Saturday, June 8, 2013

Exchange Cove to Petersburg 39.6 miles


Exchange cove seemed like a reasonable place to spend a few days but we felt like moving on the next day. The original intention was to head to the north coast of Prince of Wales Island and Red Bay. having heard the forecast for the next few days we decided to change our minds. The Low pressure systems we promising 25-30 knots with higher gusts on the outside of Prince of Wales so we looked to revise our plan. Jude read in one of the guides that Petersburg has a Norwegian festival in the third week of May. Guess what – it’s the third week in May so off we set for Petersburg. We crossed Sumner strait and entered the south end of South Wrangell Narrows. These Narrows are one of the main shipping routes north and at their narrows about 300ft wide. It is used by tug boats and large cruise ships as well us us small pleasure boats. There are nearly 60 channel markers along its length and in some places its only 25ft deep (at low tide) all I could think about was I hope I don’t meet the Carnival Princess cruise ship coming the other way. All was fine, we saw one tug boat coming the other way and managed to avoid its path by pulling off to the side. We followed a 40ft wooded ketch, the Agean, down the channel and waved as we went past them a few miles south of Petersburg.    

As we approached Petersburg we could hear laughter coming from the town, presumably from the festivities that had started the day before, it lifted our spirits from the slightly nerve wracking navigation of the narrows. We called up the port authority on the VHF and were assigned a slip in the north harbor fishing fleet section. A good choice as it is the one that has showers. The harbour master sounded like a character and we were keen to meet him. We tied up to the ramshackled dock (due to be replaced soon apparently) next to the fish cannery and made our way to pay our dues to the harbour master. He was indeed a character. Norwegian decent and very relaxed. Jude and I went for a quick look around town while Katya stayed on the boat and we managed to sneak a cheeky beer in before returning. Petersburg is a great town. People very friendly, a good supermarket, chandlers and a video rental shop and restaurants. Yes we decided to stay two nights  - its probably going to be the last town or civilization we visit before arriving in Juneau which is over three weeks away.
The following morning we all went for a walk, going through town and out the otherside. The town certainly has a Norwegian flavor and many of its town folk originate from Norway. It is primarily a fishing town and the cannery which opens seasonally swells the population to double its non seasonal size. Unlike Ketchiken the large cruise ships do not stop here and have therefore not spoilt the place (in my view). I suppose one could argue that having the cruise ships stop off in Petersburg could be a good thing for the town bringing in the tourist dollar but probably sacrificing some of the community structures and history of the place. I don’t think anybody likes tourist towns, they are soulless places.

We all went back to the boat and Jude took the opportunity of having shore power to get the vacuum cleaner out. This is always a sign for me to make a sharp exit  - Jude does not like having me around when vacuuming and I certainly don’t like being around when the vacuum is going, so Katya and I went for another walk. We met some of the local people, watched a local game of softball and bought some fruit and veg for the boat before posting some letters and renting some videos (TC  - we managed to rent Apocalypto for Katya – she enjoyed it and did not have nightmares) before heading back to the boat. In the evening Jude and I went out to sample some of the local nightlife, we opened the door to the first pub we came to and were immediately offered some a couple of kilos of fresh prawns! We quickly took them back to the boat before returning to have a drink and perhaps a couple of others at another bar. Thirsty work cruising you know and we do like to support the local community. Yes well somebody has to do it.

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