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12 September 2017; The North Pacific Ocean.

We had a bit of a bumpy ride today but the ship was still nicely riding the North Pacific Swell and luckily the strong winds were following the ship. That helped to make it feel not too uncomfortable here on board. Still several people complained about not being warned about the “severe storm” blowing and remained sequestered in their cabins.

From Seattle there are several ways to get to Alaska and the route taken is a decision made by the captain. It involves a large number of considerations, such as speed to maintain, weather outside, weather inside (very low clouds) time lost at pilot change locations and the most important factor: the time of slack tide at Seymour Narrows if the decision is going into the direction of taking the inside route.

Because of the extra distances in the Inside Passage the average speed to maintain from Seattle to Ketchikan can be up to 19 knots, especially if slack tide at Seymour is not in sync with the average passage time of the ship. From Vancouver is it easy, whether the tide is early or late you can easily adjust. From Seattle you have a lot of extra distance to cover before you even get to where the Vancouver ships start their journey. Plus you lose time at Port Angeles to disembark the Puget Sound pilot, then you lose time as you have to cross the traffic lanes near Victoria with slow speed and then hopefully the B.C pilots are waiting at Victoria and the pilot boat does not have to service another ship first. Also the point of seeing more of the Inside Passage is rather moot as with the Narrows tide and the average speed needed, the ship sails through the whole interesting part of the voyage in the dark.

Our route. Chart is courtesy of BC ferries, thank you, as it was the only one I could find which covered the whole area.

Thus for this cruise the captain decided to go outside around Vancouver Island as the weather was good and it gave a less hectic transit from Seattle to Ketchikan. So we left at 16.00 hrs.  Around 20.00 hrs. we disembarked the Pudget Sound pilot and around midnight we were in the open ocean. As the sun was shining yesterday, the guests had some nice scenery to look at (and some nice real estate on the shores of the Pudget Sound) which is not always the case as it can rain quite a bit here. During the night the Officers on the bridge had to pay for the nice weather as near the exit of Strait Juan de Fuca a thick wide blanket descended upon the ship.

Then we sailed northwest, keeping the coast of Vancouver Island on our Starboard side and then bent inwards into Queen Charlotte Sound once north of Cape Scott the North West point of Vancouver Island. Technically Queen Charlotte Sound is considered Inside Waters but due to the width of the Sound, pilotage is not compulsory in the middle part. And thus the ship could continue its voyage without stopping for a B.C pilot and will enter Alaskan waters tomorrow morning around 04.00 hrs.

Although we are allowed to sail the whole distance without local pilots as the ship stays in open waters according to the definition, we are still monitored by the local authorities. The whole of the Pudget Sound is under observation by “Seattle Traffic” and we are required to call in at certain points. Then when we cross over to the Canadian Side we switch to Victoria Traffic, who then monitors our progress (and good behavior) while sailing to the open ocean via Strait Juan de Fuca. Once almost there, we are handed over to Tofino traffic which monitors all the ships that approach or leave Strait Juan de Fuca.

These monitoring stations were introduced in the 1960’s when traffic became denser and denser and when there was also an increase in ships who were “very creative” in the way they sailed all over the place. Traffic Separation Schemes were introduced and in the area around Victoria there are several real “round-about” areas where the ships have to sometimes make a ¾ turn to go from East to North etc.

We will be at the Ketchikan pilot station tomorrow morning at 06.00 hrs. and then expect to dock at 08.00 hrs. in Ketchikan. I hope the guests will take advantage of the nice, if chilly, weather as it is supposed to be sunny all day. We did not have much of a nice summer this year, so every good day near the end of the season can help to make up for it.


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