Cruising with “El Leon” along British Columbia and Alaska
Captain Paolo Bozzo Costa: “It wasn’t hard to convince the owner, these are beautiful places and off the beaten path for yachts, which immediately piqued his curiosity”
In November 2018, after having spent the entire summer in the Mediterranean testing “El Leon,” the new Mangusta 54 mt, we were finally ready to travel around the world! Our goal was to complete our voyage in around 3 years, scheduling the appropriate amount of time to fully enjoy the places we would visit.
While planning the worldwide itinerary, I suggested to the owner that, once we had passed Panama, we should go on to California, and cruise up the coast of British Columbia until we reached Alaska. It wasn’t hard to convince the owner, these are beautiful places and off the beaten path for yachts, which immediately piqued his curiosity.
SUMMER CRUISING ALONG BRITISH COLUMBIA AND ALASKA
In March 2019, already sailing for a few months in the Pacific Ocean, and after having completed the beautiful (and difficult in regards to permits) itinerary through the Galapagos, the time finally came to turn to the North and go to San Diego, California, where we would then prepare ourselves to spend the summer cruising off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska.
Already while going up to California, we encountered a swell to the bow after Mexico, caused by the low pressure system that formed off Alaska – we knew we had to be careful. This ocean must be sailed on very carefully, without ever underestimating the weather.
At the beginning of June 2019, once we had prepared El Leon, we left San Diego to continue north along the coast of California, until we reached Seattle, where the owner was waiting to come on board and begin our summer itinerary. Seattle is a beautiful city where, strangely, it feels like being in the mountains, even though it is on the sea!
In order to reach our port, located inside a lake, we had to go through a number of sluices, a very delicate manoeuvre because of the currents. Just a little taste of that same current that would have accompanied us throughout our entire itinerary and which I would then have learned to navigate.
OFF TO BRITISH COLUMBIA!
The itinerary that I had prepared very carefully, was difficult and included navigating mostly through inlets, the interior passages between islands. Each day would have been a different port or in roads from the one before. We would have faced the open Pacific Ocean only after having left British Columbia upon entering the cold waters of Alaska.
The first stop was Victoria, a beautiful Canadian city, and we couldn’t miss stopping in Vancouver as well. Having left the cities, we enjoyed the more adventurous part of the cruise, passing through inlets towards Campbell River, with its breathtaking nature, until we reached Malibu Rapids, a small bay with a majestic, snowy, mountain range behind.
We then continued north until we reached the famous Seymour Narrows, known for its current, reaching a speed of 14 knots. Crossing that point early or late could be a tragic mistake, making it impossible to manoeuvre the vessel.
While sailing we saw a number of pods of orcas crossing our path. A side note: there is a bay in British Columbia called Genoa Bay, and, since I’m from Genoa, I had no choice but to make a stopover!
ALASKA AT LAST
Having nervously passed through Seymour Narrows and another three days of sailing, we reached Alaskan waters, accompanied by a thick fog, helping me fully appreciate the sophisticated equipment on board the “El Leon.”
We reached the pilot station and embarked a pilot on board. Yes, in Alaska, for vessels of our size, it is mandatory to have pilot on the vessel 24/7. We continued north and after stopping at a very picturesque First Nations village, we moved on to Tracy Arm, where we sailed for a whole day dodging small icebergs coming down from the fjord, until we reached the foot of the Sawyer glacier.
There are bears in Alaska, and a lot of them at that, so when we had excursions in particularly isolated areas where they were living, it is highly advised to be accompanied by a ranger. We were very organised on board! We bought a bear repellent spray and, when we went to shore, we were always in groups, something which made our itinerary even more of an adventure.
After ten days travelling around these beautiful bays, we finally reached Ketchican, where we docked “El Leon” along a pier mostly used by seaplanes connecting the various islands. This town is very distinctive, it felt like going back in time to the Gold Rush, when people came to this part of the world in search of their fortunes.
This was the last stop of our itinerary. The Genoa flag, which always flies on the bow of the vessels I captain, has also been to Alaska!
Captain Paolo Bozzo Costa