GOLDEN GATE TOMORROW

Last night I was having a lovely run down the coast being pushed by a fresh wind directly from astern.  I just had the staysail up, sailing at between five and six knots without any fuss.  At midnight the fog closed in, a cold wet fog.  An hour later the wind had died and I started the motor.

Through the night we motored, with the radar on.  I saw nothing, apart from the occasional crab pot buoy floating by.  Daybreak didn’t bring any relief.  It wasn’t until I anchored in Drakes Bay just before eleven that fog cleared.  Feeling tired after the all-night marathon, I cracked a beer and then had a sleep.

The last few days coming down from Washington has delivered just about all the weather in the book, calms, gale force winds, rain, fog and hail.  It’s not been an easy trip down – but everyone said it would be difficult so no surprises there.  What has surprised me is the amount of calms and light unusable wind days.

Drakes Bay is named after Sir Francis Drake who is alleged to have stayed here in 1579 to repair his ship.  He should have asked one of the locals ‘Is there one of the world’s best natural harbours near here?’  The answer ‘yep, just around the corner’ may have surprised him and changed history.  Fortunately, for Drake he never learned what he had missed.  It was almost 200 years later in 1769 that the Spanish discovered San Francisco harbour.

This evening I will stay in Drakes bay before entering under the Golden Gate Bridge tongozi San Francisco on the morning flood tide.  I hope it’s a clear day.

I have never been to San Francisco before.  There are over forty large marinas in the bay area, I just don’t know where to go.  I think I will try Sausalito first, friends have given it good reviews.  Then try and pick up some local knowledge before trying other places.

Wednesday is the big day when Ngozi, my beautiful wife fly in from New Zealand to join me.  I am really looking forward to having company again and exploring San Francisco together.  Voyage Distance 936.3.

SUMMER FOG

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.

Boat appears out of fog Ray Penson
Boat appears out of fog Ray Penson

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 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.

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 distance.  Now I have the opportunity to see it close up.  Total voyage distance 725.3 miles.

INIAN ISLAND

I awoke this morning to thick fog, a sign summer is here.  The fog cleared in the early morning and the sun came out.  But then a strong westerly wind set in and finally rain again.  A real mixed up day but plenty of variety.

In the morning I motored over to Inian Island which is in the middle of Cross Strait.  There is a pass north and south of Inian Island and the water flow through the passes is tremendous.  Huge upwelling’s and swirls of water, even at slack water.  Another funny thing is that the Pacific Swell comes right into the strait and seems to bend around the islands but still keep its size and shape.  The locals tell me that in bad weather or wind against tide, the passes can be very difficult and dangerous.  I believe it and will try and take advantage of the current tomorrow to get a lift to the east.

Coral Princess heading into Glacier Bay.Photo Ray Penson
Coral Princess heading into Glacier Bay.Photo Ray Penson

The anchorage at Inian Island is supposed to be sheltered but this evening is a little draughty.  I hope the wind dies down later as the singing in the rigging and surging at anchor is not very relaxing.

My entry permit into Glacier bay is for the 9th July, I can’t go in before then so am hanging around this Icy Strait area waiting for my wife to arrive in Hoonah.  Then we will cross Icy Strait into Glacier Bay.

Tomorrow I will have a look at sailing to Port Frederick, which is a sound south of Hoonah. There should be some interesting wildlife in there if the tales of my fisherman friends are true.  Total voyage distance 1,383.1 miles.

Logged 4th July 2016

FIRST SUMMER FOG

We departed Winter Harbour this morning in thick fog, visibility less than one cable.  With the radar and Navionics chart backed up with echo sounder, magnetic compass and eyeball it was slow going picking through the islands towards Tonowek Narrows.  As the Sea Otters appeared from the fog they had to be checked as not being logs in disguise.  It was quite amusing watching their old men whiskery faces with enquiring looks as they floated past.  As soon as they saw a human they disappeared in an instant underwater.

Downtown Craig, Alaska.Photo Ray Penson
Downtown Craig, Alaska.Photo Ray Penson

Just before entering the Tonewek Narrows Narrows the fog lifted with the rising sun.  The water was glassy calm all morning.  In the narrows there is an Indian burial site guarded by a large wooden carving of a man standing at the edge of the trees.  Quite eerie, a giant wooden gingerbread man peering out of the woods.

Later on in the day we were slowly catching a group of whales, perhaps the same group as I saw yesterday.  They were about a mile ahead and travelling in the same direction.  Its hard to count whales as they don’t all appear at the same time but it looked like five in the group.  One had a large blow and one quite small, perhaps a mother and calf.  After about an hour they turned around and started coming back towards the boat but spread out.  I noticed they were taking three or four breaths on the surface and then diving down for a long period of around 3 minutes.  As they dive down it’s a tremendous sight to see the tail come out of the water and disappear as if driving the whale down.  There is a great power and weight in that tail.

Eagles on the dock in Craig. Ray Penson
Eagles on the dock in Craig. Ray Penson

Tonight I have taken a berth in Craig.  I need to do a food restock and get some fresh produce plus do the laundry before heading out again.  I am at a crossroads tonight.  I don’t know if I should continue south and complete the circumnavigation of Prince of Wales Island or start heading north again.  The forecast is for Southerly winds, maybe the north option is best.  But the previous forecast southerly winds have not been strong enough for sailing.  The trip across Sumner Strait from Craig is about 60 miles and that requires a good steady consistent wind.  I will sleep on it.  I still have some shopping to compete in the morning anyway.  Total voyage distance 950.3 miles.

Logged 10th June 2016