Our Inside Passage Expedition began on Lopez Island where we had spent the previous 10 months building TERN. From Lopez Island, situated in Washington's San Juan Islands, water stretches in all directions; east to the mainland, south a couple hundred miles into the Puget Sound, west out the Straits of Juan De Fuca to almost endless ocean miles, and north for a thousand miles through twisting channels and open straits to Alaska. With our bags packed and most of the details of rigging our boat finished, we went north.
In general we travelled about 20-30 miles each day, depending largely on how much wind we were blessed with and how strong the tides were running with us or against us. For some portion of every day on our expedition we used both our oars and our sails, although our sails could move us much faster and with much less energy expended than our oars could. Late in the trip some crew members grew physically restless and welcomed any chance they got to pull an oar. From time to time we "motor-sailed", using a combination of oars and sails simultaneously.
Most nights of the trip a majority of the crew camped ashore, although some people chose to sleep on the boat, mostly because they found it simpler than setting up a tent or tarp in the thick undergrowth. Boom tents pitched over both the main and mizzen booms accomodated all six of us on several occiasions when we rowed or sailed late into the night or when camping ashore simply wasn't an option because of the shoreline terrain.
Instead of towing a tender to get to and from shore, we rigged a clothesline haul-out system to our anchor that allowed us to all go ashore yet still get the boat back out to deep water. Despite our diligence, TERN ended up on dry ground more than once, but thankfully she came away barely bruised each time.
We prepackaged much of our food (mostly dry staples) and sent rations ahead of us in the gracious care of Patrick O'Neil and Dick and Anne Behan who were northbound for the Alaska commercial fishing season and a summer of cruising respectively. Using numerous dry bags we were able to carry enough food for about twenty days at a time. Supplements of fish and fresh food were always welcome.
North Bound Route
We set sail from Lopez on June 6, 2006 with Becca Leaphart, Ben Gore, Cedar Charnley, Isaac Pattis and Ben Brouwer aboard. As the map at right shows, our North Bound Leg (indicated in black) meandered through the San Juans and the Canadian Gulf Islands before crossing the Straits of Georgia to Lesquetti and Texada Islands. We ducked into Desolation Sound then navigated the narrow, swift-running tidal rapids known as Hole in the Wall and Upper and Lower Rapids. Leaving this maze of dense islands and passage ways behind us (along with Alana who got off the boat at a salmon farm) we began beating up Johnstone Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland, directly into the prevailing northwest winds. Terray joined us at Kelsey Bay near the base of Johnstone Strait. A brief stop off at Port Neville gave us our first food resupply.
Visits to the fascinating abandoned communities at Minstrel Island and Village Island in the "Upper Jungle" just south of Queen Charlotte Strait preceeded our first long port stop and second food resupply in Alert Bay. From Alert Bay we crossed the harrowing Queen Charlotte Strait in too much wind and too big waves then crept along the shore to Cape Caution against a week of gale force winds. Once around Cape Caution we made easy time up Fitz Hugh Sound in the company of humpback whales to Bella Bella and Shearwater, our third food supply stop.
From Shearwater we veered to the "Outer" Inside Passage, skipping the long narrow "highways" of Grenville and Princess Royal Channels. Travelling almost entirely alone, except for the occaisional intrepid yachter or cargo tug, we transitted up Laredo and Principe Channels, buffetted and waylaid for a day on Pitt Island by a true storm. Rowing and sailing into the night we pushed ourselves to Prince Rupert then onwards across Dixon Entrance to Alaska. We reached Ketchikan July 15, exactly as planned.
South Bound Route
Becca, Ben Gore and Terray were replaced by Brook Brouwer, Robyn Minkler and Genvieve Baker at the Ketchikan crew change. After several nourishing days in the care of generous new friends, the South Bound Leg began (deviations from our north bound course are indicated on the map by a red line). But first we went north. Around Revillagigedo Island then south against headwinds and two long weeks of rain to Prince Rupert, just in time to save Robyn from the misery of a toothache. Ike left us there to take care of his worsening back and eventually caught a ferry to Alert Bay where he would spend several weeks in the company of our hosts there, Dave and Jo.
Oona River enchanted the remaining crew for a day but not long enough to keep us from our task. With our larders full of generously gifted food, we rowed and sailed south down Grenville Channel to cut time, then outside again for Laredo Channel and long days of sailing with the wind finally behind us again. We settled in Shearwater with the good people of the Raincoast Conservation Society for several days before exchanging Genvieve for Faridah Mow. Then south again, this time detouring outside Hunter Island before ducking back into Fitz Hugh Sound and rocketting down Queen Charlotte Strait with too much wind and too big waves pushing us along.
Alert Bay, full of welcoming people, a reunion with Ike and lots of good salmon was once again a delight for weary sailors. Too soon, though, we were plunging south again, down Johnstone Strait to pick up Tim Gehling at Kelsey Bay then after lazy days full of wild cherries, apples, salmon and free beer in the Octopus Islands we let Brook go at Hariot Bay on Quadra Island. The second toothache of the trip, this time in Ben's tooth, forced the crew into Comox for a dentist. After a day of dentists, hitchhiking, buses and ferries, Ben caught up to TERN at Hornby Island. Our crew joined a collection of other small sail/row boats at Silva Bay on Gabriola Island for the start of the Shipyard Raid, a rowing and sailing stage race that transitted the Gulf and San Juan Islands to Port Townsend.
We made landfall on Lopez Island on September 6, exactly three months after our departure. A good crowd of friends welcomed us home--but the next morning we set to the oars and sails once more to make the crossing to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. Three days later we were home at last and for good. TERN will undoubtedly sail again.