10,000 MILES WITH TRUCE

Banging to windward all last night and today on starboard tack.  Getting to New Zealand is a battle, every mile must be won.  I am not complaining – some are still in the north waiting for a break in the weather and one yachtsman is sheltering at Raoul Island.

The daybreak this morning was beautiful and the day is sparkling but the wind is cool from the south west.  I am seeing more birdlife today, this morning we were visited by an albatross.  The bird circled a couple of times before flying alongside, looking us over with the beady eye of the ancient mariner.  What majestic animals.

This morning I was completing our voyage records and discovered that today Truce and I have just completed 10,000 miles together today.  We did 2,700 plus miles last year between Canoe Cove and Glacier Bay in Alaska.  This year we have done over 7,200 miles across the Pacific, from Canada to New Zealand.  I would say we know each other quite well although I still have much to learn.

Now less than 300 miles to Opua.  But we still have a calm patch and a gale to get through.  The maximum forecast winds for Tuesday have just increased from thirty-nine to forty-two knots.  Oh boy – I don’t fancy that.  I will hank on the storm staysail tomorrow.

BARTLETT COVE TO HOONAH

We arrived back in Hoonah this afternoon after an easy crossing of Icy Strait in calm conditions. Calm conditions meant we had to motor again which is not restful but preferable to wind on the nose, so we will take it. In Icy strait there is a lot more ebb than flood so correct timing of the tidal window is essential if you are in a low powered vessel. Fortunately, we got it almost right today and made good time.

Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour
Spot the Whale bubbles in The water. Hoonah Harbour

Our visit to Glacier Bay was great, apart from a nasty night to start off in Fingers Bay we enjoyed wonderful weather and hardly any rain. The Glacier visit was memorable, to get up close to a calving Glacier is an awesome experience. We saw a lot of whales in the lower section of Glacier Bay but the best whale encounter occurred just outside the Hoonah Harbour entrance.

As we approached the Hoonah Harbour there was a single large whale feeding in the entrance. We slowed down to watch as the whale blew a bubble ring and then arose in the centre to collect his prey. This happened three times, the last time very close and the whale dived under the boat before surfacing on the other side. Ngozi is very happy she has seen a whale up close. She will have to go to the zoo to see a bear.

Ngozi in the Icy Strait Brewing Bar, Hoonah. Photo Ray Penson.
Ngozi in Hoonah, Alaska.

We plan to stay two nights in Hoonah as Ngozi is flying out from here on Sunday back to New Zealand.

Truce is now moored in Hoonah Harbour, all secure alongside, now we can explore the town and surrounds without any concern for the anchor.

We are both hoping to get some fresh fish and maybe some crabs and shrimp to cook. Total Voyage distance 1,632.8 miles.

SHORE LEAVE IN BARTLETT COVE

Today started foggy and calm. The idea of crossing Icy Strait didn’t inspire us and we felt lazy.  It seemed a great option to stay in Bartlett Cove. Shore leave and a bit of exploring around the area was the best option. It has been an effort to get to Glacier Bay, another day here to soak up the atmosphere is deserved. Following a leisurely breakfast, we rode the pig into the dock and went for a stroll in the woods.

Calm Morning in Bartlett Cove. photo Ray Penson.
Calm Morning in Bartlett Cove. photo Ray Penson.

After Ngozi being initially cautious about coming across bears in the woods we set off. (I have been looking for bears everywhere and haven’t seen one so the chances of a bear encounter seem low). Nothing really exciting about our walk in the woods, saw a couple of ponds, heaps of trees and read all the park signs. Not much bird life around and just saw a couple of small squirrels looking for their nuts.

There are quite a few people here going into Glacier Bay in Kayaks. They get dropped off from a mother ship and are picked up days later at a pre-arranged location. All their food and accommodation is carried in the Kayaks, they camp out each night. Motorised vessels are banned from many areas of Glacier Bay so the guys in Kayaks have it to themselves. It must be a fantastic way to see the wilderness and get close with the wildlife of Glacier Bay, a bit too basic for my tastes.

We took advantage of the free WiFi at the ranger station to check up on emails. We received news about terrorism in France and other stuff that we have been isolated from for the past week. We posted a couple of logs to the blog as well. If you are following the blog please understand, we can only post when we have WiFi so there may be gaps when we are out of wifi range. Perhaps one day I will get smart and figure out how to post via Iridium Go.

Toady has been a nice relaxing experience and the rain held off for another day. We have been very fortunate with the weather. Tomorrow we must depart Glacier Bay as our permit expires, next stop Hoonah.

ANCHORED UNDER REID GLACIER.

Last night was special. We anchored in Reid Inlet under Reid Glacier, a extraordinary place with the Glacier towering above us. Thankfully the night was calm.

Today we have motored in calm conditions down to South Sandy Cove. First we tried to anchor in the east arm of the cove but were swamped by large horse flies or some sort of flies. Anyway, it was intolerable so we moved over the west side and found a great anchorage that is relatively fly free.

After anchoring we launched the pig and went ashore for a walk. We walked around an island on the outside of the anchorage and were treated to the sight (and sounds) of a Humpback Whale feeding close by on the shoreline. We are so lucky, calm conditions, sunshine and a humpback feeding close offshore.

Apart from the whales, sea otters and porpoise the wildlife in Glacier Bay has been disappointing. The fact is that on any day in New Zealand you see more bird life and sea life (whales and sea otters excluded) offshore New Zealand than you see here. The glaciers and scenery in Glacier Bay is superb but the wildlife aspect is over hyped. I have seen more birdlife outside Glacier Bay than inside – so far. We have still not seen any bears, moose or wolves, despite people saying if we don’t see them we are blind.

The outboard motor is now running well after its rinse out with fresh water in Pelican – long may it last. The other good news is that Ngozi says we should get an inflatable dinghy and replace the pig as it will be easier to launch and retrieve. If the wife says its OK – go for it before she changes her mind!

Today we also met up with yacht Caro Babbo again, a complete surprise for both of us as they expected we had long gone from Glacier Bay and I thought the same of them. In heard someone (Carro Babbo?) calling Truce on the VHF but it was so faint in thought it was my imagination as it seemed so improbable. We checked the AIS and didn’t see Caro Babbo.   Later on the starboard side I saw a yacht that clearly was Caro Babbo, we altered course and were soon laying alongside swapping stories. It seems they were held up waiting for spare parts and have followed a similar route to Truce.  I first met Caro Babbo on my first night of the voyage out of Canoe Cove in April and we have crossed paths ever since. It was great to see John, Jennifer and Hillary again and no doubt we will catch up again on the trip south and swap some stories.

So all is well on Truce tonight, the anchorage is flat calm, we can hear the humpbacks breathing just offshore, we are well fed and watered and listening to 60’s music on Juneau AM radio. Life is good. Total voyage distance 1,579.9 miles.

GREAT CALVING GLACIERS

A peaceful night’s sleep at Blue Mouse Cove anchorage has recharged the internal batteries ready for a full day motoring up to Tarr Inlet and the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glacier. We arrived at the Margerie Glacier at midday in brilliant sunshine and clear sky after dodging around floating ice on the way up.

Star Princess in Glacier Bay. Photo Ray Penson
Star Princess in Glacier Bay. Photo Ray Penson

The Grand Pacific Glacier does not reach the sea anymore and terminates in a huge pile of rocks and rubble The Glacier can be seen beyond the rubble from a distance and is discoloured and brownish in colour.

The Margerie Glacier terminates at the end of Tarr Inlet into the sea. What an impressive sight. We motored up quite close to the edge of the ice belt and switched off the engine to have a floating lunch in the cockpit. The Glacier is constantly crumbling into the sea and calving big lumps of ice.

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo Ray Penson
Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo Ray Penson

The Glacier makes plenty of noise, groans, cracks and thumps as ice fractures and breaks free. We were fortunate to see three large ice falls. One particularly large fall sent an impressive tidal wave towards us and caused some cursing from the galley. We had the whole place to ourselves until the cruise ship Star Princess arrived, but they kept some distance off the Glacier.

The trip up to the Glaciers from Blue Moose Cove was made in flat calm. The scenery was magnificent with clear skies and endless visibility. We passed Russel Island on the inside where we were told we could sight bears, moose and wolves. We saw nothing despite having the glasses trained on the shore and eyes out like organ stops.

This evening we have taken anchorage in Reid Inlet just below the Reid Glacier. It’s quite a special place and the Glacier looks immense towering above us at the end of the inlet. This is definitely a fair weather only anchorage so fingers crossed for tonight. Total voyage distance 1,511.1 miles.

Logged 10th July 2016

OH WHAT A NIGHT, DRAGGING ANCHOR

Last night we anchored in Fingers Cove, a spot recommended by a friend we had met along the way who had been to Glacier Bay seven times previously. When we entered Fingers Cove it was high water, we made a few attempts to find a suitable anchor spot and couldn’t. There were shoals and deep patches and a few rocks about. So we anchored temporarily to have dinner. Low water was around midnight, I decided to wait till around ten when there would still be some daylight remaining and find a better anchorage position when we could see more of the shallows and shore.

At ten thirty we re-anchored in what appeared to be a better position having 12 meters of water. By eleven thirty we were dragging into deep water in ever increasing wind gusts. By half past midnight we were anchored again and this time I paid out all the chain we had in the locker. Thankfully the anchor held this time. The wind was not really strong and had long periods of calms between the gusts. But when the gusts came down the mountain they were short sharp and the air felt heavy.

By six in the morning everything was flat calm and we had a long lie in bed to recover. A late breakfast was followed by a leisurely motor up from Fingers Bay to Blue Mouse Cove. The scenery is interesting but low cloud prevented us from seeing the tops of the mountains and the cloud cover prevented the sun from breaking through. We saw the usual sea otters, harbour porpoise and a distant whale, a few ducks but not much other wild life, a bit underwhelming. Certainly didn’t live up to the hype we have been hearing so far.

Until you experience Glacier Bay it’s difficult to comprehend how big the place is. Today we only saw four other boats and one cruise ship all day. Last night and this evening we are the only boat in the anchorage. Another surprise is how warm the weather is at the moment, apart from some cold air this afternoon the temperatures are very mild.
Tomorrow we will proceed to Reid Inlet and Glacier. Total voyage distance 1,511.1 miles.

Logged 10th July 2016

DESTINATION ACHEIVED

Today we arrived in Glacier Bay. It’s been a long winding road to get here and now we have a permit for a few days to explore and experience the wildlife and natural wonders.

Icy Strait Passage
Icy Strait Passage

The trip across Icy Strait this morning was easy for a change and the forecast headwinds didn’t turn up. The entry to Glacier Bay was shrouded in thick fog that cleared as we approached Bartlett Cove and the Park Ranger station.Once in Bartlett Cove we topped off the fuel tanks and attended the orientation with the Park rangers (I couldn’t help thinking of Yogi Bear when I saw the uniform). 

On the job, sailing adventures.
On the job, sailing adventures.

 There we learnt what we could and couldn’t do in the park. No big surprises and all very friendly. After the orientation we caught the last of the flood tide up to an anchorage in North Fingers Bay.  
We arrived in Fingers Bay at high water and were unable to find a decent anchor position. So temporarily we have anchored on a shallow rocky ledge with deep water behind it. The wind is blowing and gusting into the bay so it’s a bit tenuous. Low water is at midnight and I plan to have a look at the anchorage later tonight when more of the shoreline is exposed and find a better spot to anchor for the night. In the meantime we will have dinner and relax after a long and eventful day.

I have found the navionics chart to be unreliable in this part of Alaska, obviously the data on which it is bases is not too accurate. So caution is needed as some depths vary wildly and rocks aren’t always where they appear on the chart.

Approaching Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay.
Approaching Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay.

Today has been warm like yesterday. It’s hard to understand why it should be so warm in Glacier Bay – but it is. At least at the moment it is. Tomorrow we will work our way up towards glaciers and have a closer look at the wildlife, there is no hurry. Total voyage distance 1,494.7 miles.
Logged 9th July 2016.

HANGING AROUND HOONAH

What a beautiful warm day, the warmest so far this trip. Hoonah turned out to be a great place to hang out, do a bit of provisioning and visit the local hardware store for interesting stuff. The hardware store proved to be a great surprise, amazing stock of just about everything from iphone charges through to kitchen ware, hair curlers nappies and just about every screw ever made.

Town centre, Hoonah. Alaska
Town centre, Hoonah. Alaska
After provisioning we migrated to Icy Strait Brewing, a small microbrewery, to sample the wares. Surprisingly good beer and the bonus of Thai food cooked by the owner’s wife next door. The green curry shrimps were a hit and so refreshing to get fresh broccoli and vegetables. A definite recommend to future travellers.

Craft beer  at  Icy Strait Brewing, Hoonah. Alaska.During our walk about today we came across a shed where carving was being performed inside. The four pillars and backdrop of a new meeting house for Glacier Bay were being completed. We had an interesting chat with the head carver and learned a bit about native culture, traditions and oral history.  Tlingit traditional wood carving. Hoonah, Alaska.Truce is now topped off with fresh water and all systems checked ready to depart in the morning to Glacier Bay. The wind forecast is against us and the tide for the trip up Icy Strait tomorrow, hopefully it won’t be too strong and we will benefit from an early start.Youth Centre, Hoonah, AlaskaA guy, Jay, who I met many weeks ago in Port McNeill is tied up alongside us today on his lovely motor launch. He has just returned from his second trip to Glacier Bay this year and generously gave me his Glacier Bay chart and pointed out some of the better anchorages and places where me might see bear, moose and wolves. I will keep looking.
This evening I had a panic attack as I thought I had left my phone in the brewery and had to return. Luckily I later found the phone on the boat so panic over and a return to normal stress levels.Logged 8th July 2016.

COMPANY, AGAIN

Logged 7th July 2016

The weather is getting warmer now or maybe this bit of Alaska is warmer I am not sure. Today I motored up to Hoonah which is quite a large village and the largest Tlingit community in Southeast Alaska. 

The name Hoonah means ‘place where the north wind doesn’t blow’ and warm ocean currents usually keep the minimum temperature just below freezing in winter.
The dock at Hoonah is protected by a large breakwater and I have a nice easy berth to escape from at the end of the pier. On arrival I made my call to boarder protection to notify my position. The harbourmasters office has a laundry and showers and just around the corner is a chandlers where I was able to purchase some sanitation hose. After lunch I changed out the hose on the toilet and now have nice new hose throughout the system, should be good for a few years.  

Ngozi at Icy Strait Brewing, Hoonah.
Ngozi at Icy Strait Brewing, Hoonah.

Later in the afternoon I walked up to the airport which is about a mile out of town and picked up Ngozi who had arrived from Juneau. She was the only person on the plane and sat next to the pilot on the way across, it was a small plane. So now I have company again which is really nice.  

Tomorrow will be an easy day having a look around Hoonah and doing a bit of shopping before departing to Glacier Bay on Saturday morning. Total voyage distance 1,446.0 miles.
Logged 7th July 2016

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