GETTING READY TO GO
There are two ways to take the Inside Passage: in quick spurts or in slow, steady runs. The first method requires a fast, planing hull that can make 20 to 35 miles an hour in calm water. The best choice here is an outboard cruiser at least 20 feet long or an inboarder of 25 feet and up. A planing boat, in a normal day's run, covers 60 to 140 miles in three to five hours, and the rest of the time is yours to fish, explore and take pictures.
The steady-run technique makes use of the slower displacement hull which pushes water aside rather than planing over the top of it. The slow and steady yachtsman makes only six to 10 knots through the water and may take as long as seven to 10 hours to get from one gas stop to another. On the other hand, a displacement boat shakes less in choppy water, and its crew arrives on the scene fresher than the planing-hull contingent.
Sports Illustrated selected its 24-foot Norseman outboard cruiser (see cover) for two reasons. One was her comfortable size—24 feet in an outboard hull gives you almost as much usable room as a 35-foot cruising sailboat. A smaller boat would have been uncomfortable for our three-man crew, and a larger boat would have given us room we didn't need. We also picked her for her sound construction, a vital factor in the Inside Passage where, in spite of sheltering mountains, the water is seldom calm. The wind blows up the narrow passes or it blows down them, setting up a short chop which can cut your speed to less than eight knots. Aboard our Norseman, we found that we could run at top cruising speed—35 miles an hour with twin 60-hp Mercury outboard engines—only about a third of the time, which was still enough to keep our average speed high.
But whether you take it fast or slow, the Inside Passage is no cruise for a careless yachtsman. There are a number of open stretches, and crossing them demands judgment and timing. The frequent heavy rains and mists along this coast can add further to the hazards of navigation. Fitting out, proper tuning and judicious choice of equipment are all-important.
Seattle, a city almost surrounded by water, has the best fitting-out facilities north of San Francisco. For this reason and also for the hospitality shown to cruising men in this bustling boating center, most northbound yachtsmen do their launching and fitting out at one of the more than 60 marinas that finger into Lake Union, Lake Washington and Puget Sound. For the outboarders, marinas like Bryant's (Evinrude) and Pacific Fish and Trading (Mercury) can rig, launch and tune your boat in a single day. Inboarders can pick from among half a dozen outstanding marinas, the best-known being Marine Charters, run by Norman Ledger. If you have no boat of your own, Ledger can arrange to charter one for you for the whole Alaska cruise.
Once your boat is ready to go, plan to spend at least a day in trial runs on the lakes or out in Puget Sound. In these final stages of preparation, keep the following points in mind:
?No boat going very far north of Seattle should venture forth with only one engine at its disposal. Outboard cruisers should carry a second engine, even if it is only a 15-hp kicker for fishing. Twin outboards with 25 hp or more apiece are an even better bet. Only if you are traveling with another boat should you risk the trip with just one engine—and even then, hold a close formation.
?A dinghy makes your trip much more fun—you can anchor out and row ashore for swimming and cook-outs, but for emergency situations each yacht should carry an inflatable rubber raft tied to the cabin top when crossing open stretches.
?An electric windshield wiper and a pump to spray water on the windshield and wash the salt off are important safety devices. Rain or salt spray can cut visibility to zero in no time.