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The Ditch and The Payoff (Spoiler: More Humpbacks!)

Airship Goes to Alaska (and BC)

Prince Rupert (AK) — Lowe Inlet (BC) — Khutze Inlet (BC) — Jackson Passage (BC) — Shearwater (BC)

Sunday was a 58 mile day and a good chunk of it was in Grenville Channel. Grenville Channel is a 42-mile long narrow channel that locals call “The Ditch”. It can be rather boring. On our way up to Alaska it was not boring (even though it kinda was) because “Hey! We’re going to Alaska!!” but on Sunday, it was a bit boring. It was rainy and foggy and so there was not much scenery. The scenery in the first place is pretty much just trees and waterfalls which, yes, I know, is nice…there’s just not that much variety. Anyway, I didn’t take many photos because it was kind of a boring cruise day.  

Here’s a container ship being loaded (or offloaded, I couldn’t tell) as we left Prince Rupert. Needs a little off the starboard side, or more on port. 🙂


There were three other boats in Lowe Inlet where we anchored for the night…all boats we’d seen before this summer (some a few times): a big yachty-yacht called Serengeti, a Nordhavn called Arcadia II, and a super cute wooden boat called Poplar:


We got underway first thing and headed the rest of the way down Grenville Channel and toward a spot we picked that we hadn’t been before (therefore skipping Bishop Hot Springs…awwwww): Khutze Inlet. It sounded really pretty and was about 50 miles, so another day of making miles.

Leaving Lowe Inlet on Monday morning:


The weather was again rainy and gray and often foggy, and so there was even less scenery than the day before, and a few times we just looked at each other and shrugged. We haven’t had many (if any) boring cruise days, but we were feeling the boredom of The Ditch, for sure.  

As we neared a little cove toward the south end of Grenville, Kevin spotted a few humpbacks. Yay! Wildlife! Then, he said “Hey, what is that bubbling? Is it just whales hanging out on the surface?” 


And so began the HOURS of humpbacks bubble feeding that we happily added on to our long day of making miles, as we slowly paralleled three (maybe four?) separate groups of humpbacks, bubble net feeding. This was the best yet.

Bubble net feeding is a really cool cooperative feeding thing that humpbacks do, where a group of whales swim in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles beneath a school of fish. This shrinking column of bubbles surrounds the school of fish and forces them up to the surface where the humpbacks then eat 'em all up.

We could SEE the circles of bubbles long before the whale mouths punched through the surface…over and over and over and OVER again. It was insane. And for a total change up, Kevin took stills with my (sad, disabled) Nikon (and then I processed them and made ‘em all shiny), and I shot video with my iPhone (and Kevin edited the video together and made IT all shiny). First, here’s the video:

And here are some stills (circle forming, the first whale's fin punches through the water's surface on the right):















I'd trade 42 miles of boring fog and limited scenery for a couple of hours of that, wouldn't you?

Well, we finally had had enough of all this bubble feeding nonsense (not at all) and broke away (after about 23 “okay just one more”s) so we could get to our next anchorage before dark. 

We turned into Graham Reach and about 20 minutes later noticed some humpbacks up ahead breaching! Good, because we were getting a little bored. We saw probably a dozen breaches from a distance but didn’t get any photos. We did get a few shots of a pretty active fin-slapper though:



This one would hang out and slap fins on the surface for a while (while two or three others swam nearby) and then twice, just as I thought “okay let’s move on…this is cool but we’ve seen it” the fin slapper would come up and breach RIGHT. THERE. Twice I missed the shot (but saw it with my eyeballs, so that’s cool). 


We continued on to Khutze Inlet and anchored on Monday night near the head by the river, then made some sockeye tacos and a salad for dinner. The fog and rain continued, but it cleared enough to get this shot of our neighbor and the giant waterfall:


Whoa! A little bit of (short-lived) blue sky on Tuesday morning:


We left Khutze Inlet and our plan was to head to Rescue Bay, or an anchorage in a little bight in Jackson Passage just before the narrows (before Rescue Bay).


We ended up anchoring on Tuesday night in the little bight (room for about one boat) and it was nice. The wind picked up significantly sometime in the middle of the night, but we were secure and slept well. (Thanks, Rocna!)

This morning we headed for Shearwater. Jackson Narrows was no big deal, then we made our way down Mathieson Channel, through Perceval Narrows (arriving right around slack), then took the Reid Passage shortcut down to Seaforth Channel (where we briefly encountered some 6-8 foot ocean swells making their way in…woohoo!). The rest of the route to Shearwater was fairly calm and just gray and drizzly. 

Here are our maps:

Sunday — Prince Rupert to Lowe Inlet (58.5 nautical miles)

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Monday — Lowe Inlet to Khutze Inlet (56.5 nautical miles):

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Tuesday — Khutze Inlet to unnamed anchorage in Jackson Passage (42.5 nautical miles):

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Wednesday/today — Unnamed anchorage in Jackson Passage to Shearwater, BC (34 nautical miles):

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From Shearwater we'll continue checking weather and decide when and where to stage for our Cape Caution/Queen Charlotte Sound crossing. We may go to Pruth Bay and wait (where there is also internet) instead of further (closer to the crossing) to Fury Cove (where there is no internet, and where that mean eagle took down Kevin's quadcopter). We'll play it by ear (and by weather) for now.