blow and Morning Star… Leighton & Lynda had sailed from Hawaii at the same time as ourselves the previous year.
From Port Edward we then followed the stunning route south through the Inside Passage with the warm summer burning on and on. Unbelievable mountain clad anchorages and small, remote boardwalk communities where we could tie up and buy provisions, stretched all the way south to Bella Bella and Shearwater where, in July, Henry once again joined us for a couple of months of carefree sailing and just ‘hanging out’. We headed into the remote Fiordland region and then continued south, having by this time taken in Butedale, Ocean Falls and Dawson’s Landing… probably some of the most stunning locations we’ve ever visited onboard Sänna.
Eventually we reached Port McNeill on the north side of Vancouver Island, headed into the Broughtons wilderness region and then again continued south, cautiously negotiating the infamous ‘Rapids’ before spending time in Desolation Sound. By this time we were beginning to encounter the ‘crowd’… boaters from Vancouver and Seattle, particularly the big motor cruisers with more and more rich American types demanding their right of way. There was also a distinct lessening of the amazing wildlife too. There’s no doubt we were leaving the solitude life behind and everything began to change. Eventually, we sailed straight into the centre of one the world’s most beautiful cities… Vancouver.
We were amazed to discover that we could anchor in False Creek for free… no cost at all. Finding ourselves right in the middle of Vancouver, just off the cultural centre of Granville Island, was simply staggering and we could take our dinghy ashore just about anywhere we chose. This was undoubtedly a huge change from our normal wilderness experience and we relished our new life as ‘big city’ cosmopolitan types… even though we were surrounded by numerous other sail boats – and the ubiquitous expensive cruising boats of ever increasing length and levels of opulence.
But it would be wrong of us to complain. Vancouver is rightly considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities and we’ve enjoyed every minute of our near two months stay. A very good friend, Bob Jones, arrived from England and we ventured over to the Gulf Islands to explore yet more stunning places… with Vancouver Island as the backdrop to a much quieter time once the summer high peak cruising season ceased and the Yanks had retreated across the border.
At this time of writing Sänna is now hauled out of the water in Anacortes, Washington State in the pacific-northwest US; our Customs’ time limit in Canada came upon us suddenly whilst here in the US there’s much easier restrictions on foreign flagged vessels. We’ve found a good boat yard to undertake a refit and some modifications to Sänna – we’ll venture north again next year and return to Alaska. Our onboard heating systems have sometimes proved unsatisfactory and we have other problems because Sänna, being a European build vessel, has distinct differences with the facilities here in the American northwest which are often to much different specifications.
Right now we have abandoned our plan to sail south to Central America and Panama… we will go north again next year and our original Northwest Passage plan is looking distinctly possible once again…
Dave & Marie.
Anacortes, Washington State – November 2015