Day 24 | Flotilla to Alaska | Wrangell to Petersburg

The group left Wrangell by around 10:00 a.m. this morning and headed for Wrangell Narrows.

Notice the line separating the fresh water outflow from the Stikine River as it meets the saltwater.

Petersburg is only 40nm from Wrangell, but the short distance belies the complexity of the route. About half that distance is transiting Wrangell Narrows, a winding, shallow, rock-lined, and busy waterway. Alaska State Ferries, fish boats, tugs and barges, sport fishing boats, and cruising boats all transit Wrangell Narrows routinely. About the only boats that don’t are cruise ships and large, foreign flagged yachts. The former are too large, the latter aren’t permitted without a pilot. Swift moving currents add to the challenge and more than 60 aids to navigation (and excellent charts) mark the safe route through.

Usually we try to time the current to our advantage. We arrive in the middle—Papke’s Landing—near high water, riding the last of the flood in, then the first of the ebb out. This strategy works on a northbound or southbound transit.

Today, though, the timing didn’t work out. We’d either have to leave Wrangell at 5:30 a.m. or arrive in Petersburg late in the evening. Since the currents weren’t all that strong today, we decided instead to time our departure to arrive at Petersburg near slack, to make docking easier. We’d have the current against us some of the way, but it looked like it would only cost us a knot or two in speed. By 10:30 a.m., we were all underway.

Once again, the weather was outstanding. Partly cloudy, but warm with light wind. Not very Alaskan!

Transiting Wrangell Narrows went just like we expected it to: 1-2 knots of current against us in the southern portion, a little boost from the current towards the end, and arrival in Petersburg with very little current running. Traffic was pretty light: a couple tugs and tows, a few commercial fish boats, and some other small recreational boats. Nothing compared to anywhere in the San Juans in the summer.

Eagles often perch on the aids to navigation in Wrangell Narrows
Eagles scavenging near a fishing lodge
Deception overtaking us in Wrangell Narrows

The Petersburg Harbormaster did an excellent job finding us slips near each other in North Harbor. After settling in, we all went to Airship for crab enchiladas made with the fresh crab from Thoms Place.

We’ll be here for three nights, catching up on chores before the last week to Sitka, enjoying town, and making a side trip to Le Conte Bay (and hopefully the glacier!).

(L to R) Safe Harbour, a local, Jester, Salish Spirit
North Harbor Marina
North Harbor Marina
When the weather is this nice, everyone is out working on their boats!

Today’s total: 39.4nm, 5 hours 16 minutes underway
Flotilla total: 796.6nm, 111 hours 48 minutes underway