#51 North To Alaska

"Way up north; way up north, north to Alaska, you go north, the rush is on...". I can't get that old Johnny Horton song out of my head. I was 7 or 8 when it came out. Now that we are pushing north, what was once my imaginary Alaska is turning into reality. Each degree of latitude posts silently on the panel and I start making my own version of the song. "North, dum de dum, to Alaska, I said North, dum de dum, no time to waste...". OK, in MY mind it rhymes!

So we're moving almost every day. It's just Debbie and I for this part of the trip. Lot's of daylight so we pack a few miles on each day, then spend the night in some quiet cove usually by ourselves. Summertime in Alaska is glorious with a mix of sunny and rainy weather. We haven't used heating or air conditioning for weeks so much of our time at anchor is spent on battery. Not even the gentle hum of the generator to disturb the natural sounds.

Because of it's proximity to Kansas City our family has spent many a pleasant summer vacation in Colorado. More than once I've reflected on how much the Inside Passage landscape reminds me of that. If you filled the Colorado Rockies part way to sea level I think it would be a similar picture. I knew this felt familiar! Oh well, meaningless reflection.

Here are a few highlights of the last few days....

Eliana at one of our night stops. See, it's like Colorado with water! Click to enlarge.

A nearby fresh water lake spills into our bay with a water fall.

At low tide, the water fall gets pretty high. The increased agitation of fresh water falling into salt water makes these foam balls which float into our anchorage.

Scenery along the way.

Shared with the occasional cruise ship passing by.


You may remember Dan Shank and Janet Jordan who helped us move Eliana from California to Seattle in May. Well, their summers are spent in Shearwater which made this a major stop for us.

Shearwater has a colorful history which began at the onset of World War II. The site was chosen by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a reconnaissance base because of it's location and protected harbor. Built for over 2,000 people, the base supported a fleet of amphibious aircraft. After the war the base closed, but the property was bought by Andrew Widsten of nearby Bella Coola. Andrew had plans to rebuild it as a community serving the central coast with marine services. Now, after more than 60 years of hard work and dedication, Shearwater is beautiful, still owned and managed by the Widsten family. The people of Shearwater today serve the boating and recreational fishing industry in a place that couldn't be more perfect for it.

During our stay in Shearwater, Dan and Janet took us for a Sunday trip up Roscoe Inlet on Dan's boat "Makaatur". We were able to cover distance quickly to reach all the way to a beautiful Quartcha Bay with a river inlet where the Salmon will be gathering soon. We dropped a couple of crab pots for dinner that night. Best of all we had a great time AND we left Shearwater with the freezer full of salmon.

Shearwater's waterfront park.

One of the original hangar structures remodeled to serve the community.

Nicely done local shops.

Recreational fishing is the main business. Fishing vacation for a week is about $2,500 all inclusive. And believe me the fishing is good.

Janet Jordan with Debbie and I on a rock in the middle of Roscoe Inlet. Click to enlarge.

Quartcha Bay. Soon, this water will be teaming with salmon returning to spawn.

We got a huge catch out of the two pots that soaked only two hours. Dan holds one up for the camera.

Ketchikan, AK

All boats arriving to Alaska check in at Ketchikan hence the nickname "Alaska's First City". Because of it's location, Ketchikan has a unique mission that has evolved through mining and fishing to now include being a major transportation hub. The narrow strip of water called Tongass Narrows in front of the city is alive with cruise ships, float planes fishing boats and ferries all seemingly going in different directions. But it's still a real town with real people. Mike Youngblood is a bank executive in Ketchikan with a passion for Alaska and a boater himself. He lives in the perfect place to see just about every boat coming by on the way north. Mike has been following Eliana's Journal so he knew without doubt we would be stopping and was eager to welcome us to his home city. I liked having a local give us a walking tour, share some of the history and show us where the post office is. In fact, I think we should make a point to find someone like Mike everywhere we go.

Ketchikan, population 18,000.

Ketchikan has no flat ground. What isn't built out over the water goes up the side of the mountain.

Mike Youngblood. A boater himself poses beside his Mainship.

Petersburg, AK

Half the fun of Petersburg is getting there. I've heard all the forewarnings and harrowing tales of Wrangell Narrows. Yes, it is a technical stretch. I probably wouldn't do it at night. Honestly, though, navigating through Wrangell Narrows is straightforward. I timed the two hour passage one hour before to one hour after slack tide. It was well marked and depths were EXACTLY as charted so there was no doubt or any surprises. Petersburg is strategically located at the north end of the narrows so we stopped in for a visit.

I've never been to Norway but I did go to high school in Powhattan, KS which had a strong, hard working group of families with Norwegian background in the community. What makes Petersburg stand out in SE Alaska is it's Norwegian heritage. It's called Alaska's "Little Norway". It only seems natural that these hearty Scandinavians would have come to a place so similar to their homeland doing they have done so well for centuries ... fish. Fish and seafood processing is the dominant theme of Petersburg. No cruise ships stop here. Nothing to see other than the real Alaskans working hard and proudly building their community. We enjoyed our visit and were treated well by the friendly people in Petersburg.

Wrangell Narrows. Click to enlarge.

Historic "Sons of Norway Hall" stands on pilings at the entrance to the saltwater inlet.

Downtown Petersburg AK, population 3, 080. Reminds me of my hometown, Hiawatha, KS.

That's all for now. I will continue to place the "Track Eliana" link below, however coverage is spotty up here so we may not be visible for a few weeks now. Once back in civilization, it will work again.

Rick Heiniger

N7617 Eliana

Lying: Cosmos Cove, Baranof Island

Mileage: 6,092 Miles

Track Eliana


rick, another great posting. it must be quite something for both of you to wake up in the morning and instead of having to drag garbage to the end of the driveway be able to look around at a secluded bay with mountains rising up into the clouds, bliss! curious, do you keep a log for eliana? daily, hourly or just to record mechanical problems that come up? jon Hi Jon, We maintain three separate logs for Eliana. Eliana's Journal serves as our social log. It doesn't have everything in it, but nothing could. It has helped us many times reconstruct details of where we've been, who's been aboard, etc. The maintenance log is very detailed and covers every system and piece of equipment on the boat. We use Wheelhouse Technologies website for this purpose. Finally, we keep an underway log. Each hour of underway all of our vital statistics are automatically recorded into a database. We can add additional entries to note anything unusual we want. This logging is done using the MaxSea software which is always running anyway when we're underway. Rick
"the battle of new orleans" is my favorite Johnny Horton song.
Ruth Ellis 7/20/2011
Rick & Debbie, I ran across your blog after reading one of Debbie's posts on facebook and am so excited for you. George and I are about to cruise the Inside Passage July 29 - Aug. 5th. Perhaps our ships will pass one another. What a wonderful dream come true for the two of you. I'm enjoying your posts. God Bless, Ruth & George Ellis
Kathy Clark 7/20/2011
Beuatiful photos and a great write-up. Alaska is high on our list, but probably not for a few years. Too much to see and do on the east coast, Europe and South America first! Can't wait to meet up with you guys somewhere along the way! Kathy and Bradley Shear Madness
Mix, Michael 7/20/2011
SUBJECT: Registration Question Hi Rick, Mike Mix here.  Don’t know if you remember me but my wife and I know Debbie from High School.  Jan and I recently purchased a Fairline Turbo 36 (Why Knot II) that we keep moored on the Thames River here in the UK.   Our travel is nothing compared to yours but we did bring her around from South Hampton through the Solent, past Dover, and up the Thames estuary and into the locks on the Thames last December.  It was a wild trip as it was -10 C and our heater quit.  We faced moderate seas and gale force winds and we not only had a 6” snow storm that paralyzed London, but we also saw the marina we were headed to freeze over forcing us to seek refuge temporarily on an ice free mooring right on the river channel.  The ice was a cruel blow as we were stopped just two short miles from our intended destination.  We made it 158 miles out of the 160 miles planned.  It took us 3 days to go that distance but an additional 2 weeks for the ice to clear.  We looked more like Elk hunters in Colorado than seaman (photo attached). Our vessel was manufactured in England and is known for its sea worthiness.  We purchased it with the intention of travelling across the English Channel and up and down the French coast.  Our second daughter married a Dutchman and we want to visit his parents there.  Our other idea is to take it into the rivers and cannels in France as far as we can go.  However, I ran into one snag on international registration that I need to take it into foreign waters.  Since I am not a British resident I can’t register it here in the UK.  When I looked into registering it in the states, Delaware seemed to be the least complicated location, but I was told that technically it should be moored in Delaware waters for at least of any given year. Where did you register Eliana?  I thought I saw that you have Kansas City designated on her.  I have registered several ski boats in Kansas and Missouri but never thought of trying to register her there. Any insight you can offer is appreciated. The Alaska photos are simply fantastic.  Mike Mix Project Development Manager Bechtel Civil - Infrastructure London, UK EC4V 6RN Phone - 00-44-207-651-7672 Dear Mike, It's great to hear from you. Debbie comments about you guys regularly saying she wants us to meet. Eliana flies the US flag under Coast Guard documentation. She is not state registered in any state since she would never stay in any one place long enough to require it. Sweet Charlotte on the other hand needed to be. Otherwise I would have no documentation that gives me clear title to her. So I registered her in Delaware for the same reason you stated. So far, we've not been to Delaware. Best of luck on that. Rick
Kathy Ellner 7/20/2011
SUBJECT: Thanks Hi Rick &Debbie, When Donna got back from her short visit with both of you, she shared the link to your blog. I have been reading & enjoying your narratives & pictures. I remember 1 summer when we went to NY& traveled with Richard's parents on their cabin cruiser around New York City, up the Hudson River into Lake Champlain & Mallet's Bay. It was one of the most relaxing trips, even with 2 kids, & beautiful scenery. On parts of the Hudson River, you could see West Point with the sun bouncing off the bluffs, the water rushing up the shores. I always wanted to take a trip through the Erie Canal, also I would have loved traveling the Intercoastal from NY to Florida. My inlays only made it once & then left the boat in Florida. I enjoy having our boat @ Lake of the Ozarks, but wish we could travel further. You might consider that trip up the Hudson, in the fall. It would be beautiful with the changing of the leaves. They could give Hiawatha a run for color. I just wanted to thank both of you for your journaling, pictures & sharing it with all of us. Enjoy, have a great time, travel safe. God bless both of you. Kathy Ellner Sent from my iPad
Cedric Rhoads 7/20/2011
Welcome to my home state, folks. Don't live there now, but while you can take me out of AK, you'll never get AK out of me. Majestic. Humbling. Extraordinary. Words still fail to capture it's essence. Enjoy, but be forewarned, AK will tug at you forevermore. Best to you both. Cedric