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Old 10-30-2015, 12:52 PM   #21
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I've been flying (floatplanes) and boating the PNW/BC/SE Alaska coast for over 30 years now. If someone totally unfamiliar with this region was looking to spend two weeks with a charter boat here I would recommend doing this:

Charter a boat from one of the several very good charter outfits in northern Puget Sound--- Anacortes, Bellingham, etc. Then spend the bulk of the two weeks exploring the Gulf Islands in lower BC.

The San Juan Islands have become extremely over-developed, at leat for our taste. There are certainly interesting things to see and do, but the last 20 years or so have seen a huge building boom and a big increase in tourism. So other than a couple of destinations in the islands the public does not have access to, we don't bother with the San Juans anymore.

The Gulf Islands, besides being more geographically interesting, are not nearly as developed and offer a much greater variety of destinations. There are some great anchorages if you want to anchor out. There are some nice towns if you like that sort of thing. There are a number of harbors ranging from the upscale to the funky.

The recommendation to get a copy of the Waggoner Guide is a good one. While not the best guidebook available in terms of the boating aspect of travelling these waters it does a great job of describing what there is to see and do along this whole coast.

North of the Guif Island the boating gets more remote with greater distances between stops in terms of communities. Anchoring out become more the norm as you go north and the attraction becomes more the country itself and the scenery. While the handful of communities in SE Alaska offer a lot of interesting things to see and do, during the summer season you often get to share them with three to six thousand cruise ship passengers.

So for a first-time cruise with the idea of coming away with a pretty good feel for what this area has to offer, my wife and I believe the Gulf Islands in BC are hard to beat. We have taken non-boating friends up there for two-week cruises several times, some from France, some who I used to work with in televsion in Hawaii and who'd recently moved here, and they all have enjoyed the islands immensely.

Like virtually all topics on this forum, this one has been covered countless times. A search of the archives will turn up a lot of good posts from the past, many of them listing people's favorite destinations and suggested itineraries and why they like(d) them.
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Old 10-30-2015, 01:27 PM   #22
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he San Juan Islands have become extremely over-developed, at leat for our taste. There are certainly interesting things to see and do, but the last 20 years or so have seen a huge building boom and a big increase in tourism. So other than a couple of destinations in the islands the public does not have access to, we don't bother with the San Juans anymore.
Do you include Stuart, Sucia, Patos, Turn, Jones, and Cypress, for example in this evaluation? Something sure has changed in the last three years if you do.
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Old 10-30-2015, 02:33 PM   #23
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Yes, they tend to be crowded and noisy these days. Not so much Stuart since the two harbors there are pretty big and it's a long haul to get there. We used to go to Sucia a lot during the 2000s as we have friends who lived on the island during those years. But now we don't bother with it. I'm sure there are days when it's not so bad but friends who still go there a lot say they're getting pretty tired of the crowds and the noise.

Patos only has two mooring buoys at last count and the anchoring in Active Cove is pretty iffy. We've been to Cypress a few times this summer and it was always chock full.

To us the Gulf Islands offer such a superior and more varied experience that we see no point anymore with bothering with the San Juans outside of some places that are not available to the public. We absolutely despise Roche and Deer Harbors; they couldn't pay us to go there. Friday Harbor is interesting but we've been there enough that we've pretty much done that, got the T-shirt.

There is one harbor in the San Juans that is still enjoyable to us in large part because it offers few amenities to the typical marina-hopping boater so does not attract that crowd.

But anymore the Gulf Islands are, in our opinions, such a far better and more varied cruising area than the San Juans that there is no longer even a comparison. That's why for someone who's never experienced this part of the world we always recommend spending their time north of the border. Besides the fact there are more interesting things to do and see there that floating yellow line down the middles of Boundary Pass and Haro Strait tends to keep the riffraff down south.
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Old 10-30-2015, 02:40 PM   #24
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Cruise Ship Hordes in SE Alaska:

To be precise, there are three towns in SE AK where large ships dock and disgorge thousands of passengers: Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Juneau and Ketchikan sometimes have five in on the same day.

One or sometimes two at a time anchor near Sitka on some days, and mostly only one on some days near the village of Hoonah (though Hoonah is busy building a cruise ship dock). They lighter passengers ashore, in much smaller numbers.

Unless you wish to spend much of your time in these towns, you will not be surrounded by hordes of cruise ship passengers. SE AK is a big place, maybe 400 nm by 100 nm. Its total population is around 75000, about 55000 of which are in Juneau, Ketchikan, or Sitka. Most of it is "out there".

If you'd like to poke through some pictures of SE AK scenery, anchorages, and fishing, I could post links to some of my photos.

If you want to spend your time cruising, you could pick up your trawler from Juneau and return two weeks later, anchoring most or all nights. The contact you'd have with cruise ships while you're cruising could consist of seeing them occasionally as they pass by.

They can get close to you, if you happen to be floating in front of the Margerie Glacier during the 30-40 minutes when a big one one happens to be there. Or maybe heading for the glaciers up in the Tracy Arm.
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Old 10-30-2015, 03:48 PM   #25
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We've been to Cypress a few times this summer and it was always chock full.
Wow, that's amazing given all the harbors there, the size of the island and the lack of any towns let alone many residents for that matter. Ditto Sucia. Of course we always went to the San Juans for the no-town islands; about as town as we ever got was to anchor off Rosario and go in for a spa day. Like a lot of cruising grounds, also more enjoyable just before and after the "season". Won't argue about the Gulf Islands as a destination, we liked to mix them in with a San Juans trip. Though its not like you can't find plenty of crowds there too if you go looking.
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Old 10-30-2015, 04:13 PM   #26
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Thankyou everyone for all the helpful information.

Cheers Chris D Liberty
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Old 10-30-2015, 04:46 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Marin
The San Juan Islands...extremely over-developed...we don't bother with the San Juans anymore.
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Originally Posted by Marin
The Gulf Islands...not nearly as developed and offer a much greater variety of destinations...great anchorages. I believe the Gulf Islands in BC are hard to beat.
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Gulf Islands offer such a superior and more varied experience...Gulf Islands are, in our opinions, such a far better and more varied cruising area than the San Juans...we always recommend spending their time north of the border....keep the riffraff down south.


Marin, cut it out!
You keep pimping the Gulf Islands and they WILL become what you hate.
Riffraff? Too late. Earlier this week I spoke to one of your southern cousins (Corpus Christi is still south of you, right?) and he was angry about Ganges being "overrun by Americans makin' wooden whistles and growin' carrots"
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Old 10-30-2015, 09:14 PM   #28
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Hawg--- Corpus Christi is actually in a different country but yes, it is south of us.

And I don't think you need to fear the Gulf Islands (or anywhere else in BC) becoming over-run by riffraff, at least not the kind from the US. Riffraff from the UK and Germany may be a different story but since they have cool accents and know what football actually is, they're a lot easier to tolerate.

Most people from the US don't "get" BC for several reasons:

1. Americans coming across the border are soon put off by the logic, common sense and self-reliance of the folks who call the raincoast home. People who can think for themselves and aren't afraid of what... Rain? Clouds? Trees? Sharp saws? .... tend to totally baffle US citizens so they soon depart for southern climes where they can depend on the security of others doing their thinking for them.

2. BC is way scary. There are all the aforementioned trees along with huge ferns and stickerbushes with creatures living amongst them like bears, ravens, otters and banana slugs that are waiting to eat "visitors." Then there are the Orcas. Not the Walt Disney "resident" pods that eat salmon and pose for the whale watch crowd but the nasty, vicious transient pods that lunge out of the water to snag seals off the beach and love nothing so much as ripping into some poor boater's Tollycraft or Bayliner or Grand Banks and after reducing it to shards of fiberglass devour any humans who might have been inside. (This explains the popularity of metal boats up here with fishermen, water taxi operators, etc. who know better than to run around in easily chomped-up wood or glass boats.)

3. There are stretches of coastline that not only don't have a McDonalds or Jack in the Box or WalMart every couple of miles, there isn't anything for a whole lot of miles. That, to the typical American boater, is terrifying.

4. The harbors are way too funky for Americans. Take one we happen to like a lot, Telegraph Harbor on Thetis. Wooden docks with gaps between the planks that can snag a high heel shoe and that are held in place by (the horror) old creosoted piles. And to make things worse, you have to tie your boat to a bull rail. From what we've observed over the years bull rails are as baffling to Americans outside the PNW as securing the eye in a mooring line to the boat instead of the dock.

On shore there is pub. No five-star Westin or Grand Hyatt hotel with a heated horizon pool and swim-up bar. To get to the ferry that runs across to Chemainus you have to walk over the hill. No chauffeured Bentley or frilly horse-drawn carriage.

5. The very nature of the water is terrifying to most American boaters. Tidal ranges of 10 or 12 feet to up over 20 farther north cause currents and rapids and whirlpools that suck boats out of sight never to be seen again. You're pretty familiar with this coast, right Hawg? So you know that by typical BC standards, Dodd Narrows is pretty tame even in full song. But we've seen American charter folks take one look at it and do a 180 and head south at flank speed and not stop until they were tied up securely in Roche Harbor in the San Juans. And even then they were too scared to continue so had the charter company come out of Anacortes or Bellingham or wherever to retrieve the boat while they took a plane home.

So no, I don't think we have to worry much about the Gulf Islands becoming over-run like the San Juans have been. Leave aside the fact that a growing number of Americans don't even know where BC is (or Canada for that matter), the place is simply too terrifying to contemplate as a boating destination.

It even intimidates the hell out of the cruise ship captains, which is why they never stop there but beat feet as fast as they can for SE Alaska where, even though it has the same scary stuff that BC has, it's all hidden behind a veneer of Walmarts and fast food joints and souvenir stores selling plastic totem poles made in Sri Lanka.


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Old 10-30-2015, 09:51 PM   #29
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Many that live in SE Alaska consider that Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway are within 100 miles of Alaska. Obviously Marin's travel in SE Alaska missed the true remote and strikingly beautiful SE. Just because he choose to just review the tourist centers in SE one does not need to follow him. Clearly his review does not turn a square corner with those asking simple questions about SE and his answers are fundamentally missleading. As others noted he has a bias for another area and that is okay, but there is no need for him to slam a world class travel destination to promote his bias.
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Old 10-30-2015, 10:05 PM   #30
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Hully shit.
Gonna find me a frame tammara fer that one.
Every Coastie I have an email for gets a copy.
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Originally Posted by Marin
Dodd Narrows is pretty tame even in full song.
When I was a pup, the kids at Church House had rope stirrups nailed up under the deck of an old Clinker and a plywood Jazz Baby to keep from getting tossed running the Yuculta, Dent and Arran rapids of Cordero Chanel.

Interesting enough, Marin, I have heard your words more than a couple times this past summer in Sidney. Depending what happens over the next year or so, we may see a big jump in our GDP.
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Old 10-30-2015, 10:05 PM   #31
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Thank you Marin. Much better.
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Old 10-30-2015, 10:21 PM   #32
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Obviously Marin's travel in SE Alaska missed the true remote and strikingly beautiful SE.
I suspect my wife and I have been to more remote areas in SE Alaska and in the neighboring BC Coast Range and interior than most people on this forum. Not by boat but by floatplane starting in the mid 1980s and continuing ever since. So I know very well what SE Alaska has to offer, probably more than most here.

It's great but the popular tourist destinations suck. Sorry, but they do in our opinions. An exception is Petersburg, made an exception because the big cruise ships physically cannot get in there.

By floatplane we prefer SE Alaska. By boat, we prefer the BC coast.
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Old 10-30-2015, 11:44 PM   #33
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I was thinking that Marin knew what he was talking about, until I realized he left out the number one reason Americans will avoid the Gulf Islands. The use of used oil containers (dark blue preferred) as crab pot floats!
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Old 10-31-2015, 12:27 AM   #34
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I realized he left out the number one reason Americans will avoid the Gulf Islands. The use of used oil containers (dark blue preferred) as crab pot floats!
Absolutely! That's a great one. I think we've been passing the same set of two blue jugs tied together on the way into Ganges for the past ten years or so.
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Old 10-31-2015, 12:37 AM   #35
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Absolutely! That's a great one. I think we've been passing the same set of two blue jugs tied together on the way into Ganges for the past ten years or so.
Oh, those ones.
No crab trap.
An American wooden whistle maker's liveaboard is down there.
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Old 10-31-2015, 10:07 AM   #36
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I have a suggestion that isn't the PNW or the ICW. Consider chartering in Maine on the US east coast. Why? While we don't have scenic mountains, what we do have is hundreds of islands both with quaint fishing villages and uninhabited. Many of the islands are in nature preserves and have trails you can walk. We don't have a lot of marinas, but we do have abundant rental moorings and hundreds of beautiful anchorages. Dining options range from eating on the boat while anchored/moored in a beautiful cove, through eating Maine lobster, steamed corn and blueberry pie while seated at a picnic table to fine dining. We also have a beautiful waterfront national Park (Acadia National Park) with free bus transportation from all of the nearby harbors.

The downside is that there are not a lot of places to charter a powerboat. The best is Bucks Harbor Marine (Buck's Harbor Marine Yacht Charters and Marina - Buck's Harbor Marine) which is right in the middle of the best cruising area. They mostly charter Grand Banks. There are quite a few places to charter a sailboat though. If you want to experience the coast but not worry about the piloting, you can always book a schooner cruise (Maine's Largest Windjammer Fleet: Maine Windjammer Association).
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Old 10-31-2015, 01:09 PM   #37
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Yes, Maine is a sweet place to boat. Love the seafood and friendly folks. I much prefer the Maine islands to the Gulf Islands. My brother lives in Maine and I forgive him for being a blow boater. I also like their boats having owned a Duffy and a Newman.
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Old 10-31-2015, 01:30 PM   #38
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If you want to be a tourist and avoid the tourists SW SE Alaska is the place to be. That's one of the reasons we moved to Prince of Wales Is.

Marin,
Petersburg is a small town and it dosn't take many tourists to swamp the town. Ther'e is even a small boat that comes to POW Is w 40 or so tourists that dump out on Craig once or twice a week. Many say in Alaska that there should be an open season on tourists. For many Alaskans (some don't deserve to be called that) the tourists are their ticket to live in Alaska.
Statistically for those that move to Alaska they stay for 5 years .. on average. So there's always lots of greenhorns and very few that stay for 10 or 15 years.
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Old 10-31-2015, 06:45 PM   #39
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Marin, Why the dislike of Roche? It can be a nightmare, on wkends during summer season, but it has a lot to offer. The help at docks is very good, docks are good. Three eateries to choose from, a good grocery store. Locals selling their wares. Good walks ashore, some local history etc, anchoring good a short distance away in Garrison Bay. Ganges is great, but it can also be crowded in summer months. We usually anchor and shop then head to N end of Pender to spend the night.
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Old 11-01-2015, 01:40 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TDunn View Post
I have a suggestion that isn't the PNW or the ICW. Consider chartering in Maine on the US east coast. Why? While we don't have scenic mountains, what we do have is hundreds of islands both with quaint fishing villages and uninhabited. Many of the islands are in nature preserves and have trails you can walk. We don't have a lot of marinas, but we do have abundant rental moorings and hundreds of beautiful anchorages. Dining options range from eating on the boat while anchored/moored in a beautiful cove, through eating Maine lobster, steamed corn and blueberry pie while seated at a picnic table to fine dining. We also have a beautiful waterfront national Park (Acadia National Park) with free bus transportation from all of the nearby harbors.

The downside is that there are not a lot of places to charter a powerboat. The best is Bucks Harbor Marine (Buck's Harbor Marine Yacht Charters and Marina - Buck's Harbor Marine) which is right in the middle of the best cruising area. They mostly charter Grand Banks. There are quite a few places to charter a sailboat though. If you want to experience the coast but not worry about the piloting, you can always book a schooner cruise (Maine's Largest Windjammer Fleet: Maine Windjammer Association).
Glad you raised this , we absolutely Luv Maine. My wife and I spent a month there, Martha's, Nantucket, Cape cod, Narraganset , Rockport, Bar Harbour, booth bay, and many other great places. Did not know there were Charter boats there very interesting.

Thanks and Cheers Chris D Liberty
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