The Inside Passage includes more than just Alaska

Apr 16, 2013 by Guest Writer

Thoughts of the Inside Passage conjure images of Alaska’s rugged and remote natural offerings, but the scenery and the memories can begin long before a yacht hits Alaska, according to cruising veteran Bill Kelly.

“The southern Inside Passage is an excellent waterway for boats 65 to 300 feet,” said Kelly, co-author of the 320-page guidebook, Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage. “Just the Canadian portion stretches over 500 nautical miles from the south end of the island to the B.C.-Alaska border. Within this coastline are hundreds of safe anchorages, islands and dozens of inlets.”

The Inside Passage still remains a low-traffic destination for large recreational vessels, although it is not uncommon to see boats in the 100-foot range travelling to and from Desolation Sound or Port Hardy.

“Almost every port mentioned in the guidebook works for a 100-footer,” Kelly said. “Of the 200 anchorages recommended, about half are suitable for boats of 150 feet. Most of the anchorages have good depth for such a boat; the limiting factor is often swinging room.”

These coastal waters are swept by significant tides that can produce strong currents in passes, channels and straits. The ever-changing nature of weather and the sea is what makes cruising along the Inside Passage a fascinating adventure, Kelly said. With piloting detail for all passes, the guidebook allows cruisers to be prepared for most controllable contingencies. It also contains information about customs clearance, banking rules, marine parks, sport fishing licences, provisioning and pets on board.

However, the book is not all nuts and bolts. It includes a section on native art, which has such a rich gallery and museum presence in villages and ports that dot the Inside Passage. It is an area full of aboriginal history dating back 6,000 years as well as tales of exploration and trading by Spanish, French, Russian, British and Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries, and European settlement in the 19th and 20th centuries.

There is also an informative section on plants and wildlife, with marine mammals, eagles and bears prominently among them. Many anchorage descriptions identify options to go ashore and walk nature trails.

Following a sold-out first edition, the second edition will be launched this summer, available at marine stores and online book Web sites.

Alison Gardner is a travel journalist based in Victoria and editor of Travel with a Challenge (, a Web-based resource for mature travelers. Comments on this story are welcome at


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