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The Inside Passage

Learn "The Inside"....

To facilitate your enjoyment of Sea Lion in the Inside Passage, our captain will mark your chart books or even go with you as many times as you want to teach you to navigate Sea Lion through the Inside Passage wilderness -- more than 40,000 miles of exquisite, inter-island, rain forest coastline -- running 1,000 miles from Tacoma, Washington to Skagway, Alaska.


Learn where -- and how -- to catch the delicacies of these waters: salmon, halibut, ling cod, shrimp, Dungeness crab, oysters.  Learn  where humpbacks bubble feed; where Orcas rub in the shallows; where sea otters raise their pups, where grizzlies feed on the shore, where salmon climb the water falls; where the loon calls. 


The Inside Passage is eagles and bears and seals and salmon and forests of Sitka Spruce.  It is glaciers and waterfalls, remote fjords and towering crags and seas of glassy calm and seas of frothy white.  But it is also Seatlle and Victoria and Vancouver.  It is towns like Nanaimo, Campbell River, Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Port Hardy, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Craig, Petersburg, Sitka and Juneau, and it is hamlets and outposts like Pender Harbor, Heriot Bay, Refuge Cove, Sointula, Echo Bay, Sullivan Bay, New Bella Bella, Shearwater, Klemtu, Hydaburg, Myers Chuck, Port Protection, Little Port Arthur, Baranof, Tenakee Springs, Kake, Hoonah, Gustavus, Elfin Cove and Pelican.


You can spend years exploring "The Inside" and not run out of new discoveries. We can't make you omnicient.  We've been cruising "The Inside" for years and we still are discovering, learning, marveling.  

A remote inlet in British Columbia, home to some of the worlds' richest wild oyster beds. Oysters here line the steep, rocky shores at low tide like tiles on a wall.

 Seaplane pushing off from Sea Lion's swim platform in Pybus Inlet, Admiralty Island, Southeast Alaska.  Guests disembarked and were flown directly to Ketchikan airport, 150 miles from the boat. Sea Lion routinely uses seaplanes to transport the owner and his guests to and from the boat when the boat is far from town.

Sea Lion's crab traps just hauled aboard in a bay on Chichagoff Island, Southeast Alaska.  Most of these are monster Dungeness, and most are males (females must be released).

Tidal Timing

Daily departure times must be planned so as to arrive at, and transit at slack tide certain narrow passages that have heavy currents at certain times in the tide cycle.  It is good to arrive at Dodd Narrows just south of Nanaimo, Seymour Narrows just north of Campbell River and Yaculta Rapids at Big Bay at slack water. The tidal rapids that form much past slack in these places can be treacherous, especially at Seymour Narrows and Yaculta Rapids. .


Similarly, it is advisable to be going west in Johnstone Strait, and across Queen Charlotte Strait and Dixon Entrance on flood tides if there is  onshore wind much in excess of a gentle breeze.


Consider the run from Sullivan Bay to Duncanby Landing, across Queen Charlotte Strait.  From the time you leave Wells Passage until you reach Dugout Rock, you will be in the Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound for some 54 miles.  If the morning tide along that coast starts to ebb at, say, 7:00 AM, then for the next six hours the ebbing tide will be flowing against the prevailing on-shore wind creating a "wind-against-the-tide" situation.  If you departed Wells Passage at 8:00 AM, depending on the wind velocity, short, steep seas could come up quickly and last virtually the entire crossing.  That would make it very uncomfortable.  If the ebb starts at 7:00 AM that day, the flood tide -- and flattening seas -- would commence about 1:00 PM. If there is wind that day, a late start would be advisable.

Waiting for Weather

The Inside Passage runs along the edge of the North Pacific Ocean, including the Southern Gulf of Alaska.  Storms are not unknown in these waters. Sea Lion is a heavy trawler. She can cope with weather conditions far in excess of what we would ever attempt to navigate. If a storm comes up, we wait, safely tied to a dock, or snugly anchored.


Morning fog is common in the summer months on cool days, often with visibility less than a quarter mile.  Sea Lion is well-equipped to navigate in heavy fog and has done so many times.  The view in fog, however, is not much to write home about, so as often as not, we wait for the visibility to improve when we are beset by fog.  

Sea Lion entering Gut Bay on the east coast of Baranoff Island

Momma Grizz and cub checking out Sea Lion from the beach in Crab Bay

Two Weeks to Ketchikan

As a frame of reference,the itinerary below uses two weeks to travel from Seattle to Ketchikan. There are only four days in which the boat is underway more than eight hours and there are three layover days:  one in Desolation Sound, one in the Broughton Islands and one in Kynoch Inlet.


Taking a month to go from Seattle to Ketchikan is not unreasonable given the gorgeous anchorages and the little towns and hamlets that abound along the way.


On the other hand, Sea Lion can easily make it to Ketchikan in 7 days, albeit running 12 hours a day.  In any case, Sea Lion does not run at night in the Inside Passage.


This schedule provides for seven nights at a dock, including the arrival night in Ketchikan, and seven nights at anchor in various inlets and bays.


Three Weeks Around Southeast Alaska
Three Weeks in the Alexander Archipelago

The itinerary below shows a cursory "circumnavigation" of the Alexander Archipelago, i.e., Southeast Alaska.  It runs to some 810 nautical miles, but that does not include myriad diversionary routes that could keep one occupied for many seasons.


This itinerary is a good "survey" of Southeast Alaska's towns and its stunning wilderness.  But it represent only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

The route goes from Ketchikan down across southern Clarence Strait, around the south tip of Prince of Wales Island and up its west coast. The second night is spent at the dock at Craig. From there, the course is north to Cape Deception and across Chatham Strait to the east coast of Baranoff Island. Two nights in exquisite anchorages along the east coast of Baranoff and then the boat turns into Peril Strait, over to Salisbury Sound and down to Sitka for two nights. The tenth day sees the boat proceeding north from Sitka back to Salisbury Sound and up the northwest coast of Chichagoff Island to Black Bay and then on to Pelican, Elfin Cove and the Inian Islands. Then we spend two nights in the far reaches of Glacier Bay on the mainland before heading to Hoonah on the northeast coast of Chichagoff. From Hoonah we go to Juneau for two nights,and then south between the mainland coast and the east coast of Admiralty Island. Two nights in Tracy Arm and then it is on to Petersburg on Mitkoff Island, A night there and then down Wrangell Narrows and over to the friendly town of Wrangell on Wrangell Island for two nights. The last day takes us from Wrangell back to Ketchikan via Zimovia Strait.

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