July 1, 2005

I awoke early, my mind working on the problem and its possible ramifications. We motored in to the resort for breakfast around 8 am. Bill greeted us and offered a couple of other ideas. Clearly, he’d been thinking about the problem too. After breakfast I tried calling Todd, but just got his recording at the shop. I left a message and said I’d try back around 10 am. We then went back to the boat, started up, and motored over to the resort. Bill came down to have a look. We tried to find a fuse connected to the rectifier, and focused on a clear plastic connector which looked like it might hold a fuse. He had a very hard time pulling it apart, and once he did, it was clear that he’d found the problem. The connector was simply a waterproof connector housing a spade connector, and it showed major evidence of heat. The plastic inside was brittle and partly melted.. He cleaned it up with his knife and pushed it back together. I started up the motor, and the voltmeter started to rise. It seemed a simple thing to install a crimped butt connector and seal it off from water. I called Todd back and got him. I explained the situation and he said to go ahead with our plan. It couldn’t hurt a thing and should fix the problem. We did, and the motor started charging normally. What a relief.

In the odd free moments while this was being attended to, I had the chance to talk fishing with one of the guides, and with Bill. Before he came down to the boat to do the splice, he rigged up a pair of colored spoons which he said would be particularly effective in catching the type and size of salmon we hoped to catch. (I am not licenced for kings, and we couldn’t possibly eat our way through a real big fish). Down at the boat, he had quietly hung the hooks of the 2 spoons on the hatch cover, inside the boat. A very gracious and considerate man, this Bill Hack. He also pointed a couple of places to try trolling on our way down the Canal. Before leaving, we took the opportunity to go for a walk up the trail leading up the stream behind the lodge. It’s a combination of boardwalk and stepping stone trail through the rainforest. A truly beautiful place, and we were enchanted with the walk. Back at the boat, we lunched before pulling out. We expressed our heartfelt thanks for their hospitality and kind assistance.

In contrast with the day before, the waters at the mouth of Yes Bay were calm, and we crossed over to Grimsby Islandl, one of the places Bill had suggested we try. I rigged the downrigger and set it at 35 feet, like the fishing guide had recommended. I used the green and yellow spoon which Bill had given me. The day before I never really felt like I was fishing, more like taking a stab in the dark. Too many variables. This time, I really felt like I was fishing. We hadn’t trolled more than 20 minutes when, glancing over to the rod, I spotted the tell tale jerking of the rod tip. Fish on! I shoved the boat into neutral and grapped the pole. It felt like a good fish. Get the landing net out, Sandy. I quickly played the fish in on my big deep sea rod (first fish ever for that rod). I told Sandy she would have to net it. She reached over the seat, got the net in the water next to the fish, and the fish slid in. When she tried to lift the net up, she almost fell over the stern. I set the pole in the rod holder and pulled the net in. A nice, fat 7 pound silver. Just the right species and just the right size. Bill sure knows how to call them. Later that evening, while filleting the fish, I discovered her last meal, a plug cut herring pilfered from one of Bill’s fishing clients, no doubt.

With fish dinner in the dinghy we motored up and headed for Naha Bay, our destination for the day. It rained, hard at times, on our way there, but eased up as we neared. Bit of wind chop and swell, but not as bad as yesterday. We found several boats tied up to the float, so opted to anchor out. Rocky bottom, and I had to try twice, but she finally hooked. The fish dinner tonight was out of this world. Sandy fixed the fillets up on lemon slices, seasoned with wine, melted butter, dill, lemon pepper,onion powder and onion salt, with the whole arrangement wrapped up in a sealed foil pouch. Barbqued for 10 minutes, and it came out perfectly. Best salmon I’ve ever eaten. And, the batteries are charged to the hilt. This is more like it.

Distance for the day: 23 nm; total for the trip: 882 nm

July 2, 2005

3 pm and tucked into anchorage in Helm Bay, Behm Canal. Still looking for a full day without equipment malfunctions, since the stove failed to start for the morning coffee. Also, we’ve been dealt our first setback in planned destination due to weather, and for the first time on the trip, we’ve fallen a bit behind the itinerary. Trying not to be a slave to schedule, but I need to pay attention to timetable, or we’ll have to modify the planned route, so as to not have too far to go at the end, getting back.

Some patches of blue first thing this morning, at the Naha Bay anchorage, but we didn’t get too excited, since we tuned in NOAA weather, and all he could say was “rain” for the next several days. Also talk of afternoon wind. We took time for a walk up to Roosevelt Lagoon before getting underway. Lovely rainforest trail, with an interesting wooden pathway, set up for dragging boats around the tidal rapids.

We lifted anchor around 9 am, and headed for Knudsen Cove and fuel. Nice passage through some attractive islands, with increasing numbers of homes (some very large) and boat traffic. Started picking up some chop going down Clover Passage. Fuel dock at Knudsen Cove is very difficult to get in to, but we finally managed. Took on 24 gallons, with all tanks filled. Mileage since Ketchikan worked out to 7.8, our best so far, and reflecting slow pace, favorable currents, and sail out from time to time. Also bought ice and donuts, filled the water tank and dumped garbage. Pulled out around noon, and attempted to cross the mouth of Behm Canal and round Caamano Point, en route up Clarance Strait to Meyers Chuck, a convenient anchorage and goal for the day. Unfortunately, we experienced a steep 4 foot beam chop, which really rocked us badly. I was hoping that once we rounded Caamano Point our turn northward would allow us to cruise more comfortably, however the swell continued big and getting bigger, capping and starting to get very confused. I made a spur decision to about face and head back into Behm Canal, on the west side. A quick glance at the chart and cruise guide showed two anchorages within reasonable distance, Smugglers Cove and Helm Bay. The first didn’t work out, since it was oriented right in the direction of the swell. Helm Bay it was. We found the public mooring float filled with local power boats, so we anchored in the middle of the cove. Once anchored, we decided a nice cup of hot tea was in order. I turned the stove on, and it fired right up, but started making a funny sound (not good) and began giving off strong exhaust smells inside the cabin (even worse). I suspected I knew the source of these problems: the exhaust fitting is on the port side of the boat, the same side which was catching the brunt of the beam seas we caught while trying to round Caamano Point. Likely, there was water in the exhaust tube. I pulled it apart, and sure enough, I drained about a cup of sooty water from the tube. Once things got put back together, she ran fine.

We’re sitting comfortably, with a light rain outside, and the wind occasionally gusting and rattling the dodger on my salmon pole. We’ll stay here for the night, possibly watch a movie on the laptop, now that we’ve got lots of power, and hope for calm conditions early tomorrow. I’ll try to get an extra early start and make up some lost ground, perhaps making Frosty Bay, if we can make our way up Clarence Strait.

Turned in early and watched a movie on the laptop, but not before experiencing a serious setback. After using the tennis ball container, rigged with cord, to add a certain small quantity of warm yellowish fluid to the salt water, I carelessly allowed the cord to slip from my fingers. It quickly sank beyond reach. Since we try to use the tennis ball container instead of the head, to save capacity and reduce the frequency of emptying, this was particularly disturbing. We will have to improvise, and have been evaluating all sorts of plastic containers for the best alternative. Right now, my vote goes to the bleach bottle bailer from the dinghy.

Footnote on the stove: we tried it again after getting underway, and it fired right up. Todd said that stove is particularly sensitive to battery strength. Most of our failures have occurred first thing in the morning, when the battery is at its lowest. I may try starting the boat motor and then turning the stove on. I think that just might work.

Distance for the day: 27 nm; total for the trip: 909 nm

July 3, 2005

It rained steadily all night, and when I periodically awakened, which was frequently, I could feel the boat rocking and the rigging humming due to a steady breeze, which simply refused to settle down. At 6 am I got up and tuned in the NOAA weather channel, and learned that there were small craft warnings out for our area. We wouldn’t be going anywhere today. Slept in instead, and then heated coffee and had coffee and donuts in bed. I think I finally outfoxed that stove, too. I started up the boat motor before turning the stove on, and she fired right up. After a short idle, I turned the outboard off and enjoyed the fully operational stove. Progress.

Unfortunately, our success with the stove didn’t extend to the weather. It has rained steadily for most of the day, hard at times. I did get out with the dinghy and set out the crab trap (no luck however), and then went ashore and met the folks from the power boats tied up to the float. They were warming themselves at the forest service cabin ashore, and I had a nice visit. They were stuck here too, and debating whether to attempt the run back across Behm Channel. They ended up deciding to go in mid afternoon. This worked out well for us, since it opened up space on the float. We pulled the anchor and tied up at the float. This made breaking the dinghy down and stowing it on Chinook much easier. We considered attempting an afternoon run of our own, perhaps as far as Meyers Chuck, but ended up scratching that idea after another listen to the weather report. Winds are supposed to ease up this afternoon, but will continue easing overnight. They will pick up again tomorrow afternoon, but with an early start, and no dinghy to worry about, we should be able to run at fairly high speed (plenty of fuel for this leg), and get past the big water before things get nasty again. At any rate, that’s the plan. So we’ll sit tight, warm, snug, and reasonably dry, enjoy our books and an afternoon cocktail, with a great rice/salmon dinner in the offing. Let it rain, we’re fine, and with hopes for progress tomorrow.

July 4, 2005

How quickly ones fortunes can change. Stuck in Helm Bay for a day and a half, after our first forced retreat of the trip, and in a ceaseless deluge with wind to boot. A forecast with nothing in it but wind and more rain. This morning sounded like our best chance for in the foreseeable future to get free of Helm Bay and Behm Canal, so we gave ourselves every controllable advantage. Dinghy securely stowed on deck, and the earliest of possible starts. I rose at 3:30 am, already light out, lightly raining and still a breeze. We go anyway; underway by 4 am. Chop building as we exit Helm Bay and enter lower Behm Canal. Swells increase to a steep, short 3 foot chop with rain and fog. Seas start to become confused as Caamano Point, our turn around place of the day before, looms into view through the rain and fog. Will the larger Clarence Strait be even rougher? Shortly after making my northward turn I have my answer. A curious line is visible across our path in the water ahead. Beyond that line, the water behaves in a most strange fashion: short choppy spikes of water, rather like the topping on mom’s lemon merangue pie, but clearly not rough. We move across the line, and the water smooths, the boat steadies and accelerates. Our day continued to get nothing but better from there.

Sandy slept below while I tended the wheel. The rain quit, and a rather mystical fog persisted. I spotted 2 Alaska ferries, and several pleasure boats. One may have been the Nordic Tug we saw at Bishop Bay, the guy who loaned me the fender. The other may have been Discovery, heading south, couldn’t tell for sure. I also was entertained by 2 or 3 white sided dolphins, who played across the bow for about 2 miles. Sandy arose around 10:30 am and prepared an early lunch. Afterwards, she took the wheel and I went below for a welcome nap. The water had become glassy smooth, quite a contrast with conditions of the past couple days. I got up as we approached Anan Bay, with its renowned bear observatory.

As we glided into the bay, two forest service employees waved to us from their floating cabin. We pulled up and learned that they would be going up to the observatory soon. We tied up to the float for the nearby cabin and assembled the dinghy, then rowed after the two forest service guides. We landed at the trailhead, where they gave us a brief orientation, and then off we marched, up the boardwalk trail toward the observatory. One ahead and one in back, each toting shotguns. We had our pepper spray at the ready.

The observatory is a wooden platform with an enclosed walkway, overlooking the river and falls, which was teeming with salmon, mostly pinks. We learned that, to our good fortune, the run was early this year, and the bears were there to welcome the fish. Also, because it was the 4th of July, the usual crowd of visitors was absent; we were it. We had the whole place to ourselves. One last piece of luck, tomorrow starts the beginning of the required $10 per person fee rule. We could enjoy this place free of charge.

At first there were no bears in sight. Then a small black ambles up a path behind the observatory. We watched a little longer, and another came out and went down to the river, but caught no fish. We went down to the photography blind, which is right close to the river, and had quite a show. One bear after another tried his paw at fishing. Several techniques were employeed. One placed his head under water and looked around, like he was snorkeling. Another tried swiping with his paws. The good fishermen walked purposefully to a good spot, paused, and then lunged with their heads, snapping jaws around flopping salmon. They then retreated uphill to feed. A real highlight occurred when a cub appeared, mom right behind. Mom crawled into some boulders to fish some hidden pools, caught one, and then scrambled up the hill. The little cub didn’t see where she had gone and started bawling pathetically. Mom couldn’t hear, and the little one nearly fell into the rapids before she reappeared. Sandy got it all on her camera, in motion pictures. The final treat was a beautiful brown bear who came down and caught one salmon after another, stripping the bellies out, and then letting them float down to the awaiting eagles. It was one of those magnificant, magical afternoons that happen sometimes.

Total distance for the day: 62 miles, total for the trip: 971 miles

5 mph for first 12 gallons – pretty good since I was running close to 3000 most of the time.

July 5, 2005

Milestones – We left home exactly one month ago. We’ve cruised exactly 1001 nautical miles, and now sit inWrangell harbor, at 56 degrees 30 minutes latitude north. Sunset is officially at 10:40 pm.

We slept in today, and didn’t rise until around 8 am. Being up until midnight celebrating the 4th with Tavis and Greg (Tavis Forrester, Rogue River OR and Greg Wilson, Wrangell AK) the night before had something to do with it. Another rainy morning. I pulled the crab trap, just one undersized dungeness. As we prepared to depart, we watched the float planes and excursion boats begin to arrive with visitors to Anan. This parade of visitors underscored just how special yesterday was for us.

We got underway around 9 am, and took our time heading up Blake Channel. We caught the flood tide which gave us a boost all the way to the Narrows. Sandy manned the helm most of the way. It was alternately foggy and rainy, and the water was interesting to read. With a slight headwind opposed to the 2 knot current, the surface was rippled as long as we were in the current. If the surface smoothed out, we knew we were in an eddy current, and the speed of the boat dropped accordingly. Once past the narrows, the tide changed and we gained the benefit of the ebb for the final dozen miles to Wragell. The scenery was very striking, with steep forested walls along the rather narrow channel, punctuated regularly by cascading waterfalls, all running strong from the recent rains. I watched closely for whales, but didn’t spot any.

We got in to Wrangell around 2:30 pm and tanked up at the fuel dock. The occasion was marked by the first appearance of sunshine in over a week. Unfortunately, it was shortlived, and was raining again soon. We looked for a spot at the transient dock and squeezed in behind a 30 foot sailboat from Seattle. Up at the harbormaster’s office, I learned that we were in the 50 foot and over section, and would have to move. Rafting of boats is the norm here, since their transient facilities are limited, and so the Seattle boat and I pulled out to retie further back. He tied up first and then we rafted up to him. He’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, so we’ll have to go through the shuffle again then. They’re nice folks, and don’t mind our walking back and forth across their cockpit.

We got laundry together and headed up for showers. We ended up at a unique establishment which catered to our every need. It was a bar, which had showers (you pay the bartender $3 for use of the shower). Laundry facilities were back with the showers. And, they serve the best pizza anywhere out front. We ate dinner while the laundry was finishing. It worked out great. Afterwards we went for a stroll to work off our dinner. Wragell actually looks like a real town, much less impacted by the cruise ships than Ketchikan. We’ll spend the day tomorrow exploring it in detail.

Distance for the day: 30 nm; total for the trip: 1001 nm

Mileage since Knudson Cove: 5.4 mpg

July 6, 2005

Layover day. Boat behind us pulled out, and so we lined over to a dock side tie, which enabled the boat we were rafted with to pull out easily. We walked into town for breakfast. Diamond C served up a fine breakfast. From there we walked out to the petroglyph beach, about ¾ mile from town. Nice walkway and staircase down to the beach, and with the tide still out, it was easy to wander around and view the petroglyphs. There were a dozen or so which we could locate, quite weathered which is not surprising considering their exposed location and estimated age – 1000 years or so – no one knows for sure. We then visited the museum, a very new facility which was developed by the City of Wrangell. Very impressive. Lunch was at the seafood stand near the cruise ship dock, where we had shrimp etoufee. Excellent. From there it was to the library, where I e’mailed pages of log to Ken (two days wouldn’t go through for some reason.) I did a few boat maintenance chores in the afternoon, while Sandy worked on her digital pictures. For dinner we went back to the seafood stand to try their spot prawns which were the best we’ve ever eaten.

July 7, 2005

Another rainy morning. We pulled out arouned 8 am, with a light southeasterly breeze. We didn’t want to start too early, since we needed to time the currents in Wrangell Narrows. The waters in Sumner Strait were alternately tourquoise milky, dirty brown, and again milky, due to the outflow of the Stikeen River. We crossed over to the Wrangell Narrows, and made our way up the narrow channel. I was hoping to meet a state ferry or cruise ship in the narrows, but none were passing through. The currents were quite strong, peaking at over 4 knots. I was glad we had the current at our back. A couple miles shy of Petersburg the current changed, and we opposed a 2 knot current the rest of the way. We stopped at the fuel dock to top off tanks, since we will have a long run to Juneau, our next fuel opportunity. We got a slip at the marina and tied up. This slip is right below a major fish packing facility, with lots of noises and activity. It’s 7:30 pm and someone’s still jackhammering up there. I wonder how late that will go on.

A pair of power boats which were moored in front of us at Wrangell arrived while we were getting ready to walk into town. They had gone to Le Conte glacier via Dry Pass on their way up here. They said the glacier was fascinating, and they had brought some glacier ice along with them. They gave us a small chunk and we made drinks with it. We looked around town a bit and then came back to the boat for a great salmon quiche, which finished up the salmon. I’ll just have to catch another. Sun is peeking out this evening. Hope that is a sign of improving weather.

Mileage for the day: 40 nm; total for the trip: 1041 nm

5.5 mpg since Wrangell

July 8, 2005

Went for a nice walk last night, after dinner. Visited the Sons of Norway hall and memorial to lost sailors, where they also have on display a Viking long boat. The sun came out late, making for some beautiful views of town and the surrounding mountains. The setting for Petersburg is really striking, with snow capped peaks to the east, across Fredrick Sound.

Foggy first thing this morning, but after breakfast it began to lift. We tied the dinghy up in the slip and took Chinook out on her own. Destination: the Le Conte Glacier, about 15 miles east of Petersburg. The sound was flat, and without the dinghy to worry about, and with a fuel dock conveniently located in town, we opened up the throttle for the first time on the trip. She responded nicely, getting on step at 13 knots, and we quickly crossed the sound toward the glacier. We soon began seeing iceburgs, scattered along the far shore and clogging the sound ahead of us. They got more numerous and bigger, the further we went. By the time we neared the entrance to Le Conte Bay, they were everywhere, from basketball size to some larger than a residential lot. Most were white, but many of the big ones displayed a characteristic deep blue color, most beautiful. We had to slow down and navigate carefully to avoid striking one as we worked our way into the bay. We saw an eagle perched atop one berg, and some were covered with gulls. Inside the bay, the bergs were much thicker, and we spotted some with harbor seals hauled out on them. We ate a lunch in a small open area, but it began getting nerve wracking, trying to avoid colliding with them. As it was, I did hit 2 with the stern while turning to avoid some in the bow. We never did get close enough to see the source of all this ice, since the bergs were so dense that we turned back well before getting far enough in to actually sight the glacier. We watched a couple of big excursion boats plowing through the ice on their way out. Apparently their hulls are tough enough to take hits from the bergs, but I wasn’t about to try that maneuver. Once back on open water, we opened up and made another quick run across the flat waters of Fredrick Sound. Hit 14 knots on the way back.

This evening we’ll go out to dinner and then decide whether to lay over tomorrow or shove off for parts north. We have several days of nice weather forecast, and it would be nice to get into quality scenery in nice weather for a change.

Distance for the day: 35 nm; total for the trip: 1076 nm

Bought 9.5 gallons of fuel; mileage with 2 high speed runs w/o dinghy: 3.7 mpg

July 9, 2005

Color this day gray. From start to end the sky has been gray, the water gray, and the incessant rain has even made the air seem gray. The one highlight of the day’s cruise involved spotting several whales. They were the only exception to the theme of gray, being not gray whales but humpback whales. We spotted two different groups, the first off Farragut Bay and the second near Cape Fanshaw. We got quite close to one in the second group.

We departed Petersburg around 9 am, just as the rain was starting. I kept the throttle around 2200 rpm throughout the day, in an effort to conserve fuel. Our speed varied between 5 and 6 knots. We were able to raise the sail for a good part of the day, which undoubtedly helped. I’m hoping that we will be able to save enough fuel to allow us to explore both Endicott Arm and Tracy Arm in the coming days.

We sit at anchor on an inside channel just north of Cape Fanshaw. The 57 foot trawler Burnt Sand is anchored just north of us. We were moored near her at Wrangell, and she passed us up on the Narrows, on the way to Petersburg. We haven’t talked with them yet, but have heard them on the radio. We have another boat sharing the anchorage, a small cruise ship named Spirit of ’98. She pulled into the channel an hour ago and to our surprise, slowed and anchored. Fortunately she’s a good distance away, since her generator is running, and will likely run all night.

I heard a sailboat named Tranquility talking on the radio with the Coast Guard regarding a call for help from someone in Tracy Arm. Tranquility was able to report that the problem had been resolved. I radioed Tranquility to inquire regarding ice conditions in Tracy Arm. She advised that the Arm is quite choked, South Sawyer worse that North Sawyer. She was able to work all the way in to the glacier in North Sawyer, but it sounded rather difficult. I doubt that I will subject our boat to the same risks. Our hull is much more tender than that of a 42 foot ketch.

I’m debating whether to go out in the rain to try for halibut and crab. I bought bait in Petersburg before departing, and got information that this area could be good for both. I’m quite warm and dry inside the cabin, following a very nice dinner. It will be hard to go out in the rain, to a dinghy with 4 inches of rainwater in it, and slosh around with crab and fishing gear. We shall see.

We did listen to an encouraging weather forecast this evening. They are forecasting one sunny day in the next 5, on Monday, and a couple of days on either side where rain wasn’t mentioned. I don’t know what we would do with 3 straight days without rain.

Distance for the day: 39 nm; total for the trip: 1115 nm; location, just above 57 degrees north.

July 10, 2005

Rocking at anchor in Tracy Arm Cove. Another gray and somewhat rainy day. That weatherman better be right about sun tomorrow. We weighed anchor around 7 am and motored north in fog. The ceiling was about 20 feet above the water and in the distance, sky merged with water as we entered Stephens Passage. After cruising a few miles I spotted a huge splash on the horizon, and then saw the flukes of a sounding whale. As we approached Twin Islands we started seeing several more whales. We got within about 200 yards of a couple as we cruised by. We had help from the wind for part of the way, and the current also gave us a push. We encountered more whales off the mouth of Hobart Bay, and again on the approach to Holkam Bay, at the mouth of Tracy Arm. We started seeing icebergs again as we got close to Holkam Bay, the product of Tracy and Endicott Arm glaciers. Upon entering, the water temperature started to plummet, down to 38 degrees. We were passed on the approach by Burnt Sands, and we saw the small cruise ship Spirit of 98 exiting the Bay as we entered. This was the same cruise ship which had anchored across from us last night. They were gone by the time we got up this morning.

After anchoring, we dinghied ashore and went for a short walk, which was made difficult by the slippery cobbles along the water’s edge. I went out and fished a bit (no luck) and also set the crab trap out (no luck so far). I was hailed by the captain of Rainshadow, the same boat which helped us out when the motor wouldn’t start. I rowed over and visited with them. They will be in Glacier Bay the day before we are scheduled there. We will likely see them up there. There are a total of 3 sail boats here, and about 5 power boats anchored as well. It should be quite a parade going up Tracy Arm tomorrow. I probably won’t get very far, based on reports of ice conditions from other captains.

Distance for the day: 37 nm; total for the trip: 1152

73 miles so far on the first tank of gas, and maybe a gallon or less left. That works out to over 6 mpg. Should have plenty for this run.