Planning your trip
Kayaking Chichagof Island
You can do this one of three ways. First is by vehicle up the Alcan Highway, coming finally into Haines. From there you can take the ferry to several ports of call on Chichagof — Tenakee Springs, Hoonah, Elfin Cove, or Sitka. Be aware that some of these sailings occur on a weekly basis. Sitka can be reached somewhat more readily.
Secondly, you can take the Alaska Marine Highway’s ferry from Bellingham, Washington, a couple of hours north of Seattle. This is the grand boat that will deliver you to Sitka after a couple of days sailing north through the Inside Passage. If you want to begin your trip at one of the smaller villages on the island, you will have to either take a ferry from one of the
Or you can fly, then ferry hop, per above. Of course, if you want to take your own boat it’ll have to be a folder or blow-up. As I recall, both the ferry and a plane were about the same price ($200-$300). What you gain in time on the plane you will miss in an unforgettably bon vivant atmosphere on the ferry. Camping out on the solarium of the ferry with new friends was
When to go
The decision on when to go is a function of weather if you’re kayaking. High pressure typically associated with a more southerly latitude, like B.C. and the Washington coast, is not a given here. Weather changes hourly. May has the most sunshine; August is iffy. Anything in between in your best bet.
What to bring
Besides your regular kayak gear, you’ll have to go prepared for rain. Generally, it will not get much cooler than the 50s in summer; even with a steady rain that’s a comfortable temperature. When it monsoons you’ll want respite, and that means a good tent. A good night’s sleep is my recipe for thriving in the wild (or anywhere). You’ll need the tent for bugs, too, so make
As for paddling, I’d recommend a Farmer John wet suit at all times. And have a rain/wind shell close at hand. That way you’re prepared for conditions ranging from sudden submersion to a week of rain. Hypothermia should be your first concern. It is better to be a little overheated than dangerously cold and getting colder.
A cap or visor to shield your face, and glasses, are important. I took along a couple of Oakley Pro M frames with a half-dozen interchangeable lenses. Their yellow, or persimmon, lens put a refreshing face on an otherwise dreary scene. They were also the hot item on the bridge of the Icy Bay for the evening watch because they extended our
If mosquitoes and tiny biting bugs drive you nuts, take along some XXX repellent, and maybe even a mesh head net. I did not find a lot of insects but I was probably lucky.
Depending on your plan and route you can mail packets of food to post offices along the way. Usually they’re willing to hold it for a while; write on the box to hold for a kayaker passing through on or about a given date. Make your best guess as to your ETA for these little outposts because they don’t always have a lot of room to stash a bunch of extra stuff.
Take a complete set of nautical charts. A scale of 1:40,000 is good for outside waters; smaller scale is adequate for much of the Inside Passage. Topographic maps are helpful, too, especially if you’re going to be doing much inland exploring.
Hoonah Post Office
Pelican Post Office
Tenakee Springs Post Office
Sitka Post Office
Alaska Marine Highway
For cabin inquiries
Forest Service, Sitka District
Forest Service, Hoonah District
Alaska Kayak Adventures
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