Following is an online rowing adventure of Charlie Parks and company who rowed from Skagway, Alaska to Seattle, Washington in a Whitehall Spirit 17′.
Dear Harold and Marie,
I arrived safe and sound in Seattle in mid August after rowing my 17′ Whitehall Spirit down from Skagway, Alaska through the Northwest Inside Passage.
My rotating crew of seven, all ranging greatly in height and rowing ability, adjusted easily to the sliding seat rowing stations. Everyone enjoyed being part of the whole adventure and got a lot of satisfaction from travelling under their own power.
The Whitehall Spirit 17′ proved to be the better choice over the 14′ only because it held more gear, enabling me to row the entire 1100 mile journey with another rowing partner. Having four oars in the water is better than two on a long haul!
In addition to having a lot of safety gear aboard including an EPIRB, GPS, compass, charts, flares, US and Canadian approved Pfd’s and more, the boat proved to be seaworthy and safe. We never even came close to capsizing or taking on huge amounts of water, even when we got caught in rough weather near Foggy Bay just south of Ketchikan, Alaska or when we rounded Cape Caution in Queen Charlotte Sound. There were some huge eight foot swells coming in off the Pacific that day but the boat held up great and we got around without any incident.
The only water that we took in, to speak of, was in the heavy rain we had every day between Prince Rupert, and Klemtu. That was when the Gusher water pumps were put into action. Our gear stayed dry in watertight rafting bags. Rowing in the rain was fine because we were always moving, burning hundreds of calories. The rain only really bothered us when we were setting up and taking down our campsites.
From our boat we saw a large variety of wildlife; humpback whales, killer whales, seals, sea lions, sea otters and porpoises. On shore we saw deer, black and brown bear and mink. In the air were hundreds of bald eagles.
A typical day began at 4:00 or 5:00 AM. We were far enough north to have the long hours of daylight. We would consult our tide book and charts and make a goal (always being flexible for wind, rain and other unforeseen challenges) of where we wanted to camp that evening.
Sleeping and camping was always a bit of a challenge. Towards the end of a day after rowing 20-30 miles we then had to locate a good beach where we could safely land the boat for the night and with a soft place to pitch the tent. Once we found an acceptable campsite, usually around 5:00 to 6:00 in the evening, we would build a fire, secure the boat and set up camp. We always pulled the boat out of the water for fear of losing it to a tide, wave or current. Tides also played a big factor in where, when and how we camped.
As the trip progressed we were able to row more miles because we were in better shape. Our efficiency grew as we got better organized and got rid of equipment, clothes and other items that we found we were not using. Along the way we caught a few cod, which we cooked over our evening beach fires. The boat never became any lighter though as we replaced the absent equipment with more food!
The only major change I can think of would be to convert my 17 Whitehall to a sailing model, so we can relax more and look at the scenery, and also get the occasional free ride.
I would like to thank you again for all the help you gave me last spring as I prepared for my rowing adventure. It was truly a great experience, something that no money could ever buy and something I will always have fond memories of for many years to come.