Skip to content

Behm Canal | Helm Bay

Airship Goes to Alaska 2016

Yesterday morning we left Fitzgibbon Cove and continued on around the canal. We had the current with us and decided to go all the way to Helm Bay. We’d originally thought we’d go to Yes Bay, but then thought no.

We saw a big black bear on the shore near Bell Island:


We got a spot on the Forest Service float, which is quite nice and has room for several boats. We were the only ones we’d seen all day though, save for a little fishing boat or two.

Our new view:


We took the dinghy out for some exploring, but the wind and waves picked up as soon as we were out from behind our little protector island, so we turned back. Plus, no bears.


Just before we turned into Helm Bay we saw a humpback or two out in the canal, close to shore. Nothing too dramatic, just some spouts and a few humps.

I watched this kingfisher fishing from his spot high on this piling for a while. (It was low low tide, so he was WAY up there):


I made crab curry for dinner in Fitzgibbon Cove, and last night I put together some penne with a crab/spinach/cream sauce. (Yeah, the crab thing’s gonna need to chill out a bit soon.)

Here’s a map of yesterday’s route from Fitzgibbon Cove to Helm Bay: 44.2 nautical miles, 5 hours 55 minutes


The weather sounds like it’s going to turn a bit worse today (20kt wind, 4 foot waves in nearby Clarence Strait) so we got up this morning and headed for Ketchikan on the early side (meaning, we arrived at the city floats in Ketchikan just barely after 9am).

Here’s this morning’s route: Helm Bay to Ketchikan: 22 nautical miles, 3 hours 7 minutes


There are only two cruise ships in port today (woohoo). It’s gray and rainy here and we have a bunch of work to do, so it’s just as well.


The city floats (also known as Casey Moran, but everyone just calls ’em the city floats) are first come first served. The other two main marinas in Ketchikan are Bar Harbor, a ways north, down by the Safeway, and Thomas Basin, a few blocks south, nearer to Creek Street. They both have space for transients, but they hot berth you…meaning that they’ll put you in a spot that belongs to someone else (say, a fisherman who’s out for a few days fishing) and then when he radios that he’s coming back in, they’ll ask you to move to a different spot. So if you’re out doing something or sightseeing or whatever, it can be a little tricky to need to move. Anyway, we stayed at Bar Harbor last year with the flotilla and it was fine. (They actually had a spot for me that didn’t belong to someone so I could stay in it the whole week that Kevin flew to the bay area for a business trip without having to move the boat on quick notice. Downside was that it was a spot right next to the boat launch where all the Duck Tour boats go in and out all day, full of cruise shippers singing along to the theme from Hawaii Five-O and Gilligan’s Island. Can’t have it all.)

Anyway, we arrived at city floats and woohoo, there was a spot! One spot! I spun Airship around and docked her (not quite like a pro, but pretty close), and as Kevin is tieing the lines, the guy from the larger boat that’s behind us comes over to warn us:

Nice yachty guy: Hey there’s been a big fish boat here and he’s apparently got this slip reserved for the month.

Us: Hmmm, these unpainted sections are first come first served, as far as we know.

Nice yachty guy: Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but he assured me that he’s reserved this space for a whole month. He can come and go, but this is his spot. You might want to check on that before you get too comfortable.

Us: Okay! Thanks for the heads up…we’ll give them a call.

Reserved. Heh. We call the harbormaster’s office to let them know we are here at the end of finger 3 or whatever this is, and tell them that the guy behind us said a fisherman told him he’s got this space reserved for the month. They say “Nope, he certainly doesn’t. All the unpainted bull rail spots are open to whoever comes first.” Yep, just like we thought. They said if we had any problems just to call the harbormaster on 73. (Problems? Like big fishboat guy comes over to kick us out of “his spot”? That should be interesting.)

An hour or two later, nice yachty guy comes back to see what the deal is (since we’re still here) and we tell him we called the harbormaster’s office, and we tell him what they said. He says “Well I wonder what that guy’s try’n’a DO!!?” and I said “He’s try’n’a get you to save his spot for him, that’s what!” 🙂