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Sumner Strait to Chatham Strait - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Extended Trip Report
Trip Dates: August 2006
Nearest City: Juneau, AK
Difficulty: Difficult
Submitted by: Umnak View Profile

Description:

Petersburg, AK Sumner Strait to Chatham Strait

A multiday ocean sea kayak trip for experienced paddlers.

Highlights: This is a 300 nautical mile trip that covers the least populated portions of Southeast Alaska. We saw no other vessels for 8 of the 13 days. An abundance of whales and sea otters, bears and birds. A 12 mile crossing of Frederic Sound can be challenging but ours was boring in almost calm seas.

Route Description: We took the ferry to Petersburg from Juneau and then paddled south through the Wrangell Narrows to Sumner Strait. We spent three days in Sumner following it to Cape Decision. We followed the east coast of Chatham Strait, after rounding the Cape, past Kuiu Island's deep bays and across Frederic Sound to Point Gardner on the south coast of Admiralty Island. We paddled the entire west coast of Admiralty to Point Retreat and into our home waters near Juneau.

This is wilderness kayaking. We were four experienced paddlers with sufficient supplies to last three weeks. The trip took just 13 days. We carried fishing gear and a marine shotgun. These are variables one is able to control. The weather and the sea are not. Cape Decision sits at the end of Sumner and Chatham Straits. Chatham Strait joins Lynn Canal to form a fjord of more than 250 miles in length. There is a lot of water flowing past the Cape and it should only be rounded on the end of the flood with a following wind. The crossing of Frederic Sound may also be dangerous. Our crossing was easy, but in the wrong conditions seas have been recorded at more than 20 feet. Commercial Fisherman die there every year.

Paddling Tips: This trip can be done any time from late April through September with patience and the ability to move quickly along the coast. Working with the currents is very helpful on long days. We relied on a compass and GPS to cross one of the many inlets as a fog moved in while we paddled.

There is no bad place along this trip once you are an hour away from the three communities of Petersburg, Angoon and Juneau on the route. Tebenkof Bay and the protected shores of Explorer's Basin may be the sweetest place I've paddled in Alaska. I counted 65 sea otters, 8 humpback whales and a pod of killer whales in less than an hour.

Comments: The waters of Southeast Alaska are an amazing place to kayak. The longer you can paddle and the farther you move away from the scattered communities, the nicer it gets. This group has paddled together for close to 8 years. Our two friends have Mariner kayaks and are masters at making fires and using tarps -- tarps are essential for the rain forest climate.

Outfitting:

We paddled a Romany Explorer and a Solstice GT on this trip. Our friends have Mariners.

Fees:

No, and lets hope there never are.

Directions:

Drive to Bellingham, WA get on a ferry with your kayak, get off in Petersburg, AK turn left at the dock, right at Sumner Strait, right at Chatham Strait and then a sharp right at Point Retreat about 150 nm north. From there its just about 20 miles to the Juneau Douglas Bridge.

Resources:

A Coast Pilot, charts and tide tables are necessary for rounding the capes and making the crossings. You must take the points at high tide in this part of the country, too much water drains from the fjords to attempt any time past the second hour of the ebb.


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