WAITING IN SAUSALITO

Another quiet day at Sausalito anchorage – just a bit more wind and cooler since yesterday.  There is a cold front approaching on Thursday and everybody is getting excited at the prospect of rain – apparently quite rare this time of year.  Quite impressive watching the cloud coming off the ocean and building above Sausalito then cascading down into the town this morning.

Sausalito getting Cloud Bombed Photo. Ray Penson
Sausalito getting Cloud Bombed Photo. Ray Penson

Early today a Pelican was fishing by the boat.  What an ungainly bird.  First, he gets airborne with a great seemingly uncoordinated performance of feet and wings.  Then circles around and drops like a bag of wet rags into the water beak first.  I suppose Pelicans must catch fish but they don’t look very convincing, looks like pot luck fishing to me.

Later in the morning I took the rubber duck ashore – getting to be a routine.  I was going to walk up to West Marine, quite a way up the road.  The wind was building so I didn’t wander too far as it’s a wet ride in in any chop in the dinghy.

I downloaded another weather file, a strong cold front is hitting the coast on Thursday.  Looks like there will be a weather window for departure on Friday following the front.  I expect I will need to sail quite a way south to avoid the high pressure and calms sitting on my route.

Meanwhile – nothing much else happening.  That’s good I suppose.

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.

KEKU STRAIT AND ROCKY PASS

I spent a peaceful night with no disturbances.  Seclusion Harbour is well named, just the place to get away from it all.  Sun rise was just after four, the animals were up and about early and making noise.  The morning was flat calm and sunny as I picked up anchor and headed over to the south end of Keku Strait.  We dodged a few rocky patches on the way and sea Otters were all around, it felt great to be alive on such a beautiful peaceful morning.

Keku Strait separates Kuiu Island from Kupreanof Island and is a direct route from Sumner Strait to Frederick Sound.  My guide book says ‘The Coastguard removed all navigational markers to discourage its use’.  That’s a bit like saying ‘this road is dangerous so we will remove the road signs and lane markers’ not a responsible thing to do.  Anyway, the book was clearly wrong as all but two navigational markers were in place, one of the missing marker was a pile and the other was a buoy that had broken lose and washed up on the shore.  The strait is very well marked and passage through is straightforward for any competent boat owner.

The buoyage system here is IALA B.  That is to say that in general when entering port you leave the red buoy or marker to Starboard and green to Port.  In the Keku Strait the tide floods from both ends and ebbs from somewhere in the middle.  The markers remain the same side throughout the strait so there should be no confusion.  I marked my right hand thumb with red ink as a reminder in case I became confused.

The strait is spectacular, dotted with islands and meadow areas.  The backdrop is rolling wooded hills with snow-capped mountains away to the west.  Half way through the strait after a twisty section called The Devils Elbow I found a spot and anchored for an hour, had an early lunch and savoured the scenery.  The only other people about were a group of kayakers going north through the strait.  I do like waving to kayakers as they have to stop paddling and put the paddle down before they can wave back.

Logged 14th June 2016

OUTBOARD RUNNING

Of course it rained all day today on and off, just drizzle and like being in a low cloud.  I am in a nice anchorage and quite protected from the high winds blowing outside so made the most of the day. I got suited up in oilskins and carried on.

Exploring in the rain. Photo Ray Penson
Exploring in the rain. Photo Ray Penson

Today was declared a rest day and I set about getting the Suzuki outboard motor going.  After some time and effort, I got it going but not for long, kept cutting out and stalling.  I changed out the plug, put some fresh fuel and two stroke in, cleaned out the fuel line and filter and generally did as much cleaning and oiling and WD 40 spraying as I could.  After that TLC we were in business, the motor is running and the pig is motorised.

In celebration I took the pig on a powered exploration of Lyman Anchorage.  It’s a beautiful place, even in the rain, I can imagine it would be spectacular in the dry with sunshine.  At the head of the cove there is a stream entering through a meadow.  I looked around for signs of bear but didn’t find any.  They are probably sitting in their caves waiting for the rain to stop.

Meadow at head of Lyman Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson.
Meadow at head of Lyman Anchorage. Photo Ray Penson.

There are two other meadow areas around the cove where the geese have been busy and making a lot of noise.  When I approached they got even noisier before taking off.  I have been watching a Kingfisher bird fishing on the bank next to the boat, his success record is 100%.  There was an otter in the anchorage this morning and he has been replaced by a seal this afternoon.  There are some animals running around the edge of the forest but don’t know what they are, a bit like squirrels but bigger.  There is a lot of wildlife around here.

This afternoon I made another batch of scroggin.  I couldn’t get all the dried fruit I wanted in Ketchikan so have improvised.  This time I didn’t bother with rum essence, I used the real thing.  The warm baking smell filling the cabin is wonderful and a contrast to the wet and cold outside.

It looks like the weather is wild outside the anchorage tonight, the forecast is for strong winds locally and gales a bit further south.  The occasional express train gust blasts down the hills around the anchorage and hits us, heeling us over and spinning the boat around on the anchor.

I am not sure where we will end up tomorrow, Thorne Bay and Meyers Chuck are on the shortlist.   I think the wind in the morning will decide for us.  The fire will be on again tonight and all will be well on board.

Logged 2nd June 2016.

PRINCE RUPERT – WEEKEND

Wonderful, it stopped raining – just a light drizzle now and again.  Slowly the damp from the last few days is drying up.

John, Jennifer and Hillary came over this morning with some fresh date and walnut muffins which we had with tea and coffee – very nice.  Whilst I had extra hands around I volunteered them to help me turn the boat around.  I am now facing outward for an easy exit tomorrow.

Last chores today before heading off to Ketchikan, topped up the fresh water tanks, did the library visit to get WiFi (so slow), Safeway’s for groceries and chandler for some rope and essential boat things.

I also called ahead to US Customs in Ketchikan to give them all details required for pre arrival.  Apparently I need a different visa if entering on a pleasure boat, the regular tourist visa is not good enough.  I asked why it was not publicised and the customs guy indicated that a lot of people were unaware.  Oh well I will plead innocence and act dumb as usual – it comes easy.

The evening was spent on a neighbouring boat which I last saw at the Bella Bella fuel dock.  They are also headed for USA tomorrow and we had a drop of red wine.  The wind blew during the night, not hard just from a funny angle and it pissed down with rain again.

The forecast for tomorrow is for winds from the south, just what we need.  Let’s hope they arrive in force to speed us into the USA.

Logged 28th May 2016

GRENVILLE CHANNEL – BREAK OUT

Today it was my intention to have an easy travel up the Granville Channel and stay overnight at Kumealon Inlet.  We had a five o’clock start to get the ebb and made good time.  The weather was cold, overcast with low cloud and drizzle, but there was no wind and absolute calm.  When we arrived at Kumealon. I decided to continue and make the most of the calm conditions as north westerly winds had been forecast again.

We carried on and Arrived at Gunboat Harbour on Gibson Island at the top of Granville Channel where we anchored.  I had lunch and a siesta was needed after such an early start.  An hour later I was woken by a bunch of fishermen who were also using the anchorage for rafting up and doing fishy stuff.  As it was still calm and the tide was turning in our favour I decided to make a hop over to Lawson Harbour just off Porcher Island and anchor there for the night.

Today was cold again, its four days since we have seen the sun.  I was passed by an American sailor today, he had full cold gear on including woolly hat and gloves.  I feel better now, I thought I was being a wimp and needed to harden up.  But other people are feeling the cold as well, its not just me.  I will look for some gloves at the next port call.

We did eight and a half hours motoring today, there is no option when there is no wind.  We are now clear of Grenville Channel and into more open waters again.  Options for tomorrow are either Prince Rupert or Port Edward.  I may try Port Edward first as I have to clear out from Prince Rupert anyway. Total voyage distance 632.2 miles.

Logged 25th May 2016

GRENVILLE CHANNEL – CONTINUED

We caught the tide up Grenville Channel this afternoon from Lowe Inlet where we passed a comfortable night at anchor.  We anchored just inside the entrance to the inlet on a bank and I expected to be disturbed by the wash from passing ships, but it was all peaceful.  I have only seen two cruise ships so far, its still early in the season.

A dark gloomy day going up Grenville Channel. Photo Ray Penson
A dark gloomy day going up Grenville Channel. Photo Ray Penson

It was a good job we had the tide behind us today as the North Westerly wind and chop were on the nose and it would have been very heavy going without a push.  This is the last time I will come up Grenville Channel so am making the most of it with three stops planned.  Today we passed the narrow section and a couple of big waterfalls, particularly spectacular is the waterfall at Saunders Creek as it spills from a mountain lake high above.  There are quite a few bald eagles along the Channel, some flying very high, don’t know why they fly so high.

The weather was gloomy today, overcast with the odd rain shower.  The wind was bitterly cold and I had full thermals and multiple layers and still felt the chill.  My thermometer says it was ten degrees, it felt like minis ten.  I expect it will start warming up next month as we get into summer.

Ray Penson

This evening we pulled into Klewnuggit Inlet.  The anchorage that I targeted was, as the book said, spectacular.  High mountains and sheer granite cliffs on three sides.  The problem is that high mountains mean an early sunset and late sunrise.  Its gets cold after sunset and I didn’t fancy a cold night so moved out to another anchorage.  Its hard to find shallow water here to anchor in, I am in a bay very close to the shore where I found some water less than twenty meters deep, just have enough room to swing and clear the rocks.

Tomorrow I expect to overnight at Kumealon Inlet on the north shore of Grenville Channel.  Total voyage distance 599.9

Logged 24th May 2016

OTTERS AND JELLYFISH

The weather blew all night and into today.  A gale warning in place so I decided to sit another day in the cosy anchorage and carry on doing bits and bobs.  The sun came out and the weather was beautiful out of the wind.  I completely filled my day with activities and the time flew by.

River Otter
River Otter

I spent some time watching a River Otter fishing around the boat, he came very close and didn’t see me in the cockpit.  I wanted to take a photo but knew if I moved he would be gone.  There are also some weasel like creatures running around in the woods.  I don’t know what they are but there entertaining.

The mother of all jelly Fish turned up, never seen anything like it.  It looked disgusting, like a big blob of putrefied matter, the colour was yellow changing to orange and red with long thick dark red coloured tentacles.  The thing was very mobile and swimming around not like the usual blobby Jelly Fish.  Just the one.

Some Jellyfish. Photo Ray Penson
Some Jellyfish. Photo Ray Penson

I bought some petrol in Bella Bella to try running the outboard.  Hey presto, it ran this afternoon.  I now need to check the gear oil and get some two stroke oil and I will have a motorised pig.

It’s a full moon tonight and a near five-meter tide.  I reckon that means the weather will be calm tomorrow morning before the forecast North Westerly gale sets in.  If it looks good I will get away early and make some headway before the headwinds kick in.

Logged 20th May 2016. Image: http://www.mnn.com

WAITING ON WEATHER

The forecast for today is North Westerly Gales.  We stayed put in the anchorage and had a nice relaxed day doing cleaning, maintenance, cooking and some splicing.  There is always something to do on a boat and the time flew by.  The sun came out and was nice and warm for a couple of hours but the wind still has a chill in it.

The wind is howling around tonight and squally blasts are spinning us to and fro on the anchor chain.  I put out an extra ten meters of chain this evening as the wind seems to be increasing.  The bottom here is rocky and I never feel too confident of holding when its rocky.

The forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, I checked Predict Wind and they are giving strong North Westerly for the next five days.  Well there are still options and I am in no great hurry to get to Prince Rupert

Logged 19th May 2016