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Going Slow, Small, and Simple Through the Inside Passage to Alaska

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December 19, 2018

In this busy hectic world, it’s nice to see a couple who have made the time to enjoy nature’s grandeur via thrift, efficiency, and common sense.

Comments, Thoughts or Suggestions?

You can leave a comment or question for OCH and members below. Here are the comments so far…

39 Responses So Far to “Going Slow, Small, and Simple Through the Inside Passage to Alaska”:

  1. Avatar Wade Rogers says:

    A well done, short video about slowing down and seeing what’s in the Inside Passage. I live and sail in Juneau, AK and understand what you’re saying about being on ‘slow time’. I think going slower on the water on the Inside Passage is the best way to see it. Many have been the times when I either had to stay put in the bay I was located and wait for better weather or the weather window was good for a longer period and I could just stay put for another day or two! I have a 30′ Catalina that I sail and race and she’s been in Alaska all her adult life! She’s specially rigged with backing plates all over, a half cockpit enclosure, diesel heater, custom galley, and bunk extensions. I also have two solar panels on the dodger so it’s nice to see that power being generated wherever I’m located, and to know I have enough water, and fuel for the heater, stove, and engine to stay somewhere for days. I’ve delivered a couple of sailboats down the Inside Passage to Seattle as well, so the slower pace is nice because you’re there to see the scenery and that’s hard to do one is just going from point A to B. I got lucky this year on a 250 mile trip and saw 20 whales and about 20 sea otters, as well as a sea lion haulout w/ 50 or more individuals. Love your boat for a boat that a couple can cruise in @ 6 knots and still be eco-friendly, safe, and confortable!

  2. Avatar Brent Williams says:

    What a great video. Another reminder of what life is all about. What a great way to do it, and you can’t get any better than spending it on the water. Great job 🤙🤙🤙🤙

  3. Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

    Reading through the comments above is that very little attention is given to the most important item required for a rewarding adventure in the wilds of the world and that is a reliable engine and by extension, the engine room accessibility, fuel system, electrical system, shaft, stuffing box, prop and Rudder. All of which I have attempted to address. I do not have the time at the moment to get into the particulars, however, I will describe some in do time. Some would be best dealt with as pictures or videos.

  4. Roger Elmes Roger Elmes says:

    This sipper reminds me of the boats of my youth, boats built before ego and status became design criteria. 10 realistic miles to the US gallon is a far more reasonable level of fuel consumption than the planet unfriendly monstrosities that abound – look at the evolution of Nordhavn. In navy parlance – BZ

    • Avatar Capt. Peter Wilcox says:

      Our 36′ petroleum-free (using Renewable diesel last 3 years after 12 years using B99 biodiesel) plus wind, has a lifetime average 11nm/g mileage at 6.5-7 knots. We wouldn’t want it any other way!

  5. Avatar Alex Zimmerman says:

    Further to the issue of whether to sail and/or motor the Inside Passage, my experience might be informative. I covered a significant chunk of it, from Victoria to Prince Rupert, over 2 summers, 2016-2107, in a sail and oar boat. I was acutely aware of how much I sailed and how much I rowed (or would have motored, had I an engine). I ended up rowing about 60% of the distance, both summers. So whether you are a sailing purist or whether you don’t have a choice, you end up sailing a minority of the time because the wind just isn’t there in the summer.
    A motor therefore is actually a very practical alternative. A boat like Raven seems to me to be just about ideal because she opens up many more anchorage possibilities than bigger boats.

  6. Avatar Adrian Nicholas says:

    Great video, love the scenery. Any chance of a chart or position of key cruising grounds. As an Australian member I have no idea where all these beautiful places actually are. I see places like inside passage to Alaska and would like to go there on my next US visit.

    • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

      Hi Adrian,
      We posted a map on our blog ( that might begin to help you with trip planning, as might the blog itself. The topography along this thousand-mile maze is so complex and fascinating (and the cruising choices so vast) that only charts and cruising guides will do for planning, IMO. I did a bunch of navigational planning on my iPhone with the “US and Canada” Navionics chart app plus the (now out of print) Douglas cruising guides, which are available used. Best wishes for a great cruise.

    • Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

      I have been up and down the inside passage ~a dozen round trips and vouch for what you said, Alex. Vessels as small as a 25′ Motor/Sailer, mostly commercial fishing boats in the 40′ to 60′ lengths, and once on the Alaska State Ferry. The ferry was dead calm from Skagway to Bellingham, WA. The winds, when they happen, can change directions and magnitude in a heartbeat. They tend to be from astern or in your face and usually more than you want.

  7. Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

    I would like to add that I have been very fortunate to have found Karen and Jim to bequeath my dreams for Raven and I, like many of you, get to travel these, somewhat still pristine, waters vicariously and with fresh eyes. Thank you, Karen and Jim.

    The majority of my boat building has been repaires to the PNW commercial fishing fleet. In addition, I have been fortunate to have traveled the Inside passage ~ a dozen round trips and most between 5 and 10 knots. Finding my long-cruising days waining, but with a fair amount of salvaged stuff on hand, I opted to build a big/small pocket cruiser in my yard and for my pleasure. Knowing I would not get to command many water days and that Raven would be for sale. Early on I attempted to make form follow function and the construction a versatile foundation to accommodate unknown future owners. That, of course, requires one keep it simple, which appeals to my nature as well. Another design feature that is much harder to accommodate is that my vessel would have a “chameleon” personality so that she blends into the background. I want strangers to step aboard and instantly feel “comfortable.” Short of hob-nail boots, Carhartts are welcome. I want to thank Steve Stone and the OCH video editors for so eloquently capturing my efforts in that regard. A big thank you, OCH.
    A big part of making a small boat feel “big” is making required parts multi-functional and keeping clutter to near zero. Karen and Jim continue to carry on that long-required boating tradition. If it does not have a place it can always be found, it should not be on a boat, of any size!

    I chose the name RAVEN for her PNW origins and because a Raven is a smart bird but not too proud to eat some effluent when required.

    Happy Slow Holidays all,


    • Avatar Rich Dodson says:

      Mr. Knutsen: Your boat is amazing. Thank you for building her so that we all might enjoy these adventures vicariously. Happy Holidays to you as well!

    • Avatar George Blaisdell says:

      Nice to meet a fellow septagenerian who has cared for his soul…

      Raven is the quintessentially correct name for her…

      PNW indeed…

      And more…

      Are you ill?

      Did you sell her for that reason?

      You did well to pass her on to these two…

      • Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

        George Blaisdell: No, I did not sell Raven because I am ill but because she was taking more time and money than I could devote for proper care.

        I picked RAVEN for her name because of the PNW connotations, Ravens are smart bird and not too proud to eat some effluent if the need arose.

        I designed RAVEN unsupervised. However, I did have the assistance of a marine architect for CAD plate development as well as hydrostatic refinements. The original lines came out of Chappell’s “American Small Sailing Craft” and the Chinquatiegue Skiff. I have a fondness for beamy, shallow draft vessels that go through the water with the wake of a snake. This Chesapeake Bay oyster skiff had a well-earned reputation for speed and seaworthiness.

        RAVEN is 29″ OA,
        Has a 12′ beam
        A draft of 3′

        The original skiff had a cross planked bottom and a plumb bow. I wanted to be able to use developed surface construction and be able to use plywood, steel, AL, or flat panel foam core epoxy glass. I have built a 13′ skiff and Raven out of plywood, a 25′ Al motor sailer, and a 47′ x 18′ x 6 foam core epoxy-glass motor yacht. A friend of mine built a 38′ x 16′ x 5′ steel motor sailer all on the same lines. The bow underbody and keel took the majority of CAD work as we wanted inboard engines and lots of fuel capacity in the larger vessels. All these vessels have had extensive sea time from False Pass AK to the Great Lakes and Intracostal Waterway to the PNW.

    • Avatar George Blaisdell says:

      Who designed this boat?
      What is her loa, draft and beam?
      She is so homesy and practical…

  8. Avatar james sanner says:

    I watch this video early every morning…………… has become a way to start the day. almost like meditation, thank you Karen and Jim ,for this wonderful sharing of your experience!!!

    Jim Sanner

    • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

      Somehow when you’re in the middle of a long voyage, you don’t see all of its meanings until later, maybe because it’s all so very present tense and you’re living in the moment. Then when you come back you get to reflect on it, and take that voyage again and again in your mind. But really, the credit here for editing an hour of interview into a 5-minute video that is so profoundly affecting its viewers goes to Kevin Ross of Off Center Harbor, and to Steve Stone and Eric Blake for asking such amazing questions (which you don’t hear) and to Nate and Maynard and all the OCH crew for their insight and vision. We are kind of in awe at what they’re building here.

      I’m so glad you find this meditative, James. We do, too.

      • Avatar Robert Bruce says:

        Really enjoyed your video…….this coast is so beautiful!!……and what better way to see it………in a well thought out small, simple coastal cruiser. Very inspiring.
        Thank you,

  9. Avatar Ron Letourneau says:

    Very, very inspiring. Thank you.
    Is the size of the fuel tanks on a small boat like this a problem as you head north? How often are your plans for exploration limited by the need to find a fuel dock?

    • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

      Hi Ron,
      Thanks for the good question. Raven has two fuel tanks, one 25 gallons and the other 35, so 60 gallons in all. This gives us a range of several hundred miles–theoretically, in current-free waters, (which these aren’t) we get about 10 miles per gallon at about 5.8 – 6 knots using between .5 and .57 gph, so her range is between 500 and 600 miles per pair of full tanks. But practically, we refueled on this trip whenever we found diesel, because it’s not as available the further north you go, and pretty much averaged 350-400 miles between refuelings. Raven’s hull is designed to be easily driven through the water (thanks Leif!) so we used about 250 gallons of diesel in total, to go 2500 miles. We have never found any limitations on coastal cruising range dictated by the need to refuel. This is another reason why she’s so easy to cruise, as the engine sips it and fuel costs don’t break the bank.

  10. Avatar Bill Conlyn says:

    Yes it is nice to go slow with out the hassle of handling the sails. On the other hand sailing does give one something to do while you are going slow and quietly. However as a person gettes older the powerboat makes more sense.

    • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

      Absolutely true, Bill – while more often than not sails are a joy to handle, for the Inside Passage, where rain, wind direction and wind speeds are so unpredictable, a nice warm wheelhouse gets to be irresistible, especially as aging hands begin to ache.

  11. Avatar Thomas Tracy says:

    Love this story, and the slow adventure!

  12. Avatar Rod McLaren says:

    Just slow down. Yup.. I don’t think I’m ready to go power yet, but this way would likely work for me if I have to some day. Nice boat, nice video, nice philosophy.

  13. Avatar Frank Crumbaugh says:

    Karen’s last remark is as much good theology as it is good psychology or plain old time management. Going slower finally is a CHOICE that finds deep roots in the soul of the chooser; going slower is not an accident or the realization of an over-orchestrated plan. The vocabulary and internal imagery this short video stirs in me is spiritual, and I am grateful. Jim and Karen have made a choice, and this vignette gifts us all with a view of what their choice has brought to them. How much time does anyone actually believe they control? This short video emphasizes that the great joys of life are found in a context of being fully present where one is at any given moment, and savoring that time with as few props, conditions or assists as possible. This is a well done video, but more important, it is a well-lived life. Congratulations and blessings!

  14. Avatar David Lovelace says:

    Are there any video’s giving us a tour of the boat?

  15. Avatar Olav Thyvold says:


  16. Avatar Patrick Daniels says:

    !!!! So lucky to have gotten their hands on this boat! This video is a real tonic right now. Thanks!!

    • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

      Patrick, thanks. We feel very lucky to have Raven, and to be able to go slow.

      • David Tew David Tew says:

        Karen, Lovely photos! Did you take the embedded videos also? I notice you have a Dometic fridge (freezer section, too?) How do you use it and how long and well does it ‘work’ for you? Thx. Have a great 2019.

        • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

          Hi David,
          Jim took the embedded videos; in one we were anchored in front of Reid Glacier at Glacier National Park, and in the other, at a reversing tidal stream way up Monckton Inlet in British Columbia, on the “Outside” Passage.

          The Dometic is a 12-V champ. Jim installed two 120-W solar panels on Raven’s roof to take care of all energy needs, and when we caught a bunch of fish and turned it from fridge down to nuclear winter it froze everything solid, keeping it frozen even in the warmer weather of southern BC.

      • Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

        Going fast just means that you go from one place that you spend money to another place where you spend money, get there faster, and spend more money doing it. If I recall correctly, the fuel consumption for the summer was ~250 gal.! Perhaps Karen can come back and enlighten us with some of the performance numbers.

        • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

          Leif! Right you are! I answered your question above, under Ron’s comment.

          • Avatar Conbert Benneck says:

            Karen, in ’63 when my company asked us to move from Germany to Paris, we needed a power boat for French inland waterways and the Seine River. I found our solution at the Amsterdam Boat Show; a 25 foot double-ender Norwegian fishing boat hull with a standup pilot house, and a bit cockpit where ur small children could play. We took delivery of our new boat in Rotterdam and then went via inland waterway and 140 locks back to Paris. Our boat had a Norwegian one cylinder 10HP SABB diesel engine with variable pitch propeller. Once you live with a variable pitch prop you are ruined for life!
            While waiting for a lock to open you just go to idle RPMs, and flat pitch. If the wind starts pushing you about, you just ease in a little forward or reverse pitch, to hold your waiting position. Our total fuel cost – diesel fuel has no tax on European waterways – was $5.60 for the whole trip: Rotterdam to Paris. The SABB diesel had an electric starter motor, but it could also be started by hand crank. The Norwegian fishing boat hull normal cruising speed was about 6 Knots; max. speed about 9 knots..

            • Avatar karenlsullivan says:

              Hi Conbert, that sounds like it was a dream voyage. A variable pitch prop in 1963, wow, I wonder what the mechanical setup looked like. I love the idea of playing with prop pitch instead of throttle to adjust the boat’s position – have never used one and would love to try it on a traditional boat just like the double-ender you had. Maybe the OCH crew will find a traditional boat with a variable pitch prop and do a video on it.

              Jim and I are dreaming about renting a narrowboat somewhere in Europe, and your story makes me want to go even more. Thanks for your story, I enjoyed it.

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