A floatplane flight can take you from Seattle or Renton directly to your boat in 3 to 4 hours.
It is painful to hear someone or a cruising couple say “We are going to hold off on a long trip this summer. We have too many obligations at home, or with family.” I have the same problems. As Editor and Publisher of the Waggoner Cruising Guide, I keep a pretty aggressive schedule for my summer, starting with a three-week Waggoner Flotilla trip to Alaska leaving May 21 from Anacortes.
Over the years I have figured out a few creative ways to manage my family events and multiple businesses by working out ways to travel home and leave the boat “up north” while on my all summer cruise. This way I can go to SE Alaska, the Broughtons, or even Desolation Sound and leave the boat at a few strategic marinas for a week or two to wait for my return.
I also want to share a few ideas for having guests join you on the boat by flying in or driving to a point to meet you or even exchange crews.
There are a few places you can conveniently fly in and out, or even rent a car to drive back and forth to the boat. Or, leave the boat and fly back either on a wheeled plane or better yet, a floatplane – where the flight is spectacular.
There are also a number of options where you or crew can drive up to Lund – the end of the highway, or take the ferry to Vancouver Island and drive up to Campbell River, Port McNeill or Port Hardy and have your guests meet the boat there.
In SE Alaska, you can leave the boat in Wrangell or Petersburg, or even Hoonah and fly home. The low cost of monthly moorage is a pleasant surprise and may cover the cost of the airfare to fly there.
BC Ferries can take you from and to Vancouver Island by rental car when you leave your boat up in Campbell River, Port McNeill or Port Hardy. Photo curtsey of BC Ferries.
Working from South to North – How to Make Your Travel Plans Work
For Desolation Sound:
You can leave the boat in Campbell River and rent a car at the low weekly rate to drive down Vancouver Island and then use the BC Ferry or the Anacortes Ferry to get back to the mainland. The weekly rates for a rental car are reasonable, and when combined with the fare for the ferry, it is still less costly than bringing your boat back. I have left my boat at Fisherman’s Wharf at a very low monthly rate, even though I may only leave the boat for two weeks. I have found that it often saves to pay the monthly moorage rate anytime you are staying ten days or more, even though you might not use the entire time. This applies to SE Alaska too.
Many of the marinas are prepared to moor and take good care of your boat while you are attending to business at home. North Island Marina in Port McNeill does this regularly for boats of all sizes. They can offer full boat watch services where someone will go on your boat and looks at battery levels, the bilges and even run the engines if that is what you would like.
From Vancouver, you can take a commuter plane flight up the coast and land at the Port Hardy/Port McNeill Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines. It is then a short ride to the Port Hardy waterfront, or North Harbor Marina will send their courtesy van to pick you up if staff is available. This can be a good option if you have guests flying in from different parts of the country or the world. They can fly to Vancouver International Airport, take a shuttle bus to Terminal 2, and a couple of hours later be in Northern BC.
Your guests can get to Nimmo Bay Resort in a few hours by floatplane.
Northwest Seaplanes flies to their Hakai Lodge fishing resort near Hakai Pass and Pruth Bay. When space is available, they fly passengers and parts up to rendezvous with yachts in this area. This is the furthest most point for a direct floatplane trip from the Seattle area. It is also good to keep in mind in case someone on your crew needs to get back due to a family emergency.
From Northern BC there is wheel plane service from Vancouver to Bella Bella. I have used this option myself, and my crew has used it for a planned trip or emergency trip back to Vancouver. I have left my boat in Shearwater and taken the water taxi to the dock at Bella Bella. Don’s Taxi is standing by on the dock for the short shuttle to the airport. A Pacific Coastal flight can then fly you to the Vancouver airport where you can then connect to almost anywhere in the world.
Prince Rupert or Haida Gwaii
There is airline service to and from both Prince Rupert or Haida Gwaii from the Vancouver airport. The Prince Rupert Airport is on Digby Island with ferry service from Prince Rupert proper. Trips up north sometimes take a combination of transport methods to get somewhere – cars, ferries, water shuttles, float planes or land planes. There is even a Greyhound Bus that travels up Vancouver Island from Victoria. You can connect in Port Hardy to take the BC Ferry to Prince Rupert, and from there to Haida Gwaii.
There is frequent airline service from Seattle to Ketchikan via Alaska Air and now Delta. Both connect through Seattle to places all over the US and the world. Ketchikan is a good place to have crew join you. The airport is across the Tongass Narrows from the city and the marinas. Normally, you have to take a ferry across to the airport. But, you can take your boat or tender to the airport dock directly from the marina. Ketchikan is not a good place to leave your boat unless you can find “first-come, first served” moorage at the Casey Moran floats, also known as the City Dock, centrally located in town. The other marinas manage “hot-berthing, city run” and it is sometimes difficult to moor a boat for an extended period of time. You run the risk when you arrive that they may not have long term moorage that fits your schedule. As a policy, the Port does not take reservations. You are at risk to find moorage that fits a long term stay. There are two private marinas that cater mainly to super yachts for reservations – with prices to match.
Wrangell or Petersburg
At this time, both marinas have plenty of moorage and can accommodate extended stays. They are very reasonable city-run marinas and do not offer boat watch service but can refer you to a short list of people in town who do. There is Alaska Air service from both towns to Seattle. I like Petersburg as a fly-in point for guests. You can take them fishing or to the LeConte Glacier as a day trip. Wrangell has Anon Bear Observatory nearby and Petersburg is a charming town with a Norwegian heritage.
It is tough to find long-term moorage in Juneau. Sometimes the Port can find a several week period for your boat and they do take reservations. The earlier you reserve the better. Hoonah has moorage and you can take a floatplane to Juneau to catch a flight south.
It is possible to take a trip north and separate the trip into segments with time to fly home for family events and business. And, you get to fly back to the boat. Just think, several hours and you are back on the boat in paradise continuing your trip. It just takes a little travel creativity.