Saturday, May 22, 2010

The heart of the Southeast - Alaska, that is....

We arrived late in the day and stayed in the little cove outside of Tracy Arm, called no name cove. So…. Is that the name - or does it just not have a name? Hmmmm….

We looked for bears but never spotted any in our cove. There was a great big iceberg right outside the cove entrance, just a taste of what was to come. Marc and I had fun gathering mussels off of the beach, and steaming them for dinner in white wine and tarragon, then dipping them in melted butter – divine! First, we had to only eat one and wait half an hour, in case they had PSP which is very toxic. There were no ill effects, so we gobbled down the rest. The next day, we stared the cruise up Tracy Arm to look at the glacier up there. The day was cold and wet, which really suited the mood of the arm. This place is so dramatic – high mountains and cliffs, with great “U” shaped valleys and mist and fog all around. The waterway snakes up the fiord – which is a fairly narrow passageway, with tremendous steep granite walls, like a canyon. I took some great photos ! We never made it to the face of the glacier, but the trip was still well worth it. There comes a point where it is futile to continue. The waters were so chocked with ice, there was nowhere to go but back. I did manage to snag an iceberg in my fishing net that has served us well keeping our drinks cold. The ice is crystal clear, and the chunk I netted was about 20 pounds. Back in our little cove, we caught crabs and more mussels, and had a feast of Thai red curry mussels, complete with coconut milk and cilantro, over rice. Yum! Cracked Dungeness crabs were the appetizer – we even caught 2 little king crab, but threw them back.

In the morning we left our little cove and headed back to Petersburg for the festival. I am so glad we did! We requested a slip at the south docks this time, what an improvement! Still a ton of fishing boats, but not the derelict kind. The docks were wide and nice with 50 amp power and plentiful water. Our Brit friends from Cloudy Bay were there, and soon 3 more magnificent Nordhavn Passagemakers showed up that were traveling in a group, and they all docked together with Cloudy Bay (Serendipity, Skie, and one other) Skie had their boat sent over here from Australia on a transport ship to cruise the Northwest waters.

Saturday was beautiful weather, and it was festival time! The parade was great – the most unique thing was the little Norwegian kids in their fancy garb dancing and playing in the streets. A lot of men and women had beautiful hand knit Norwegian sweaters and many of the more traditional women and girls had pinafore dresses in shades of blue with white caps. Very authentic! Then there were the young men and women that were styled after the Norsemen of yore – they sported the double horned helmets, and flowing furs of wolf pelts– legs attached! These were mostly the singles in their 20s, strutting their stuff. The men looked and acted very macho.

After the parade, there was a herring toss and catch contest in the street. 2 rows of contestants line up facing their partner – there were about 75 or so pairs of participants. The fish (about 8 inches long) are handed out – one per team. The fish are then tossed between teammates, and if successfully caught, they advance to the next stage. The gap is widened with each volley (“take a giant step back!”). The contestants eagerly scramble to position themselves for a good catch, and then are initially pleased which quickly turns to “grossed out” when they actually catch the slimy fish. It was so funny! I had my movie camera with me, and will be able to post video when I return home. After the contest, it was on to the Elks Club for the smorgasbord. Excellent food! We accompanied the 4 couples that were on their Nordhavns, including our friends Henry and Janice on Cloudy Bay.

The next day was rainy, and even though the festivities were still going on, not many make it out due to the weather. We decided to take this opportunity to rent a car, and travel around the island. There was an older couple that wanted a car, too – we took the last car, so Marc invited them along for the tour. It was a fun morning despite the weather. We had a nice visit with the older couple from Seward. Quite a few tourists come from all over Alaska to join in the fun for Viking days. We talked to several people who came from Juneau on the “fast ferry” (4 hours).

We left Petersburg early Sunday morning heading out towards Baranof Island. We made it as far as Honeydew Cove, just north of Kake. Beautiful anchorage. I caught my second fish on the way, but it was not the halibut I was fishing for! We saw many whales and dall porpoise. I almost got stuck on shore in the morning, the tide goes out so quickly up here because there are often 16-18 foot tide changes. The water just won’t stay still. After much struggle, I managed to wiggle the diinhgy to the deeper water. All before my morning cup of coffee! What you will do for your adoring pooch (the sod was tossed overboard weeks ago, she didn’t like it anymore)

The next stop on the way was Red Bluff Bay. This is where we saw our first grizzly bears, and some fantastic waterfalls. We had the bay all to ourselves (all 10 miles of it) This was a great place to motor around on the dinghy, which is how we spotted our first bear – we were able to navigate pretty close to shore, and shoot a lot of photos. After that, we went back to Cinnamon Girl for dinner. We had anchored close to shore, and watched our second grizzly of the day munching on vegetation right on the shore. It was great to make dinner and watch the bear out the window – a safe distance away.

On to Warm Springs Bay – what a treat! There is a small public dock there, with quite a few boats already tied up (about a dozen boats) The boats on dock squeezed together to make room for us on the inside of the float – the preferred side due to currents. What was amazing about this place was the plentiful water - hot and cold! They had a dock hose that ran constantly from the snow melt – gravity fed – and pure. We filled our tanks with the untreated water (as everyone does). The best part was the plentiful warm water, flowing down to the bath houses and, if you are up for the hike, the pools on the side of the waterfall in three beautiful rock basins. The larger basin was extremely hot, you could cook yourself in there, but the second one down – was just right. The little one on the cliffs edge was a bit scary, and not that big, but you can reach out and touch the raging waterfalls from that vantage point – tempting!

The next day was not a great day due to a faulty sensor that indicated we had water in our fuel. I guess that is better than actually having water in your fuel, but what an ordeal. We were free floating while diagnosing the problem, and then couldn’t get the motor started – long story short – drained the fuel filter – got an airlock – didn’t know how to re-prime the motor – consulted several people back home (Thank you Tim and Forrest!!) Tim pointed us in the right direction, and Forrest confirmed. Marc was in the engine room reading the manual while the shore loomed - well – it was 2 miles away :-). The fish were so plentiful under the boat, that every time Marc wanted a read on the depth finder it read 20 feet - that is how deep the school was, creating a false bottom depth! I know better than to believe that when the charts tell me “no way” but it was still disconcerting because the fish school went on and on (we were actually at a safe 1500 feet). At this point, we felt we needed to make a beeline for Angoon (a very old Tlingit village, which was the closest bay) because we still were not sure if we had water in the fuel or not, and needed to diagnose at the safety of the docks. It was a tricky entrance due to current but we came in very near slack (a good thing). I couldn’t believe the eddies in the water on the inside of the bay. We stayed on the old fishing docks, and never even make it to town. We did have quite a show of all the locals fishing the small bay in their runabouts around and around the bay trolling for kings. Marc talked to the Volvo service guy in Seattle on the phone who believed it was a faulty sensor, based on what we told him. So now we have 2 new sensors coming to Juneau. (a spare!) CG has 3 systems that run on diesel – all were affected by draining the fuel from the Racors – the main engine, furnace and generator. Marc was able to prime the main engine, and the furnace, but we still have not been able to revive the generator – yet.

We left Angoon on the next slack tide early in the morning, and saw a humpback in that little bay right in front of us in 40 feet of dead calm water - amazing. We were out in Chatham Straight which was rather bumpy on the way up to Tennakee Springs. Ducking into Tennakee seemed like the best idea due to the rough ride, and one I do not regret! A nice wide bay, and tons of dall porpoise to escort us to the docks. They must be so used to the boats turning into the marina, they actually made the turn ahead of us as if to say, “hey come this way”. It was so neat! When we got there, it was hot. We talked to some people who were taking a boat up to Whittier. They had traveled all the way from Seattle – in the last nine days. I thought I had misheard them. I asked if they had stopped anywhere, or did they travel all night. They assured me they had stopped along the way. Must have been one heck of a weather window, and fast engines is all I can say. I felt like a slacker!

We walked to town, which I loved. It was just a dirt path, and the only vehicles on the island are ATVS and bicycles, except for the fuel truck and fire truck. Most of the dwellings are from the early 1900s and very cute. They are right smack on the trail, many of the porches and back doors touch the trail, and they are very close together. It is a close-knit community, and they are even able to support a public school. There are just a handful of students, but they all go on to do good things from this little village, I was told by a local. I was also informed it is mostly a retirement community.

I was told by the harbormaster the electricity was out after our jaunt to town, so we were not able to get any juice from the docks. While walking down the trail. I stopped to talk to the local men (citizens) trying to fix it. The young guy had a 20 ft telescoping pole with a boat hook looking thing on the end of it. He was trying to perform surgery on a switch next to the telephone pole 20 feet in the air and was getting cheers and advice from his elder not so dexterous- burly, bearded, paunchy, suspendered comrades, a.k.a. Alaska men. I stopped to ask one of them– “Is he going to get it fixed?’ the answer came back, “Oh, it always gets fixed, it’s whether its today or not.”

Hours later, the lights came on. When we awoke the next morning the power was already off again *sigh*

Well, that’s it for now, I will let you know how the trip ends next time, stay posted, and thank you for reading. Stay tuned for pictures, there is no way I can post photos with this internet speed!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Greetings from sceinic Alaska

When we left off last, we had started our circumnavigation of Revillagigedo Island, and were headed towards Punchbowl Cove. Revillagigedo is the island that Ketchikan is on, but it is a large mountainous island, and it appears Ketchikan is the only inhabited part. As it is, Ketchikan is not on a flat spot, the mountain goes strait down to the water – the road that extends from one end of the town to the other is mainly on an elevated surface due to the slope. It is about 130 miles around this island, so we broke it up into a few days.
It is an extremely scenic cruise, and the first thing I remember that is noteworthy is Eddystone rock – where I left off in the last blog. As we were approaching the rock, a storm was brewing off to our starboard – rainstorms frequently pass through here, mostly just little squalls. This one was right at the entrance to Punchbowl and it looked ominous.

The winds weren’t bad though, and we steered around Eddystone headed for our destination through the entrance. Have you ever had an experience in nature where everything culminates in moment of perfection? This was one of those moments – you want to hang on to every second as it unfolds. It started with the clouds – dark and thick – billowing in the entrance to Punchbowl. As we approached the entrance, a rainbow started to form on the left side of the passage.

A few moments later, it grew taller and started to arc across the opening.

About that time, the seas changed from blue to deep green with a small chop. Now a second rainbow was forming above the first, and there was a dark band in the space between the two.

Light filtered down to the water below the lower rainbow – as if it were raining light. We were still in sunlight, as the rain sprinkled down on us, and we headed straight for the middle of the rainbow. Just before we passed through the arch, porpoises started jumping just ahead of our boat – what a heady experience!

Just like that, the porpoises quit jumping, the rainbow got thin and faint – and we were inside the entrance, staring at the steep granite cliffs of our anchorage for the night. For a minute, I felt as if was having a Wyland art moment. We were only missing unicorns.

We found a mooring buoy at the head of the bay, and tied up to it.

The next day, we took the tender out for a long cruise face to face with the granite cliffs. It was so much fun! I took lots of photos, I will share a few here.

I especially like getting close to the waterfalls and watching the seals poke their heads up to check you out from a safe distance, only to resurface from a different vantage point.

These are called "totem" shots with the reflection on calm water - look at it sideways!

I laid back on the inflatable tubes of our boat with my face tilted up to the sun, and thought, this is what you only try to imagine when you take a ride down the “lazy river” of some resort pool. The feeling of peace and freedom was indescribable.

The Aussie couple on Zuben Ubi shared the rather large basin with us – we did not make contact, as we wanted to respect their privacy in this magnificent cove. As we were left in the afternoon for our daily cruise, we noticed a float plane approaching us. It was the Aussie couples guests that were flying in for the weekend – they had told us in Ketchikan of their plans, only we had forgotten. The plane landed a few hundred yards beside us, and coasted up to Zuben Ubi, as we were heading for unexplored waters.

The face in the rock - punchbowl

Note the red feet!

The reach up Behm Channel (still circling the island) was scenic and peaceful, not much to report except for a serene calm fun time. We decided to check out a cove for our nights anchorage in a place called Bailey Bay. What a sweet spot! There was a mooring buoy here, so all we needed to do was to tie up to it. So easy! Much better than dropping anchor, and worrying about swing, scope, bottom conditions and holding capacity. The next morning, we scouted around a bit. Since we needed to get moving, we left fairly early, and continued around the island. Next night, it was getting late, and we needed to find a place before nightfall. We picked a spot to head for, and were pretty much committed. As it turns out, it was a logging camp –not very scenic nor safe to anchor, since you could get your anchor hung up on an old sunken log. We consulted our books, and found a cove off of this bay that was pretty sung, and out of the view of the logging camp (Tolstoi). It worked out well. We left there the next morning and finished the circle around Revillagigedo, and headed back north towards the Wrangell/Petersburg area Sunday. We had a full day, which put us in Petersburg (80 miles) before sunset. Petersburg is an old Norwegian fishing village in a protected channel outside of Frederick Sound. It is quite colorful, and the people there are real friendly. In the old days, they would catch fish, pack them with glacial ice, and send them on steamships to Seattle – they would stay frozen for the entire trip south. The north docks where we docked , were rickety and old, and comprised of functioning as well as derelict fishing boats. One of the nicer boats was also named Cinnamon Girl. We happened to meet the owner in the harbormaster office when we went to pay – he didn’t have much to say about the coincidence, but we thought is was funny.

After settling in, we took a cab to the only restaurant open in Petersburg on Sunday - a Chinese place called Joan Mei. Our waiter (the owner’s brother) was very friendly, and happened to mention that his son is attending Western Washington University in Bellingham (where we started our trip, and also where Julia just got accepted). His wife lives in Seattle – he hopes to join her soon, there. After dinner, we found the cab driver sitting in his cab, reading a book, waiting for us to finish. Things are that slow in Petersburg. Cab drivers always have priceless tidbits of local knowledge, and Don was no exception. He told us of tales of the strong rivalry between Wrangell and Petersburg that has endured over the past century. They are on different islands, but only 15 miles away. Let me back up a minute by saying next weekend is the centennial celebration of “Norwegian days” in Petersburg. The cab driver pointed out an old Norwegian Viking ship up on land displayed in the center of town. This boat is a town mascot of sorts, and a symbol of their heritage – it’s a big deal. The story goes, every year during the festival, drunk Norwegians would take it around the harbor, whooping and hollering and falling into the water. A few years back, they stopped the practice, before someone got hurt. Now, back to the rivalry -some years ago, a Wrangell gang stole the Norwegian Viking ship. This was serious business -Don the cabbie said he thought someone’s head was going to roll for that little stunt. In the end Petersburg got their boat back, all heads intact. The other gem from Don was – Question -“What is first prize for the winner of the fishing derby in Petersburg? Answer – “an all expense paid trip to Wrangell for 1 day.” Next question – “What is second place?” Answer - “An all expense paid trip to Wrangell for 3 days”.

We are going back for the festival next weekend.

We left Petersburg after a short trip to town Monday morning.

The tender in tow

We headed out to Frederick Sound to try and catch some fish. I was able to hook a ling cod, and we had it for dinner later in our anchorage.

I would have to say, the trip up Frederick Sound to Stephens Passage was breathtaking. It wasn’t just the scenery, it was the calm sea, low sun, and the blueness of the landscape.

EVERYTHING was blue – every shade of blue – mostly lighter shades. Even the snow on the mountains was blue. It was warm and sunny, and I thought I had reached heaven. We were surrounded by mountains, but still in a fairly large body of water – about 5 miles in every direction – all to ourselves.

It was surreal. Headed towards Cannery Cove on Admiralty Island, we spotted several humpback whales spouting and cruising through the water. It was late in the day, and the sun was starting to set behind the massive mountains on the island. When we arrived at the cove, much to our surprise (dismay?), there was a fishing lodge there – we had no idea. I don’t think the lodge is in full swing yet, many of their fishing boats were still onshore. We left this morning headed for Tracy Arm to see our first glaciers, and this is where I now sit in time. Out today we have seen more whales, and 2 cruise ships, but no other boats. The contrast between this vast wilderness and the 2 “floating cities” we have encountered is stark. Marc hailed one of the cruise ships the “Rhapsody of the Seas” on the radio to get information on how congested the arm is with icebergs – The captain was polite, but curt – not very chatty. I guess the responsibility of all those passengers on board can weigh pretty heavy on a guy.

I will now close, and next time give a report of Tracy Arm – I am looking forward to the scenery and cocktails with glowing blue ice!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Eureka! We made it to Alaska

Hello All! I had posted earlier without pictures, and I want you to know I have added them now. I will also add more pictures to past post as I run across them, I am still getting used to working on a Mac – I will let you know as I do so. To view, just hit the “old posts” button at the bottom of the blog.
We left Prince Rupert early Tuesday morning. I had not slept well, so I went back to bed for another round of sleep after untying the lines and walking the dog. When I awoke, we were well into our “Dixon Entrance” crossing – and things were happily calm. Marc had researched the weather and tides before hand, and we had held off a day (Monday) for better conditions. The general strategy for crossing is to break it up into 2 days – the choices being Dundas Island for a halfway spot, with good halibut fishing, (and killer biting flies called white socks) or further along, at Foggy Bay. Dundas is still in BC, but Foggy Bay is in Alaska.

Message in a bottle - sent on the Alaska border - havent heard from anyone yet!

Interestingly, US customs will let you anchor in Foggy Bay before clearing – an unheard of practice entering the mainland USA. You have to let them know first though, and get on “the list”. We were on “the list” as a contingency plan, but Foggy Bay came and went and we pressed on to Ketchikan. 73 miles later, we arrived. By the way, the fine for landing and not checking in to customs is $5,000 – even more that a prop fix in Nanaimo.

What is that in the middle of the Dixon Entrance Crossing? A tug pulling a small village!

Ketchikan is a bustling port – one of the larger ones in Alaska. They have an airport with commercial 737 flights coming in and out all the time. This is the site for the Palin’s famous “bridge to nowhere” speech. Actually, the bridge would have gone to the airport, not exactly nowhere, but I see how the current ferry could be a money saver. The main economy driver in Ketchikan, at least for the past few decades, is the cruise ship/tourism trade, and they were gearing up for their first arrival of the season on Wednesday. Everywhere you went, last minute details were being attended to – paint here, pressure washing there – high ladders leaning with electrical cords dangling against the colorful clapboard buildings. I felt as if I were backstage on dress rehearsal night of some frontier themed Broadway play. For a town of 8,000, last year the cruise ships brought in over 900,000 people, just to give you an idea of how big the industry is. Norwegian Star arrived today with much fanfare – On with the show.

There were several highlights to the stay in Ketchikan – we were able to grab one of the last spots at City Docks (Casey Moran) in a very central part of town. When we arrived on Tuesday, Art and Diane were there to help us find a good spot, and to catch our lines. We were grateful for that, it was a tight spot, and tricky to get in to. They are cruisers from Anacortes Washington, with a Nordic Tug – a very similar boat to ours. This was our first encounter with that particular boat (cant remember the name!), but was happy to meet another of the growing crowd cruising these waters from the lower 48. We also ran into Salty Dawg (Knut and Gerry) who we ran into (almost literally, witch was very weird) when we ducked into Codville off of Fitz Hugh, and we met them just outside the narrow passage on the way out. They saw us coming, and stayed put for us. It was very strange timing with so few boats that day. Now we were able to officially meet them. Wednesday, our friends in the Nordhavn Cloudy Bay showed up, along with the Australian couple I had met briefly in Prince Rupert, Phil and Bev on Zuben Ubi. We talked to them this morning; they have been out cruising for 2 years, all the way from Stuart FL, where they purchased their boat. Another cruising couple out on the water following the seasons north to south for their enjoyment – I could get used to that.

We are on our way to “Misty Fiords National Monument” . As I write we are currently 16 miles outside of Punchbowl - I am sitting here in the sun, gazing at these magnificent snowcapped mountains complete with blue water and puffy clouds.
How exciting! A group of dall porpoise just joined us again, splashing and diving in our bow wake – I got it on video!

The other highlight I wanted to mention here, was a visit from a long ago classmate back from Freeman High School, class of ’76 Bill “Hunter” Davis. He had been following our progress on face book, and wanted to come say “hi” when we arrived. It was great to see Hunter, and to have a personal account of the goings on in Ketchikan. It was obvious that Hunter found his niche in Southeast Alaska – being retired military, he has time for all his personal pursuits – from drum major and former bagpipe player in the Scottish marching band, to sailor (competitive and recreational), activist in the Episcopal Church, and in the community at large - a very nice guy. I would love to have met his wife Debi, but Marc was a bit under the weather Wednesday night, so we stayed in for the evening - too much walking during the day. Thank you Hunter, it was a pleasure to see you!

We also were able to pick up the hose that was shipped Fedex ahead of us. Thanks again, Chris ☺ The bus system in Ketchikan was wonderful. That’s a good thing about the tourism trade, it brings in tax dollars. They also have a wonderful little library. I went to find a book on making sushi, I would like to try making some if we catch some fish. I was able to scan a few books, and make copies of the rice making part – the rest I think I can figure out, since I eat it often. I bought sushi rice and nori sheets along with the bamboo rollers, wasabi and soy sauce before leaving.
We fueled up in Ketchikan before leaving, and took on 400 gallons - just enough to get the volume discount. The Norwegien Star was docked in the harbor as we headed out of town. I mentioned we were on our way to Punchbowl - Here is a picture of Eddystone Rock just outside of Punchbowl in the Misty Fiords. This rock rises out of nowhere in the middle of the channel. It is quite a monument, and had a small flat beach around it.

There are more good tales to come, as I close, we are several days ahead of Punchbowl - it's hard to keep up! Will start a new entry tomorrow - Happy Mothers day, all, and a happy birthday to my sister, Cindy - Thanks to all for your support positive comments-

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last days of Canada

Friday, April 30 - Marc and I are excited because on this otherwise dreary long slow passage

we are sharing the inlet (Graham Reach) with “Sea Lion” – A National Geographic 146 ft expedition style cruise vessel. –We have been tracking them on our AIS – a navigational tracking device for the purpose of “seeing” commercial vessels on the computer screen before you can actually see them with your naked eye. This ship and us are the only ones around as far as you can see, and they are getting ready to overtake us on the right (starboard) side. I will get some pictures when they are closer. What was even more exciting was a group of 10 or so Dahl porpoise swimming and jumping in our bow wake earlier in the day – I got it on video. Further back in the channel about an hour behind us are our new friends Henry and Janice – Brits living aboard their magnificent 60+ foot Nordhavn Passage Maker.

We pulled into Butedale (it’s not a town, but sounds like one) behind the Sea Lion there were guest on the deck and they were all looking at the old cannery there– or what is left of it - from the comfort of their ship. It closed down years ago, and now the only one left there is Lou – an older gentleman that acts as caretaker. After Sea Lion got their look, they backed out, and we stayed – tied up to the rickety floating docks and Lou was there to help. We invited him on board for dinner, when we realized he was there all alone, and figured he could use a home cooked meal. I had just finished making dinner (vindaloo), and figured that would be something he might enjoy for a change. He came onboard, and sat, ate and drank -and talked about all the experiences he had eking out a life there. The closest store in 68 miles by boat. He takes the trip once every one or two months for mail and supplies. He had to build a water flume from the waterfall near the property to power and store electricity for his use. It is an amazing feat. I could go on and on about Lou, it was fascinating to meet someone like him, with his lifestyle – he also had this really interesting accent – I think it is just a heavy deep woods Canadian accent, but it was unique to my ears. Princess Royal Island is home to the “Spirit Bears”- a genetic anomaly that occurs with 1 out of 10 black bears on the island – they are white furred but not albino – they have pigment in their noses and skin, but their hair is white. Lou showed me pictures he had taken of the “Spirit Bear” from right there on his little beach. Lou may live alone – but he is not lonely – he has his dog and cat, the wild things all around, relatives and friends that visit from time to time - plus few visitors from a bygone era that have remained behind.

Saturday morning, we took off bright and early and promptly met our Brit friends in the channel. They had anchored in nearby Khutze Inlet, and we met up (coincidentally) when we both returned to the main channel. We discussed anchoring together in Baker Inlet for that evening, which is exactly what happened.

A barge carries quite a load - note the 40 foot boat on the rear top section

The Truffle Pig Bar made on Vancouver Island - Edible Art

Baker Inlet has a very small entrance off of Grenville Channel that opens up into this 3 mile long alpine “lake” – well it feels like a lake, because it is so calm, and well protected, with very little water going in and out due to the bottleneck entrance. We had been talking to “Cloudy Bay” - the Nordhavn, for several days – actually since Shearwater – where we met Henry (the owner) on the docks. Truth be told, we spotted their magnificent boat early on in Port Hardy, where we later found out they were waiting for some insurance issues regarding their trip to Alaska to be resolved. We didn’t know at the time, they would be traveling up to Alaska – the same time as us. Henry and Janice invited us on board for an evening get together. We had a good chat, and found out they will have until July in Alaska, and then they are heading back for Port Hardy to meet family. They shared some cruising stories and video of orca pods and bears, over drinks of Polish Buffalo Grass Vodka and tonic. We glanced out the window during our visit and spotted a black bear on shore, right where Lola and I had been a few hours earlier.

The weather had been dreary ever since we left Butedale, and it continued overnight in Baker Inlet. We decided to push on the next morning, to catch the high slack tide in the early am. Only problem was, high slack happened before sunrise, but we were aiming for the next best thing, which would have to be after slack – but with daylight – a compromise, but we felt we could handle it. We fooled around with the tender that morning, thinking we could drain the water out, inflate it more, and hoist it with the crane on top of Cinnamon Girl. We were able to get most of the water out, but couldn’t find the fitting to inflate it. We had wasted enough time, so we decided we just needed to go – we would just continue to tow the tender behind us for now.

We hit the entrance with 3 knots pushing us through, since we fooled around with the tender and wasted time. The entrance is narrow and meandering, and not so deep, much like a little river. The rocks on the side at strategic locations make it all the more of a challenge. This is far from ideal conditions to pass through. To compensate for the push from behind, you need to go fast – just to stay in control of your rudder and direction. This seems a bit counterintuitive while you are doing it – speeding up to traverse the small windy opening, but that is exactly what we did. Marc stayed (mostly) in control of the boat, and we made it safely back into the main channel. Cloudy Bay decided to stay an extra night in Baker to enjoy the solitude and prawns.

We arrived in Prince Rupert and docked at the Prince Rupert Yacht Club in an area of town called Cow Bay. There are very cute shops and good pub food. I had a very good latte – something that I really miss from home. We also had a wonderful sushi lunch. The weather was sunny but a bit cool and breezy. The weather didn’t look so hot for a crossing on Monday (Dixon Entrance – open water), so we opted to stay another day in this cozy little town. Cloudy Bay showed up late morning, and we were there to catch their lines. The next day I found the fitting to inflate the tender, so we got that shipshape and back on top of the boat for the next day’s sea crossing. The day turned blustery and downright cold, so we mostly stayed put, except for a morning outing to the marine store, and an evening dinner out at the small casino there, where we played a little slots. We then hit the grocery store, and cabbed it back to the marina. The cabbie was lamenting the 4-2 loss to Chicago in the Stanley Cup playoff game that night, and we sighed along with him, not mentioning we were Americans. J Some things are better left unsaid.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Throwing (Cape) Caution to the Wind

It has been quite some time since I last blogged, but I did keep a few notes, so I hope I can fill in the highlights.

Today is Thursday, April 29. We are presently cruising up Fitz Hugh Sound going 8 and a half knots, with a 3 knot tail wind, and the current pushing us slightly. There is a very gentle ripple in the water – a nice smooth ride. The views are spectacular. Snow capped mountains and cumulus clouds with a turquoise sky. A ferry bound for Washington just passed our boat – we are now rocking in it’s wake. Our destination is Ocean Falls – more on that after we visit there. The mood is calm, relaxed, and downright lazy. Logs in the water from the high tide impede our progress slightly. It was a full moon last night –hence the highest tides of the month. This lets loose much of the wood debris on the beaches.

Last entry found us traveling north to Port McNeill after a quick stop for lunch at Alert Bay, a sleepy little First Nations (Canadian term for Native American) village on a Malcolm island opposite Port McNeil. We took a quick walk through the town, and found nothing open, except a small grocery store. The sun was out, and it was comfortable. No place to eat, so we had sandwiches on the boat. We left after lunch headed for Port McNeill. Upon arriving in Port McNeill, we topped off the fuel tanks in the midst of big winds and a freak hail storm – then tied up and went grocery and liquor shopping – you can’t even get beer or wine in the grocery store. Marc picked up some halibut bait (squid), along with bags of crab bait (pellets) for the traps. After listening to the weather forecast and talking to a few folks (the Motley Crew, as they called themselves, docked behind us and we talked a bit), we realized it would be several days before we could make our crossing around Cape Caution. Port McNeil was our first choice for a jump off point for the passage – we were eager to get it behind us, but on the other hand, it gave us a great opportunity to cross the bay and see some of the Bruoughton Islands while we were waiting for the weather to turn– a favorite destination for boaters in the Northwest who have a couple of weeks to spend cruising. We headed for Wells Passage, and set Cinnamon Girl near full throttle (500HP) to stay on top of the rough waters. We talked to our “Motley Crew” on the radio, as they were behind us and wanted a weather report. They had employed their stabilizers, and were having a rough go of it. We never hooked up with them on the other side – who knows, we may see them again since they were on their way to Sitka, Alaska. Once safely inside Wells, we slowed down to 6 knots and stumbled upon a charming little marina, called Sullivan Bay. Our plan was to tie up for lunch, and take a look around the place. This is such an interesting little spot that has been around for decades. The marina is built entirely on the water – and has 2 long dock fingers with a dozen or so upscale homes, all on floats (many 2 story, one with a helipad). Most are owned by Americans. Debbie, co-caretaker/manager, came to greet us with her cute little Yorkie. Marc asked if they had internet, and she informed him it was not hooked up (pre-season) but we could come to the house and use their wi-fi. After lunch we decided to take Debbie up on her offer, since there would be no wi-fi in the foreseeable future, and Marc needed it for work. Bottle of wine in hand (internet access fee), we headed for the house, not wanting to impose, but feeling the need to connect with the kids and work. We were greeted warmly outside by Chris, Debbie’s husband – our first encounter with this sweet, genuine guy. He let us in, and thanked us for the wine. Chris encouraged us to go find a cove and anchor for the night – and he knew of the perfect spot. After marking our charts with fishing holes, prawn spots, and great anchorages, Chris sent us back to the boat with fresh crab – cleaned on the spot, as a gift! Back at the boat, with high spirits, we decided to deploy our tender, knowing we would need it to fish and set traps. Nothing can change the mood from sweet to sour nearly as quickly a mechanical failure; this is a fact I know too well! The davit (dinghy crane) would not deploy. The weatherproof box we bought for the davit control in Port McNeill was too little too late. We would not be anchoring out that night, after all. Marc went back to Chris in the house, to tell him we would be staying the night, and to pay for moorage. The marina generator was then turned on, so we would be able to hook up to the electricity on the dock. We were (big surprise) the only ones there. Come to find out, Chris was an electrician – well, sort of a jack-of-all-trades, actually, which is a necessity for taking care of the place. He offered to come look at the davit after dinner and we gratefully accepted. He came to the boat and was unable to diagnose the problem, but suggested we get it fixed in Port Hardy – that would be the best place. In the mean time, he wanted to make sure we were able to see more of the secret places that he marked on the chart, so he offered us his own boat to tow, and encouraged us to take off. We politely declined the boat (so generous!), but felt renewed in spirit, and eagerly set off to explore the places on the marked chart – a tender wasn’t really necessary, after all. After we left, Chris got on the satellite phone and arranged the electrician in Port Hardy, plus ordered some spare parts for the generator – did I forget to mention the hose went out?? Oh my, what a shakedown cruise this has turned out to be. Without boring you with the details, Marc was able to patch it up, and we carried on – but we wanted the “real” hose for backup. The part will be waiting for us in Ketchikan. The generator is holding up beautifully though, with the “patch job”

After leaving Suillvan Bay to explore the Broughtons we headed north up Grappler Sounds and found our hidden spot, Turnbull Cove. It was at the foot of a snowcapped mountain – just beautiful. We stopped for lunch, and headed back out again wanting to see more of this wilderness. There were no other boats out (!) Amazing. After setting a prawn trap for the first time ever, we headed back in the cove. The anchorage was peaceful and we read books and relaxed. Next morning, we found prawns in the trap, and headed back to Sullivan Cove. Chris sent us on our way to Port Hardy with an appointment for repair – and we were off across the sound again (this was the same side of the sound as Port McNeill, from several days earlier).

Side note - Chris and Debbie - if you are reading this, your kindness and generosity will not soon be forgotten- the world needs more people like you – thank you.

In Port Hardy that day, we were able to get the tender davit in ship-shape before the day was out. Dinner out was a welcome change (best fried oysters!), even though I love to cook, and we have had fabulous bome-cooked meals on the boat.

Next morning the stars were in line (weather, tides and current plus renewed spirit) to attempt the long awaited crossing around Cape Caution. We left early in the morning, and did it with ease – good fortune was on our side. It was thrilling being out in open ocean, riding the slow (but high) swells and watching the powerful waves crash on distant islands more inland than us. All you could see was the white spray shooting high in the air. We tucked into Fitz Hugh Passage, and started up the channel, elated that the crossing was behind us.

The next stop a little up the passage, was a place called Pruth Bay.

The cove itself was stellar, but if you take the foot path across a saddle to the ocean side (you dock at the fishing resort at the head of the bay) you are in for a real treat. There is a beach there that rivals any that I have seen in Hawaii – minus the Palm Trees. The beach is huge…with well-compacted sand that slowly slopes to the ocean. It was emotionally moving. We spent hours there - I already miss it. We met more cruisers in Pruth – the Steel Eagle, and on the beach, the crew of the Tortuga – crazy guys.

Steel Eagle leaving Pruth Bay

The “kid” (in his twenties, but that is how he was referred to) had caught a 100 pound halibut that day. I guess it was a real fight.

Interesting Seafoam

Ok, we are at the end of our day – and pulling into Shearwater Marina here shortly – they have internet, so we will be able to post tonight.

Ocean Falls (from earlier today) was so fascinating – it was a booming pulp mill that shut down a few decades ago. The town is all but abandoned – from 6,000 in inhabitants in its heyday down to 40 – it is downright eerie – as if there was some sort of disaster that caused everyone to flee in the night.

The "ABOUT TIME" Rescue Boat

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nanaimo to Port Neville BC

Greetings from Cinnamon Girl -

Last time I blogged we were sitting high in the air in a boatyard in Nanaimo, on Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning things were looking up. Ian the boatyard owner and manager, told us where the prop was being repaired (a shop close by) and we decided to take a walk to talk to them, at Ian’s urging. We found the shop, and inside was a very intriguing older gentleman that had our prop on a balancing hub and was studying it and carefully turning it in front of him. He didn’t even see us enter the shop, he was so focused. We greeted him, which brought him back to earth. The prop was so shiny, at first I didn’t recognize it. He asked us, “what did you hit?” (as if we knew!) He went on to describe in detail the trajectory of the object in and out of the prop, where it was stuck momentarily, which blade, and at what angle the object (presumably a chunk of wood) grazed on the way back out again – we followed his hands as he mimicked the event. He was truly a master in prop forensics, and seemed fascinated in this knowledge. He went on to tell us he had been repairing props for 55 years, a fact that I think surprised even him. We were happy to hear he had a new estimated time of completion, 11AM, instead of noon.

We went back to the folks at the boatyard with this info, hoping to get “splashed” (put back in the water) before the tide got too low at 1AM, when our window shuts due to not enough water under the boat.

On a side note, come to find out, our prop guy was no other than the famous Ron Campbell, inventor of the patented 3 blade Campbell prop, that is used world-wide on sailboats. He had a lot of respect around there, and was known to feather props with his bare hands to get just the right curve. A master craftsman.

Back to the 1am deadline, it was not meant to be, even thought the prop was back in time, and went on without a hitch, that darned travel lift was tied up for the last hour that contained our window. Oh well, more grocery shopping and sight seeing ahead. We took a cab back to the grocery store, and found out from the cabbie that that day was what the locals called “Marti Gras” – not the party in New Orleans, but the day of the month that the welfare checks come out. There is usually a flurry of spending activity for 2-3 days, before things die down, so the point being, he was a bit busy that day.

We found the electricity was right outside our boat all along, and we didn’t have to be running down our batteries, so we plugged in for the 2nd and last night on the hard. At 7am sharp on Wednesday, we were lifted up and carried out to the water, then splashed. That is, after paying a rather large ransom for repairs and transit to and fro. We took off like a tadpole being returned to his pond, and hurried right out of there heading north to Campbell River. This turned out to be a 90 nautical mile day before we reached our destination. It was beautiful and clear, we were able to have a picnic lunch anchored in Tribune Bay on Hornby Island. The seas were improving all along up to and past Hornby. We then passed Comox, the point of no return (no anchorages, or marinas to duck in to) for the stretch up to Campbell River. Well, the seas turned downright nasty, and we got tossed around rather rudely (anyone here been to Gilly’s?) What was not properly secured (drinks, books, fishing poles, coffee grinder, to name a few) came crashing to the floor. There was no “time out”, no quitting – you have no choice but to go on, which can make one feel a bit panicky. Also, about this time, Lola the dog was getting overheated. I wrapped her in a wet towel, and she fared way better. She was glued to our sides (right between us) and the pilothouse was warm.

We arrived at Campbell River emotionally and physically drained. We all slept like babies.

Today was far better seas – we had an excellent run through the Seymour Narrows, timing slack tide perfectly and we gliding through the mist to our next destination Port Neville where we now sit docked all alone. I probably didn’t mention that we are some of (if not the) first headed all the way to Alaska from Puget Sound – up until now it hasn’t been that apparent at the docks we have visited, because they were all major ports. The straights have been empty, though, except for tugs and commercial vessels, for the most part. At any given time, the surroundings are void of boats (or any human activity, for that matter), as far as the eye can see.

Port Neville is often used by cruisers like us, but none are here now. We received our first bear warning, a small sign on the front porch of the old store.

Here is a little local history of this small “public” dock.

“ Named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792, Port Neville has one of the first post offices on the coast, thanks to Hans Hansen and his family, who settled at the entrance channel in1891. Enjoyed by five generations of Hansen’s, the gardens, manicured lawns, and original orchards are fringed by a fine sand-and-pebble beach with glorious sunsets.

Today, the museum and art gallery (formerly the post office and store) is ruin by Lorna Hansen, and her daughter, Erica (when she is not away at school). They invite boaters who tie up at the public wharf that dates from Union Steamship days, to visit their property. Impromptu dinner and dessert potlucks are the norm in the busy summer months – all are welcome, including those at anchor. “ -

They also hold mail here for cruising boaters.

That's it for now, signing off from Port McNeill - more tomorrow. A preview below - Alert Bay...