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Trip Highlights: Scenic views and solitude easily accessible from town or from the campground. Waterfowl are abundantly present.
Trip Rating: Beginner/Intermediate: In settled weather kayakers with only limited experience can negotiate this group of islands. However the whole area is open to the southwest, and foul weather can develop quickly and unexpectedly. Beginners really should be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide or friend. Those of intermediate skills should have no problems if they are willing to haul out and wait for improving weather when necessary.
Trip Duration: Half-day, full day, and overnight excursions are all possible. The distance from Sitka Harbor to Big Gavanski Island and Starrigavan Bay is only 6.5 miles.
Navigation Aids: NOAA chart 17324.
Tidal Information: Tides are of little significance here. In passes between islands tidal flow direction should be considered; it is always a good idea to paddle through them on slack water.
Cautions: All the islands in North Sitka Sound are exposed on the south and west to the wind, waves, and swell of the Pacific Ocean. Kruzof Island to the west of Sitka offers some protection. You must be prepared to move into protected coves or haul out when an adverse wind pipes up. Be aware of floatplanes landing and taking off in Sitka Channel. Be "heads up" for a variety of fishing and pleasure vessels that ply these waters.
Trip Planning: Obtain a current weather forecast before heading to the islands. There are nice places to go ashore and have a picnic or camp if you plan an overnighter. Be sure and bring water for any trip. These small islands lack water sources. There are homes on some of the islands that should be avoided except in an emergency.
Launch Site: It is convenient to launch from the floating docks or from ramps at Crescent Harbor or Thomson Harbor in Sitka. There is also a ramp and plenty of shoreline for launching access near Starrigavan Campground.
Make your kayaking plans in accordance with wind conditions and time available. When paddling here you are always near a place to haul out if necessary. Here are some route suggestions from typical departure points.
Departing from Crescent Harbor or Thomson Harbor, there are a couple of options. Proceed northwest and stay along the Baranof Island shoreline past Watson Point and cross over to Kasiana Island when it comes abeam. From there paddle along the east or west sides of Middle Island. An alternative is to follow the shore of Japonski Island and then island-hop toward Chaichei Island and up through the islands west of Middle Island. Leaving from Starrigavan Bay or its campground, it is convenient to head west to Big Gavanski Island and from there southwest on either side of Middle Island. These are all one-way trips of 6 miles or less.
Where to Stay: Starrigavan Campground is a convenient place to set up camp for day-trip paddling. Away from town there are numerous pleasant camping spots on the small islands. Make an effort to choose a camping or picnic spot that is out of sight of houses.
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