17' Grumman, Seattle to Alaska


My name is Jordan and I’m wanting to share/discuss my upcoming attempt at rowing an aluminum canoe from Seattle to Alaska, with a sail kit as well, going to be prepping the boat over the next few months for a June departure, here’s a video from last fall when I was testing out my current setup…


looked like a lot of fun!

Canoe in the Inside Passage

You must be prepared for some swims with that outfit in the big ocean. The wind will mostly be north and south, meaning you will be running most of the time with the sail. Do you have plans for outrigger (s)? It seems like a good idea. How about a cover over your cockpit? I would consider a larger canoe for the Pacific.

Totally doable

– Last Updated: Mar-12-13 6:09 PM EST –


In contrast to the above poster, I do not think capsizes of your canoe are very likely on the Inside Passage. On days when the wind waves are high enough that capsizing would be a possibility, I assume you would be smart enough to just stay safely on shore. As for the stretches of the passage that are exposed to ocean swells, if you wait for calm days to tackle them, you will breeze right through. The open stretches aren't very long.

Basically, your safety will come down to your willingness to wait out bad weather on shore. If you budget time for plenty of "weather days" - and I would recommend setting aside at least 10% if not 20% of your travel time for this purpose - you will have no problems.

Do look into decking the boat, though. Even on calmer days, enough water will splash into your canoe that you might start stressing out about it. A deck will buy you peace of mind, and isn't that the whole point of an Inside Passage trip?

Bottom line: I say go for it.


Leeboards on both sides?
you need them on both sides - I only saw one to starboard side ? might be I missed the other one.

I don’t listen, only watch the video - your sail, as in the video is not likely to hold up to very strong winds

I second the notion of adding a canoe cover - as you get spray or rain in the boat, it will start to slosh around, and wiht the added momentum of a few gallons of water, it will tend to capsize you as it sloshes

I’d add a line from up near the top of the mast to mast step – something you could pull on for leverage if the boat does capsize

p.s. have sailed a lot in 15’ Grumman with the factory sail kit - but with the 75 s.f. sail not the 45 recommended for a 15 footer - the pressure on the sail is tremendous, hence my comment about your sail not holding up to a strong wind. We had a real rudder, and leeboards both sides, but no sponsons - having tipped that boat over a good many times, I don’t think sponsons will prevent a capsize in heavy wind and waves, but that’s just a guess/opinion

why leeboards on both sides, it performs good with just the one, maybe because my outriggers keep the boat from heeling so much?

the sail you see in the video is not the one i’ll be making the passage with, hoping one of my friends with a sowing machine comes through for me!

great idea on the mast head line for capsizing, with such bouyant sponsons, my guess is the boat will never capsize, and if it does i’m probably riding it to shore upside down

anyone know of resource that shows the directions the tides flow?

thanks for the good advice
i do plan on creating more splash guard for the canoe, was even thinking of extending the rails out from the edges of the canoe, imagine a small visor surrounding the canoes rails to keep water from splashing over the freeboard, plus i have a boom tent setup for the days when it’s calm and rainy, i’m expecting a few of those this summer

both sides are better

– Last Updated: Mar-13-13 8:39 AM EST –

so assume you have very strong wind from 3 o'clock - your one leeboard is on your right side - strong wind heels the canoe over left, lifting half of the leeboard out of the water - result, you are blown to leeward. with tow leeboards, in the same situation, the one on your left will be buried in the water, performing its function. even if the boat isn't heeled over, two leeboards, with twice the surface area as one, witll prevent going to leeward better than a single board.

how were you planning on getting to shore if you did capsize ? all that sail and leeboards and sponsons are going to create a hell of a lot of drag if you are trying to swim the boat to shore - if you can pull it upright, even full of water, you could get back in and sail it towards shore, bailing as you go

in our grumman, sailing in summer, with two people, we'd have one of us hiking way out to windward, toes hooked under the gunnel on one side and sitting butt on the windward side - boat would heel over till the lee side gunnel was almost under - sometimes,we'd still go over if we didn't let the sheet go in time

If it were me, I'd rig some kind of quick release that you culd pull to let the sial drop quickly if you get in trouble. considering the distance you want to travel, I'b le installing a quick release camcleat to hold the sheet - if nothing else, you can just let it fly downwind (which we'd also do sometimes to prevent capsizing

I"d also rig a battery powered pump for bailing - same rigging as white water boaters use

and for sure, I'd have a sea anchor with me, in case of big storms which can blow up real quickly - then as a last resort, you drift downwind, bow into the wind and waves (sea anchor would have to be tied off to the bow)

you really ought to try your rig out in the nastiest, windiest, stormiest conditions you can find before you start your trip - I think you will be surpirsed

"great idea on the mast head line for capsizing, with such bouyant sponsons, my guess is the boat will never capsize"

Maybe you should talk to the captain of the Titanic?

The inside passage ain't all inside - if I remember my trip on the ALaska Ferry right - there was one very large open crossing, and not as much narrow channel as you might be thinking

re: tides
A comprehensive, user-friendly, easy-to-use, and free resource that shows the directions of the tidal currents does not exist. There are tons of free tide tables out there, as I’m sure you’re aware, but very few free places that tell you the direction of the water’s movement.

There do exist a handful of current vector resources that are free, but they are incomplete in their coverage and not always very easy to use:

For SE Alaska (scroll down the list to the Alaskan stations):


For Washington and BC (select “other current stations,” and the flow vector will appear below the table):


The above two resources will show you current vectors at flood and ebb tide, but as you can see, they aren’t very user-friendly and are certainly not comprehensive in their coverage.

One non-free option would be actual nautical charts. These do show current directions, but they are extremely expensive, even in electronic form. I assume a man home-rigging his canoe doesn’t have the money to throw around on these, so we’ll disregard them as an option.

A non-free but cheap option would be the iphone app AyeTides for about $8. This is user-friendly and more comprehensive than the websites I referenced above, but it would require bringing an iphone with you on your trip, which you may not want to do. I can’t vouch for its Canadian coverage.

Here’s an AyeTides screenshot showing the information you want:


What I did on my Inside Passage trip was to just use tide tables (which are easily and freely available everywhere, unlike current tables), and then examined the local geography to try to guess which way the water would move. On flood tides, the water tries to move away from the nearest patch of open ocean, and on ebb tides, it tries to move toward the nearest patch of ocean ocean. The current’s direction changes accordingly. This system of predicting the water’s direction of movement worked fairly well for me, but I would still guess the movement direction wrong about 20% of the time, especially in areas with many twisty little channels. Just comes with the territory.

For my tide tables, I downloaded the following dataset into my handheld Garmin GPS:


The above dataset has only very spotty coverage for BC tides, but excellent coverage for Washington and Alaska. On the Canadian portion of the trip, I just did my best to learn local currents through observation. The tables are still worth getting, though.

For free Canadian tide (but not current) tables in greater detail than the Garmin download, you might check out the following:


Does all this seem needlessly complicated and overwhelming? Below are two online discussions that help shed some light on why all this stuff is so complicated!




Hope you figure it all out! I would just go ahead on the trip and not worry too much about the currents - you will learn to anticipate them through observation as the trip goes on. Even the best nautical charts’ current tables wouldn’t give you complete coverage everywhere. A certain amount of interpolation and guesswork is part of the fun.


Inside Passage
Matti is probably refering to Dixon Entrance. Around 2 1/2 hours on the 880 foot Alaska Ferry with intense rolling. It is maybe 35-40 miles exposed to the Pacific Ocean.

Seattle to Skagway

I am not being pessimistic, but realistic. Have you tried some overnight trips in the San Juan Islands to try out your rig? That area will help you learn to deal with tidal rips and currents. The current can easily be greater than your ability to row against it.