Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Flying in a de Havilland Beaver

Sometimes the indirect route is not only less expensive, it is way more fun. I needed to go from Thorne Bay to Wrangell. Traveling in Southeast Alaska generally involves a plane or boat, and this trip had both.

There it is!

Promech Air's de Havilland Beaver taxiing to the dock in Thorne Bay, Alaska.

Nine cylinder radial engine.

The de Havilland Beaver! My very favorite airplane for getting around this archipelago. There is just nothing like the sound of a Beaver. That rumbling roar greeted me as I stood on the airplane float in Thorne Bay Harbor, and I remembered a lifetime of hearing this workhorse of an aircraft. There are  Beavers operating all over Southeast. That is a testament to their usefulness and good design because the last Beaver was produced by de Havilland in 1967. Production of this aircraft started in 1947.

Yep, I happily climbed into a floatplane that is well over forty years old. Maybe over 60.  It’s okay. Most of the Beavers have been completely rebuilt.

The Beaver is powered by a nine cylinder radial engine. There was one on display at the Seattle Boat Show this year.  Some Beavers have been modified with turboprop engines, but not this one.

Lisa waiting as Mike approaches the dock.

This Pacific Airways Beaver has it's water rudders retracted in the "up" position in flight. See the paddle in a bracket on the float? Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Mike is gliding perfectly up to the dock. This is a trick of professional pilots that I have always admired. There are no brakes. They have to cut power and reduce momentum well before getting close to the dock. The pilot’s foot pedals are attached by cables to small rudders on the rear of the floats, and that is the only steering at slow speeds on the water. I have seen bush pilots size up the wind, waves and current and slide up beside the dock perfectly time after time.  Then they nimbly jump out with one hand on the strut, wrap a line on the dock cleat, and start unloading and loading passengers and freight.

Mike let me sit in the right seat. You couldn’t have peeled the grin off of my face with ViseGrips. Then Lisa told me that the flight had to stop in Craig before going to Ketchikan. Craig is the other way, away from Ketchikan.

Banking around after takeoff.

"Wait!" you say? Wasn’t I going to Wrangell? Well, yeah, but to go direct I would have to charter a boat or plane and it would have been expensive. Seat fare on a scheduled flight is pretty reasonable.

Thorne Bay, Alaska from the air. Hey, isn't that our boat in the harbor?

So back to the detour to Craig…on a nice day it is BEAUTIFUL!

Mountains on the way to Craig.

There are just mountains all over the place.

We picked up four more passengers and two cats in Craig. The cats were going to a shelter in Ketchikan, hopefully to find new and loving homes. Yes, they were in kitty kennels.

Craig, Alaska in early April. The trees will leaf out soon and Craig will be wearing a pretty green coat.

Craig to Ketchikan is a flight between snow capped mountains, over jagged shorelines, across Clarence Strait, and down Tongass Narrows to land at the Ketchikan waterfront. You want to catch the jet? ProMech, Taquan, or Pacific Airways will land at the floatplane dock at the airport, too.

More mountains.

Fearless pilot navigating through rough country. He looks so calm about it.

Seriously, though, bush pilots have been flying me around all of my life. Mike is good at flying this machine.  I would fly with him any time.

Crossing Clarence Strait, looking south to the Pacific Ocean.

Flying over Tongass Narrows with Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island to the right and Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island to the left. In the middle there are a few residents on Pennock Island.

Taxiing up to the Ketchikan waterfront.

Alaska Marine Highways ferry M/V Taku in Wrangell

After landing I grabbed a cab, which dropped me off at the ferry terminal. I boarded the M/V “Taku.” She’s a great old girl, launched in 1963 and still going strong. What is it about the design and workmanship of that era? Can we do it again?

A six hour trip on the ferry put me in to Wrangell.

It is about 55 miles from Thorne Bay to Wrangell as the crow flies.

Thorne Bay -> Craig -> Ketchikan -> Wrangell = 185 miles. That’s just the way it works sometimes. It was a great trip, and cost a total of $132 for the flight and the ferry. I have to take a truck back on the return trip, and that is a lot more expensive. But that is another story.

Happy travels to you, whether it is a walk to the corner store or a world cruise,

Alaska Beachcomber

You can see another Beaver and the M/V Taku here.

Here's the well worn disclosure: I have NOT received any consideration, monetary or otherwise, from any businesses, people, or products shown in this blog post. You're right, I should work on that so that I do.