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Old 27-01-2023, 07:58   #1
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4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

I've been researching an Alaska inside passage voyage which seems fascinating. This is very much a long term plan but there are some facts that apply differently for us and I would like to adjust my research now with some of your input. We have a 33' sailboat that has a major benefit of being trailerable and launched at a boat ramp. The main drawback is it's not exactly build for cruising so we may go insane if we spend more than 3 weeks in it. Otherwise it will be temporarily adapted from its current race state to more of a cruiser / camper.

If you had limited time (summer vacation for the kid + probably go crazy if we stay for too long) but also had the ability to skip some of the earlier passages - where would you drop in at?

We can trailer anywhere and not cut into the available time as my wife/child can fly anywhere.
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Old 27-01-2023, 09:44   #2
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

First, realize that a substantial portion of the "inside passage" is in British Columbia.

4 weeks on a sailboat is not near enough time to do a round trip of the inside passage to Alaska. (Theoretically yes. But do you really want to motor all day every day, and not stop to "smell the roses"?)

You could drive up to Prince Rupert, launch, and head to Alaska. Four weeks might then be enough (excluding the drive to/from PR). Of course, you'd miss some pretty special places in BC. But if it's "Alaska or bust" in 4 weeks....
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Old 27-01-2023, 09:54   #3
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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Originally Posted by Enyar View Post
We have a 33' sailboat that has a major benefit of being trailerable
The word palatial springs to mind

Other than being half a world away, would love to do that coast line.

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Old 27-01-2023, 10:07   #4
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

If I had a trailerable 33ft boat and planning a cruise in Alaska, I'd drive to Wittier or Valdez and explore Prince William Sound, without having to cross the Gulf of Alaska.

For Southeast Alaska, unless you can put the boat on the ferry, your only put-in options are Prince Rupert in the South or Skagway/Haines in the north ... you could find 3 weeks of fine cruising at either end.
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Old 27-01-2023, 10:25   #5
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

For 3 weeks, I would just do the inside passage of BC/Vancouver Isle. It's superb. But a lot of motoring.
I like the West side, lower half of Vancouver Island better. More sailing. Barkely Sound etc. But you dont get the totem poles/abandoned villages out there like a couple of spots on the inside.
You dont have time to go the Alaska Passage and crossing Queen Charlotte Sound can take some waiting time as it can get pretty rough at times.

3 weeks is not much time. I took 5 weeks + to round Vancouver Island and that felt hurried a bit.

For the outside area you could launch at Anacortes, Bellingham, Sequim, Port Townsend or Port Angeles and cross the Straight of Juan De Fuca from there but you need to clear in at Victoria anyway unless they open up a customs place further west by then.
For the inside trip launch anywhere from Anacortes, Bellingham to Vancouver BC. .
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Old 27-01-2023, 11:00   #6
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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Originally Posted by sv_pelagia View Post
First, realize that a substantial portion of the "inside passage" is in British Columbia.

4 weeks on a sailboat is not near enough time to do a round trip of the inside passage to Alaska. (Theoretically yes. But do you really want to motor all day every day, and not stop to "smell the roses"?)

You could drive up to Prince Rupert, launch, and head to Alaska. Four weeks might then be enough (excluding the drive to/from PR). Of course, you'd miss some pretty special places in BC. But if it's "Alaska or bust" in 4 weeks....
Yeah I think it would be Alaska or bust in 4 ish weeks because we're limited in school vacation and sanity on a small sailboat. Plus there is the whole getting the boat up there thing which will be an adventure of itself. I'm sure there are plenty of beautiful places in BC but most of the sites start around Petersburg with some more treachorous stuff in BC (that might be nice to skip in a small boat)
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Old 27-01-2023, 11:04   #7
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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If I had a trailerable 33ft boat and planning a cruise in Alaska, I'd drive to Wittier or Valdez and explore Prince William Sound, without having to cross the Gulf of Alaska.

For Southeast Alaska, unless you can put the boat on the ferry, your only put-in options are Prince Rupert in the South or Skagway/Haines in the north ... you could find 3 weeks of fine cruising at either end.
That's way up there!!


Prince Rupert vs Haines was exactly what I was thinking when I posted this thread. Trying to figure out if Haines is worth the extra 18 hours plus driving.
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Old 27-01-2023, 11:13   #8
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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That's way up there!!


Prince Rupert vs Haines was exactly what I was thinking when I posted this thread. Trying to figure out if Haines is worth the extra 18 hours plus driving.
Much of BC/Van Isle is the same type of beauty as Alaska really. More isolation in Alaska I suppose, but BC can be wild too. Huge tides up there in Alaska also. I had a friend who anchored in 13 feet of water and was sitting balanced on a huge rock at low tide!
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Old 27-01-2023, 12:22   #9
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

You got a Charlie’s chart yet? a hard dink will make the most of your time lots of rubbers become tarps around here. If your American it might be easier to enjoy Haines than deal with the Canadians IMO. Given you only have a month might as well drive to as wild area as you can. There plenty of cool places to get off the boat from that departure and there good storage for your truck trailer. Word of caution there lots of tide not sure how much you got sticking down vs power but a lot of sailboats suffer waiting on tides/weather in southeast. The sailing can be boring at times no wind or enough but it’s narrow everywhere makes it not so fun at times. Be prepared to buy fuel, have fuel and store fuel. There is hot springs and glaciers more bears than you count and the Mounties won’t let you bring a pistol. Buy groceries and beer in America it’s expensive here.
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Old 27-01-2023, 12:31   #10
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

If it’s prince William skip Whittier go to Valdez Whittier will stick it to you on parking and the rich and famous of anchorage have destroyed that port as expensive as the Bahamas.
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Old 27-01-2023, 12:31   #11
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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Yeah I think it would be Alaska or bust in 4 ish weeks because we're limited in school vacation and sanity on a small sailboat. Plus there is the whole getting the boat up there thing which will be an adventure of itself. I'm sure there are plenty of beautiful places in BC but most of the sites start around Petersburg with some more treachorous stuff in BC (that might be nice to skip in a small boat)
Enyar,

All of the advice already offered is golden.

Missing are any specifics that you and your family desire to see...

We hang around BC; SE Alaska; Prince Wm Sound; Kodiak; etc. fulltime on our boat- and we are also familiar riding the ferry system with a truck camper and long trailers (but not a boat trailer...)

Since you mentioned you would be choosing to bypass the world class beauty of BC this time around, and also assuming you have to drive to Washington state (from Florida?) and assuming you want the most cost effective approach to getting the boat in the water... I offer these thoughts of what i would do given my local knowldge of this entire NE Pacific coastline. (I'm also assuming you don't need a travellift to launch your boat from the trailer...)

Ferry options :

You can likely fit your truck and trailer on a state ferry (possibly depending upon the height of the boat on the trailer...)

Quickest way ($$$) to get boat and trailer to Alaska: If you boarded in say, Bellingham WA you could disembark in Ketchikan or Wrangell and launch from a ramp or travellift. Check with the Alaska Marine Highway System online for a quote. I suspect it will run you US$4k+ each way.

A more cost effective approach ($) would be to drive the ~1000 miles from WA border to Prince Rupert BC and either launch the boat from there, or get on a ferry to Wrangell ($$) or Ketchikan for a greatly reduced price (I'll guess ~US$1500 each way.)

Launching in Prince Rupert would require waiting for weather windows (coming and going) for crossing the exposed Dixon Entrance (~ 1/2 day crossing).

Then you would have to check in with US Customs in Ketchikan on the way N, and Canadian Customs in Prince Rupert on the way back S.

Ketchikan is one option where your family could fly in to to join you... (They would have to overnight in Seattle to fly up to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, etc. as there is only one milkrun flight daily each direction...)

There is lots to see in the southern portion of SE Alaska originating in Ketchikan, and it would be reasonable for the 4 week period you mention.

Do a loop around Misty Fjords, stopping in Trators Cove to walk to the bear observation deck from the float plane ramp in Margueritte Bay; working N to Myer's Chuck, even Wrangell. (There are also lots of other nooks and cranies for gunkholing...)

If you make it to Wrangell, there are three local day tours that would let you see lots in a brief period: Anan bear viewing area (black bears and grizzlies feeding on salmon); Le Conte Glacier (southernmost tidewater glacier) and the Stikine River (more glaciers, wildlife, etc.)

By then you will be needing to head back S to your point of launch.

Head back to Ketchikan or Prince Rupert along the E side of Prince of Wales Island (Clarence Strait- watch the Wx...) Stop in Craig, Thorn Bay, then Kasaan to see the totem park before crossing over to Ketchikan/Prince Rupert.

Be aware there are trade-offs with originating in Ketchikan in summer in that you will still see signs of the rat race... In the summer, Ketchikan will have 4-5 large cruise ships docked there daily, 10's of thousands of individuals all vying for the sightseeing tours (air and water) and cell signals, so it is very busy... (e.g., While you might receive a strong cell signal, the chances of actually getting on the internet are slim with the extra 25000 phones daily competing on infrastructure sized for far fewer... Perhaps as ore cruise ships adopt Starlink this traffic will be reduced...)

I would discourage going all the way to Skagway or Haines only because the long inlets they are located on often have winds opposed to the direction you desire to go- even in summer, and you need to transit 20-30+ miles between possible anchorages. (Not to mention the very long drive up the AlCan to get there... and back)

Also previously mentioned was driving to Valdez and then launching into Prince William Sound (PWS)- which is Disneyland compared to SE Alaska being the State Fair... But PWS isn't part of the 'Inside Passage' you said was your goal this time... And it would take a minimum of 5 long days of driving each way from WA. (Double- even tripple- your driving time estimates on the AlCan highway- especially when towing a large heavy trailer... From my experience...)

But if you only get to boat in Alaska once, PWS is very high on the list of places to see, and that you can drive to...

I hope this sample 4 week itinerary focusing on the southern portion of SE Alaska gives you more food for thought.

Have fun planning!

Cheers, Bill

PS: I should caution you that you wouldn't be the first to leave your boat up here... This is truly world class cruising...

PPS: As you tally the costs for your proposed BYOB[oat] vacation, you might find it is cheaper to charter a crewed sailboat for a few weeks. Fly in and go. We can offer several suggestions of who we would choose should that become a consideration...
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Old 27-01-2023, 12:40   #12
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

Bill know this area like the back of his hand, but I'll throw in my 2¢.

The question is about what you want to see? The ice generally stops at Petersburg. If you want to see tidal glaciers, bergs, etc. then it's Petersburg/Juneau/Skagway/Sitka.

Bears, if that's your thing, we have found best from Wrangell north. South of there some, but not in the same quantities (one person's experience).

Orcas, on the other hand, we have seen far more further south, with a few in northern SE Alaska.

Scenery is different but magnificent along the whole Inside Passage, can't go wrong from Washington to Alaska.
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Old 27-01-2023, 12:43   #13
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

Bill is right about the ferry maybe make some contacts sometimes the ferry crew will let you put the trailer alone onboard if you prearrange a pal to pull off and it in for you we have done that going hunting before saved a bunch of money.
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Old 27-01-2023, 13:34   #14
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

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Bill is right about the ferry maybe make some contacts sometimes the ferry crew will let you put the trailer alone onboard if you prearrange a pal to pull off and it in for you we have done that going hunting before saved a bunch of money.
Good to mention: trailer sans towing vehicle is permissible if arranged with the ferry system in advance.

I know one of the boat watchers in Wrangell offers a service to embark/ disembark unattended automobiles and/or trailers on the ferry on a pre-arranged basis.

There may be a contractor in Ketchikan as well, but I am not personally familiar with anyone offering that service there...

Cheers, Bill

PS: Another possible option (but $$$) would be putting the boat and trailer on a barge in WA to be delivered to a choice of cities in SE AK...
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Old 27-01-2023, 13:43   #15
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Re: 4 weeks Alaska cruise / camp - Where to start if you have a trailer as an option?

I'll second Bill and HeywoodJ on all counts. Been cruising up here for decades. If you drive up just go to Skagway, better parking 4 hours less driving and only separated by 14nm of water. You can fly most anywhere out of Whitehorse and yard fees are cheap if you leave the boat for the winter. Two days trip to Glacier Bay & outer coast from Skagway and lots of glaciers, anchorage, fishing, scenery, wildlife with empty anchorages along the way. One thing not mentioned if the forestry cabins that are available for booking if you're considering actually camping. They are well maintained and lots of them hidden all over SE. Personally the scenery is better North of Wrangel with more glaciers, deeper fjords and higher peaks. I doubt 4 weeks will be enough and you'll end up leaving the boat for a season (maybe 2) and returning come spring.
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