We’ve recently purchased Bonaroo, a 1977 Bayliner Victoria 2750, 350 Volvo Penta Duoprop. Our cruising experience has been limited to one week in the San Juans on our 17′ Arima Sea Ranger. We’ve been toying with the idea of cruising to Ketchikan.

My son Mark is in charge of the USCG search and rescue detachment there.

Our current plan is to finish outfitting the Bonaroo, spend some shakedown time around Puget Sound and maybe heading north.

I would like to hook up with another boat or two to make the trip to Ketchikan. Is there a contact point for those of us who wish to get together? We’re not members of a yacht club and our timing schedule is quite open.

Thanks, the cruising guide is great.

Bill DiLenge


Response

A trip to Alaska and back is a big undertaking. Although people with limited experience and a newly-acquired boats do make the trip, it’s not something I would recommend. The weather and the waters between Puget Sound and northern B.C. can be a real challenge. And then there’s Dixon Entrance.

It’s not uncommon for adventuresome but inexperienced boaters to look at a trip to Alaska as an extension of a car trip to California. The route may look straightforward on a map, but the Inside Passage is not a paved highway, with rest stops and motels along the way. Experienced Northwest boaters get in trouble in these waters. To be inexperienced and in a new-to-you 32-year-old boat is just asking for it.

If you’re determined to make the trip, I suggest tagging along with the Alaska 1000 predicted log event, which just happens to be taking place this year. The dates are May 31 to June 28, 2010. For more information see their web site www.ipbalogracing.org.

Bob Hale


Bill’s Reply

Bob,

Thanks for your advice. We are very concerned about all the things you’ve mentioned. One of the options we’ve considered is having my son join us for the trip up. As you can imagine, he’s pretty salty.

I don’t expect to have the boat outfitted and run in by the end of May. We’re currently in Arizona and the boat is in Idaho. We’re thinking about June to have the boat in the water at Port Townsend. The boat was in Lake Pend Oreille all of its life and is not ready for salt water cruising.

Are there any bulletin boards around the sound where cruisers exchange info?

Thanks,
Bill


Bob’s Reply

Bill,

If your son is in charge of Coast Guard Search and Rescue, I’ll agree that he’s pretty salty. He’s also far better qualified than I am to deal with emergencies.

But three adults on a semi-leisurely trip to Alaska in a 27-foot boat? Especially a 32-year-old boat that is new to you? We’ve had three (and once, four) adults on our 37-foot boat for a week up the coast, and a week was enough. The guests were glad to get on an airplane headed south, and it didn’t break our hearts to see them go. One party was our daughter and son-in-law; the other was the Waggoner managing editor. Our daughter had helped create the Waggoner. The managing editor was (and is) a longtime employee and a good friend. All of us got along well, and all of us had Waggoner research as our primary goal. Yet a week at a time was plenty.

I urge you to wait a year. Take the boat up to the Broughtons this summer. That’ll be a surprisingly long trip, with lots to see and plenty of adventure. Figure out what kind of gear you actually need, and how to use it. Learn what kind of food to carry and how to manage limited refrigeration. Fix the unexpected things that go wrong. Practice your anchoring skills—you may find you need a different anchor. See how long the drinking water lasts before you need to refill. See if the cook enjoys making meal after meal in a cramped galley with a cranky stove. Figure out where to store all the charts you’ll need and reference books you’ll learn about. See if you really like the experience.

You’ll need to really learn how to use the chart plotter or PC-based navigation program, and how to use the electronics in conjunction with paper charts. You’ll need to learn how to interpret a weather forecast and overlay it with the tides and currents. You’ll need to learn what it’s like to sneak into an anchorage late in the day with weather closing in, and find the good spots taken. Most importantly, you’ll need to learn how to work together on the boat. It’s not at all like being at home. These are things you can read about, but reading isn’t enough. You need to experience them yourself before you can even begin to understand.

I assume the boat either has or will be getting radar. You’ll need it. Ditto an autopilot, ditto good radios, ditto GPS, flares, other safety gear. Ditto cabin heat (a week of wind and rain, cooped up in a cold cabin, will make the need for heat abundantly clear). Ditto a dinghy with a way to carry it, and a suitable outboard motor. If the compasses are original equipment you’ll probably want to replace them. Either way, they should be swung and adjusted by a professional compass adjuster. The list gets long in a hurry.

Boaters new to Northwest cruising often think the destination is the thing. With time they come to understand that getting to a certain place, especially one far away, isn’t the idea at all. Cruising the Inside Passage is cruising in paradise, day after day after day. The paradise, however, can be defined as “rain, rocks and Christmas trees.” After a while the novelty wears off, even when you round a point and are astonished at what you see. If you settle for a shorter cruise this year, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. You will leave so many places unexplored and so many experiences overlooked that you won’t feel cheated.

I realize I’m lecturing from on high, and some or most of what I’ve said may be things you’ve already dealt with. If so, you’ll nod your head in agreement and go. But if these concerns and cautions are even a little new to you, I think you wouldn’t be wrong to heed them.

Bob Hale

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