Sumner Strait to Chatham Strait

near Petersburg, Alaska

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Paddle Trip (A Level 5 Trip)
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 is can be challenging but ours was boring in almost calm seas.

Route Description: We took the ferry to Petersburg 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.
Safety Tips: 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.

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. A Coast Pilot, charts and tide tables are necessary for rounding the capes and making the crossings. Working with the currents is very helpful on long days. Unfortunately Washburne no longer makes his current tables for Southeast Alaska. We relied on a compass and GPS to cross one of the many inlets as a fog moved in while we paddled.

Take Outs and Rest Stops: 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. We paddled a Romany Explorer and a Solstice GT on this trip. We also have a Seward Passat double that is used for trips of shorter length. I am happy to correspond with anyone interested in paddling long trips in Southeast. -- Trip submitted by Joseph Reeves

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