Petersburg, also known as Alaska’s Little Norway, is our next destination. Located at the North end of Mitkof Island, this fishing town is reached by traversing the 21 mile long Wrangell Narrows. This is a narrow technical channel containing over 60 navigational aids and five sets of range markers. The waterway is nicknamed “Christmas Tree Lane” for the red and green blinking buoys. All traffic including cruise ships and Alaska State ferries pass through this narrow waterway. Tidal currents can reach speeds of 6 to 7 knots. The currents flood into the Narrows from both directions and meet in the middle making the transit even more complicated. We calculated our departure time from Wrangell every which way and could not make the currents work for us today. Our best option was to transit half way and anchor for several hours until the tide switched to continue on to Petersburg. Our only issue was that we arrived to the harbor with an ebb two knot current. Docking was a little challenging but fortunately a neighboring boat captain came out to catch our lines. Unlike the East coast, marinas in Alaska don’t have dock hands to grab our lines when we come in. You are on your own most times. Fishermen don’t ask for docking help.
Petersburg is home to a large fishing fleet. There are only a handful of pleasure craft here nestled amongst the many beautiful commercial fishing boats. The Charles T just celebrated her 100th birthday and is still a working boat. It is always fun to watch the many different types of boats coming and going. Several large canneries flank both sides of the marina. The harbor is buzzing with activity as the commercial crabbing season opens in just a few days. Norwegian, Peter Buschmann, selected this site for a cannery in 1897 due to its close proximity to glacier ice from the LeConte Glacier. A sawmill was constructed for building the cannery. This is a real SE Alaska working town off the beaten path of the cruise ships. Petersburg still maintains a very strong and close Norwegian heritage and identity. The town has about 3300 residents and is reached only by boat or plane.
While waiting on some parts to arrive, we head out for a week to explore several local anchorages. Our first stop is Ideal Cove only twelve miles from town. This is a favorite of ours from last year. We set out the crab traps in hopes of getting some more Dungeness before the commercial guys scoop them all up. There is already a crabber here in the Cove working on his traps. The scenery of the mountains to the north is spectacular as some of the snow capped peaks reach over 10,000 feet. After limiting out with 6 crabs both days, we pull anchor and work our way north down Fredrick Sound with a destination of Thomas Bay. This is our first time in the bay so we proceed slow across the well marked bar and anchor behind Ruth Island. After setting the crab traps, we take a three mile dinghy trip to the Cascade Creek trail. Setting a stern anchor to hold the dinghy offshore, we begin a six mile hike on a well maintained trail which follows the Cascade Creek while on the constant lookout for brown bears. Our intent was to hike up to Swan Lake but we decide to turn around half way due to some severe trail destruction from winter blowdown. Arriving back to the dinghy, we see that we severely miscalculated our anchoring technique. We spend several hours waiting on the tide to come back in. Making the best use of our time, we hike along the shore to the Cascade Creek Forrest Service Cabin. After spending some time reading the guest register, we head back to the dinghy as she is now floating.
After a week of exploration, we turn our bow back towards Petersburg. The local Boat yard and machine shop, Piston and Rudder, has our John Deere parts and schedules us for Friday morning installation. Jeff spends the day working with the mechanic Aaron replacing our leaking John Deere coolant pump and also attending to a small generator hose leak.
With the boat back in tip top shape we are ready to continue our explorations of Alaska.