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Old 15-12-2016, 04:45   #1
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Alaska : Flotilla 2017

Hi all,

Looking at Alaska for next year. I see there is a Flotilla organised by Waggonners guide. $2500 CAD. Have any of you done this trip with them? I guess cruising in company is fun but worth $2500? Any feed back you care to give would be much appreciated.

Also if you have cruised up the PNW to Alaska: Is a flotilla advised or necessary for first timers up there, simply added insurance or just peace of mind? Is there special knowledge required over and above that gained sailing in other Oceans ?

Any advice on cruising Alaska generally welcomed.

many thanks.
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Old 15-12-2016, 06:23   #2
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

One of the advantages of cruising the Inside Passage is that you can have an entire anchorage to yourself, maybe with a few waterfalls or a reversing tidal falls. There are also several hot springs along the route, but you will find company there. I cannot imagine doing it as part of a flotilla. Buy some guidebooks (the Douglas series is great) and some route planning strip maps (two of them cover the entire Inside Passage and are wonderful for route planning), and go. If you have sailed "other oceans" then the Inside Passage will be well within your skill range. Very little of the passage from Vancouver to Prince Rupert BC and on into SE Alaska needs to be in open ocean, and you would miss much of the attraction of the region if you did go outside in the Pacific. Think long, long channels with thousands of islands, bays, fjords, waterfalls, orcas, eagles, sea otters, glacial ice in a few places in Alaska, etc. - a wilderness wonderland. You have to pay attention to tides and currents - your chartplotter probably will provide the necessary information, but if not buy a copy of the Canadian current charts!

Plan ahead for Glacier Bay - you need permits to go into the national park and they have to be obtained WAY in advance, preferably by applying on the first day that it is possible to apply for the dates you want to be there. You can hang out in nearby anchorages until your date arrives. Applications here: https://www.nps.gov/glba/planyourvisit/boat.htm
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Old 15-12-2016, 06:30   #3
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

Second thoughts -
If you want to talk to people who have done the Inside Passage, book tickets to attend the Seattle Boat Show in January - there is bound to be a session on the Inside Passage. Or find the website for the Puget Sound Cruising Club - many members have done this trip.
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Old 15-12-2016, 07:03   #4
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

A few more thoughts:

Especially in BC, be on the lookout for floating wood, sometimes very hard to see until you're quite close.

"Ports and Passes" is the easiest-to-use current reference for BC, if your chartplotter does not provide current timing for the tidal rapids. Their timing is often quite different from the timing of the height of the tide.

When you "Cross the Queen", rounding Cape Caution between the north end of Vancouver Island and the BC north coast, take this into account (excerpt from my book):

There’s a special situation along the way you certainly want to avoid: wind from the west at the same time as a strong ebb current through the Nakwakto Rapids, flowing huge quantities of water from Seymour and Belize Inlets out through the narrow Slingsby Channel. This can set up a train of large and steep waves, starting in the mouth of Slingsby and continuing on westward for a mile or more in the open ocean. Check the Nakwakto current tables to see if this combination is likely, and if so steer clear, further out west than you might otherwise.


Another excerpt, on commercial fishing:

You also need to avoid fishing nets, and some are a challenge to spot. Commercial salmon trollers are easy to recognize and avoid, but many salmon boats use nets.

The biggest salmon boats are “purse seiners”, up to 58 feet long, with a crew of 4 or 5, and pretty easy to recognize. Seiners have a large winch boom over the aft deck, with a big hydraulic powered block used to bring the net back into the boat. They work with a small boat called a seine skiff, which sits up on the aft deck of the seiner when traveling. The skiff takes an end of the net and holds it in position, often tight against the rocks, while the seiner powers away from the skiff to lay the net out across a likely salmon travel route. Together they wait for a school of fish to come along and bunch up against the net.

Purse seine nets can be 1500 feet long. They hang deep in the water, suspended from a line of floats on the surface. When enough fish seem to be up against the net, the seiner and skiff work together to draw the net into a circle. The skiff end of the net is transferred back to the big boat, which then draws a line running through the bottom edge of the net, closing it up like a purse and trapping the fish. Then the net is hauled aboard, and fish are gathered into the last part of the net as it comes in. As the net is being retrieved, the skiff often takes a strain against a line from the seiner on the side away from the net, moving the big boat a little bit to help it keep clear of the gathering net. Seiners can be interesting to watch in action, and you can get fairly close if you make sure to keep out of their way. Unless visibility is pretty poor, you should be able to see seine operations and their net floats fairly easily.

Gill nets are trickier to spot. They’re also very long, made like a wall of nylon mesh hanging from a line of floats. The mesh is sized to the targeted type of salmon, just big enough for their heads to pass through, but not the fatter middle of their bodies. Their gill covers catch on the mesh, preventing them from backing out and swimming away.

Gill netters fish from a smaller boat, maybe 28 to 40 feet long, with a crew of only 1 or 2. They connect a big red float to one end of the net, set that in the water, and motor away from the float with the net paying out from a reel in either the bow or stern. Waiting for the fish, the boat usually stays connected to the net, but sometimes detaches, leaving both ends held by big floats. When the timing seems right, the net is slowly reeled back in, and fish are picked out of the mesh as they come into the boat.

The floats along gill nets are small, and hard to see from a distance, so be on the lookout for a big red float that’s 1000 feet or more from a relatively small and often stationary fishing boat, and then look for a line of floats in between. It pays to go slow, maybe using binocs to help you spot floats, when you think a gill net might be in your path. Gill netters often fish near each other, so if you spot one look for another. Getting through a group safely can be like negotiating a maze.


Another excerpt, on Glacier Bay:

Cruising Glacier Bay is no trivial undertaking. It is a very big place, and with its huge snow-covered mountains has some of the most challenging weather in Southeast. Distances are great, anchorages are few, and there are several restrictions.

Only 25 boats are allowed in Glacier Bay at a time, and you need an entry permit. Many cruisers make reservations ahead of time, and then find that weather or other difficulties make their schedule unworkable. From our experience, the best way to get a permit may be waiting to call Park HQ at Bartlett Cove until you’re close by (say at Hoonah or in Icy Strait), and the forecast for the next few days looks reasonable. For best odds, call right at 6 AM (they’re open 6 AM - 10:30 PM) on either (907) 697-2627 or VHF 12. Chances are fairly good that a cancellation has freed up a permit, and you can take advantage of it if you’re nearby and ready. If no permit is available, ask again later – they don’t mind.

You’ll need a minimum of two days in Glacier Bay to make it to and from the Margerie Glacier. The Margerie, at the top of Glacier Bay some 60 miles from the entrance, is a spectacular and active calving glacier. You can get fairly close to its face, some 200-300 feet high. On the way north, the Lamplugh and Johns Hopkins glaciers are spectacular as well. With a third or fourth day, you could see quite a bit more, at a less frantic pace, and have better odds of dealing with uncooperative weather.

To start your Glacier Bay excursion, stop in at Park HQ and attend an orientation on do’s and don’ts. As of 2008 the lecture was given only at pre-scheduled times, so you’ll want to plan your first day accordingly. You might try entering the park very early, calling Bartlett Cove to check in when you cross the boundary. Tie up at the float, and catch the 8AM orientation (bring your National Geographic map of the Bay so you can see details). With good weather, you should be able to make it a good part of the way north, to an anchorage at North Sandy Cove, Blue Mouse Cove, or in front of the glacier in Reid Inlet.

Parts of the bay are considered whale waters, where boat speed is limited to 13 knots. Even with a fast boat, you’ll find that first day pretty full, getting through the entry process and on to an anchorage, unless you anchor right there in Bartlett Cove (the float’s limited to a three-hour stay, except for dinghies). If you do anchor in Bartlett Cove, be aware that it’s open to the west, and can get pretty lumpy in a west wind. You could also anchor at Fingers Bay without traveling too far – but remember to enter very carefully.

From North Sandy, Blue Mouse, or Reid, you could head north the next morning, spend 2-4 hours at the Margerie Glacier, and come back south to anchor again. As you slowly approach the glacier through fields of bergy bits, keep a sharp lookout for small ones called “growlers”, only a foot or a few feet long, and often nearly clear. These weigh more than you might guess, and can give your boat or your prop quite a thump. The smaller ones make great ice for the cooler.

If you get back to Bartlett Cove for your last evening, and are out of permit days, the following morning you can call and obtain a “transit permit” to leave the park that day.
If the weather sounds intimidating, or you’re able to get only one or two permit days, a nice way to see Glacier Bay is the Fairweather Express tour boat, operated by the park lodge.


For about $180 per person (2008), you can have a wonderful day tour, seeing some of the finest glaciers and lots of wildlife, with a friendly crew and on-board naturalist. For us, one ticket cost about the same as touring the bay in our own boat.

Even with only a single day’s permit, you could still enter Glacier Bay, get your orientation, and then anchor in Bartlett Cove. The next day, leaving your boat at anchor, row your dinghy in to the float (motor vessels may not be operated without a permit for that day) and catch the tour boat. On the third day, call for a transit permit when you’re ready to go, and exit the park.

If Glacier Bay doesn’t work out for your cruise, an excellent alternative is the Tracy Arm of Holkham Bay, south of Juneau on the east side of Stephens Passage. In fact, you might want to give it a tour even if you’ve already been to Glacier Bay. It’s a particularly beautiful steep-sided fjord, with two tidewater glaciers, lots of icebergs, far less challenging conditions, and few of the complications of Glacier Bay.
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Old 15-12-2016, 11:55   #5
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

My boy (16) and I (66) did it in 2007 in our Ocean Reef 24. We cruised at 5 knots and enjoyed every minute. I agree with everything above. We buddy boated with a couple bigger boats on the way up and returned on our own. Fantastic trip you won't want to miss but I think the idea of a flotilla would take much from the experience. Go, it's a wonderful trip!
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Old 15-12-2016, 12:25   #6
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

Quote:
Originally Posted by CatCouple View Post
Hi all,

Looking at Alaska for next year. I see there is a Flotilla organised by Waggonners guide. $2500 CAD. Have any of you done this trip with them? I guess cruising in company is fun but worth $2500? Any feed back you care to give would be much appreciated.

Also if you have cruised up the PNW to Alaska: Is a flotilla advised or necessary for first timers up there, simply added insurance or just peace of mind? Is there special knowledge required over and above that gained sailing in other Oceans ?

Any advice on cruising Alaska generally welcomed.

many thanks.
Hi CatCouple,

You have received a lot of good feedback already.

We have done this trip many times, and currently keep our boat in SE Alaska.

Do you need a flotilla to visit? Nope; not if you are comfortable with your vessel and being on your own- but that is a personal choice.

That said, like any other cruising area, good cruising guides are very helpful.

Since we live and cruise in Alaska [and visit our Canadian neighbors every year or so] we maintain some information on our blog specific to this area.

If you are interested, here is a post with related resource links. It began as a response to questions similar to yours...

If you have the inclination to dig into the posts about traveling in Alaska, and have questions after absorbing that, feel free to hit us up with questions or rendezvous invites once you have a firm itinerary.

Enjoy your journey; Some have a difficult time ever leaving, and some can't leave fast enough...

Cheers! Bill
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Old 15-12-2016, 14:55   #7
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

CatCouple, I'm really glad you asked the questions. The inside passage is on of my short list.
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Old 15-12-2016, 19:41   #8
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

I used to run a small cruise ship up and down the inside passage, and never tired of the trip. It is stunningly beautiful. Each anchorage is beautiful and secluded. Other than Beranof, I never saw, nor can I imagine a gaggle of boats in any of these beautiful places. (And if there were many boats in Baranof, I would bypass it, as it loses it's appeal with too many people).

The herd mentality is fine for people who wish to purchase the illusion of security but the inside passaged is no place for it in my humble opinion.

Seymour and Wrangle Narrows are not really a problem if you watch the tide, and should be respected, not feared.

Such a beautiful place demands solitude to enjoy, easier to take a cruise ship of you need to be part of a crowd.

Michael.
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Old 16-12-2016, 07:40   #9
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

So much really good and useful information! Thanks guys!!! hope to see some of you up there in the Spring. Ordered some charts books and pilots. Anyone heading to Mexico afterwards? whats the ideal timing of leaving Alaska spending time in BC and WA before heading south to overwinter?
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Old 16-12-2016, 08:04   #10
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

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Originally Posted by CatCouple View Post
So much really good and useful information! Thanks guys!!! hope to see some of you up there in the Spring. Ordered some charts books and pilots. Anyone heading to Mexico afterwards? whats the ideal timing of leaving Alaska spending time in BC and WA before heading south to overwinter?
Don't know about timing along the coast south of the Puget Sound area, but I would want to be south of Cape Caution by mid-September. The North Pacific High that provides some protection during the summer tends to break down around the equinox, letting in stormier weather.
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Old 15-01-2017, 19:11   #11
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

You would have a much more enjoyable time if you could make the trip on your own so many sights to see. If its your first trip you could just go as far as the Broughtons the first time and do Alaska the next year.
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Old 15-01-2017, 19:36   #12
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

Cat Couple,

We did the Inside Passage, Alaska, and outside Vancouver Island home last summer and it was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

You can attend the Waggoner's three day seminar and NOT have to go with the entire flotilla. Not sure what the price is this year, I think it was on the order of $300 last year. That's what we did and we were glad that we attended. The seminar gave great insights into what to expect, how to prepare, and how to handle the unusual stuff (tidal rapids, overfalls, glaciers, etc) the most of us had never seen before.

Best of luck, and take a good camera!
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Old 16-01-2017, 04:48   #13
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Re: Alaska : Flotilla 2017

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Dyer.
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