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Author Topic:   Inside Passage, Seattle to Alaska
20dauntless posted 02-06-2012 12:09 PM ET (US)   Profile for 20dauntless  
This summer I'm boating from Washington to SE Alaska (alas, I am not taking the Whaler...3 months on an open boat sounds rough) and am looking for any tips for great places to see along the way. I'll be out for 3-4 months and don't have much of a schedule to keep. I generally prefer anchoring over marinas and scenery/wildlife over people, but I'm open to everything. I also Iike learning about local culture and history.

For any of you that live along the route or have traveled the Inside Passage in the past, what were your favorite spots? Any places to avoid? Any advice?

I know I won't be able to see it all. In fact, I'm fairly confident that I could spend every summer for the rest of my life between Seattle and Alaska and not see it all. But I'd like to make the most of my time and see the spots that are most highly recommended.

Thanks for the help!


WT posted 02-06-2012 12:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
My friend's business partner is sponsoring this reality TV show based on some guys that traveled from Seattle to Russia on SeaDoos, 4500 miles....

Here's there website, I believe they have a bunch of video clips.

Have a blast!


jimp posted 02-07-2012 11:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Sam -

What are you cruising aboard?

You can visit the towns and tourist spots. But the fun stuff is more remote as you mentioned.

The State of Alaska has numerous "open moorage" public "refuge" floats in remote areas - first come, first served. Just pull in and tie up. Don't wait until dinner time to find one, they will be full. We usually get to them early afternoon to allow time for exploring ashore. Some have direct access to shore, others are "near shore" and you need a small boat to get there. They can be fun places in the evening as other boaters from all over show up - families, guys out fishing for the weekend, cruisers, etc.

I'm up in Juneau, give a yell before you come up as we have some travel plans for the summer.


jimp posted 02-07-2012 11:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp
20dauntless posted 02-07-2012 01:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Warren, that looks like quite the trip. Not my style of travel, but cool nonetheless.

Jim, I'll be in a 22' C-Dory for the trip. I've read some about the public docks and cabins located all over SE Alaska, but I hadn't seen that nice PDF. I'll be sure to bring a copy with me. Are there any anchorages or public docks that you are particularly fond of? I'll be writing a blog ( during the trip and will have a SPOT locator transmitting when I remember to turn it on. I'm sure I'll be through Juneau at some point and it'd be neat to hear from a local about their favorite places and experiences.


jimp posted 02-07-2012 02:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Sam -

Below link will take you to some pictures. Two Memorial Day Cruises and Swanson Harbor show trips from Juneau to the Swanson Harbor and Funter Bay floats. They're easy trips from Juneau.

Also, the 1995 state harbor directory is the most recent. Some of the info is dated, but most is accurate.


Hal Watkins posted 02-07-2012 02:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hal Watkins  Send Email to Hal Watkins     
This cruise is on my "bucket list". I always thought if a 22' C-Dory could do it why not a Whaler w/Cuddy? I would like to do it as part of a group with a couple boats with experience.
This couple has been everywhere...

Good luck. Hal

20dauntless posted 02-07-2012 03:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Jim, thanks for the suggestions. I'll make a note of those places in my guidebooks and hopefully will have a chance to visit.

Hal, a Whaler with cuddy would be a fine boat for the trip I think. It's certainly seaworthy enough and probably has plenty of range. The bigger issue would be'd want good canvas and probably a diesel furnace to keep things warm and dry. In my view, the C-Dory makes a much better cruising boat than a Whaler with a cuddy. The pilothouse provides a nice (albeit small) protected space to drive the boat from, cook, eat, and relax. The Whaler would certainly have other advantages, such as higher speed and a more comfortable high speed ride, but I think small pilothouse boats are generally better suited to cruising than cuddy cabin boats. One gentleman who has spent several summers cruising Alaska started with a 17' Montauk and had a blast, but he did switch over to a 22' and then 23' C-Dory, citing better cruising accommodations and comfort.

That link for Halcyon is a great example of the cruising possibilities for small boats. El and Bill lived aboard full time for a number of years and even wore out a pair of Honda 40's (3000 hours or so as I recall). They also took their son and grandson (four people total) on their C-Dory 22 from Seattle to Alaska...too crowded for me, but good for them for making it work.

jimp posted 02-07-2012 03:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Hal/Sam -

If you make the investment in canvas for a Whaler with a cuddy you can create a comfortable camper. See the pics of my 1990 Revenge 22 W.T. I bought the sewing machine end made the canvas myself. With the 225 Merc Optimax I cruise at 29 knots and 3 nautical mpg. We do 90% of our cruising with the canvas stowed.

That said, a solid cabin boat is better in the rain.


JMARTIN posted 02-07-2012 07:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
Can I go too?

Sam, you have done some fairly isolated trips before, like to Desolation? It sounds like a great trip, no real time schedule, take it as it goes. I have zero experience to the North. I will follow your blog.

As far as the discussion on the amenities of a 22 C-Dory versus a 22 Revenge or Cuddy, no contest, the C-Dory wins hands down. Built in water/sink, built in cooking facilities, built in heat, and built in pooper. Maybe built in refrigeration and a hand shower?

I camp for a couple of days at a time on the Revenge. My water is a 3 gallon pump sprayer and bucket. My cooking facilities consist of a single butane burner, a cutting board, and an ice chest. Porta Potty if I really got to go and an extra jacket for heat. A week on the Revenge would be enough for me, let alone a couple of months.

Do you have to worry about bears coming down on to the dock at some of these places where you can walk ashore? Will you have a tender with you?


jimp posted 02-07-2012 08:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
John -

Concur with a solid cabin boat being a better cruiser.

Yes, bears, black or brown, can get down to the floats that have ramps. Makes the evening festivities interesting. Likely happens late at night after everybody is sleeping as it is very quiet. Make enough noise and you usually don't see bears.

Except back in 1998. We were moored at the Funter Bay refuge float about 30 yards offshore (no ramp to shore) and a sow brown bear and two cubs came walking down the beach right before dark. All the activities stopped on the boats as all the boaters watched the bears walking by. Pretty exciting.

We carry an inflatable Avon Red Crest.

Also, many of the smaller communities with small boat harbors have pay showers... with hot water after Memorial Day. I took at 36F pay shower in Pelican on May 29th!


20dauntless posted 02-08-2012 11:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
John, I've spent up to a month on the boat before on a trip to Desolation Sound, Princess Louisa, and Howe Sound, so I'm comfortable spending long periods of time on board. Lots of shorter trips in the Gulf Islands, San Juan's, and Puget Sound as well. I will be carrying a dinghy since I'll be anchored out much of the time. I think I'll use a 6'7" inflatable on the roof and an inflatable kayak in the cockpit.

Bears are a concern, probably a bigger issue when walking around and exploring on land than on the boat at a dock. I'll carry bear spray and I've got flare guns on board which supposedly scare bears somewhat effectively. Some have told me to carry a shotgun with slugs for bear protection, but I'm not sure if this is necessary.

jimp posted 02-08-2012 11:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Some bear guidance from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game:

Bear Behavior
One of the things that makes Alaska so special is that all three species of North American bears flourish here. There is a chance that you may be lucky enough to see a bear. But even if you don't, you will never be far from one, because Alaska is bear country.

Brown/grizzly bears are found from the islands of southeastern Alaska to the arctic. Black bears inhabit most of Alaska's forests. Polar bears frequent the pack ice and tundra of extreme northern and western Alaska.

Bears are curious, intelligent and potentially dangerous animals, but undue fear of bears can endanger both bears and people. Many bears are killed each year by people who are afraid of them. Respecting bears and learning proper behavior in their territory will help so that if you encounter a bear, neither of you will suffer needlessly from the experience.

Most bears tend to avoid people. In most cases, if you give a bear the opportunity to do the right thing, it will. Many bears live in Alaska and many people enjoy the outdoors, but surprisingly few people even see bears. Only a tiny percentage of those few are ever threatened by a bear. A study by the state epidemiologist showed that during the first 85 years of this century, only 20 people died in bear attacks in Alaska. In the 10 years 1975-85, 19 people in Alaska were killed by dogs.

Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. The presence of these majestic creatures is a reminder of how privileged we are to share some of the country's dwindling wilderness.

Bears and People
Bears Don't Like Surprises! • If you are hiking through bear country, make your presence known — especially where the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see. Make noise, sing, talk loudly or tie a bell to your pack. If possible, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect. Avoid thick brush. If you can't, try to walk with the wind at your back so your scent will warn bears of your presence. Contrary to popular belief, bears can see almost as well as people, but trust their noses much more than their eyes or ears. Always let bears know you are there.

Bears, like humans, use trails and roads. Don't set up camp close to a trail they might use. Detour around areas where you see or smell carcasses of fish or animals, or see scavengers congregated. A bear's food may be there and if the bear is nearby, it may defend the cache aggressively.

Don't Crowd Bears! • Give bears plenty of room. Some bears are more tolerant than others, but every bear has a personal “space” — the distance within which a bear feels threatened. If you stray within that zone, a bear may react aggressively. When photographing bears, use long lenses; getting close for a great shot could put you inside the danger zone.

Bears Are Always Looking for Something to Eat! • Bears have only about six months to build up fat reserves for their long winter hibernation. Don't let them learn human food or garbage is an easy meal. It is both foolish and illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them.

Cook away from your tent. Store all food away from your campsite. Hang food out of reach of bears if possible. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or specially designed bear-proof containers. Remember, pets and their food may also attract bears.

Keep a clean camp. Wash your dishes. Avoid smelly food like bacon and smoked fish. Keep food smells off your clothing. Burn garbage completely in a hot fire and pack out the remains. Food and garbage are equally attractive to a bear so treat them with equal care. Burying garbage is a waste of time. Bears have keen noses and are great diggers.

If a bear approaches while you are fishing, stop fishing. If you have a fish on your line, don't let it splash. If that's not possible, cut your line. If a bear learns it can obtain fish just by approaching fishermen, it will return for more.

Close Encounters: What to do
If you see a bear, avoid it if you can. Give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Chances are, you are not in danger. Most bears are interested only in protecting food, cubs, or their “personal space.” Once the threat is removed, they will move on. Remember the following:

Identify Yourself • Let the bear know you are human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.

Don't Run • You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Bang pots and pans. Use noisemakers. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

If Attacked • If a bear actually makes contact, you have two choices: play dead or fight back. The best choice depends on whether the bear is reacting defensively or is seeking food. Play dead if you are attacked by a grizzly bear you have surprised, encountered on a carcass, or any female bear that seems to be protecting cubs. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a bear will break off its attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees of hears you, it may return and renew its attack. Rarely, lone black bears or grizzlies may perceive a person as potential food. Fight any bear that follows you or breaks into a tent or building. Fight any black bear regardless of circumstances.

Firearms should never be used as an alternative to common-sense approaches to bear encounters. If you are inexperienced with a firearm in emergency situations, you are more likely to be injured by a gun than a bear. It is illegal to carry firearms in some of Alaska's national parks, so check before you go.

A .300-Magnum rifle or a 12-gauge shotgun with rifled slugs are appropriate weapons if you have to shoot a bear. Heavy handguns such as a .44-Magnum may be inadequate in emergency situations, especially in untrained hands.

State law allows a bear to be shot in self-defense if you did not provoke the attack and if there is no alternative. But the hide and skull must be salvaged and turned over to the authorities.

Defensive aerosol sprays which contain capsicum (red pepper extract) have been used with some success for protection against bears. These sprays may be effective at a range of 6-8 yards. If discharged upwind or in a vehicle, they can disable the user. Take appropriate precautions. If you carry a spray can, keep it handy and know how to use it.

In Summary

Female bears can be fierce defenders of their young. Getting between a female and her cubs is a serious mistake. A female bear may respond aggressively to any threat she perceives to her cubs.•Avoid surprising bears at close distance; look for signs of bears and make plenty of noise.
•Avoid crowding bears; respect their “personal space.”
•Avoid attracting bears through improper handling of food or garbage.
•Plan ahead, stay calm, identify yourself, don't run.
In most cases, bears are not a threat, but they do deserve your respect and attention. When traveling in bear country, keep alert and enjoy the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

WT posted 02-08-2012 11:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT php?cx=partner-pub-4355918153748656%3Ahw4fo1-1sk8&cof=FORID%3A10& ie=ISO-8859-1&q=inside+passage&sa=Search+the+C-Brats&siteurl=www.

WT posted 02-08-2012 01:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
Man oh man, that sounds like a heck of a trip. I was looking at C-Dorys with the Strike3 gang and ran across C-Brats.

And it's great that at age 22 you can make the time and financaial comittment for such a long trip.

Good luck and have a blast.


20dauntless posted 02-08-2012 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Warren, the C-Brats are a great group and an invaluable resource for small boat cruising. I've asked the same question over there and gotten lots of good info. The reason for posting here as well is just to get a greater diversity of opinions.

I figured this is an ideal time in my life to take a longer trip. Work (or lack thereof), family, finances, and available time are all aligned right now, but I doubt they will for long.

boatdryver posted 02-14-2012 10:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
20dauntless, this will be a fabulous trip for you.

We were stuck with a 10 knot cruising speed. For you, there will be lots of flat water for you to bump up your speed if you wish.

Some of our favorite places between Seattle and Glacier Bay:

"Resorts" with facilities, especially welcome for someone on a C Dory:
Blind Channel, Lagoon Cove, Echo Bay, Sullivan Bay, Shawl Bay

Anchorages in the Broughtons (you may never leave this area, it is so perfect for cruising)-Waddington Bay, Joe Cove, Blunden Harbor (crawling with Dungeness), Drury Inlet

Memorable anchorages on up North:
Greenbottle Inlet or Cove, near Klemtu-small and cozy
Lowe Inlet
Misty Fjords East of Ketchikan-Walker Cove

Glacier Bay: I wouldn't go here again unless it was on my bucket list; It is so very vast and barren. To experience icebergs, Tracy Arm South of Juneau is prettier, much closer to everything. Anchor in Holkham Bay just at the entrance.

Regarding which route to take between the Strait of Georgia and the Broughton Archipelago, we have a strong preference for the "Inside" or Eastern route up Yuculta, Dent, Green Point, and Whirlpool rapids. It minimizes miles in Johnstone Strait and is very pretty. One can anchor in the Hole in the Wall waiting for slack at Yuculta.

Wish we could go again, but our cruising boat is now a Lake Union condo, owned by someone else.


boatdryver posted 02-14-2012 10:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
Brown Bear as shot from our dinghy. Walker Cove, Misty Fjords East of Ketchikan.

There were as many as 5 bears cavorting on the beach at near dusk in June 2012

I had one hand on the camera and one hand on the throttle. This guy was checking us out while dining on sedge grass.


20dauntless posted 02-14-2012 01:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Jim, thanks for the tips. I am planning on visiting LeConte Glacier as well as Endicott Arm (and Fords Terror) and Tracy Arm. I think I'll also visit Glacier Bay, I just feel like an Inside Passage trip wouldn't be complete without it.

Cool picture of the bear! Did you spend much time ashore in remote anchorages? If so, what did you carry for bear protection?

boatdryver posted 02-14-2012 11:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
not much time spent ashore in remote anchorages because where we were there are generally no trails and the forest was impenetrable or terrain too steep.Plus the tide can go out so far that the dinghy (ours weighed 500 lbs) may be a long way from the water when one returns.

It was still great to anchor close to shore and watch the wildlife late evenings and early mornings. wolves, foxes, Deer, Moose bears. We saw bears and moose swimming and approached within 50 feet or so in the boat.

I did have to take our terrier ashore every night and every morning but this usually consisted of hopping off the dinghy for a few minutes on a gravel beach. Sometimes the dog refused to get off the dink. That got my attention. One such night there was a big pile of scat near our landing spot.

North of Meyers Chuck on the way to Wrangell there is the Annan bear Observatory. there is a trail there and a platform to observe bears. Our crew went ashore there without bear protection and saw steaming scat but no bears that day. I stayed in the big boat as I didn't want to leave the anchored boat unattended.

The Kwakiutl guide at Mamalilacula carried a sawed off shotgun with slug shells in a bag when he went ashore to do his show for us. We were told there had never been a bear attack on a party of 4 or more. There were two of us. In hindsight I should have had bear spray and a boat air horn.


lizard posted 02-21-2012 09:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for lizard  Send Email to lizard     
JimL- The material above states never to make a high pitched squeal. Would you consider a boating horn a high pitched squeal? I might. What other easy to carry audible items might be used?
boatdryver posted 02-21-2012 10:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
police whistles, hand clapping, shaking an empty can with pebbles inside, and talking in loud voices are common recommendations when on foot in bear country.

I don't think a bear would confuse the sound of a compressed air horn with the cry of a prey animal though.


DeeVee posted 02-26-2012 09:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for DeeVee  Send Email to DeeVee     
If you think a trip to Alaska in an open boat would be primitive, try rowing. Two friends of ours rowed from Shelton, Wa to Alaska (I don't know where in Alaska). They have many interesting stories.

These guys are your mountain climber types. I am not.

The closest I have come to a trip to Alaska was running our Montauk from Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC to the head of Rivers Inlet, BC for a salmon fishing trip.

That was a very memorable trip.


COINJAM posted 03-05-2012 01:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for COINJAM  Send Email to COINJAM     
Sam, We have whole series of paper charts from Seattle to Glacier Bay. (34 charts)
Have lent them out several times and it's always fun to read the notations they make on the maps.....Bishop Hot Springs and Warm Springs Bay seem to get the most positive feedback. You're certainly welcome to use them for the summer..I'm in Seattle.
20dauntless posted 03-05-2012 03:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
COINJAM, thanks for the chart offer. I've already borrowed the whole set of NOAA and CHS charts for the Inside Passage and a bunch of guidebooks, so I think I'm good there. I'll definitely check out Bishop Hot Springs and Warm Springs Bay though.
COINJAM posted 03-05-2012 10:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for COINJAM  Send Email to COINJAM     
Sam, about 10 years ago leaving Sitka on our way south, we ran into 5 or 6 C-DORYS traveling together thru Peril Straits on their way home. This was in late July - they had left Seattle in mid may..met up with them later that night in Warm Springs Bay. They were making about 10 knots and their spirits were high. You might check C-Dorys websight - they were documenting the entire trip...

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