August 1, 2005

Bright sun and dead calm in Double Cove at sunrise. I pulled the crab trap, only 3 undersized dungeness attracted to my fresh salmon bait. We left the cove around 7:30 am, wanting to reach Piehle Passage and the open ocean reach while the nice weather held. It was only a 6 mile run to the entrance to Piehle Passage. I had been intruiged by this route since first reading about it in Douglass. It is a kinky route through a tangle of rocks, kelp beds, and islets, which enables a boater to extend the protected inside run by about 6 miles, before the mandatory exit to open ocean at Kahz Head. Coast Pilot doesn’t recommend it, and suggests local knowledge. I figured Douglas was my local knowledge. Their guide says it’s a fun route, taken with care in fair weather, best on a lower tide so the rocks and kelp can be easily seen. We had all conditions, including tide, in our favor. I had also plugged in all the turns as GPS waypoints. The passage itself was a delight. Bright sun and calm seas, scenery captivating, with scores of rocky islets, some tree covered, some just bare and jagged at the low tide. We had plenty of elbow room and navigated slowly, mostly to enjoy and prolong the experience.

We exited into the Gulf of Alaska, which was barely wind rippled. Long easy swells of less than 3 feet were hardly noticable. We cruised southward along the 12 to 15 fathom curve, about a mile offshore, toward Salisbury Sound. As we worked our way south, clouds began to build over the mountains of Chicagoff Island and offshore, mostly to the northwest. As we entered the mouth of Salisbury Sound I glanced out to sea and was amazed to sight a waterspout suspended from the lower edge of the cloud layer, about 4 miles distant. It was frail looking, a narrow dark gray thread with a lazy “S” profile. At it’s base a violent whirling spray was clearly visible, and even more dramatic through binoculars. We heard another boat remark about it on the radio. We took pictures through telephoto lens, and watched it for about 15 minutes before it faded and disappeared. We had seen a waterspout once before, off the coast of Florida where they are quite common. Such a sighting in these waters is rather rare.

We followed Salisbury Sound south, toward Whitestone Narrows. In the narrows we had to pull way over to the side while the high speed Alaska State Ferry Fairweather roared up the channel. Boat traffic progressively increased as we drew near Sitka. We stopped at the fuel dock first, and then headed for Thomsen Harbor and a slip. Out in front of the harbor is a long straight dock, where the charter boats tie up and clean their fish. In the water adjacent to the cleaning stations we could see huge swirls, and the forms of some very large creatures. After watching a bit, we discouvered we were watching a pair of very huge sea lions, cleaning up on the discarded carcasses of salmon and halibut. These are the biggest sea lions I’ve ever seen.

We were assigned a comfortable slip, with power available, along the outer edge of the marina. A real mix of fishing boats, local recreational boats, and transient cruisers. We walked into town in search of dinner, and ended up in a Chinese place (no more halibut or salmon this night), which had very good food. Very tired afterward, so retired to the boat, feeling glad to have made Sitka.

Distance for the day: 45 nm; total for the trip: 1652 nm

August 2, 2005

Layover day in Sitka. Forecast was for strong winds and rain by evening, so we opted to do some sightseeing, while the walking weather was still good. We wandered back into town, and visited Castle Hill, sight of a Tlingit fortress, later developed by the Russians as a fort. Great view of Sitka and environs from there, with numerous informative exhibits. We lunched in a nice second floor cafe, excellent food and a nice view of the water. We walked lunch off with a stroll down to the National Historic Park, which features a very attractive visitor center as well as the historic site of the Battle of Sitka, between Baranoff and the Russians and the Tlingit Indians, fought in 1804. It’s a very interesting story of a relatively small skirmish which the Indians very nearly won. If they had, the history of Alaska might have been very different. Just beyond the battlefield area, Indian Creek flows toward the bay. It was literally choked with pink salmon, on their run upstream. We were told that this year’s run of pinks is turning out to be one of the heaviest in recent memory. The sight of these fish actually darkening the shallow stream with their numbers is a sight to behold.

It is a short walk from the visitor center to the Sheldon Jackson museum, which houses an outstanding collection of Indian and Eskimo artifacts within an octagonal concrete building, constructed by Sheldon Jackson in the late 1800’s. We caught a bus ride from there to the grocery just above the marina, picked up some steaks for the barbque, and returned to the boat for dinner and a movie.

I secured the boat well before turning in, and around 11 pm the forecast wind started picking up. It has been a moderate blow thus far, not too bad, but nonetheless a good time to be tied up in a slip. Tomorrow we’ll organize provisions and I’ll try to trouble shoot my engine starting problem.

August 3, 2005

Second layover day in Sitka. Wind blew all night, still breeze in the morning. We went on another sightseeing walk into town, visiting the reconstructed octagonal Russian blockhouse, the Bishop’s house and St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church. The Bishop’s house is managed by the National Park Service, and the tour is outstanding. The house is original to the Russian period, and built between 1841 – 1843 by Finnish shipwrights. It contains many original furnishings. St. Michael’s sadly burned to the ground in 1967, but has been reconstructed according to the original plans. About 90 % of the original icons and liturgical decorations were saved by the citizens of Sitka, who formed a human chain while the building burned. It’s a very beautiful church, still in use. The congregation is about 3/4’s Tlingit.

I spoke by cell phone with Todd at Bluewater Yachts about my starting problems. I was able to eliminate, to both his and my minds, the ignition battery as the culprit. That leaves electrical connections between battery and motor. I will try to isolate the bad connection tomorrow, but in the event that it eludes me, I bought a pair of #4 guage wires, 10 feet long, and made up with copper ring connectors which I can use to jump from the battery directly to the motor. Hopefully, that will give me an additional starting option, and I can also use them to jump from another boat.

Right now we have the whole boat torn up, with food storage tubs all over the place. We’re shifting food stuffs forward, into our small working tubs, and getting at things which have been stowed out of reach. We will try to empty a few tubs and place them in the very back of the king berth stowage area.

For dinner we finally attacked those MRE’s which Dave gave us. It took us a half hour to figure out how to set them up to heat. I don’t know how our soldiers can manage them, the first time. Mine heated up ok (I added too much water), but Sandy followed the directions more precisely and hers barely warmed up. Her tabasco sauce container was all dried up, and my chewing gum was hard as a rock. I’m not rushing out to volunteer on account of the quality of the new chow. Actually didn’t taste too bad. I found it interesting that the military found it necessary to include a warning to not eat the heating element package. Those troops must really get hungry.

I’ve been trying to arrange to get out on a charter fishing trip, but it’s been frustrating. The weather is not good, and with high winds and rough seas out there, the boats are going to inside locations, where they’re just catching small silvers. They can’t get out to the halibut grounds. I don’t know that we’ll hang around here long enough for the weather to settle. Just have to see.

August 4, 2005

Third layover day in Sitka. Rained most of the day. I checked out the voltage at the motor, and it appears I have a drop between battery and motor. I couldn’t locate the splices in the power cables where they run through the bilge, and so I think I’ll just proceed as I have, and use the new jumper cables if need be. Sandy walked into town in the morning to do some shopping, and I reorganized and stowed the provision tubs in the king berth area. Thanks to her packing efforts last evening, we were able to empty 3 tubs, which is allowing for a much more efficient and roomy stowage layout. The extra space is a real luxury, one which typically accompanies the latter stages of an extended trip.

I walked into town around noon and met up with Sandy, with a little help from our little 2 way radios. Her shopping trip was a success. We had lunch at the little upstairs cafe where we ate a couple days ago. Then, back to the boat with purchases. In the afternoon we opted to walk back across town to the Raptor Recovery Center. It’s quite a hike over there. Interesting place but a bit overpriced in my view. Admission was $12 each, but after the long walk we felt obligated to check it out. They do nice work with birds of prey there, nursing them back to health and releasing to the wild whenever possible. The trail on the grounds goes by the local salmon stream, which is completely choked with pink salmon right now. I don’t think I’ll ever look as small streams in quite the same way again.

Earlier today I made phone connections with a salmon charter outfit, and booked a fishing trip for tomorrow. It’s a combination salmon and bottom fishing trip. I’m hoping for decent weather, and the forecast is encouraging. As long as the wind doesn’t kick up I’ll be happy. Hungry fish would help also.

Tonight we’re going to watch a movie on board, on our laptop, and I’ll try to turn in early, since I’ll have to rise about 4:30 tomorrow, in order to make my fishing trip.

August 5, 2005

Charter fishing day. Rained most of the night, but no wind. Prospects good for getting out for halibut today. Up at 4:30, up to the top of the harbor access ramp by 5:15 to meet my ride over to Sealing Cove, departure point for Reel Affairs Charters. My shuttle driver, October (her name), pulls in with her ubiquitous white 9 passenger van with the fishing rod for antenna, at the agreed upon 5:20 am. She stops to pick up a couple more fishermen at a nearby motel, and then drives over the bridge to Sealing Cove harbor. The deck hand is on board the boat to greet me (apparently bait boys – what they called deckhands the last time I went charter fishing – have gotten promoted, and are now referred to as deck hands). Young fellow from Idaho named Jessie, he readily confessed that this was only his third day as a deck hand, and he was having problems with sea sickness. The previous one recently quit, and Jessie got shifted from the fish processing line. Skipper Jeremy showed up next, followed up by the other two fishermen Lee and his 15 year old son Corrie, from Boca Raton Florida. The boat is a 27 foot Seasport, well set up for our small fishing party.

Engines fire up a little after 6 am and we head out, in search of coho, and perhaps a stray king. We run south for almost a hour at over 20 knots, mostly inside little islands but occasionally pounding past openings to the open ocean, with their attendant swells. The salmon fishing spot is close in to a small island with a steep cliff face which drops right in to the water. Two other Reel Affair boats are there, either trolling or mooching. With only 3 fishermen aboard, we troll, one rod baited with whole herring, the other with flasher and hoochie (plastic squid), both on downriggers at either 50 or 75 feet of depth. I hook up first, with what initially seems like a king, but ends up being a nice, big ling cod. Unfortunately, season is closed for ling, so he gets shaken off the hook. Nice coho start hitting, and we rotate pulling in the fish. They run between 4 and 9 lbs, most around 6 lbs. Limit is 6 each, and we have our 18 by 9:45 am. Very good fishing. We pick up a couple of pinks as well, which we save for halibut bait.

Conditions sound good out on open water for halibut. It’s been too rough the last couple days to try, and I’m fortunate to be out on the first decent day. By decent I mean wind at 7 knots, swell around 4 feet, later settling to 2 feet. Sounds great until you’ve rolled around in it, at anchor, for 4 hours, with the air periodicly flavored with the scent of halibut bait (translate: bloody salmon guts). The deck hand does fine until he has 2 of the 3 rods baited, and then he starts turning white, then green, and his breathing becomes labored. A real trooper, he hangs in there until all rods are baited and fishing. We wait about a half hour before the first bite. Corrie cranks up the first halibut, a nice 30 pounder. Big job bringing one of these fish up from 360 feet down. The bite is fairly steady thereafter, but we miss many hits. We end up with 5 halibut, one shy of the limit, and for a bonus, catch 5 yellow eye, a type of snapper which run about 8 lbs a piece. One shy of a limit for yellow eye as well. Excellent day of fishing, and it turns out that our boat did the best of the Reel Affairs boats. Poor Jessie has had a tough time of it, and can only look forward to another day of it tomorrow. Jeremy promises that he’ll get accustomed, and things will get better. Jessie wants to believe, but I don’t know if he really buys it.

We’re back to the dock by 4 pm. October meets me there for the ride back to Thomsen Harbor. Sandy is not at the boat, so I assume (correctly) that she’s up at the laundry. I walk up and find her there. She’s already taken her shower, but just before I get to the door a scruffy old timer grabs the one shower in the place. 45 minutes later I’m still waiting for him to finish up. When he finally leaves I notice the big plastic bag he’s hauling out, and I conclude that he likely did his laundry in the shower room sink.

We grab dinner at (yuk) McDonalds and then pick up on last minute groceries. Getting tired by the time we get things stowed and ready for the sack. It’s still raining. I’m placing my hopes on a rumor of sun tomorrow.

August 6, 2005

Sitting on a rocky point, overlooking Hoonah Sound at sunset, Chinook securely riding at anchor in the calm waters of Nismeni Cove, a few hundred yards behind my perch. Hardly a breath of wind. Salmon jump out of the water and fall awkwardly back in, sounding like stones being tossed into a pond and looking like the cartoon images of jumping fish. Maybe the cartoons got it right. Midway in the channel, humpbacks blow. Their spouts are small at that distance, but backlit by the setting sun, they remind of clam squirts on a smooth beach. A pair move in closer, and the hollow sound of their spouting carries across the channel. It is so loud that you would think they are right in front of you, but the delay in the arrival of sound betrays the actual distance. Slowly the sunset develops, slipping between patchy layers of cloud.

This was travel day, after a most enjoyable 5 days in Sitka. Despite the mostly rainy weather, we enjoyed this attractive, historic Southeast Alaska city. As if to provide us with a cheerful farewell, the sun shone brightly in the morning. I took the surround panels down to dry, and lowered the bimini for the first time in a week. It felt great to sit in the open cockpit for a change. We took our time getting things ready to leave, and left our slip around 10 am. We backtracked north, through Whitestone Narrows and Neva Strait. Initially we had the current in our favor, however as we approached Kakul Narrows things changed significantly. We fought the current through these narrows, but that was just a hint of conditions in Sergius Narrows. The current there can run at 8 knots, and it must have been doing near that as we entered. I hadn’t bothered to figure out optimum times for traversing this place, and we paid the price. At one point I had the engine up to 4000 rpm and we were only doing 1.5 knots over ground. This suggests an opposing current of nearly 8 knots. The tide was near slack, so there must be a delay between current and tide. Fortunately, with the 50 hp outboard we were able to proceed contrary to current, and worked our way up into Peril Strait.

Shortly after clearing Sergius Narrows, a charter boat approached and passed us in the opposite direction. I waved as he charged by, and kept my attention on the water ahead. Sandy looked back and said “He’s turning around. It looks like he wants to talk with us.”

Then she recognized the occupants from the pictures I’d taken on yesterday’s fishing trip. Amazingly, it was Jeremy in his Reel Affairs charter boat, with Lee, Corrie and Jessie. They’d said they were going crabbing and shrimping today, but I didn’t know where they planned to go. Apparently, they had been keeping an eye out for us. We had a fun conversation when they pulled along side. Lee asked if we’d like some crab. That’s like asking a fish if he likes water. Corrie pitched a plastic bag with some freshly caught and cooked crab, which made for a very tasty dinner. I passed them our boat card, and we took pictures of each other. I expect we’ll be e’mailing them some of the pictures I took during the fishing trip. They’ll enjoy receiving them, I’m sure.

The weather has improved greatly, and the extended forecast sounds very encouraging for the next several days. We are looking forward to some sunny days for a change.

Distance for the day: 41 nm; total for the trip: 1673 nm

August 7, 2005

Oh, to rejoice over a sunny day. Sunny and almost perfectly calm, under cloudless sky, from start to finish. Probably the finest weather day of the trip. We left our anchorage around 8:30 and glided out into Peril Strait. The fishing boat which had shared the anchorage was long gone by the time we had gotten up. We motored easily along the south shore. A small group of whales were spouting a mile or so ahead, and a little farther out. We slowly cruised up on them. I had the jib out for a little light air motor sailing, and when we got within a quarter mile of the whales I cut the engine, and we proceeded along, silently, at 2 knots. There were 4 whales in the group. They appeared to be resting, and would lay at the surface, casually spouting. Every 5 minutes or so, they would arch their backs and sound, with their tail flukes rising into the air before gracefully sliding into the water. They would stay down for about 10 minutes, and each time they reappeared, we had sailed a little closer. We were startled when the massive, dark form of a humpback surfaced and blew within 50 yards of the boat. They moved off, in the opposite direction we were going. It was a thrilling experience.

Around noon we reached the mouth of Peril Strait, and turned south down Chatham Strait. Chatham is a very large body of water, probably 10 miles across and extending in a north/south orientation from open ocean to the approaches to Juneau, a distance of well over 100 miles. We had the rare privilege of cruising down this Strait in perfectly calm conditions, not a ripple marring the surface all the way across, and as far down as the eye could see. And throughout the expanse of mountainous shoreline, no evidence of development to be seen, except for the rapidly greening over forms of past logging activity. Baranoff Island, which forms the western shore of Chatham, quickly becomes extremely rugged and mountainous, the peaks glistening with snowfields and hanging glaciers, waterfalls cascading down steep faces and ravines. And everywhere the salmon jump. We tucked into a snug little anchorage called Ell Cove around 3 pm. I threw the kicker on the dinghy and headed out for a little fishing while Sandy enjoyed the peace, quiet (except for bird serenades), and sunshine of our cove. I trolled the mouth of the cove, and missed a couple of strikes, then broke my whole trolling rig off on a fish. He must have been huge. The ones that get away always are. I switched tactics and dropped off a jig for a little bottom fishing, and was quickly rewarded with a couple of nice rock fish, just perfect for dinner. I buzzed back to the boat and we enjoyed fresh fish fillets. After dinner we went out for a dinghy cruise in the evening light. We explored the mouth of a little salmon stream, with pink salmon congregating at the mouth, waiting for the right time to go upstream.

Distance for the day: 35 nm; total for the trip: 1708 nm

August 8, 2005

Bright sunny morning, slight swell sneaking into our protected anchorage from outside. I ran out in the dinghy first thing to pull the crab trap. Only thing I caught was 3 sun stars. Back in the cove we went for a dinghy explore along the shoreline at low tide. Wonderful sea life was visible from dinghy in very clear water. We pulled anchor around 9:30 am and cruised out onto Chatham Strait. Light breeze out of the north. I unfurled the jib and raised the main. We shut the motor off and sailed south along a spectacular shoreline. The east shore of Baranoff Island is very mountainous, and indented with frequent inlets. Glacier covered peaks are visible above the inlets. The breeze pushed us along, wing on wing, at 4 knots for about 5 miles before slacking off. We continued sailing at reduced speed all the way to the entrance to Warm Springs Bay. I removed the whisker pole and we turned into the bay. We sighted the beautiful falls at the head of the bay, and the public float where we tied up, next to a big motor cruiser. We grabbed swim suits and walked up the trail to Baranoff Hot Spring. This spring is the most wonderful we’ve visited thus far. It is a series of 3 pools located immediately adjacent to a raging river. The first pool is extremely hot, a reported 120 degrees. The next pool has a flow of cold river water piped in, and is 105 degrees, perfect for soaking. A lower pool has river flow into it, and is too cold for soaking at this river stage. We luxuriated in the middle pool, and I managed to get into the upper one for a little while. The setting for this hot spring is magnificent.

After our soak we walked back to the little store located just above the float. They have a few locally made gifts, plus ice cream. They also have internet, so I’m typing this up quickly, so I can e’mail it out from the remote location of Warm Springs Bay, Baranoff Island, Alaska. Ain’t technology amazing!

Distance for the day: 11 nm; total for the trip: 1719 nm

August 8, 2005 – continued

I hurried with yesterday’s notes, so I could take advantage of satellite e’mail at Baranoff before the store closed, around 5 pm. After sending log entries off to Ken via techno magic in the wilderness, I walked back down the boardwalk toward the boat. I noticed a guy down below, at the edge of the bay, near where the river at the base of the falls enters the saltwater. He had a fly rod. I thought, boy is he wasting his time. I walked a bit further and threw a haughty glance back, only to spy him playing a salmon. I stopped and watched. Big schools of pinks were cruising the shoreline, and whatever he had on the tip of that fly line was getting results. Time and again he would hook and release 3 to 5 pound pinks. He was having a ball. I thought about that backpack fly rod stowed in the boat, and the automatic fly reel with floating line. I also thought about my heavily stocked fly box which had inadvertently gotten left at home in the flurry of packing up. I gave up thoughts of joining in with the fly rod.

Back at the boat I struck up a conversation with the Kake Indian fishing guide, attached to the megayacht Revelation, which was tied up to the float. He showed me the kind of fly the fisherman was using: a red headed jig. My old fly fishing instincts got the best of me, and after dinner I pieced together the little 4 piece fly rod, attached the reel, and poked into my tackle box for anything I could cast with a fly rod, which might attract a salmon. I came across a packet of plastic hoochies, little squid imitations, which my old friend and savvy outdoorsman, Don Johnson, had given me. Inside was a little tiny hoochy, with a pair of small hooks and leader already rigged up. It was green, instead of red, like the guy was using, but I tied it on anyway, and trooped down to the water’s edge. I fished next to the guide, who had come down for some evening fun as well. He started hooking fish with regularity, laughing aloud with every hookup. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. I cast and cast, and finally started getting some hits, and then I hooked up. On a light fly rod a 4 pound pink salmon puts up a strong fight. I caught two before calling it an evening.

August 9, 2005

I rose to another beautiful day, thin high overcast to start with, which quickly burned off in favor of clear blue sky. While eating breakfast, Sandy and I were entertained by a river otter who cruised around the float, and even climbed up onto the floatplane dock, looking for goodies. After breakfast, we walked out along the boardwalk to get pictures of the falls in full sunlight. I just happened to have my fly rod along for one last fling at those salmon, and my efforts were duly rewarded. We finally pulled out around 9:45 am, and found Chatham Strait rippled with a light breeze. After making our turn south I found enough wind to warrant raising the main for some motor sailing. As we proceeded, the wind picked up, a north wind at our backs, so I set the jib, rigging the whisker pole to allow us to sail wing on wing without running the engine. Our speed initially was about 3 knots, but soon we were doing 4, then 5. By this time we had a pretty good trailing sea running, so it was a bit bouncy. The wind was also quite chilly, and the sails blocked out the sun. Sandy went below for relief from the bounce of the boat and to warm up. The wind continued to strengthen, and we started surging ahead, at times at speeds better than 6.5 knots. Sailing downwind at this speed was quite taxing, since the wind kept shifting a few degrees, back and forth, and also because I needed to maintain a heading to clear a point up ahead. The main was out to the port side, and the wind kept backing to port. With the whisker pole set, a controlled gybe to bring the main over to starbard, and jib to port, was a bit of a task. I felt relieved when the wind shifted a little to starbard as I neared the point, and I was able to maintain a comfortable distance offshore. I had sailed about 15 miles wing on wing, constantly checking the wind directional vane at the top of the mast and watching the main for luff, left hand on the main sheet to quickly haul in if she started to gybe.

We were within a mile of the entrance to Red Bluff Bay, our destination, when it happened. Bang! With no advance warning an abrupt wind shift caught the main and she gybed across. Major problem, doing 6 knots with a 4 foot following sea, and both sails full out. I cut both sheets, started the engine, and came about, into sea and wind. Sails flapped loudly, uncontrollably luffing. Of course, Sandy was rudely startled by this abrupt turn of events, and rushed into the cockpit. I handed her the wheel and quickly dropped the main. I then turned attention to the jib. With all the chaos, the jib had jerked the whisker pole free from the mast, but was still attached to the sail. I retrieved it, unclipped it from the sail and passed it back to Sandy. With the pole removed it was a simple matter to roll the jib up. We turned back on course and motored the last bit into Red Bluff Inlet.

I thought we had escaped this incident unscathed, but later, when getting ready to put the whisker pole away, I noticed that the plastic tab for the spring clip which holds it in place on the mast was missing. Apparently when it broke loose, the tab tore out. I hope I can get a replacement part, but in the meantime, we will be sailing without benefit of that pole.

We were grateful to reach the shelter of Red Bluff Inlet, which is described in Douglas as one of the scenic highlights of Southeast Alaska, combining rugged peaks, snowfields, and waterfalls in a most spectacular fashion. As usual, Douglas was right on the mark. We marveled at the landscape as we followed the narrow passage into the inlet. We proceeded in to the recommended anchorage, near the head of the inlet. It is a well protected nook. A fishing boat attached to the excursion yacht we passed on the way in was there, and the young guys aboard were having a ball fly fishing for pinks. The water in this cove was simply crawling with fish. Huge schools milled around, fish jumping everywhere. The more we looked, the more fish we saw. After anchoring we went out in dinghy for an explore. This inlet holds more fish than I knew existed. Massive schools, revealed by incessant jumping. At times it looks like popcorn popping in hot oil, every pop a fish. I fished some, and caught some, but mostly we just watched the spectacle. Typing this at well past 10 pm, I can still hear them outside the boat, jumping and splashing. I wonder if they ever rest.

Distance for the day: 22 nm; total for the trip: 1741 nm

August 10, 2005

In a trip marked by unique and extraordinary experiences, today stands out, for somehow we have managed to sail completely out of Alaska and into the tropics. Allow me to explain.

Last night I decided on an early departure, knowing that we must make a crossing of Chatham Strait, which is 13 miles wide at our projected course. After our hectic experience of the previous day, I didn’t want to get caught out in the middle in a freshening breeze, with the swell right on our beam. So I awoke at 5 am, and was underway by 5:20. Sunlight was just lighting up the rock walls of Red Bluff Inlet, the water calm, those pinks still jumping. In fact, they jumped non stop all night. Chatham looked to be in good shape when I reached the mouth of the inlet. Light northerly breeze, sea surface rippled. I headed out on a GPS waypoint course for Cornwallis Point, on the far side. A few miles out the breeze picked up a little, and a small swell rocked us slightly, but not enough to check our speed, which was the usual 6 knots. Just past half way, however, something unusual and strange occurred. Instead of accelerating, the wind started to die. Ahead I could see oil slick smooth water. The rising sun, which had been right in my face at the start of the crossing, climbed higher into a cloudless sky. We motored through breathless air, and the clothing layers started coming off. By the time we anchored in Honeydew Cove it was starting to feel hot. Clearly we were no longer in Alaska, but had somehow, out in the middle of Chatham Strait, entered into the tropical doldrums. By way of evidence, I cite the merciless sun, breathless air (which remained so the entire day), and squadrons of biting flies which compelled us to deploy our surround bug netting, which had specifically been made for use in the Everglades. We didn’t question this strange turn of events, but simply dressed for the weather and marveled at the day. Heck, maybe this actually is the real Alaska after all, and all that rain and gloom back in June and July was merely a figment of our imagination.

Honeydew Cove is a lovely, intimate place, actually more of a side channel protected by small islands and kelp beds. The land form here is very different than we have experienced on mountainous Baranoff Island, consisting of low limestone hills and tilted sedimentary layers forming reefs offshore. Rock and elements have combined to create features more at home in Utah than Alaska, including a pedestal rock and a large natural arch. We just sort of hung out here for the day. I went out fishing for a few hours and caught several black bass (released them all since we need a break from our fish diet right now). I also caught a headache from too much sun. I’m avoiding listening to NOAA weather radio, and I’ve stopped sneaking peaks at the barometer. Rather, I choose to believe that this tropical weather will simply continue for the rest of the trip.

Distance for the day: 23 nm; total for the trip: 1764 nm