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 and 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.

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.  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 significant headway.

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.  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

I will continue to post occasional blogs and updates throughout the year until I take off again in March on the next leg of the journey, south and west.

BLOWN INTO VICTORIA

Port San Juan,Causeway Marina,Victoria,Canoe Cove

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.

Moored opposite the Empress Hotel Victoria. Photo Ray Penson
Moored opposite the Empress Hotel Victoria. Photo Ray Penson

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 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 is 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.  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.

PORT SAN JUAN

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 aver 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 being 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.

BAMFIELD, AN EASY DAY.

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 less now, but I am still frightened to sneeze.

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 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.  Total voyage distance 1,001.2 miles.

BEAUTIFUL BARKLEY SOUND

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.

Clarke Island in Broken Group Barkley Sound. Photo Ray Penson jpg
Clarke Island in Broken Group Barkley Sound. Photo Ray Penson

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.

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.  Total voyage distance 1,001.2 miles.

A DOCILE WEST COAST DAY

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 was calm.

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.  The weather was very docile, just a breath of wind but not sufficient for sailing.  So it was 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.

HOT SPRINGS

I awoke this morning feeling sore, my ribs were reminding me they weren’t happy at being banged up.    My immediate aim was to get the hot springs and have a soak.  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.

Marine Park Sign, Hot Springs Cove.Photo Ray Penson
Marine Park Sign, Hot Springs Cove.Photo Ray Penson

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 trippers started turning up, they are delivered by float plane and jet boat from Tofino.   A couple of chattering Hippos took a liking to my pool and eased themselves in.  I decided that my time was up and returned to the boat, feeling warm but still sore.

Hot Springs Park Float.Photo Ray Penson
Hot Springs Park Float.Photo Ray Penson

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.

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 REAL GALE AND PAIN

 

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 a bit by surprise.  Therefore, I was trying to do two things at once and ended up falling heavily into the cockpit combing with my back ribs.  One of those moments when you just have to sit and catch breath, expecting all sorts of breakages.  Fortunately, nothing seems to be cracked but 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.

PROPELLER CLEARED

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.

Strips of Cedar bark from the propeller. Ray Penson
Strips of Cedar bark from the propeller. Ray Penson

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.  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.

FOULED PROPELLER

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.

Secure in Westview Marina Tahsis.Ray Penson
Secure in Westview Marina Tahsis.Ray Penson

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.