After 40 days and more than 1,600 miles under Antoinette's keel since departing Seattle, I have officially completed the Inside Passage. I made it to Skagway a couple days ago and have been busy preparing for the next leg of my journey while waiting out weather. After Laura and Charlie's departure a bit more than week ago, I remained in Glacier Bay for a couple days taking care of various projects aboard Antoinette that I had not yet been able to attend to including the installation of a new transducer that FINALLY arrived. Despite strong westerlies, the weather in Glacier Bay remained stunningly beautiful with the entirety of the Fairweather Range visible from Bartlett Cove.
With freshly clean laundry, I departed Glacier Bay last Wednesday afternoon to make the easy 30 nm hop over to Hoonah. Hoonah, located on the north side of Chichagof Island, is the largest Tlingit village in Southeast Alaska and is the best anchorage in the vicinity of the entrance to Glacier Bay. To my amazement, about an hour after entering the Icy Strait, my boat was swarmed by a massive pod of killer whales not far from Point Adolphus. There were dozens of whales moving slowly with their calves and I could not pass up the opportunity to turn around and follow them. I quietly drifted with them for more than two hours as they swam west into the southern passage around Lemesurier Island. A few curious orcas repeatedly swam right past no more than a boat length away. One female swam directly toward Antoinette and passed directly under her transom, mere feet below the surface! It was an incredible experience that I will never forget as long as I live.
By the time the blackfish were gone, the sun had dipped over the horizon and the Icy Strait became a rather dark place, but Bob (the autopilot) and my chart plotter kept us on course. We made a GPS approach into Hoonah and I finally dropped the hook in a small cove just south of Hoonah around 2am. Heavy rains followed me into off the Icy Strait and I spent the following day hunkered down in Hoonah avoiding the awful conditions out on the water. The locals were friendly and their beer was cold, I couldn't ask for much more. The sun returned Friday afternoon and I took the opportunity to stretch my legs by exploring the village and taking a walk out to nearby Cannery Point. Before I knew it, another day had lapsed and it was time to get serious about planning the rest of my trip. The following day I reprovisioned and set out for Swanson Harbor, located at the southern end of the Lynn Canal. With decent westerlies still blowing, I made good time and tied up at the public use float in the Harbor.
I set out early Sunday morning to take advantage of the flood tide up the Lynn Canal. Lucky for me, the winds had shifted to southerlies and I was able to get a spinnaker up for the first time on this trip. With 20 knots of wind on the stern and a following sea, Antoinette screamed up the Lynn Canal and the miles ticked away, albeit with a lot of swearing from her singlehanded captain as he wrestled with kite to keep it well behaved. The only anchorage without a leeward shore that night was on the western side of Sullivan Island. I crashed hard that night, harder than I had in a very long time, despite Antoinette pitching and rolling in 15 knots of wind. With a little extra chain set out, my fancy Rocna anchor didn't even budge.
The southerlies grew stronger as I continued up the Lynn Channel Monday morning and with them came rain. A small craft advisory was in effect so I thought it best not to tempt fate with the spinnaker and chose instead to pole out the genoa. While moving the whisker pole over on a gybe, I lost one of my favorite hats to the sea. Winds were 25 knots sustained gusting to 30 by the time I made it Skagway early that afternoon and I was happy the harbor master had room for me to tie up in the marina. During the Klondike Gold Rush of the the late 1890's, more than 100,000 prospectors landed in Skagway. Today, despite it being one of the major destinations for the cruise ships, Skagway's rich history is remarkable accessible, thanks in large part to the National Park Service. Strong southerlies have persisted since my arrival in Skagway but have now begun to diminish. From here I will return to the Icy Strait backtracking past Hoonah into the Cross Sound. From there I will sail out to the open ocean where I will turn south and head for Sitka.