HEADING SOUTH TO VICTORIA
July 17 2016
This morning Ngozi departed Truce and is on her way back to New Zealand. The Harbourmaster at Hoonah very generously gave her a lift up to the airport. I am now alone again and have missed having company today. And no, it’s not just to have help with the cooking and cleaning!
The voyage from Canoe Cove to Glacier Bay has been a great experience for me. I have experienced rain, cold, headwinds, glorious days, calm nights, wildlife, interesting people and made new friends along the way. Truce has proved to be a wonderful little boat, well built, comfortable, capable of looking after me and tolerating my mistakes. The next voyage to the south will mean a bit of backtracking but I will try and avoid visiting previous stops.
I was a bit lazy this morning, probably a bit flat after Ngozi departing. Eventually I managed to get off the dock and headed out into Icy Strait, still not sure what route to take south, only knowing I was heading east first. Once I got into the Strait a westerly breeze picked up and I set all sail, so relaxing to be sailing and switch the motor off. At the east end of Icy Strait, the wind shifted to the south, blowing up Clarence Strait. My route was now decided, I was not going down Clarence Strait, I sailed up Lynn Canal with a good following breeze. I will now head down Stephens Passage, into Frederick Sound and Wrangell Narrows. This is all new territory for me.
The weather was very warm today with clear visibility. I was sailing in just a pair of shorts in brilliant sunshine, sparking seas with vistas of snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Magical. There was a lot of boat traffic about today, fishing boats, sports boats, tourist boats, the most I have seen in Alaska. Auke seems to be the centre for boating out of Juneau.
After sailing for seven hours today, mostly not too fast, I have anchored in Auke Bay for the evening. In the anchorage there is another yacht, a French yacht also heading south. The anchorage is a bit bumpy due to all the boat traffic passing by at high speed, also a bit noisy with 3 jet skis buzzing around and music coming from the shore. This place looks like a holiday destination with nice homes doted along the shore line. Total voyage distance 41.4 miles.
STEPHENS PASSAGE AND AUTO PILOT FIX
July 18 2016
The anchorage at Auke Bay turned out to be quiet and peaceful once the party goers had left the beach. No early start needed this morning as I was waiting for the tide to turn at nine. I did some baking and read the pilot book to pass the time. The day started calm and then a light breeze sprang up from astern, not strong enough for sailing but I tried using the jib to motor sail without much success.
When I tried to unfurl the jib it was jammed, the halyard was wrapping around the stay. After some messing around I got the jib unfurled and dropped on deck. I found the furler top swivel was not turning too well, the bearings felt rough and were sticking. It’s a Merriman furler and the top swivel is a sealed unit which can’t be opened. I rinsed the swivel out with plenty of fresh water, then shot in copious amounts of WD40 followed by some light oil. After that treatment it felt a bit smoother and swivelled freely. Back up went the jib and all is working well again. That kept me occupied for a couple of hours as we motored on autopilot down Stephens passage in glorious sunshine.
The autopilot is an old Autohelm 2000 tiller pilot unit. A couple of its buttons don’t work and I suspect the sensitivity control is not sensitive anymore. It still works but struggles in any sort of sea above flat calm. I have been thinking for some time about the possibility of connecting the tiller pilot ram to the trim tab from the wind vane self steering. The trim tab needs very little effort to move it and a small movement of the trim tab produces a big deflection of the rudder.
As the weather was quite calm and the sun shining I decided to experiment with the autopilot connected to the trim tab. I lashed the tiller pilot ram to the stern rail and tied the business end to the trim tab linkage. Just a rough lash up to see if it would work. I switched on the autopilot and it worked first go, steered perfectly with very little effort. I left it on for three hours and even used it for steering into the harbour. It worked better than when on the tiller. I am now wondering if the autopilot connected to the trim tab will be useful for sailing in light winds and lumpy seas when the wind vane doesn’t generate enough directional force and the autopilot connected to the tiller can’t cope. I feel quite chuffed with myself. There must be a downside somewhere, things don’t normally work so easily, I will cogitate over a beer or two.
Like yesterday I was in shorts again today. My thermometer that I thought was stuck on 12 degrees hit 26 today, I was hot. There is a tremendous amount of boat traffic in this area, I had thirty-seven boats on AIS today, a record. There is a lot of salmon fishing going on. I watched one boat hauling in a gill net with a good load of salmon coming up with the net.
This evening I have found a float in Taku Harbour, about twenty miles south of Juneau. It looks like a sheltered spot. I have a couple of fishing boats for company on the float. Tomorrow the tide doesn’t turn in my favour until the afternoon and the wind is forecast to be on the nose fifteen knots with three foot seas. The next anchorage is thirty miles away so motoring will be a struggle and sailing will be a slow job tacking into the wind and current. Total voyage distance 74.2 miles.
HUNKERED DOWN IN TAKU HARBOUR
July 19 2016
Last night when I entered Taku Harbour I prepared the anchor ready to drop. It was a last minute decision to moor alongside the float. Its easier to anchor than get the fenders rigged and dock lines out of the locker. This morning I was glad I made the decision to moor alongside.
The forecast southerly winds arrived and then some. A fisherman came alongside the float and reported a strong northerly flowing two knot current in the passage. A yacht later came in and reported 30 knot gusts and short steep seas, he was coming from the south so had a good sail. For Truce to try and motor into such short seas is fruitless, she just becomes a rocking horse without much forward progress. Sailing is an option but I don’t fancy tacking all day into a headwind and current. So I stayed happily alongside the float and had a relaxed day pottering about chatting with the fellow occupants of the float.
I caught up on my emails that I had been putting off for a couple of weeks, my outbox is bulging ready to discharge when next on Wi-Fi. The seawater filter got cleaned, the stern light got fixed and a bit more housekeeping as well.
Taku Harbour is quite a busy place, there has been a steady stream of fishing boats coming and going and a couple of large motor yachts anchored up the bay. It’s one of the few sheltered harbours on the inside passage between Petersburg and Juneau so is a popular stop for cruisers. Surprisingly, apart from a couple of Bald Eagles wildlife seems to be absent.
The forecast for tomorrow is not too flash either, more or less the same as today. I suspect the wind will drop but the forecaster is playing safe – just in case. The ebb tide isn’t until the afternoon so I will make a decision to go or stay another day by mid-morning.
BEACHCOMBING BEARS, WHALES AND ICEBERGS
July 20 2016
A couple of American sailing boats came alongside the float last night, a good reason for a get together and sundowners. Sunset didn’t occur until 21:37 last night.
This morning I saw my first Black Bear. He came out of the woods and wandered along the foreshore doing a bit of beachcombing, occasionally digging in the sand and gravel at the water’s edge. For some reason he took interest in an old fallen tree covered in black lichen, gnawing away at it, eventually he broke off a branch and took it back into the forest. Quite a special experience to see a bear in the wild. Now that I have seen one bear I expect to see many more.
It was an afternoon start today to ride the ebb tide down Stephens Passage. It was a soul destroying trip as the wind was on the nose and throwing up tiny little waves that acted like a brake. The boat was hopping up and down, like driving over a constant series of speed bumps in the road. The average speed was only 3.5 knots and at times we were down to 1.5 knots. The hull is very dirty now with a lot of weed and animals living underneath the boat. At the first opportunity I will haul out and do an antifoul. Once the hull is clean again I expect to go much faster.
I had my closest encounter yet with a whale this afternoon. He was so close alongside I could have hopped over the rail onto his back. He just came up close alongside, thankfully he didn’t blow or I would have been covered in whale snot. That is the closest I want to get. I didn’t get a chance to take a photo.
I was surprised to see large icebergs in Stephens passage, as we approached the entrance to Tracy Arm there were dozens of bergs flowing out on the tide. A fog bank covered the approach to Tracy Arm, thick fog, a pea souper as we say at sea. The large icebergs were showing up on radar OK, the smaller SUV sized ones didn’t show as they were so low in the water. The navigation became interesting entering the harbour, there is a range to pass through the reef but I couldn’t see it. The fog cleared on my port side for a minute and I picked out the port hand buoy next to a large iceberg. I didn’t see the starboard buoy only 200 meters away but I did see some very large bergs close by.
As I approached the anchorage the fog lifted to reveal the sea littered with icebergs. I didn’t realise it would be so congested with ice, its another twenty miles from the anchorage to the glacier face.
The entrance to the anchorage is guarded by a large duck shaped berg and there are a few smaller ice floes floating around the anchorage. There are five other boats in the anchorage, an indication of how few anchorages there are on this section of the inside passage. There is only one other sailing boat, the others are large motor yachts.
It’s been a long day of going slowly and I am feeling pretty knackered after nearly seven hours of engine running. No socialising tonight and a good sleep is called for. Total voyage distance 98.7 miles.
STILL PLUGGING AWAY DOWN STEPHENS PASSAGE
July 21 2016
Last night was quiet but the occasional sound of the anchor chain dragging over the rocky bottom and the thought if ice floes circulating in the anchorage wasn’t conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep. This morning started with foggy patches and low cloud type rain.
By eight the visibility started improving and I departed the anchorage at nine.
On my way out of the anchorage I saw the icebergs that I had been dodging around in the fog last night. Scary stuff. The forecast southerly wind didn’t arrive, in its place we had mist, rain, fog and more rain. I saw a couple of my old friends, the logs, in the water today. There is always something floating around here that needs dodging. The sea was pretty calm and although we were going against the tide made reasonable progress with the engine. This bit of the inside passage is quite busy with cruise ships, I saw a couple more today.
The Orca’s turned up today. First one by himself came over to have a look at me. A few minutes later I came across five hunting as a pack close to rocks inshore. I was also close to the rocks, trying to keep out of the current. They are the most beautiful animal, so sleek, powerful and fast. One of nature’s finest designs. These were the first Orca’s I have seen on the west coast.
I had another close encounter with a Humpback Whale as well. There were two large Humpbacks feeding ahead. They were both sounding and staying down for three or four minutes each time. I was watching them and trying to calculate where they would pop up. One popped up to starboard as expected but the other didn’t show. As I was looking ahead I was startled to hear a whale surface very close astern. A huge magnificent creature, did he surprise me on purpose? I have noticed that after they have dived deep two or three times they seem to need a rest, they swim slowly on the surface and don’t blow out big streams of air. The whale I saw close alongside yesterday was just moving slowly and didn’t blow when he surfaced next to the boat.
This evening I have tied up to a rather decrepit little float in a small cove on Entrance Island. Entrance Island is at the entrance to Hobart Bay. An American boat with a couple of old boys on it has tied up astern of me and the float is full.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is even worse than today, on the nose again 25 knots. I reckon it may be OK if I get away early. Total voyage distance 126.1 miles.
GOODBYE STEPHENS PASSAGE
July 22 2016
Entrance Island proved to be a perfectly protected little cove, no wind or sea came in, I had a relaxing night and a chat with my neighbours from the American yacht. This morning I sailed at four to catch the tide down the remainder of Stephens Passage and into Frederick Sound. There was a small craft advisory issued for south easterly winds, yes on the nose. I figured that if I got away early I could get to Portage Bay before the wind got too bad in the afternoon.
The day started out overcast and grey with rain and cold. I am back in thermals again and have had my oilskins on all day. The weather stayed the same, just got more wind thrown in. I made good time down Stevens Passage and hit the wind coming towards me in Frederick Sound. A long tack down to the south side of the sound helped gain some ground, but progress towards my destination was slow and wet. Eventually the tide picked up and I was able to make the entrance to Portage Bay just after noon.
I saw the Humpback Whales again and more Orca’s. The Humpbacks were supposed to have been hunted to near extinction but now they seem to be everywhere, incredible.
The anchorage at Portage Bay is open to the south between the hills and a good breeze is coming through whipping up the waves. Happily, the bottom is mud and I don’t have to listen to the anchor chain rumbling across the rocks. All is well on board, the fire is burning, it’s nice and warm and snug in the cabin.
My next destinations are Petersburg and Wrangell. I am looking forward to getting ashore to do the tourist thing. The forecast is for the same wind again tomorrow, on the nose 25 knots. If that’s the case I may have a day off. Total voyage distance 157.7 miles.
WAITING ON WEATHER
July 23 2016
I am still anchored in Portage Bay off Frederick Sound. The weather last night was horrid with wind gusts and driving rain. The same has continued all day today. Another yacht came in after me yesterday, he is going south as well and can’t make progress either. No one in a small low powered boat is able to move south at the moment.
This afternoon I dragged anchor for a few meters. It caught again but I was getting too close to some crab pots so decided to pick up the anchor and move. The west side of the bay looked slightly better so I moved over there, it’s the same thing really but I got to run the engine and charge the batteries. I was also incredibly bored and needed to do something.
I am getting insignificant charge from the solar panel at the moment, I haven’t seen the sun since last Monday, five days ago. Usually the solar panel can keep up with my requirements for charging my electronic devices and lights.
With all this rain falling I decided to harvest some to top up my fresh water tanks. I don’t really need fresh water but it was something to do. Truce has three scuppers on each side to drain water from the decks. These scuppers can be blocked with plugs and the collected water diverted into the fresh water tanks via the filling pipes on the side decks. The system is so simple and works wonderfully, my tanks were topped up in no time.
Another benefit of having scupper plugs arises when taking fuel. It’s quick and easy to block the scuppers to prevent any diesel release to the water in the unlikely event of a spill on deck. That simple precaution could save a lot of money in fines.
My guide book says that Portage Bay is a beautiful and protected anchorage. It’s not very protected from the south as the wind whistles through the estuary at the head of the bay called Goose Cove and then continues for three miles down the bay. All I can see is a bit of shoreline, low cloud and driving rain. I really look forward to what will be revealed when the weather clears up.
The forecast for late tonight is for thirty knot winds and rain. Tomorrows’ prediction is only slightly better so I may have another day in Portage Bay. Sailing teaches you patience.
PORTAGE BAY SHELTER
July 24 2016
Another night surging and straining on the anchor rode, another night of the wind howling mournfully in the rig and even more rain. Today has been much like yesterday, southerly wind, low cloud and rain showers. Wet, wet, wet and still no sun.
The forecast this morning was 25 knots from the direction we want to go with a small craft advisory. I decided to stay at anchor and get on with a few odd jobs, read a book, watch a movie, do some baking and have a leisurely Sunday. I baked bread and chocolate chip, cranberry and coconut muffins. The bread turned out well. The muffins are best described as rock muffins. They are not soft and fluffy, best eaten when dunked in tea to soften them up a bit.
Last night the other yacht in the anchorage moved up to the head of the bay to try for more shelter. It gets shallow further up and I was surprised how far he got in. This morning he came out just before low water and went aground, I watched as more of his boot topping became visible. It took the poor guy more than two hours to get free and into deeper water. He will not have good memories of Portage Bay.
There is a need to get to port soon. Last night I cut open my last lemon for a nightcap rum and coke and found it was rotten inside. That is the last of my fresh fruit apart from an onion so need to restock before I get scurvy – or drink rum without lemon.
This morning I found a water leak in the forward cabin, some water is coming in where the chimney passes through the deck. I think the chimney got a knock when I was re-stowing the pig on deck, probably cracked the seal. When we get a dry spell I will re-caulk it.
The barometer is starting to rise and I expect tomorrow will be a beautiful day to continue down Frederick Sound to Petersburg with a beam wind in glorious sunshine.
July 25 2016
My third night at Portage Bay was peaceful, the wind died down late last night and I was able to get a good night’s sleep. The sun tried to break through the clouds today but didn’t succeed. I could detect a bit of warmth and my solar panel registered a one-amp charge briefly. It’s no wonder the population of Alaska is so small, I mean who wants to live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine for a whole week in summer.
I sailed out of Portage Bay on the last of the ebb tide. On the east shore, by a disused logging camp I saw a Black Bear. This is the second time I have seen bears around disused buildings, maybe there is some attraction for them once the humans have departed. I suppose a disused hut may be a decent substitute for a cave in winter.
In Frederick Sound I saw icebergs again and some more Orca’s, what magnificent creatures they are. There was plenty of boat traffic towards Petersburg, fishing boats, recreational fishers, ferries and tour excursion boats. In Petersburg I refuelled, the current alongside the fuel dock is wicked. After fueling I moved across the channel and moored up to an empty jetty where I could stretch my legs ashore and spend a peaceful night.
Tomorrow I will head down Wrangell Narrows, it’s a twenty-mile channel and quite narrow in places. Interestingly the tide meets in the middle, the trick is to use the last of the flood to the midpoint and then ride the ebb down the other side. After Wrangell narrows I will be heading over the Wrangell town.
Truce is booked to be lifted out the water in Wrangell on Thursday. The hull is dirty and needs cleaning and a new coating of antifouling paint. Hopefully when complete she will have her speed back and won’t be using so much diesel pushing an undersea garden through the water. The growth on the hull has built up very quickly since visiting Glacier Bay, maybe there is something in the water causing rapid growth. Total voyage distance 182.2 miles.
SPECTACULAR WRANGELL NARROWS
July 26 2016
A four thirty start this morning to transit Wrangell Narrows. As I cast off from Petersburg it was wet, raining, overcast and misty. The morning has a nice feel to it, very tranquil and the smell of wood smoke from fires on the shore carried across the water. Petersburg is a noisy place, the fish processing works make a din and there are boats coming and going at all hours.
Shortly after setting off and going down the channel I noticed that there was very little cooling water coming out of Yanmars back end. The engine was getting hot and I needed to stop and find the problem. I quickly ducked out the channel, found a spot to anchor and shut down the engine. When I opened the seawater strainer and found some weed inside – but not enough to stop the cooling water flowing. Oh no I thought, I need to change the pump impeller, not a major job but it would take long enough for me to miss the tide. Time to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and keep calm.
I then had another look and pushed my finger down the inlet pipe from the sea valve. It was blocked solid with rubbery weed. The impeller was OK! I was unable to hook the weed out from the top so removed the pipe from the seacock (having a wooden bung handy just in case). The weed still didn’t want to come out, I needed a wire coat hanger, a wonderful versatile tool. Well, no wire coat hangers on board so I improvised with a variety of kitchen utensils and removed the weed. Thirty-eight minutes later we were under way again and Mr. Yanmar running happy and cool.
Wrangell Narrows is a spectacular waterway. This morning the rain and low cloud reduced visibility so I could only see the banks either side. Unfortunately the rain, mist and cloud lasted all day and obscured what should have been one of the trips highlights. There is a road leading down the east side from Petersburg and good looking houses are dotted along the shoreline. I would love to do this transit on a clear sunny day, the scenery must be spectacular with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.
By nine I had popped out the southern end of Wrangell Narrows into Sumner Strait. I tried sailing but squalls and wind shifts made life difficult and I was actually going backwards at one stage. The wind eventually shifted to ahead as usual, only about ten knots so I motored. I had intended to anchor overnight and arrive in Wrangell on Wednesday. But on account of the miserable weather I decided to push on to Wrangell direct. Might as well be in the pub if it’s raining.
By four in the afternoon I was tied up in Wrangell and checking in with Boarder Protection. The harbourmaster advised me not to wash down the boat as there is a water shortage in town! Well the reservoirs are full but the water processing plant struggles to keep up with the demands of the fish plants.
I have just had a shower and am fit for human company again. Next on the agenda is the Marine Bar and a pizza. Status quo, still raining and no sun today. Total voyage distance 223.5 miles.
MAINTAINANCE DAY IN WRANGELL
July 27 2016
Last night I sampled the night life of Wrangell. Friendly people and extreme casual dress code. I was intent on Pizza but the topping options were too difficult so I opted for Halibut and chips instead, turned out to be a good choice.
This morning the newscaster on the local radio forecast a ninety percent of rain. A pretty sure bet really and its rained on and off all day. Not a glimpse of sun today, its now nine days since I have seen the sun. The weather systems are just not moving at the moment, low over the Gulf of Alaska is just stuck.
Today I caught up with some maintenance, changed the oil and fuel filters on the engine and refilled Yanmar with fresh oil. I had to bleed the fuel system on the engine after changing the filter, something I don’t like doing, the bleed screws are so delicate and easy to break.
Tomorrow Truce will be lifted onto the hard for a wash down and antifoul. The travel lift was broken but the guys fixed it today. We are all ready, this afternoon I hired a pressure washer for the wash down. After a week of rain, I need a break in the weather for the antifouling painting.
The Bear Fest starts in Wrangell today. I went into town to see what was happening – nothing. Maybe this evening there will be some action. They have a chef flying up from Seattle to demonstrate how to cook salmon. I hope it’s not another version of the deep fat fryer technique that everything seems to be subjected to in Alaska.
TRUCE, HAULED OUT
July 28 2016
The rain woke me up at five this morning, it was pouring cats and dogs again. So funny there is a water shortage in Wrangell.
I took Truce around to the travel lift and got hauled out. The hull fouling was pretty surprising, lots of crustaceans stuck limpet style to the hull. Apparently, the spat for these creatures is released in late June and they go crazy, clinging and invading anything in the water. I pressure washed for an hour and got most of the critters off. Then it was onto the stand and out with the scrapper to finish off.
I was interested to check the stern gear as I suspected the cutlass bearing was worn. Sometimes in cross currents and tide rips there is a knocking noise, I guessed this was coming from a worn cutlass bearing. On inspection the bearing looked fine, no play and shaft turning easily. I had earlier checked the engine mounts and they were OK. What could it be? As I was cleaning paint off the shaft strut I noticed some pitting.
Further cleaning and a close look revealed what looked like a crack in the strut. The application of a bit of brute force showed the strut was flexing at the crack. This explains the occasional knocking and is now a big problem looking for a solution. The strut is a bronze casting, not easy to fix. Like Kay in Men in Black, I will have to eat pie and wait for a solution to appear. I suppose I should be thankful I found it now.
After nine days of no sun – sunshine. For a couple of hours at midday we had bright sunshine, everything dried up and it was warm. Beautiful. By six in the evening we are back to overcast and drizzle. The forecast for the weekend is optimistic, good news for me doing antifouling. I can’t find pie in Wrangell so will make do with beer and try and get a strut fix inspiration at Rayme’s bar.
July 29 2016
An early start today, got to get working, got to get out of the shipyard. Perfect weather today, just a bit of drizzle, not enough to stop work. All day I have been cleaning, scraping, sanding and painting. Truce is now almost ready for antifouling paint.
After a couple of glasses of amber nectar last night I formulated a solution to the broken strut. The strut is like a leg, when a leg is broken you splint it. Why not splint the strut? By putting stainless plates either side of the strut and bolting them through, the strut is made whole again. The whole arrangement acts like an ‘I’ beam and should have great strength.
A young (engineer) guy called Jimmy Pritchett did the work and made a great job of it. The bolts are tapped into the receiving plate and then welded in place to prevent any chance of movement. I am very pleased and relieved to have got the job completed so quickly. When it comes to engineering its hard to beat American know how and can do. I feel pretty tired tonight, it’s been a long day. The boat is in total disarray, stuff everywhere as I am doing some small jobs inside now that we are out of the water.
Not having water available has been a big inconvenience. Wrangell has a water crisis (treatment plant problem) that is hard to believe when the usual daily rainfall would keep Noah happy. Hope the weather holds for a couple more days.
TRUCE ANTIFOUL COMPLETE
July 30 2016
Another early start and full day in the shipyard. My body was a bit stiff this morning and it took a while to getup to full speed. Wonderful weather for painting, nice cloud cover, not too hot and no rain. By four in the afternoon the antifouling was complete, just the patches to touch up when she comes off the blocks.
I also fitted a new seawater inlet pipe, a coastguard approved thing with a wire core. It was a bastard to get fitted, I had to curse loudly and get really angry before it would bend to shape. I hope I don’t have to take it off in a hurry.
The stern gland has been dripping a bit too frequently so I replaced the flax packing this morning. A simple job but the stern gland is a bit tricky to access. Next time it needs doing I will look out for a midget or contortionist to assist.
After such good progress today I don’t have much work to do tomorrow. So satisfying to have made such good progress. Wrangell is a nice little place and I will do the tourist thing tomorrow. Now I am off for a shower and a beer or two
July 31 2016
I had an easy day today and went exploring. It was pretty quiet, its Sunday after all. There are a lot of churches here, ten in total I think. This morning I had planned to stock up on some provisions and fresh food. However, the grocery stores are shut on Sunday in Wrangell. Never mind I will do it tomorrow.
In the afternoon I walked to a place called Petroglyph Beach. Where I found Petroglyphs on the beach, surprise! At first I couldn’t see any but after seeing the first one others became apparent. Some, or perhaps most of the better ones have been removed by treasure hunters.
Most of the petroglyphs on the beach are quite eroded by the tidal action of the sea. It seems no one really knows who carved the shapes in the stones or why they did it. Some are thought to date back as far as 10,000 years ago. It must have been quite an effort to carve shapes into stone without proper tools. The question is why are Petroglyph’s found all around the world with similar designs and patterns.
Tonight I will retire to Rayme’s bar. There is a big game on at Wriggley field, Cubs vs Mariners. One of the locals was impressed that I knew about Wriggley field. I didn’t tell him the knowledge was gained from watching the film Blues Brothers.
LINGERING IN WRANGELL
August 1 2016
This morning I decided to stay a couple of extra days in Wrangell. It’s a friendly little place so it’s no chore to linger a while longer. I will also get a couple of stainless bits made up for the boat for an autopilot modification I want to try out. The handy engineer guy here is very good, I don’t expect to get better elsewhere so it makes sense to get the job done here.
Today in have been trying my hand at fairing in the shaft strut using epoxy filler. I am not the most skilful in this sector, the result so far looks very amateurish. I am hoping that by tomorrow the filler will have set rock hard to allow me to sand it into a fairer hydrodynamic shape.
I went for a walk around town, literally around the outside of the town. People kept stopping their trucks asking if I wanted a lift. I have noticed that people don’t tend to walk to places in Alaska. Some of the houses here have well-kept gardens, you don’t see much of that in Alaska, at least not the parts I have been to.
This afternoon I managed to get some fresh lemon from a lady selling organic produce. Part of it is now floating around in a rum and coke – got to get vitamins somehow.
I am scheduling to launch Truce back into the water on Wednesday morning. The plan is then to resume the voyage southward down the inside passage and stop off at Anan Creak to see bears catching and feeding on Salmon. One of the guys here told me there are so many salmon running up the stream that both Brown and Black bears come to fish at the same place.
Anan Bears here I come.
LAST DAY IN WRANGELL
August 2 2016
Today I walked up to the Ranger Station and obtained a permit to enter Anan wildlife observatory. All very formal. Then I went down to the hardware store to get a can of bear (deterrent) spray, its expensive stuff and I almost didn’t buy it – but then I thought, what if? The spray only lasts for four seconds so I reckon every second counts if you have to use it.
Final grocery shopping carried out this afternoon and just a case of beer outstanding to complete the restock. I should not need much now before I get to Victoria.
The modifications to autopilot are complete, plus all the other little jobs. The prop strut has been nicely faired and look very good now that its finally painted. The travel lift is booked for the morning and I am looking forward to getting back on the water and doing some sea trials to check everything out, hopefully no leaks. It will be interesting to see how the autopilot works on the wind vane trim tab now that I have a proper fitting in place.
I will make a quick visit to Rayme’s bar and then have an early night ready for tomorrow.
TRUCE HAS HER MOJO BACK
August 3 2016
This morning I was running around doing last minute chores and paying for ladder and tarpaulin hire, pressure washer rental, and steelwork. When the time came to lift the boat off the blocks the rain came, just in time to upset the antifouling touch up where the pads and blocks had been. I would not be surprised if the paint has washed off.
By ten thirty Truce was back in the water, a quick check around inside to check all was watertight and we were off again. The difference of a clean bottom is amazing; Truce is gliding through the water once again now the pesky parasites are removed from the hull. Under the jib truce slipped along at three and a half knots in a light airs for an hour before the wind died.
Today took us through Eastern Passage, The Narrows and down Blake Channel to Bradfield Canal. A very scenic route with waterfalls and cascades from the mountains at either side of the passage. The drizzle stopped around midday and the sun poked its head out for five minutes in the afternoon.
This evening I have tied up to a float at Anan Bay. Its all very quiet and peaceful. Truce is the only boat here, surprising, I though it would be busier. Tomorrow morning, I will take the pig for a ride and check in with the rangers. Then it’s a walk to the stream to see the bears. I am looking forward to it.
August 4 2016
A wonderful day of bear encounters of the best kind. I have been pumped up all day, exciting stuff.
This morning I followed the forestry workers to the trailhead leading to Anan falls. I checked in, handed over my permit and received the safety briefing. Then I headed up the trail, I was a bit nervous, my friends at Rayme’s Bar in Wrangell had filled my head with Anan bear encounter stories. About 200 meters along the trail I came across a steaming mound of bear shit. Mmmm, recent, must be close by. With heightened awareness I continued on, singing, to frighten off any bears.
I reached to lookout position about a kilometre further without seeing any bears on the trail. The falls lead from a seawater lagoon; hundreds of salmon can be seen below the falls waiting to attempt the climb. The salmon are far larger than I expected. At the falls I watched a big brown bear catch a large salmon, take it to a small cave to devour it, starting at the head and working towards the tail. The same bear came back later and repeated the trick.
The bears come and go at the falls and just seem to appear from nowhere and melt back into the forest. They have an amazing ability to move up, down and across the most difficult terrain, proper 4WD creatures. Later in the morning a mother appeared with two cubs, this was a most fascinating show. The mother bear caught a salmon and shared it with the cubs, lots of interaction. It was almost like being in a zoo, but this was the wild. Very happy to have witnessed this spectacle. Worth the $16 dollars permit fee.
Having got carried away with watching bears I completely forgot about the incoming tide and the pig. With five metre plus tides at the moment tying up the dinghy to the shore is an art. I arrived to find the pig happily floating, some distance out from the shore. I stripped off, waded and swam out, up to my neck in Alaskan water and retrieved it. The water was quite cool and a hot cup of tea was needed to restore circulation.
Later, as I was heading down Seaward Passage I saw something swimming in the water, first I thought it was a deer, then a moose – but it was a Brown Bear. This guy was swimming across a channel over half a mile wide! I did a quick circle around him and took a video. Then I moved on as he was obviously quite frightened by the boat and swimming away at a great rate. I feel so lucky to have encountered a swimming Grizzly.
This evening I am anchored in Vixen harbour. Quite a narrow shallow entrance to traverse then opens up into a nice sheltered anchorage. It’s been a long and interesting day. one of the most interesting and enjoyable days ever. I will sleep well this evening.
August 5 2016
Vixen Harbour was flat calm last night, there was no light pollution and the heavens were on full view. I got an early start at sunrise and headed down to Meyers Chuck to await the forecast afternoon wind.
Meyers Chuck is a small harbour with numerous holiday homes scattered around. I couldn’t find a vacant float so dropped anchor. It’s a pretty little place and the people were super friendly. Two of them came out in a boat to say hello and invite me ashore. I declined, I want to move on and having just put the pig on deck I didn’t want to go through the effort of launching and retrieving it again.
Just after lunch I set off down Clarence strait with a good wind from astern. After four hours the wind died and the motor went back on to take us past Ketchikan. I was in two minds whether to stop in Ketchikan. In the end I decided not to as there is nothing attractive about the place.
Rather than find an anchorage for the night I will head out into open water and drift for a few hours. The sky is clear again this evening and I will lay back in the cockpit and watch the show overhead. Tomorrow I will head down the Dundas Island and back into Canadian waters again.
FAIRWELL ALASKA AND NORTHERN LIGHTS
August 6 2016
Last night I didn’t anchor, I found a nice bit of empty sea after passing Ketchikan and drifted for a few hours. The sky was clear again, magnificent stars, shooting starts and the northern lights came up behind the mountains. A fantastic show as we drifted on flat calm waters.
Today I crossed Dixon Entrance, a sometimes tricky stretch of water that is open to the Pacific Ocean swells and seas. For today it was warm and sunny with great visibility. Unfortunately, the forecast twenty-five knot north west wind didn’t show. I waited until three in the afternoon and then gave up and motored the remaining distance into Dundas Island, rolling heavily in the ocean swells. The sails were up for seven hours today and we made about fourteen miles, pretty miserable sailing but the weather was beautiful and the scenery fantastic.
At three twenty-five this afternoon we crossed out of US waters into Canadian territory. The time changes by one hour from Alaska and my iPad did it automatically when we crossed the line. How did it know and how did it do that?
This evening I have anchored in Brundige Inlet on Dundas Island. Tomorrow I will work my way down to Prince Rupert to clear into Canada. It seems a long since I left Prince Rupert heading north.
GOOD TO BE BACK IN BC
August 7 2016
This morning started with flat calm and brilliant sunshine. I had breakfast in the cockpit in T shirt and shorts. Thirty minutes after departing the anchorage we ran into thick fog, visibility less than two cables and it persisted all the way down Chatham Sound to Venn Narrows, the northerly approach to Prince Rupert.
The fog was shallow and the sun could be seen overhead like a fried egg nesting in a sky of porridge. The air was cool and damp with water dripping from the rigging and sails. No mariner likes fog, thanks to the radar I was able to spot other vessels early and take avoiding action when needed.
As we were approaching Venn narrows I heard the yacht Caro Babbo calling on VHF. They were coming down from the north and if they hadn’t slowed down we would possibly of hit each other. All through this trip north to Alaska and back south we have met at various places on the way – very uncanny as we have both been following different interties. I first saw Caro Babbo on my first night out of Canoe Cove back in April. We met up again in Desolation Sound where we shared an anchorage in Squirrel Cove. Later we met up in Prince Rupert, then again in Glacier Bay and finally in Prince Rupert again. On the 30th May I followed them out of Venn Passage and this time they followed me in.
Once alongside in Prince Rupert I checked in with Canadian Customs. A friendly Customs Officer checked me in over the phone and allocated me a clearance number that I need to display in a window on the boat. So simple. My dealings with Canadian Customs have always been pleasant and it feels good to be back in BC.
John on board Caro Babbo is an excellent cook, he actually enjoys it! Last night we rafted up in Russell Arm, on the north shore of Prince Rupert harbour and I joined Hillary and Jennifer on board their boat for for a lovely meal. Tomorrow I will get an early start and continue my southward passage, not decided my route yet, tide and wind will decide for me.
FAREWEL PRINCE RUPERT
August 8 2016
My intentions for an early start evaporated when John produced a pot of fresh coffee and muffins straight from the oven. We sat in the cockpit of Caro Babbo chatting and eating happily until late morning. It was almost mid-day by the time I heaved the anchor from the mud and motored out of Russell Arm.
As I departed from the harbour I had one last look back at Prince Rupert. I don’t suppose I will ever be back. I first visited Rupert when I was at sea as second mate, back in the pre GPS days. Rupert was a regular port of call as we were in the Pacific run taking Canadian grain to China and a welcome stop after the rigours of the North Pacific and Bering Sea.
Once out of the harbour the forecast wind didn’t show up so I motored and caught the tide down Arthur Passage and into Grenville Channel. I hadn’t really wanted to go down Grenville Channel again but the weather really made the decision for me. This is the classic inside passage route and I suppose I will meet some commercial traffic taking this sheltered route north and south.
This evening I have anchored in Kumealon Inlet, just off Grenville Channel. Tomorrow if the wind and tide is complaisant I will try and transit the channel without another stop. I think I will try a little fishing tonight.
EXCITEMENT AT ANCHORAGE
August 9 2016
I didn’t catch any fish last night but got plenty of bites – mosquito bites. This morning I was away at first light, which is not that early nowadays. The idea was to catch the flood tide to the centre of Grenville Passage and then the ebb tide from the centre outwards. The tactic worked perfectly and I carried a good tide all day.
Today was a movement day, we motored for 12 hours, there was no wind, just overcast, mist, rain, fog and just a glimpse of sun in the late afternoon. I don’t like Grenville channel and wanted to get it behind me in one day.
I saw quite a few humpbacks feeding and one group of three were doing coordinated bubble netting, all coming to the surface at the same time with mouths gaping open. I watched for a while then moved on to leave them in peace.
This evening when I came to drop the anchor in Oliver Cove I went through my usual routine. First walk the anchor out for dropping, then find the right spot to drop. Then, before going forward to drop the anchor I put the engine astern so that the chain pays out nicely and we snub up to set the anchor. This evening I dropped the anchor and realised we were not stopping but still going ahead – quite fast! I ran back to the cockpit to see why the engine was running ahead. The gear lever was astern but the propeller was still going ahead. Amidst very nasty noises from the anchor chain at the bow as it tried to pull the capstan out of the deck I pulled the engine stop. After a couple of minutes all was quiet again and the weight was off the anchor chain. Time to see what the problem was.
I found that the cable from the gear lever to the gear selector had broken. Just what I needed tonight after a long day. I suppose it could have happened in a marina full of super yachts so it’s better to happen in an open anchorage. Realising that I couldn’t do anything with the engine still hot, I cracked a beer and put the fishing line out. I caught a small rock cod but didn’t have the inclination to deal with him. The guy on the other boat in the anchorage pulled in a large halibut. With the problems I had the last thing I wanted was a 30 kg halibut floundering around the cockpit, so pulled my line in.
I found a length of brass strip and drilled a hole to take a bolt to fasten it to the gear selector, the brass was too bendy so I lashed it together with a steel threaded bar. After a few modifications it works fine as a simple push pull gear lever. I can reach the lever through the companionway, just have to leave the engine box open when I want to use it. A good enough fix to get me to where I can buy a new gear cable set.
I hope the night is quiet, don’t need any more drama. I have a few route options tomorrow, not sure which one I will take, just know that I have to go through Hiekish Narrows on the morning ebb tide. Total voyage distance 519.9 miles.
SPITFIRE PASSAGE – EXCITING
August 11 2016
Oliver Cove was perfectly peaceful last night. The heavens put on a show, shooting starts and galaxy’s galore. Makes the planet earth seem very insignificant – is there life out there?
After lifting the anchor this morning, I moved south through Reid Passage before heading east up Seaforth Passage to Bella Bella for a fuel and provision stop.
Bella Bella is convenient as the store is close to the fuel dock. The store has a good selection of groceries, the liquor store is on the first floor. There was some stress at the fuel dock, a guy on a motorboat cut in front of me to take the only vacant space – the first discourteous act I have seen this trip. Then another guy in a motorboat started shouting at a fisherman for blocking the dock. There are many more boats around now and it seems these are the city people on vacation, still carrying their city stress. They should relax, there is no hurry in life.
I topped up with diesel, groceries, beer and water. I tried to use the Wi-Fi at the library but the lady switched it off and went for lunch, informing me it costs $2.50 an hour. Last time I was here it was free, just like everywhere else in Canada and Alaska. Well, it is the height of holiday season and time to take advantage of the tourist dollar.
After departing Bella Bella I headed down a route less travelled. First down lama passage then Sans Peur passage, Cultus sound, Spider channel, Spitfire channel and across kildidt sound to Bremner Bay on Hunter Island. Spitfire channel was even narrower than I had imagined, the underwater rocks clearly visible each side, the overhanging trees almost touching the rig. Exciting stuff.
This evening I had trouble finding an anchorage, the water here is deep and rocky. I managed to get a spot on a ledge in twenty meters. I laid out all the chain in the locker and hope for a quiet night. Total voyage distance 618.3 miles.
August 12 2016
Yesterday we transited the daunting Spitfire Passage, tonight we are anchored in the evocatively named Fury Cove on Penrose Island.
Today we have been treated to beautiful clear sparkling weather and warm, no hot, sunshine. On the route today we dodged between rocks, reefs and islands. Once clear of Bremner Cove this morning the route took us down to Meay Inlet, along Kwakshua Channel and out into Fitz Hugh Sound. A really nice BC summer day, nice to be back in BC.
The anchorage this evening is crowded, at least ten other boats anchored. I suppose from now on there will be more crowded anchorages as the Canadians are out enjoying their holidays. There are a couple of big motorboats in the anchorage with their generators running, what a noise, hope they switch off before I sleep.
North westerlies are forecast for tomorrow, if they arrive we will sail down to Vancouver Island and around Cape Caution. Total voyage distance 653.0 miles.
ACROSS QUEEN CHARLOTTE STRAIT
August 13 2016
This morning started with beautiful calm weather at Fury Cove. North Westerlies, fifteen to twenty knots forecast, perfect to carry us around Cape Caution and down to Vancouver Island. In expectation of a wonderful sail across Queen Charlotte Sound I set off after a good breakfast and coffee.
Once in Fitz Hugh Channel I came across five humpback whales breaching. It was like they were having a competition to see who could get the furthest out of the water. Quite spectacular, I have never seen so many whales breaching at the same time. I can only assume they do it for fun.
It’s no surprise the wind didn’t arrive and we motored across Queen Charlotte Sound, rolling horribly to a beam sea and swell. The fog and mist came in, the radar went on, we just ground out the miles southward, eyes on the radar and what little I could see in the fog.
This evening I have taken anchorage in Bull Harbour on Hope Island. On approaching the island it reminded me of the West Coast of Scotland, the island shrouded in mist and birdlife all around. The birds are everywhere. On the approach to Hope island I had to cross the Nahwitti Bar, a shallow bar between Hope Island and Vancouver Island to the south. In bad weather with wind against tide this is a very treacherous place and best avoided at such times. Today it was quite benign fortunately. I will cross again tomorrow at slack high water, it should be quiet.
There are a couple of other boats in the anchorage tonight, a motorboat and a sailing boat with an Australian on board. Tomorrow if the weather is favourable I hope to get around Cape Scott and reach the West coast of Vancouver Island. Total voyage distance 693.4 miles.
August 14 2016
Today I didn’t see much, most of the day was spent in fog. I rounded Cape Scott at the top of Vancouver Island less than half a mile off but it remained invisible, shrouded in fog. Of course fog meant little wind so I motored from Bull Harbour around to Sea Otter Cove on the West side of Vancouver Island. Nearly all the way the visibility was less than a quarter of a mile. Disappointing as I would like to have seen the coast close up.
I had a close encounter when a large humpback whale appeared right ahead out of the fog and then sounded just under the bow. I watched as the whale tail came out of the water and slid down vertically and disappeared right in front of me. Of course it happened so fast and unexpectedly I didn’t have time to take a photo.
Running the boat in fog is always trying when singe handed, especially on this coast where a constant watch has to be kept for logs as well as other ships. The radar can detect other vessels but floating logs are too low in the water and don’t reflect a signal so aren’t picked up on radar. Today I saw a complete tree floating along with seabirds using it as a resting place.
The sea was teaming with wildlife, thousands of seabirds, whales, sea otters, and seals. The sea otters around here appear to be the largest I have seen so far, larger than their Alaskan cousins.
Entering Sea Otter Cove was a bit tricky, passing between unseen reefs in the fog until finally the entrance appeared at the last minute when I saw the surf breaking on the shore. Once inside the cove the sun came out and revealed the beauty of the place. However, shortly after anchoring the wind blew hard from the northwest with rain and postponed my intention to go ashore for an explore. To compensate I made pancakes.
I am looking forward to travelling down the west coast of Vancouver Island to Victoria. A route I have travelled many times before on big ships, in and out of the Juan de Fuca strait, but always at a good distance from the shore. Now I have the opportunity to see it close up. Total voyage distance 725.3 miles.
GLORIOUS WEATHER AND SCENERY
August 15 2016
The weather forecast this morning was calling a gale warning and strong north westerly winds. I felt a bit disheartened as it has been raining on and off all night and the morning was overcast and miserable. I feel the weather had been punishing us since leaving Hoonah, we have had more than our fair share of rain and adverse wind.
I gave myself a kick up the backside, picked up the anchor and headed out to see what the day would bring. Once away from the coast the sun came out and a perfect day started. We had a fair wind and beautiful sunshine, crisp cool air and warm sun. The visibility improved and the West coast of Vancouver Island revealed itself, a beautiful rugged coast. What a contrast to yesterday’s see nothing fog.
I have sailed many times up and down this coast, but much further offshore, usually going to or coming from China. It’s a very wild place in winter and even in summer needs treating with respect. I am surprised how many coves, harbours and anchorages there are. I am also surprised at how few boats there are about considering this is summer. Maybe they stick to the more southerly part of the west coast below Brooks Peninsular; a major barrier to travel up and down this coast.
This evening I have anchored in an almost landlocked piece of water, Klaskish inlet. Access to the inlet is via a narrow entrance passage about thirty meters wide. My Navionics chart gave a least depth of less than a meter in the passage so I was very cautious when entering at low water. In fact, the least water I had was twelve meters under the keel.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is thirty to forty knot winds. I can always go out and have a look and come back if the conditions are too uncivilised. Considering todays forecast was a gale warning I am sceptical. Total voyage distance 764.5 miles.
GALE WARNING AND GREAT SAILING
August 16 2016
The anchorage in Klaskish Inlet is protected and secure, hardly any wind gets, its cocooned from the outside world. The weather forecast called north-westerly gales so I had to leave the anchorage to find out what the weather was doing outside. Well, there was quite a big sea and swell running and I decided to depart. Half an hour later I turned around as the sea, swell and wind were all against me. A tactical retreat to regroup.
For the next couple of hours, I drifted in Klaskish sound, had a good breakfast and did a bit of housekeeping. At eleven thirty the wind had gone more to the north and I tried to get out again, this time after a struggle to break out of the entrance I was able to hoist sail and bear away for Brooks Peninsular to the south. For the next four hours Truce picked up her heels and under a reefed jib and staysail we romped along with a fresh north-westerly wind behind us in bright sunshine. Wonderful sailing, Mickey the windvane doing all the work while I enjoyed the scenery and relaxed.
It was refreshing to be sailing along the coast and not in a channel or passage as I seem to have been for the past months. It was also good to be making real speed without engine noise. Out to the west all I could see was open ocean. The big Pacific swells were running, when in the trough the horizon is the top of the nearest swell, then the boat gets lifted to the top of the swell and you can see all the other swells marching along. I didn’t see any other boats today, I expected more guys to be out fishing, maybe the wind or forecast has kept them in port.
At the end of Brooks Peninsular there is an island called ‘Solander Island’, quite an impressive Island. Dr Solander was a Swedish botanist who accompanied Cook on his first voyage when he found New Zealand and the East coast of Australia. On that voyage was also another botanist Joseph Banks. A little further down the coast from Solander Island is a small reef called ‘Banks Reef’. I wonder who named the island and reef, obviously not the locals.
This evening I have anchored in Columbia Cove, supposedly a sheltered and protected anchorage. I am not so sure, its shallow, hard bottom and the wind is blasting into the anchorage. The rocky shore is only fifty meters astern. I am expecting forty knot winds tonight so it may be a long night, keeping watch on the anchor position.
There is a gale warning out for tomorrow as well. If it continues from the northwest it won’t be so bad, it may be possible to slip down the coast a bit more under sail. Total voyage distance 792.9 miles.
A NIGHT TO FORGET, A DAY TO REMEMBER
August 17 2016
Last night I anchored in Columbia Cove, what an awful anchorage. The wind howled in all night, great express train gusts that spun Truce all over the place, straining at the anchor cable. I didn’t get much sleep as the shore was close, a dragged anchor would have put us on the rocks in no time. Not an anchorage i would use again – ever.
The forecast for this morning was thirty-five increasing to forty knots later. No way I was spending another night in that awful windy anchorage so I picked up the hook and headed south. Once clear of the anchorage I hoisted sail and we made great time – for about thirty minutes then the wind died! I am becoming very suspicious of the weather forecasts around here.
We motored south in glorious sunshine and clear visibility, weaving in between the numerous rocky reefs that fringe the coast here. After some time I felt the engine vibrating and the speed was down. I stopped the prop and did a few ahead and reverse manoeuvers – a large lump of weed popped out astern. I had to do the same thing later in the day, I suspect I may still have some weed clinging in there. A friend had the same thing but he couldn’t get it lose, it was wound so tight he had to get a diver to clear it out.
The trip down the coast was beautiful, sparkling seas and great scenery. The seagoing weasels (sea otters) were out in force today, I passed a group of about fifty appearing to be having a floating conference. I didn’t see any other boats out today apart from a couple of fishing skiffs, very quiet at this north end of Vancouver Island.
I called in at Walters Cove, a very pretty little place with holiday homes scattered around a protected lagoon. I considered anchoring here for the night but as it was still early decided to move a bit further south.
This evening I have come up into Kyuquot Inlet to an anchorage on Hohoae Island called Dixie Inlet. It’s a beautiful location in a marine park. I hope it’s as tranquil and protected as it looks because I will sleep like a log tonight. Total voyage distance 819.3 miles.
August 18 2016
After a perfect night in Dixie Cove I am now fully rested and happy with life again. Dixie Cove is a good anchorage and recommended, I pulled up globs of black smelly mud on the anchor, lovely.
The weather forecast was a gale warning again. The Canadian weather forecasters seem to call it higher than it is – just in case? Anyway, the wind was perfect 20 knots, not a gale in sight and we made easy progress south down the coast, outside the reefs, to our next stop in Queen Cove.
On the chart I notice a Cook Channel, Cape Cook and Clerke Point. Clerke was a Masters Mate on Cooks second voyage. There is also a Bligh Island here as well. It seems that the ship’s crew are used as names for navigational points and landmarks. I wonder if it was done by Vancouver, he was only a boy when he sailed with Cook but later sailed extensively on this coast.
The weather is getting warmer, we dropped below fifty degrees north this afternoon. In fact, it was hot and the air was warm this afternoon. This leads to a problem – the beer is getting warm. Or at least not chilled like it should be. So far this trip the weather (and sea) has been cool enough to keep the beer conditioned at a reasonable temperature. Truce has no fridge on board, just an ice box. I may have to invest in a twelve volt cooler box, it’s just too uncivilised to have warm beer on board.
This evening I am anchored in Queen Cove off Esperanza Inlet. Truce has been here before with her previous owners but it’s my first time. Queen Cove used to be a thriving Indian village but now is just empty houses and a church, trees are growing up through the church roof.
So far Vancouver Island is exceeding my expectations, apart from a horrid night in Columbia Cove the weather, scenery and sailing has been great. I am enjoying this part of the voyage and am happy I chose to come this way rather than down Johnstone Strait. Total voyage distance 845.8 miles.
August 19 2016
Today started out so well after a peaceful night in Queen Cove – but ended up with Truce alongside Westview Marina with a fouled propeller and immobile.
From Queen Cove I decided to take the ‘inside passage’ route around Nooka Island to Friendly Cove. The inside passage goes up Esperanza Inlet, through Tahsis narrows and down Tahsis inlet and through Tsowwin Narrows.
My plan was to ride the tide up Esperanza Inlet and then pass the Tahsis Narrows at high water slack and go with the ebb to Friendy Cove. The trip up Esperanza Inlet was pleasant, quite a few sport fishing boats out and a large humpback feeding. I have become so familiar with Humpbacks they are not so exciting anymore, but still magical to watch. There is a lot of logging going on around this area and its interesting to see how the logging roads zig zag across the hillsides and where the trees have been harvested. The freshly harvested areas look pretty devastated.
I passed by the village of Esperanza, a tidy little place with rope swings from the trees along the foreshore – just like New Zealand. The village of Ceepeecee a little further along looked pretty run down and deserted.
Just as I passed through Tsowwin Narrows the engine almost shut down, something was in the propeller causing a huge drag. I tried to free whatever it was by going alternately ahead and astern, without success. The engine would run ahead but there was a terrible vibration and smoke coming out the exhaust – a sign it was under high load.
I needed to get a safe berth to remove whatever was in the propeller so sailed back ten miles to Westview Marina at Tahsis. Luckily the slight wind held just long enough to get me close to the marina where I arranged for a tow in. Once secure alongside I could see there was something under the boat. By this time it was seven in the evening so further investigation would have to wait for another day.
After a nice refreshing shower at the marina I discovered it was steak night with draft beer on tap. There was also supposed to be live music but the bands wagon broke down on the road – typical musicians! So I am now clean, fed and watered and looking forward to a good sleep before the fun of tomorrow. Total voyage distance 875.8 miles.
August 20 2016
Last night was relaxing with a good feed and a couple of beers. However, the wind was quite strong, making a noise in the rig and I was still contemplating and fretting about the propeller fouling. So not a very restful night really.
At the dock last night was another yacht, ‘Raven’. On board were Gina and Kevin who helped tie me up after I was ignominiously towed into the marina. Kevin generously offered to dive down and look at the propeller for me. At ten this morning Kevin slithered into his wetsuit and slipped into the water. He found a bunch of cedar bark wrapped around the prop and after just a few minutes had removed it all. The prop moves freely and there is no play at the bearing. I ran the engine ahead and astern at the dock and all seems to good. Many thanks for helping me out Kevin.
Much relieved I decided to stay another day at Westview, do my laundry, get some fresh fruit and have an explore around the village. The weather was hot today and the walk into town not that comfortable, I am just not used to hot weather yet. It seems that Tahsis was until recently a thriving mill town exporting cut timber globally, the mill is now closed. There are less than three hundred permanent residents and most income seems to come from logging, fishing and summer holidaymakers.
At the village store I purchased some of he world’s most expensive oranges and then had a look around the small museum. There is not much else to do. Tomorrow I will once again head down Tahsis Inlet and hopefully make the Pacific without further incident. Total voyage distance 875.8 miles.
A REAL GALE AND REAL PAIN
August 21 2016
This morning the fishermen from Westview Marina were out early so I decided to join them and motored out from the Marina at six. The trip down Tahsis Inlet was uneventful and I kept a sharp look out for floating debris. I then cut through Princessa Channel into Kendrick Inlet and then into Cook Channel.
This area is where Cook first landed on his third voyage in the Resolution. He missed the Juan de Fuca strait completely. I would have liked to linger in this area longer, there are some great anchorages and good cruising grounds – but I have to move south for the end of September.
Once out in the ocean the wind and sea picked up dramatically. The forecast was for thirty to forty knots, from past experience (I thought) this means twenty-five to thirty. This time the forecast delivered and we had gusts of forty-five knots according the shore station readings. All this made for exciting sailing, with triple reefed main and staysail we blasted along and I had my hands full to keep the speed down.
The wind came up far faster than I expected and caught me by surprise. Therefore, I was trying to do two things at once and ended up falling heavily from the side deck onto the leeward cockpit combing with my back ribs. One of those moments when you just have to sit and catch breath, expecting all sorts of breakages. For some time I was afraid to move, fearing some awful damage to my back. The flogging sheets brought me to my senses and back into action. Nothing seems to be broken my ribs are very painful. I take it as a lesson to be better prepared and more organised in future. I will also not be so cocky about the weather forecast.
This evening I am anchored in Hot Springs Cove. I would love to have a soak in the hot water but the wind is still blowing pretty strong and going ashore is not prudent. I will wait until the morning when conditions will be better. Total voyage distance 924.5 miles.
August 22 2016
I awoke this morning feeling very sore, my ribs were reminding me they weren’t happy at being banged up. I can feel the ribs moving together in my back so am assuming something is broken. My immediate aim was to get the hot springs and have a soak to relieve the pain. I parked Truce alongside the park float and headed up the track for a two kilometre walk to the springs.
The walk was along a wooden boardwalk through the forest, many of the planks on the boardwalk are carved with various yacht names. Seems a bit of a pointless exercise to me but it makes for interesting reading as you walk along.
The springs are all open air, no tubs. There are hot water cascades and pools along a small stream. The stream goes down to the sea and the pools at the end have a mixture of hot and cold seawater. I found a nice small hot pool and wallowed, hoping the hot water would do therapeutic wonders for my bruised ribs.
No long after the day tripping tourists started turning up, they are delivered by float plane and jet boat from Tofino. A couple of large female chattering Hippos took a liking to my pool and eased themselves in. the peace and tranquillity broken I decided that my time was up and returned to the boat, feeling warm but still sore. The warm water had only bought temporary relief from the pain.
Back at the float I was surprised to see a parking ticket attached to the dodger window. A parking ticket! What nonsense! Nothing to indicate the float wasn’t free, no signs nothing. This absurd Bureaucracy did nothing to improve my mood. The ticket floated in the wake as we departed the float.
The gale warning is still in force and offshore the winds are still blowing hard from the northwest. I took the inside route up Sydney Inlet, around the top of Flores Island, through Hayden Passage and down to Bawden Bay for the night. Quite an easy relaxed day in bright sunshine and I didn’t move around much.
I am not sure where I am heading tomorrow, I could stop at Tofino and have a look around or sail further to Barkley Sound. Probably best to let the weather decide in the morning. Total voyage distance 942.9 miles.
A DOCILE WEST COAST DAY
August 23 2016
Today was one of those days when nothing much exciting happened but it was a really nice day. The anchorage at Bawden Bay was very peaceful and the morning lovely and calm. I managed a good sleep last night considering I have to sleep sitting up due to the pain in my ribs.
I motored out of the anchorage and down towards Tofino through the various channels and islands, a very scenic trip. Tofino looks like a really good place to visit, lots of tourist activities going on and beautiful sand beaches.
After passing Tofino we headed out into the Pacific and started moving down the coast again. The weather was very docile, just a breath of wind but not sufficient for sailing. I was happy to take it easy, motoring all the way down to Ucluelet where I have anchored for the night in Port Albion.
The trip down the coast was pleasant, great warm weather, a low swell and good visibility of the shoreline and mountains beyond. A couple of yachts passed heading north and a few fishing boats, that was the excitement for the day. Total voyage distance 981.6 miles.
BEAUTIFUL BARKLEY SOUND
August 24 2016
The West Coast of Vancouver Island is turning out to be one of the best parts of the trip down from Alaska. After leaving Ucluelet this morning I headed over to the Broken Group of Islands in Barkley Sound. Many of these islands form part of a Marine Park and are much used in the summer months by Kayakers and Campers. The islands have sheltered coves, bays, sandy beaches and protected waters for kayaking, a beautiful area.
I anchored at Clarke Island for lunch, just off a sandy beach in glorious weather. The Canadian summer has been turning on the charm in the last week.
In the afternoon I picked up the anchor and headed over to Barkley, a small town clustered around an inlet. As you enter the inlet one of the first things you see is the store / Post Office with its own float out front. So convenient to tie up the boat and get stores, no long distance bag carrying. I took advantage of the opportunity and bought a few treats, fresh fruit, tomatoes and blue cheese. So good to see home grown fruit and veg in store and not the long life, everlasting, tasteless variety that persists up north in Alaska.
I also made a contribution to Stanley Park in Vancouver, one of the best city parks in the world. I bought some Stanley Park ‘Windstorm’ pale ale. Part of the proceeds from each sale goes to support the park for future generations. The beer tastes good as well, so it’s a win win situation. Also a small milestone as we have passed 1,000 miles since leaving Hoonah. Total voyage distance 1,001.2 miles.
BAMFIELD, AN EASY DAY.
August 25 2016
Easy day in Bamfield. A great little place and very laid back. It’s a holiday town but there is no rush or bustle, everything is neat and tidy and well laid out. There are some nice houses lining the inlet with their private docks and well-tended gardens. I like the look of the place.
Well I did a bit of housekeeping today and rested my ribs which are hurting slightly less now, but I am still frightened to sneeze. Really i am just resting up today.
Tomorrow I will continue on down the coast to Victoria which is only a couple of days away now. I am looking forward to sailing down the Juan de Fuca Strait, I have done it many times before in bigger ships than Truce. I hope I get lucky with the weather and the notorious fog stays away.
I can’t ever remember going through the Juan de Fuca Strait in daylight. This is because the arrival is usually timed to pick up the pilot early morning for the trip up to Vancouver, likewise coming out from Vancouver the pilot is usually dropped off late afternoon. I am interested to do the passage in daylight and see what i have missed previously. Total voyage distance 1,001.2 miles.
PORT SAN JUAN
August 26 2016
I left Bamfield at first light this morning, along with about a dozen fishermen in their boats. The fishing guys are really serious about it and don’t waste a minute of daylight. Sunrise is at six thirty now, not like the three o’clock Alaska sunrises.
The weather forecast was for light airs and so it proved all day. The forecast for just north of me was for NW 20 to 30 knots and a strong wind warning to the south of me. I was in the middle and no wind. The swell was from the west so we rolled all day under motor from Bamfield, around Cape Beale and down to Port San Juan.
The day was beautiful and the rolling not severe. As soon as we rounded Cape Beale, Cape Flattery came into view over thirty miles away on the US side of Juan de Fuca strait. The visibility was great all day and it was a delight to see the lighthouses and capes that I had only previously seen as radar images. The Canadian lighthouses are always nice to see, they always appear to be well maintained and very traditional with human beings featuring in their operation.
Tonight I have pulled into Port San Juan for a brief stop before continuing down to Victoria. I will stay here for about eight hours before continuing to catch the tide at Race Rocks just before Victoria. The anchorage I am in is called Snuggery Cove. Well, it’s not very snuggery (if there is such a word). The wind and sea gets into the cove and we are jiggling and bouncing about, good that its only for a few hours.
My plan is to arrive Victoria tomorrow afternoon and spend the weekend there, doing the tourist stuff. So I am going to have a feed, a few hours sleep and then on the way again. Victoria next stop. Total voyage distance 1,043.9miles.
BLOWN INTO VICTORIA
August 27 2016
After a few hours sleep joggling around in Snuggery Cove Truce and I set off on the last leg of the voyage down to Victoria. The forecast was for North Westerly forty knot winds – but they were in our favour so no point in hanging around.
In the chill dark and damp morning at four I heaved up the anchor and set off, radar on as the visibility was poor and reduced speed of four knots as there are logs and stuff floating around in the dark. By five the visibility had improved and the wind was freshening with the effects of the big Pacific Swells being felt as they rolled down the Juan de Fuca Strait. By six I had the jib set and we motor sailed at a steady six and a half knots all the way down to Race Rocks.
At Race rocks there was a great tide flow and we shot through at ten knots as the wind picked up to forty knots from the west and blew us up into Victoria Harbour. Once in the harbour the wind dropped and made berthing alongside easy. A fast trip and a good way to end the voyage. Truce is berthed in Causeway Marina in the heart of the city. A perfect spot for a tourist, one of the best rooms in town.
I will spend a couple of days in Victoria and head up for Canoe Cove on Monday where Truce will be laid up for the winter. I will update the log as I prepare the boat for a few months of winter storage. At this time, I am expecting to start the next voyage on Truce in March next year, when we will go south, to warmer weather. Total voyage distance 1,096.3 miles.
REFLECTIONS ON ALASKA TRIP
The trip was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the boat and the systems on board. In the early days of the trip I had to undertake a lot of maintenance as the boat hadn’t been in use full time. During the trip I suffered no major failures and am confident the boat is strongly built, sturdy and a capable offshore cruiser.
The Dickenson cabin heater was wonderful on cold nights as were the two oil lamps in the salon, without their warmth it would have been tough on cold wet days. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in any really consistent sailing for prolonged periods of time that is essential to really get a feel for the boat under sail. But the sailing I did showed the boat to be well balanced and able to steer with the wind vane self-steering quite easily. Not having a fridge on board was no problem in Alaska and BC, but I do worry how I will keep the beer cold when I venture into warmer climes.
A couple of people have asked me if I would do the Alaska trip again. The answer is a qualified no. I really enjoyed the experience, Alaska is an awesome place, wild rugged, scenic, spectacular and populated with some very interesting people. The people I met along the way were predominantly American and Canadian with a few other nationalities thrown in. The Alaskan people are very friendly, but there are quite a few who don’t really conform to mainstream America, characters, odd balls, eccentrics, or miss fits – call them what you will, but all were welcoming, generous and good fun.
Alaska was an experience and adventure not to be missed and without the interaction of the local people the trip would have been merely a scenic cruise. Alaska is also a place that can be wet, windy, foggy and cold, it’s not a soft place for single handing a sail boat. Hunkered down in remote anchorages alone, can be a lonely experience. As for wind, it tends to run up and down the channels and straits, a sailing boat usually has the wind on the nose according to sods law. Significant motoring is required to make any meaningful headway and motoring in a low powered yacht can be slow and boring.
To get the most out of a trip by boat to Alaska a motorboat is preferable, many people use heavier displacement trawler type motor yachts where they can be sheltered from the elements and still have a good view of the outside world. It’s interesting to note that the people I met on motor boats reported more bear sightings than people on yachts. I think this was due to the fact that the motorboats had good views from protected environment when at anchor. A motor boat with a decent speed of around nine knots also makes passages between anchorages possible in a small weather window and allows strong tidal flows to be handled easier. So Alaska is a place not to me missed. One good day in Alaska can make up for a week of wind and rain. Now there are so many other places calling and so little time.
Some facts and figures from the Alaska Voyages: –
Total distance – 2,753.7 miles (4,432Km)
Ports and anchorages – 97
Sailing time – 134 hours (non motor sailing)
Engine Hours – 563
Fuel Consumption – 764 Ltr (202 gals.)
Oil Changes – 3
Costs of living – NZ$35 per day (excluding docking and maintenance)